1) Doctors Park
1870 E. Fox Ln., Fox Point
This isn’t so much an under-the-radar park as a place where you yourself feel under the radar while there. Lake views lead down to a tranquil beach with jetties, although it’s not the best fishing (if you don’t know what you’re doing). The “doctor” is Dr. Joseph Schneider, a well-known specialist in ophthalmology and otology, in case you were wondering. He died in 1927 and gifted the land to the city to use as parkland.
2) Carver Park
911 W. Brown St.
A once-bustling lake resort has returned to nature along the undammed Milwaukee River Greenway
Carver is home to many youth baseball diamonds, but nestled between them is a large playground and jungle gym that looks even more fun than the Fox River Park’s mega-slides. Indeed, parents will be tempted to clamber aboard, if only to help the kids figure out how to use the contraptions. You can imagine getting “lost” in there as a youngster and not wanting to leave.
W264 S4500 River Rd., Waukesha
This 257-acre wonderland is a great place to spend an entire day. It’s more heavily wooded than Havenwoods, and there are several different picnic areas that can be reserved. The greenery is swell, but the playground is the best: There are two massive slides built into a hillside and a smaller and safer (but still big) one for the tykes.
1859 N. 40th St.
In a city dominated by the lakefront and “Chill on the Hill” and “Jazz in the Park” and other fine music series, it’s easy to miss Washington Park. But do so at your own peril. There’s an Urban Ecology Center outpost here for good reason. The “lagoon” is a great lake that curves around and gives one the illusion of being out in the wilds. There was also once a zoo in the park, between 1892 to 1963, but now it’s long gone. Get the full scoop on the Wednesday Summer Concert Series.
6141 N. Hopkins St.
Another piece of land that has worn many hats: military jail, cold war missile base, garbage dump. Today, Havenwoods (after a lot of DNR-led intervention) is the most rustic place in Milwaukee, besting even the great Milwaukee River Greenway. The 237-acre chunk-o-land has a 2.7-mile people trail and a 2.5-mile one for pets, plus a large nature center. Quiet Havenwoods is also a prime place for spotting wildflowers, wild turkeys and deer.
6) Hubbard Park
3565 N. Morris Blvd., Shorewood
Best known for its beer garden, Hubbard Park also has a pair of cool tunnels and what amounts to stadium seating for gazing at the Milwaukee River. Swing by every Sunday for the “Lumberjack Brunch” celebrating when hungry lumberjacks plied the river.
The Arboretum has about 70 different trees indigenous to Wisconsin. So far, they’re only about knee high, but the area’s rock walk, “The Three Billion Year Walk,” is fascinating. It has large, monumental samples of Wisco rocks like Baraboo Quartzite and good old Nephrite Jade (pictured).
610 S. 35th St.
The Menomonee River Valley has been through a lot, and this park feels like the culmination. Sandwiched between 27th and 37th streets, it hugs the river and has two miles in trails connected to the Hank Aaron State Trail. Perhaps mostly importantly, Three Bridges reintroduces the city to the Menomonee River while making room for fishing and outdoor classes led by the Urban Ecology Center.