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Never in my 33 years of life would I think I’d rank Wisconsin as one of my favorite trips. However, after spending five nights in Wisconsin on our Door County vacation here I am saying it was one of my best family vacations. Door County is a beautiful part of Wisconsin. It’s home to family-friendly attractions like Wood Orchard Market, the Door County Maritime Museum and Schoolhouse Beach.
One of my favorite things about Door County is that it has so many family-friendly activities! It is truly a vacation spot that caters to children! There are so many things to do in Door County with kids! In this post, I will share some of our favorites with you (including Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm). I’ve included our Door County itinerary below will to help you plan your own family vacation there.
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Planning Your Door County, WI Vacation With Kids Itinerary
When traveling with kids, it’s important to plan your itinerary. Door County has so many fun, family-friendly activities to choose from it might seem overwhelming. But, by deciding what you’d like to do and see ahead of time it takes some of the stress off of the trip. Plus, it can be a good way to spend time together pre-vacation. Get your kids involved and sit down and plan out where you’re going to eat and all the amazing things you will do!
Door County is definitely a vacation destination you want to visit when it’s warmer. A lot of the fun things to do are outdoor activities and specific to warmer weather. That is not to say the Door County wouldn’t be a good option in the winter, but this post focuses on things to do in the summer, late spring and early fall when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors with your kids.
How to Get to Door County, Wisconsin
The closest airport to Door County, Wisconsin is Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport. From here it will take you a little over an hour to get to Door County. Door County is not easily accessible by public transportation so renting a car is a must. The airport had every national car rental company such as Alamo and Enterprise. You can rent a car seat or travel with your own, read my tips on traveling with a car seat here.
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago or live there it’s an easy three and a half hour drive from there. You can easily extend your trip and make it two in one or visit Door County on a long weekend if you’re a Chicago native.
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Where to Stay in Door County with Kids
On our Door County vacation we were booked for five nights at the Newport Resort in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. It’s located in the middle of Door County which made us equal distance to Sturgeon Bay and Sisters Bay, two towns in Door County we frequented. As far as staying here with kids they loved the playground on site as well as the two pools (indoor and outdoor so they could enjoy it despite the weather).
As someone traveling with my family, I loved that the rooms here are apartment style. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen (with all the supplies you need to cook), dining room, living room and a large patio. This is great as space is always essential with kids and being able to cook meals can save you money on vacation. Here’s a tour of our suite, suite 124.
The downfall of Newport Resort to me is that it’s outdated and the rooms can definitely use some renovations. While the kitchen had granite countertops, the bathrooms did not but everything was clean most importantly. There was no vacancy during our stay and the resort was packed which leads me to believe it’s one of the best options when traveling to Door County with kids.
Things to do in Door County with Kids, Our Door County Itinerary
Day One in Door County with Kids
Breakfast at Al Johnson’s
We arrived late the previous night so we had a full day ahead of us. Everyone says you didn’t do your Door County vacation right if you didn’t see the goats on the roof of Al Johnson’s so we started our day with breakfast there. It’s a Swedish restaurant and the roof is covered in grass and there are indeed real goats that walk, graze, and sleep on the roof! If you want a table get there early! We made the mistake of arriving around 10am, thinking “oh its Tuesday, there won’t be a wait”, well the wait was 90 minutes. Thankfully there is a play area for kids but 90 minutes is still too long to wait for a table. Our initial idea was to order our food to go and then eat it at the tables outside at their bar next door. When we went inside to order there were seats at the bar so we ate there instead and there were no issues with the kids sitting there too.
Exploring Washington Island in Door County with Kids
After breakfast we drove twenty five minutes to Northport Pier where we would take the ferry to Washington Island. Unless you have someone taking you around the island you’ll need a car but don’t worry, you’re able to drive your car right onto the ferry. To bring your car on the ferry you’ll pay $26.00 plus $13.50 per adult and $7 per child 6-11. The ferry runs every 30 minutes but hours vary throughout the year so check the ferry schedule here.
Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm
When looking at things to do in Door County and Washington Island I came across Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm. It is a gorgeous farm with Lavender everything and has free entry! The kids enjoyed running throughout the fields and smelling the lavender. They saw so many butterflies and bees throughout the farm. At first they were scared of the bees but quickly realized the bees are only there for the lavender and leave you alone as long as you don’t bother them. Once they realized this they found it quite entertaining watching them.
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You’ll soon notice a pattern that most of the restaurants in Door County have play areas for kids while you wait for your food. Our lunch spot, Albatross Drive-In on Washington Island was no different. There was a sand boy filled with buckets, shovels, trucks and a swinging chair that the kids enjoyed. There is even a jukebox and you can dance while waiting for your meal. It’s called a drive-in because you park, walk up to a window and order then pick a bench to sit and eat. This Washington Island restaurant serves burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
After lunch it was time to hit the beach, there are many on Washington Island but we chose Schoolhouse Beach. It’s one of only five beaches in the world that has smooth limestone rocks instead of sand so your Door County itinerary isn’t complete unless this is on your list. The beach, which is really Lake Michigan is beautiful. The water is crystal clear, calm, and while quite chilly that didn’t bother the kids at all. It’s a public beach and free of charge.
Dinner at Wild Tomato
There are three Wild Tomato locations in Door County but we chose the one in Sisters Bay as it was on the way to our resort. Door County is quite popular amongst Wisconsinites so the wait was about 45 minutes. Again there is a playground right behind the restaurant that the kids played at while we waited and we avoided the “is our table ready, we’re so hungry comments”. At the table they also give the kids dough to play with while they wait for their food.
Day Two of our Door County Vacation
We kicked off day two in Door County with kids having breakfast at Door County Coffee & Tea Company. Just go ahead and order the cinnamon french toast roll and thank me later! There was no play area here but we played UNO while we waited and the food came out pretty quickly.
Door County Maritime Museum
After stuffing our faces we went to the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay (there are two locations). We explored the Shipwreck Exhibit as it’s interactive and the most kid friendly one. There is a simulated video where you can steer a ship wheel and see it crash as well as crates the kids can open and see the contents of what you’d find on a ship. The museum is open 7 days a week except major holidays. Hours for the museum are: January-March 10am-4pm, April-June 10am-5pm, July-Labor Day 9am-5pm, Labor Day-December 10am-5pm. Admission to the museum is $15 for adults, $10 for kids 5-17 and free for kids 4 and under.
After exploring the museum we were able to take a tour of the 100 year old tug boat, John Purves. It was a very good tour and the tub boat was named after our tour guides father so it was very special. We were able to see the engine room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and captains quarters. Tug boat tours are only offered from 10am-3:30pm May 1- October 29. If you don’t want the tug boat tour admission is $5 cheaper.
You cannot visit Door County with kids and not visit The Farm, honestly even if you don’t have kids this should be on your Door County itinerary. The Farm is a living museum of rural America and here you get the opportunity to see what goes into running a farm. Kids can feed baby goats a bottle of milk, feed cows corn, check out the chicken coops and even milk a goat. Our visit to the Farm was one of the highlights of our trip, the pictures below show you why better than I can tell you.
The Farm is only open Memorial Day Weekend through mid-October from 9am-5pm. Adults and anyone over 13 costs $8.50 and children 3-12 are $5. In addition to the entry fee if you want to feed the goats it’s $0.25 per bottle of milk or bag of corn.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know my motto is “if kids live there, kids can visit”. I never really fell into the whole “kid friendly” destinations theme but Door County seriously caters to families. PC Junction is a casual restaurant that has a train track in the kitchen/bar area. Once you place your order the train which is constantly going around actually brings your food and drinks to you. The excitement on these kids faces was priceless, maybe if I install one of these at home they’ll be more excited about dinner.
We came here for lunch and I’m glad we did as we heard the wait to sit at the few seats that the train delivers to during dinner hours can be brutal. However, if you haven’t noticed a theme yet of course there is a playground right on site that kids can play at while you wait. Even though we were seated right away the kids played there after we ate. I would definitely include this restaurant as one of the things you do with your kids on your itinerary.
Wood Orchard Market
We were originally going to do a cheese tasting across the street from Wood Orchard Market but learned the shows are in the morning so instead we ended up at Wood Orchard Market and we’re so happy we did. They make the best fresh treats and sell fresh fruit as well. You have to try the Apple Cider Donuts and try to get them when they are warm, they literally melt in your mouth. They too have a big playground, tractor bikes, hop scotch and more to entertain kids. Since we had already done two activities for the day and the kids wanted to play we hung out here until dinner.
Fish boils are a big thing to do in Door County so we had to see what they were all about. There are a few restaurants that offer them on different days of the week but we went to Rowley’s Bay Restaurant for their Wednesday boil. The boil is open to everyone so you can see while they make the fish. After its ready it’s taken inside and served buffet style with other meats and side dishes.
Day Three in Door County
Door Artisan Cheese Company
Even though we found out there is way more to Wisconsin than cheese we still had to have some. Did you know the University of Wisconsin has the only Master Cheesemaker Program in the United States? In order to get in you the program you must currently be making cheese in a Wisconsin plant and hold a Wisconsin cheesemaker’s license for a minimum of ten years. With those types of requirements we know the cheese had to be good. The Door Artisan Cheese Company has their kitchen behind huge glass doors and you can visit anytime from 9:30-11:30am to see the process of how the cheese is made.
The head cheesemaker wears a microphone and you can ask him questions about the process. He even comes out to give samples of the freshly made cheese. After watching, we asked for a tour of the cave where they age all of their cheese. Anyone can get this free tour, you just have to ask!
Cana Island Lighthouse
After getting our cheese fix we headed to Cana Island to climb the lighthouse. It was on every list of things to do in Door County I read while doing research for our trip and I see why. Just getting to the island is an adventure! You used to be able to walk on a pier to get to Cana Island but unfortunately due to extensive snow this past winter the lake levels have risen so much it’s underwater. Now you can get there by taking a complimentary tractor ride across the lake.
Once on the island we paid the $12 admission fee for adults, kids under 4 are free and kids 5-17 are $10. The lighthouse is open from 10am-5pm, with the last admission at 4:30pm. You are not able to hold kids while climbing up to the top of the lighthouse but Kennedy (3 years old) climbed all 97 steps with no issues. The view from the top is gorgeous!
If we knew in advance about the open space on the island we would have packed a blanket and a picnic basket to have lunch after. Even though we didn’t we took advantage of the grass and were running all around the island. Pets are all and plenty of people were playing fetch or throwing around frisbees.
Casey’s BBQ & Smokehouse
Since we didn’t bring food to Cana Island we had la late lunch after we left. We sat in the outside patio of Casey’s BBQ & Smokehouse. I’d recommend coming here for dinner instead as half of the menu is only available after 5pm. We didn’t realize that and were too hungry to look for somewhere else to eat.
Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard
We had driven by Not Licked Yet a few times on the way to other places and each time the line was crazy long. We had to see what all the fuss was about so we went and thankfully beat the evening crowd. They sell sandwiches and other snacks but people really come here for the frozen custard so that’s what we got. It reminded me of soft serve ice cream but it was delicious. They also have a big playground where kids can play before or after a treat. There are so many ducks with babies that were adorable and you can purchase duck food to feed them if you’d like.
Day Four in Door County with Kids
Just three minutes from our resort is a quaint breakfast and lunch restaurant, Village Cafe. The breakfast potatoes were so good so I definitely recommend getting a side of those. We arrived early, around 7:30AM and were seated immediately. However, when we drove by later around 10AM, the line was out the door.
The Ridges Sanctuary
If you are an outdoorsy family you have to visit Ridges Sanctuary. As we were walking inside to pay our admission fee we saw two staff members catching butterflies to tag them before their migration. The kids were able to see them up close and personal which they enjoyed. Outside the nature center there is an interactive area for kids. They can make mud pies, add to the insect house and more. It was a really unique and fun thing to do for the kids.
When we went inside there were tables with different activities for kids. These included coloring butterflies, making caterpillars, and making a diagram showing the process of how butterflies come about. The activities in the nature center are free but if you want to hike any of the trials it’s $5 for adults while anyone under 18 is free. Ridges Sanctuary is open daily from 9am – 5pm May – October and only Monday – Saturday from 10am – 4pm November –April.
After enjoying the nature center we finally headed to our hike. We did the Family Discovery Trial which was amazing. At the start of the trial there are backpacks in a bin for the kids filled with binoculars, a magnifying glass, compass and more for their adventure.
Along the path there is a paleontologist area with additional tools for them to find fossils. We saw so many real animals as well including a toad, caterpillars eating on milkweed and more.
Be sure to pack and put on both sunscreen and bug spray before heading on this trail. The mosquitos were out there and we got bitten several times as we weren’t prepared. Other than that the trial is amazing! Just use the bathroom at the welcome center, there is only a port a potty at the beginning of the trial.
Fred and Fuzzy’s
For lunch we went to Fred and Fuzzy’s, known for having one of the best sunset views in Door County. I didn’t enjoy the food as much as some of the other restaurants we visited but it seems their Cherry Margarita is the real draw on why it’s a favorite amongst locals. Still the views here are amazing and worth a visit just for that!
Sister Bay Scenic Tours Live Music Sunset Cruise
Every night we were in awe of the sunsets so it was only right to go on a sunset cruise on our last night. We did the Scenic Tours cruise out of Sister Bay but they have another one out of Fish Creek. The sunset cruise has live music and the nicest Captain ever. He let all the kids drive the boat and wear his Captain’s hat. Even if you were a big kid you could drive the boat as well!
The way the sun reflects on the lake is absolutely gorgeous. The purple and pink hues of the clouds are what really make the Door County sunsets so special. The sunset cruise costs $39 for adults and kids 12 and under are free. The cruise lasted a little over an hour and a half.
Boathouse on the Bay
Right across from the marina is Boathouse on the Bay. They have two outdoor patios and often have live music in the evenings. Most of the restaurants we ate at had mostly sandwiches on the menu so this was a nice change. They offer pasta dishes, oysters, and a wider variety of options. The food was great and we all enjoyed our meals.
Day Five, The End of Our Door County Vacation
Unfortunately, today was the day we were going home. We stopped at the Wood Orchard Market one last time to get our fix of Apple Cider Donuts.
Things to Do in Door County with Kids That We Didn’t Have Time For
When we were first told our Door County vacation was going to be 5 nights I wasn’t sure if there would even be enough for us to do. We quickly discovered there are so many things to do in Door County and we didn’t even have enough time to do them all. Here are some other options to include in your Door County itinerary.
- Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar – Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar is great for rainy days or in the evening if you are looking for something to do late at night. They are open until 2AM and have an arcade and a bowling alley. If you have tweens or teenagers traveling with you then this would be a great place to stop and hang out!
- Hands on Art Studio – Hands on Art Studio is another rainy day activity. Here you can make your own art from painting ceramics to fused glass. I don’t know a kid that doesn’t love making an art project (or adult for that matter!) If you haven’t visited one of these DIY art studios with your family before it’s definitely worth trying out.
- Skyway Drive- In – Skyway is the local drive in movie theater showing two movies each night. One low price allows you to stay for both movies! This is something to do with older kids as well. Unless you’ve been blessed with littles that will sit through a whole movie it might be better to skip this until they’re a little older.
- Cherry Picking – We just missed cherry picking season but if you come to Door County with kids this would be such a fun activity. We’ve done strawberry picking in Miami before and loved it.
- Apple Picking – Like cherry picking, apple picking is also a fun thing to do in Door County. The season for picking apples is the fall which we were too early for.
Door County, WI Really Nails Down the Family Aspect & Is the Perfect Vacation Destination for Kids
Door County is a family-centric county and there’s no shortage of things to do with kids. There are so many fun things to do with kids and adults alike in this beautiful location. It’s best to visit door county during warmer months when you can enjoy outdoor activities on green spaces like beaches, parks, and forests. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or an extended vacation stay, there are plenty of family-friendly accommodations for all budgets that will make your trip a memorable one!
We had an amazing time experiencing all the things to do in Door County with kids. We heard fall is a stunning time to visit and hope we can return to see the leaves change. Until then we hope this Door County itinerary helps you plan your own trip to Wisconsin. Did you find this blog post helpful? If so please share it on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter!
*Our visit to Door County, Wisconsin was sponsored by Door County Visitors Bureau and Travel Wisconsin. We were so happy to be able to complete this trip with Karen and Aiden from The Mom Trotter. All opinions expressed are my own and true. *
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