Why you should visit a park during the day (and what to do after hours).
1) Encounter wild animals at Havenwoods
6141 N. Hopkins St.
The easiest (and flattest) place to stumble across wildlife in the city of Milwaukee is this 237-acre state forest on the Northwest Side that, in years gone by, was once the site of a prison and a dump. Slowly and with great effort, students and other workers blazed walking trails and replanted the area with tens of thousands of trees. Turkeys and deer took up residence, and Lincoln Creek now feeds a pond teeming with life. According to staff at Havenwoods, the creek began simply as a farm ditch in the 1930s and grew as more land around the site was developed and paved over, increasing runoff.
2) Explore the ruins at Aztalan State Park
N6200 County Road Q, Jefferson
Until about 1600, city-dwelling Native Americans could be found across the Midwest and the Southeast. One of the northernmost of these people’s towns was roughly midway between present-day Milwaukee and Madison. Early archaeologists named the place after the Aztecs, because some of the mounds and burial sites were tall and squarish. More modern archaeologists describe a hard-bitten community where life was crowded and cold. An enduring mystery surrounds the identity of the “Princess” of Aztalan, a young woman buried with thousands of shells, beads and other precious things. What made her so special? She may have been royalty, or the subject of mystical beliefs. Whatever her reason for veneration, she rests today at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
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3) Find the burial mound at Lake Park
Just southeast of Locust Street and Lake Drive
One of the few remaining Indian burial mounds in Milwaukee County can be found at Lake Park, to the north of the Lake Park Golf Course and the lawn bowling courts. A low plaque marks the rise, which was most likely meant to “overlook” Lake Michigan. According to Mark Dudzik, state archaeologist for the Department of Natural Resources, native mounds were often built near overlooks, and this one is no exception. The Lake Park mound is estimated to have been built between 300 B.C. and 400 A.D. as part of a village near the lake and most likely contains burials, he says. How many isn’t known. The city once had many such mounds, but early Milwaukeeans demolished nearly all of them to make way for development. “There were scores of them,” Dudzik says.
4) Lawn Bowling
The best tended grass in the city can probably be found within the two fenced-in lawn bowling courts in Lake Park. Here, the 60- some member Milwaukee Lake Park Lawn Bowling Association – including both national competitors and newcomers – keeps the sport alive in the city. Aspiring lawn bowlers can come to the open house on June 8 and, with an association membership, join in as many league events as they want.
Glorianne Mather, avid lawn bowler and director of adult education at Journey House, explains what the sport is all about.
What’s the objective? What are you trying to do? There’s a little white ball at the end [of the court] called a jack. You want to get as close to that as you can. The jack is set at the beginning of the game. Sometimes it’s really short, and sometimes it’s really long.
Is it at all like regular bowling? No. The balls are weighted so they don’t bowl straight. They bowl in a curve, depending on how you hold them. There are different sizes, if you have a smaller hand.
Is it mandatory to wear white? We have people of all shapes and sizes, and you don’t have to wear white. Sometimes for tournaments people wear white to make it more official-looking, but you can dress as casually as you want.
5) Friends of Lakeshore State Park Bonfire
Sidle up to a bonfire on one of the most gorgeous lakefront locales. Bring a few of your besties, and be sure to make your own pudgy pies and s’mores. Just remember, no alcohol at this free event – just plenty of good, old-fashioned fun.
WHEN: Wednesday, June 20 from 7-9 p.m.
WHERE: Lakeshore State Park, 500 N. Harbor Dr.
6) Boerner Botanical Gardens’ Wednesday Night Garden Walks
Prepare to learn a lot about plants on these night hikes, as each is led by a horticulture expert and is free but with a suggested donation. Each week also features a new fl oral topic, this year including roses, annuals, and daylilies.
WHEN: Every Wednesday, 6-7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Boerner Botanical Gardens, 9400 Boerner Dr.
7) Outdoor Movies at Veterans Park
Enjoy a flick alfresco – for free! The show begins at dusk, but get there early to stake your spot. Bring a picnic and blanket, and enjoy the fun. The county sponsors movie nights in other parks around town, too. Check the website for more info.
WHEN: Some Saturdays throughout the summer
WHERE: Veterans Park, 1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.
8) Catch a Wauwatosa in ’Tosa!
Fireflies illuminating the night sky are one of the many magical displays Mother Nature provides in the summer months, and offer another great reason to spend time in a park after dark. We suggest a visit to Hart Park to enjoy these tiny wonders. It’s located in Wauwatosa, a Potawatomi word for firefly (literally translated, it means “flash flash fire that flies”). And the Menomonee River provides the habitat these insects prefer. Fireflies start to appear sometime in May, depending on the temperature. By late June, they should be out in full force. Catch them if you must, but consider releasing them at the end of the night to help ensure that there will be fireflies for us to observe and enjoy for generations to come.
Download a time-lapse photo app for your phone. Then, instead of bringing home a jar of bugs, capture some images to share with friends.