How to Picnic in The Park

Nearly 150 picnic areas, along with picnic shelters and pavilions, are available for rent throughout Milwaukee County. If you’re counting on having picnic tables for your party or if you plan on drinking alcohol, grilling, or putting up a tent, you'll need to reserve a site with a Milwaukee County Parks Picnic Rental Permit or use one of the designated first-come, first-served areas. Now get ready to open that picnic basket!


Here's our guide to #MKEthemost of picnics in the park

Reserving/using a picnic area

  • The Picnic Season runs May 1 through Oct. 15
  • You may drink alcohol, grill, or set up a tent at a picnic site when you have a Picnic Rental Permit or when you are using a designated first-come, first-served area.
  • To set up a bounce house, petting zoo, or pony rides, you are REQUIRED to have a Picnic Rental Permit. These attractions are NOT ALLOWED at the designated first-come, first-served areas.
  • A minimum notice of seven days is needed for reservations made in-person or by phone. A minimum notice of 10 days is needed for reservations made online.
  • A Picnic Rental Permit reserves your site for a full day, from 10 a.m.–9 p.m., rain or shine
  • Rental rates are based on the capacity of the site, and whether the reserved date falls on a weekday or weekend. 
  • MORE INFO!
    M-F 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Ask questions, get details on park attractions, check availability, & reserve as late as 7 days in advance! Visit Parks Administration Public Services at 9480 Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa or call (414) 257-8005 

    Anytime* Get details on park attractions, check availability & reserve as late as 10 days in advance ONLINE
    *Note: Reservations cannot be made from 1-5 a.m. due to system maintenance.

Prime picnic sites go quickly, so start planning! Visit our website (https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Parks/Plan/Have-a-Picnic)

Picnic with a Brew-
or "King of the Grill" Picnic

Picnic Rental Permits and picnics in designated first-come, first-served areas allow for alcoholic beverages to be served (to those 21 years+ only!) but not to be sold.

For a cookout, bring your grill (an enclosed metal container) to your permitted site or designated first-come, first-served area. When you’ve finished grilling, have water on hand to douse hot coals before putting them in the hot-coals barrel available at each picnic site. If you cannot find a designated container for disposal, you'll need to take the coals home with you. You can also have an above-ground pig-roast (just no digging), and you'll handle the coals the same as you do when grilling. You can be King of the Grill but not King of the Fryer! Deep fryers are not allowed.  

Pop Up a Tent

You can pop up a tent or two in your permitted site or designated first-come, first-served area. You must use sandbags or weights to secure the structure because staking is not allowed. This regulation is for your safety! Parks have underground irrigation systems, power lines, and other utility lines. Tents larger than 10 feet by 10 feet require prior written approval from the Park Manager.

Rain-Proof your Picnic

If you need a back-up plan for poor weather or want easy access to restrooms, rent one of the picnic sites with a shelter and adjacent restrooms, such as the shelters at Doctors #1 and Kern #3, or the historic shelter at Grant #5A (complete with carvings by WPA artists). Restrooms are open to the public during your rental.

Bounce off the Walls of an Inflatable

For extra fun for the kids, you can plan to have an inflatable at your reserved outdoor picnic site--that is, no inflatables within a shelter--and you need to meet a few conditions. You must provide a Certificate of Insurance with $1,000,000 (one million) in general liability and Milwaukee County Parks named as an additional insured party. You'll need to make your own arrangements for the inflatable and generator for operating it. You'll also need to use sandbags for securing the structure from movement. For your safety, staking is not allowed. Parks have underground irrigation systems, power lines, and other utility lines. Bounce houses are NOT ALLOWED at the designated first-come, first-served picnic areas.

Experience a Petting Zoo & Pony Rides

Petting zoos and pony rides are permitted in outdoor areas of your reserved picnic site--not within shelters--and you must meet a few conditions. You must provide a Certificate of Insurance with $1,000,000 (one million) in general liability and Milwaukee County Parks named as an additional insured party. You'll need to make your own arrangements for the petting zoo or pony rides and any  equipment for operating them. You'll also need to use sandbags for securing any structures, such as fences. For your safety, staking is not allowed. Parks have underground irrigation systems, power lines, and other utility lines. Petting zoos and pony rides are NOT ALLOWED at the designated first-come, first-served picnic areas.

The Best-Laid Plans. . .
Cancellations

Sometimes things just don't work out. We understand! To cancel your reservation, submit the Cancellation Request Form to the Public Services Office. If your cancellation is received within 24 hours of making the initial reservation, you will receive a full refund. After 24 hours, a non-refundable $25 processing fee will be charged for all picnic cancellations. If your cancellation is received less than 30 days prior to the scheduled rental date, you will not be eligible for a refund. Refunds are not issued due to unfavorable weather conditions. Rentals are not rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Fourth of July Picnics

Celebrate the Fourth with a family picnic! On this holiday, enjoy picnic sites on a first-come, first-served basis. We do not take reservations for the Fourth of July.

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