10 Great Locations to Take Photos Within One Hour of Milwaukee, WI

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As a photographer, finding new locations to shoot is an ongoing process. Whether you're scouting locations for professional shoots or simply looking for new places to take your camera in your free time, it can be difficult to keep coming up with exciting options. Since I bought a DSLR and started looking for places to take pictures around Milwaukee, I've read list after list with the same half a dozen suggestions. I know that many photographers are in the same boat. The following is a round up of 10 of my favorite places a little ways outside of Milwaukee proper that are definitely worth the trip for hobbyist and professional photographers alike.

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The views overlooking Lake Michigan from Lion's Den Gorge are spectacular.
The views overlooking Lake Michigan from Lion's Den Gorge are spectacular.
The views overlooking Lake Michigan from Lion's Den Gorge are spectacular. | Source
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1) Lion's Den Gorge

Lion's Den Gorge is one of the many gorgeous natural areas along the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. If you've exhausted the natural areas within Milwaukee, Lion's Den Gorge is a great excuse to explore a little further afield. The 73-acre park spans more than half a mile along the lakefront north of the city, offering spectacular views over the 100-foot bluffs. The park includes trails, bridges, and boardwalks as well as stairs leading down to the lake.

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St. Mary's Catholic ChurchSt. Mary's Catholic ChurchSt. Mary's Catholic ChurchSt. Mary's Catholic ChurchSt. Mary's Catholic ChurchSt. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
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St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
St. Mary's Catholic Church
St. Mary's Catholic Church | Source
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2) Port Washington

Port Washington is right up the road from Lion's Den Gorge, which makes it easy to hit both destinations in a single day. There's plenty to see in Port Washington if you do opt to make it into a separate trip. Located right on the lake, it offers the best of a Lake Michigan waterfront village with a bit of New England charm. The town features a variety of boutiques, specialty food shops, and restaurants as well as two lighthouses.

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3) Cedarburg

Cedarburg is well known in the greater Milwaukee area for its year round festival schedule, its unique mix of shops, and the Cedar Creek Winery. The town has worked hard to preserve its classic image. There are ample opportunities for capturing Americana at its best as well as taking long exposures of the multiple waterfalls that wind through the downtown.

Cedarburg - Strawberry Festival 2008

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Lambs at Old World Wisconsin during the summer 2014.The new Wheel Fever exhibit.
Lambs at Old World Wisconsin during the summer 2014.
Lambs at Old World Wisconsin during the summer 2014. | Source
The new Wheel Fever exhibit.
The new Wheel Fever exhibit. | Source
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4) Old World Wisconsin

If you live in southeast Wisconsin and you haven't been to Old World Wisconsin, it's worth making the trip at least once. Old World is a great way to learn about the history of the state while spending time outside and getting some great pictures. Experience farm life, artisan handicrafts, food preparation methods, and much more up close and personal in Old World's eight separate villages.

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5) Grant Park

Located in South Milwaukee, Grant Park is another fabulous park expanse right on the edge of Lake Michigan. Arguably the park is best known for its Seven Bridges. It's well worth checking out the bridges, but the park has far more to offer beyond them. Among other things, you have to get over to the waterfall where the Oak Creek Parkway intersects with Mill Rd / 6th Ave. While you're down that way, you can explore the extensive southern trails as well.

Grab a few basic tips for long exposure photography before checking out the Grant Park waterfall.

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6) Kenosha

Over the past decade, Kenosha has completely revitalized their downtown. From the museums to the restaurants to the shops to the condos, there is so much going on in their old downtown area now. You can check out the Kenosha Public Museum, Dinosaur Discovery Museum, and Civil War Museum. Make sure to head over to the lighthouse while you're down that way, too.

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7) Racine

Many people hear the word Racine and only think of how the lesser neighbor of Kenosha is known for its high crime rates, rough neighborhoods, and poor public schools. They have no idea that Racine offers great, safe places for taking pictures. Like many towns, you just have to be careful about where and when you go out and take pictures. Similar to Kenosha, over the past decade or so, Racine has completely revitalized their downtown. Right along the lake, it offers vibrant shops, restaurants, and beautiful views. While you're in Racine, it's also worth stopping at Wind Point Lighthouse and the Racine Zoo, both minutes from the downtown.

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One of the bigger mansions along Lake Geneva.
One of the bigger mansions along Lake Geneva.
One of the bigger mansions along Lake Geneva. | Source
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8) Lake Geneva

Many Wisconsinites frequent the Dells and Door County in the summer without considering a visit to Lake Geneva, which is the bigger draw for Chicagoans. While there is nothing wrong with either of these other destinations, Lake Geneva is a mere hour from Milwaukee, making it an easy day trip for taking pictures. Catch a boat ride, walk part of the trail around the lake, and explore the tourist trap downtown.

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9) Frame Park / downtown Waukesha

Frame Park is tucked right in next to downtown Waukesha and offers many great options for photographers. From the stone foxes on the north end to the waterfall on the south end, you can easily spend several hours exploring all that Frame Park has to offer. It's great to go in the spring or summer when there are lots of flowers blooming, but the area is beautiful in the fall, too.

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10) the Bristol Renaissance Faire

Attending the annual Bristol Renaissance Faire is a long running tradition for me and my husband. People are constantly amazed when I tell them that it's a great place to take pictures, claiming that there couldn't be possibly be better people watching at Bristol than the Wisconsin State Fair. Actually the people watching at Bristol blows any state fair out of the water. Whether you're a long time Renaissance Faire enthusiast or are simply looking for a new destination to take pictures during a summer weekend, it's definitely worth making the trip to Bristol at least once.

Adam Crack's Fire Whip at the Bristol Renaissance Faire 2012

show route and directions
A markerLion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve -
511 High Bluff Drive, Grafton, WI 53024, USA
[get directions]

B markerOld World Wisconsin -
W372 S9727 Wisconsin 67, Eagle, WI 53119, USA
[get directions]

C markerGrant Park -
100 Hawthorne Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI 53172, USA
[get directions]

D markerFrame Park -
701 East Moreland Boulevard, Waukesha, WI 53186, USA
[get directions]

E markerBristol Renaissance Faire -
12550 120th Avenue, Kenosha, WI 53142, USA
[get directions]

© 2015 Rose Clearfield

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Comments 7 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

I've never been there and probably never will be, but I enjoyed the pictures and I can see why people would love it there.....but maybe not in the winter. LOL


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 20 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

Thanks, Bill! Winters can be rough here, but they're worth it for the other seasons.


tsmith53149 profile image

tsmith53149 20 months ago from Mukwonago, Wisconsin

Earlier in October, I went up to Sheboygan to surf, and took some sick pics

on my iPhone. Sheboygan is such a pretty area too!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 20 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

tsmith, nice! I'll be up there this weekend and am looking forward to checking it out.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

These look so good they make me want to vacation in the area or at least pass through!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 20 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

Thanks, FlourishAnyway! That means a lot to me. I hope that you can get out this way sometime.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 17 months ago from Illinois

I'm within an hour of Milwaukee so this is a real nice resource for me as I haven't been to all of these locations. I'm hoping to go to Lake Geneva one day this summer and walk part of the trail around the lake and look at all the homes that surround it. I think the entire trail is 20 miles but I thought I read somewhere that you can go a partial distance and take a boat back. You're photos are really nice!

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