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Three Hidden Nature Treasures in Milwaukee

Jeramey Jannene/Flickr

For an urban city, Milwaukee's got a lot of nature around.

While the calendar might not say it, we tend to think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start to summer. Colleges are out, many pools have opened, summer sports seasons have started, and we are all spending more time outdoors. At least, we should be.

But as many have pointed out, a lot of us - kids in particular - don't get outside and explore as much as we used to.

Contributors Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, authors of The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book, say there are lots of natural treasures in the Milwaukee area - you just have to know where to look.

"Milwaukee has a fantastic park system," Tornio says. "We're really lucky for that, and really, in any neighborhood...there's something for you to do."

Here are their top three hidden nature treasures in the city:

Wehr Nature Center - Franklin/Whitnall Park

See if you can find Wehr's waterfall or hike around the entire pond. Plus, Wehr's hosting two bat nights this summer, on June 14th and August 23rd for kids 12 and older.

"Bats are really cool critters," Keffer says. "They've got this fancy technology now where they can convert that bat noise so you can actually hear that sonogram they are sending out there and so yeah, you might not see them, but you'll actually be listening for bats too, which is a really cool experience."

Havenwoods State Forest - Milwaukee

This is Wisconsin's only urban state forest, containing 237 acres of grasslands, woods and wetlands right in the city. There more than six miles of trails, perfect for hiking. Plus, Havenwoods runs the Wisconsin Explorer Program, which provides a booklet full of ideas for activities and educational information. When kids complete the tasks listed, they can earn a patch.

Urban Ecology Center - Riverside Park, Wauwatosa and Menomonee Valley

The gold standard for exploring the natural Milwaukee area, the Center has a canoe, kayak and bike lending program for members. Its sites host animal feeding every week, and there are daily activities for all ages. Many programs are free, and a family membership is only $35 per year.

Plus, there are three locations throughout the city.

"They really embrace the city of Milwaukee and those neighborhoods," Keffer says. "They're really focused on  those neighborhoods and getting those folks outside and exploring that big backyard."

As a bonus, go to the Riverside Park location and see if you can find the "hidden room" or take a ride down the slide.

Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer are the authors of The Kids' Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up.