It’s going to be that time of year again soon… spring break! Since this feels…
6 Fun Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
There’s tons of totally fun, zero-stress things to do in Milwaukee
San Francisco, Chicago and LA all get a lot of attention and for very good reasons, but lately I’ve been really loving the smaller and emerging cities like Milwaukee. It’s an easy city to get around, great & friendly people, not expensive and you can actually check off a lot of the “must sees’ in a matter of days and not feel hurried, exhausted or overwhelmed. Here’s how to make the most of your weekend in the Brew City.
Stay (or Party) at the Iron Horse Hotel
This 100-year-old warehouse turned modern luxury hotel isn’t just the most stylish place to stay, but the most fun. Built in 1907 as Berger Bedding Company, the Iron Horse now offers 100 loft-style guest rooms, complete with luxurious pillow-top beds, big windows, exposed brick walls, wood timbers and walk-in rain showers.
Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, go for the food and drink scene. You could do a decadent dinner or Sunday brunch at Smyth (think elevated meat-and-potatoes fare), or grab a craft cocktail and snack at the hotel bar (pretzel bites and cheese curds encouraged!), Branded. If weather permits, the Yard offers the best patio in town. To really embrace the ‘Sconnie lifestyle, order their Fashion & Clash cocktail, their version of an old fashioned made with Korbel brandy, cherry, orange, cinnamon and bitters.
Go to a Brewers Game
If you’re heading to Milwaukee during baseball season, a trip to Miller Park is a must. Though the stadium is great, it’s the tailgating scene that steals the show. Arrive early with your grill, brats and a cooler of cold ones in tow for a pre-game party. Wisconsinites love playing bags (or cornhole, depending on where you’re from), and are usually pretty darn friendly. See if you can weasel your way into a game or two– bribing with a beer never hurts.
Hang Out at the Milwaukee Art Museum
With over 30,000 works of art, the MAM offers the largest art collection in the state. The 341,000-square-foot Museum includes four floors and over forty galleries of art are rotated regularly with works from antiquity to the present in the Museum’s far-reaching Collection. The Museum also holds one of the largest collections of works by Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe. Be sure to check out the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that unfolds and folds twice daily.
Check Out a Friday Fish Fry
Fish fries are a cultural phenomenon in Wisconsin, and if you’re there on a Friday, you HAVE TO GO! (Yes, I am shouting!). Nearly every restaurant in town offers a fish fry on Fridays, and of course some are better than others. Though places might put their unique spin on the menu, you’re mostly looking at a battered cod or perch served with potato pancakes, apple sauce, coleslaw and tartar sauce. I love Thrillist’s roundup of the best fish fries in town. Trust me, you’ll be happy at any of them.
Tour a Brewery
Channel your inner Laverne and Shirley at one of Brew City’s many breweries (c’mon, how do you think they earned that nickname?). A favorite is Lakefront, founded in 1987 and located right on the Milwaukee River. They run tours daily, with 60 spots available per tour. You can buy your ticket ahead of time online (for $9-10 a pop, depending on the day), or try to nab one on the spot. These guys do an excellent Friday fish fry, complete with polka band. You know you wanna go.
Visit the Harley-Davidson Museum
Even if you’re not a biker, there’s just something special about the Harley-Davidson Museum. Check out over 450 motorcycles and artifacts, dating back to Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle. If you’re into factory tours– and let’s be honest, who isn’t?– opt for their two-part Steel Toe Tour, which offers admission to the museum, plus a trip by shuttle to the Harley-Davidson Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Milwaukee? Share in the comments!
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I love the Spy themed bar, The Safe House!
Ten Chimneys! 25 miles out of town. An American great spot. The former home of famed acting team Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Now a gorgeous museum with grounds and a fascinating history. Look it up. Tenchimneys.org. A not to be missed place.
You forgot the “Mitchell Park Domes”. Or is that the next six things? Grant Park and others that are known for leisure walks along the famous Lake Michigan. The Kelements’ sausage, and chocolate factories that also made Milwaukee famous. Walks along the downtown riverfront and the many summer ethnic festivals and art scenes are worth a vacation or two. It is a great family centered city with many neighborhoods like Bay View which is seeing a resurgence of family homes and life.
I’m glad to see you’ve “discovered” my home town, which I’ve always told folks is America’s “Best Kept Secret”, ESPECIALLY in the summertime…
Here’s a few other suggestions that should always be at the top of anyone’s list…
1.) Summer Festivals. Every weekend, Milwaukee hosts large ethnic and music festivals downtown, on the scenic shores of Lake Michigan.
From Summerfest, an 11 day music festival, to Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, German fest, Polish Fest etc. The short summers mean that folks REALLY appreciate the time to get down and let loose EVERY weekend.
2.) Old World Third Street. – A throwback to Milwaukee’s German heritage, that I ALWAYS make a point of visiting.
Usinger’s German sausage – Since 1884, this place has produced and sold THE BEST Summer sausage, bratwurst, knockwurst, and specialties like smoked pork chops, Canadian bacon and much more.
Next door to Usingers, is Wisconsin Cheese Mart, which carries an incredible selection of Wisconsin cheeses. My favorite is the 15 year aged cheddar, (Extra extra sharp and crumbly.
The Cheese Mart also has a tap room where you can pair beers and wine’s with cheese plates and sample to your heart’s delight!
Old German Beer Hall. Nearby bith Usinger’s and Wisconsin Cheese Mart is Old German Beer Hall, which is a throwback both to Milwaukee’s own heritage, as well as Oktoberfest culture from Munich. The beer is all imported straight from Germany, and the food is a broad selection of Usinger’s sausages to treats like giant German pretzels.
Boat trips along Milwaukee River and Lakefront – There are a number of tour boats that allow you to do everything from a pleasant one hour trip out on to Lake Michigan, to full on dinner cruises, and Happy Hour Blues and Reggae cruises.
Milwaukee County Parks Beer gardens – Milwaukee is well known for its bar-centric night-life throughout the year, but in the summertime, there are several county parks around town that open up seasonal outdoor beer gardens.
Some parks have beer gardens that are open all summer, while others feature “roving” beer gardens that are open for just a weekend or two
Often live entertainment is provided.
Frozen custard – How can you NOT stop for frozen custard when you’re in Milwaukee???
Yes, its absolutely best ice cream you’ve EVER had! (Except its not ice cream… its FROZEN CUSTARD!)
My favorites are Gilles’ and Kopps.
Wisconsin State Fair – Every year in early August the best of rural Wisconsin is on display on Milwaukee’s nearby suburb, West Allis.
How could anyone NOT love the opportunity to commune with cows, pigs and sheep, while eating the most INCREDIBLE cream puffs ANYWHERE?
Needless to say, Milwaukee has a LOT to offer!
Wow!!! I can’t wait to go!
I would also recommend the Milwaukee County Zoo. It’s as good if not better than most zoos in America. And because it’s a county facility, you can bring in your own food and drinks.
If it’s summertime, I would tell people to go to the lakefront. Milwaukee’s socialist Mayors believed the lakefront belonged to everyone. It’s public space from one end to the other. Fly a kite, take sailing lessons, visit Discovery World, watch beach volleyball, take a paddleboat on the lagoon, ride a bike or segway. Take a ride on the Denis Sullivan, a turn-of-the-century Great Lakes Schooner.
There is just so much to do.
As indicated, the Burke Brise Soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum opens and closes it’s “wings” twice daily. They open up at 10 am before the museum opens and close when the museum closes. However, the best time to watch is the lunchtime show where the staff closes and then immediately reopens the wings, allowing you to see the complete process. When you purchase your ticket, inquire if and when this extra show will happen during your visit!
Summerfest , Real Chili , Suburpia , Pedal Tavern , Shank hall (to name a few must see spots you overlooked)
Thanks for adding these! I’ll have to visit one or two on my trip there.
Try the millercoors brewery tour.
If you see me say hi.
I work in shipping.
That’s another great adventure in Milwaukee.
We come from north eastern Illinois.
Day trips or an occasional winter weekend getaway.
To have breakfast ( Blues Egg, Story Hill ), indoor farmers market at The Mitchell Domes in winter Saturdays , ice cream at “Purple Door “yum! And the Third Ward plus antiquing .
So much easier then going down town Chicago.
I’m headed to Milwaukee in two weeks and appreciated these tips. I have a feeling there’s more to see than I’ll be able to fit into a weekend.
Went to Milwaukee for the weekend and enjoyed so many beers and cheese, and Art! I was so glad to have all of these recommendations. My recommendation is to spend more than 2 days there! It’s a beautiful city.
They need to add the natural history museum … the best in the world … and I’ve been to them all over the world. Collection displays may not be that thorough in some subjects, but the artistry and academic accuracy is OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!