Back in June, I wrote about the 5 summer kids trips I couldnâ€™t wait to take.
Well, summer got busy, and despite my best intentions, I only made it to one of my top five suggestions.
But thatâ€™s not to say I was a deadbeat dad this season. My almost-6-year-old and I had lots of fun this summer, and in fact, we found a few other places to visit as the calendar inched closer to the return of school. All three were just within an hour from home.
1. The Hi-Way 18 Outdoor Theatre
As much as I love going to one of the areaâ€™s two drive-in theaters, it can be a tricky project with young children. Last summer, we visited the much dumpier one in Kenosha â€“ the Keno â€“ and our kid fell asleep 20 minutes into the first movie, then woke up and whined until we left.
This summer, though, we did it right. First, we went to the Hi-Way 18 drive in Jefferson. Itâ€™s a long drive, but an easy one. We also waited until later in summer when dusk wasnâ€™t so late, so we could get in an entire movie before our daughter passed out in her car seat. If you get there early enough, there's a playground by the screen that's teeming with kids.
On a weekend, this place gets very busy, so we parked way in the back. But in some ways, that made it more fun, since we could giggle and chat more through the movie. The facility here is a lot nicer, too, and even though we didnâ€™t make it to the second movie, this summer, we got in enough family time to make the trip well worth it.
2. Country Springs Hotel and Water Park
Obviously, kids love water parks, and Iâ€™m a fan, too. While the Wisconsin Dells may hold the record for quantity and quality over, well, everywhere else in America, thatâ€™s a long and expensive trip.
Much closer to home is the County Springs Hotel and Water Park in Pewaukee. We actually visited last summer, but now that my daughter is a little older, she even had more fun (read: tears when we left). I tried this one-nighter as my own as a daddy-daughter activity, and I can report back that for me, anyway, this was a little too hard for a solo-parenting adventure.
Still, what a memory Country Springs will make. As Iâ€™ve written, this small water park has a lot going for it, beyond just its accessibility. Itâ€™s not actually small at all at 45,000 square feet, but compared to the Dells, you can easily watch your child â€“ and participate â€“ at all times.
Nothing was too scary this time for my child, and while I couldâ€™ve used more time in the hot tub, the smiles and screams more than made up for the grunts and groans after being pulled, splashed and accidentally smacked in the face all the way down the lazy river. Going midweek was perfect, though. We encountered almost no lines at the water slides, and the park didn't have the super crowded feel of the Dells' resorts.
Once dry, I also like the hotel part of Country Springs. The rooms are huge, albeit dated, and mine featured an awesome bathroom with a whirlpool. And what child doesn't love staying in a hotel, even if it's only 30 minutes from home?
Like last time, we ate inexpensive but surprisingly excellent bar food at Copperâ€™s (my turkey burger with cranberry glaze and wasabi sauce was delicious) but the service was incredibly slow (probably because the whole restaurant only had two servers). And it was speedy when we came back to grab some chocolate ice cream â€“ with two spoons â€“ to eat back in the room.
Keep in mind that a parent needs to go into any water park with a zen attitude. As hectic as an experience like this can be, Country Springs makes it pretty easy. I promised my daughter weâ€™d return soon ... but next time with Mom, too.
3. Old World Wisconsin
Finally, I visited something from my original list! I canâ€™t believe Iâ€™d never been to Old World Wisconsin as a kid growing up in Milwaukee. But now that Iâ€™ve seen it, I know what I was missing.
This incredible living-history museum of different ethnic villages from the 1870s really brings the experience alive. When we went, Civil War re-enactors (only off by a handful of years) were also encamped at the "Crossroads Village" at this Eagle landmark, and I actually learned quite a bit talking to the "interpreters," as they are called.
Going at the end of August mean that the weather was hot and sticky, but somehow, I appreciated the experience even more. Sweating out with people dressed in heavy wool period costumes reminded me how tough life was back then. And that doesn't even take into account those huge old-timey bicycles that we saw and tried out.
Granted, our daughter was more interested in learning about the colorful dresses and the games at the old schoolhouse/city hall, but Iâ€™m excited that she could see a "real life" version of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books my wife is reading to her. Sheâ€™s a little young to really grasp the details, but at least her eyes are open.
At $42 for a family of three, this isnâ€™t a cheap museum, but itâ€™s worth it. And our daughter got to feed a pig. We will certainly be back for more.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published July 11, 2016
Summerfest 2016 may have come and gone, but the memories will live forever - because we at OnMilwaukee took enough photos and video to fill a large hard drive.
Published July 9, 2016
Playing before the Barenaked Ladies and OMD, Howard Jones got the 6 p.m. spot at the BMO Harris Pavilion Saturday night, and while that's not exactly top billing for an artist who had 15 top 40 singles during his career, I'll take it.
Published July 9, 2016
In a word, Paul McCartney was amazing tonight. I feel beyond fortunate that I've now seen him play twice. Now back at the office, at midnight, Bobby is writing the main review, but I have some stuff to say, too. Random stuff, so please indulge me.
Published July 7, 2016
Go ahead; get those laughs out of the way. I'm trying to write a serious review of Anthony Ray's Big Gig show. You, of course, know him as Sir Mix-a-Lot, and unless you listened to his tapes in the early '90s, you probably recognize just one of his songs.
Published June 30, 2016
If you've ever bought an official Summerfest T-shirt, hat or other branded gift, it's first gone through Dan Elias. As vice president of The Specialized Marketing Group Inc., he's managed the merch for the Big Gig for 17 years.
Published June 28, 2016
In college, I had a reoccurring nightmare that I was trapped on a crazy elevator. Lately, that's been replaced by what I call the "fat finger" dream. I've talked to a few people, including co-worker Molly Synder, who has had it, too.
Published June 27, 2016
OnMilwaukee publisher Andy Tarnoff is very impressed with this year's Summerfest lineup, but he thinks the strongest day for the Big Gig is on July 9. For his money, he's especially excited about Howard Jones and, obviously, Sir Paul McCartney. Here are his picks.
Published June 11, 2016
"It's good to be king." Mel Brooks actually said that, quoting himself, to a sold-out show Saturday night at the Riverside. Based on the remarkable stories, the adoring reception and the super-human energy from this soon-to-be 90-year-old film legend, I believe him.
Published May 7, 2016
I won't lie to you: I know nothing about the current state of professional wrestling. But from 1983 to 1989, from about age 9 to 15, I was a huge fan. So big, in fact, that I wrote a fan letter to WWF announcer "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
Published April 28, 2016
Angry readers, self-righteous writers and surly social media speculators are in a tizzy about an uptick in "clickbait," and in many respects, they have every right to be. In lots of cases, it's a bogus attempt to lure gullible readers, and ultimately, it won't and doesn't work.