Milwaukee, Wisconsin, maybe a small city nestled between Lake Michigan and the farmland of its suburbs – but it’s also full of surprises! As someone lucky enough to grow up here, I’m still uncovering all there is to do.
Milwaukee, also known as Cream City, is a wonderful place to live or visit. The city is filled with a lot of great food and drink, plus a host of interesting museums and factory tours. There are a lot of great activities on Lake Michigan or near the lakefront. This city of festivals has something to offer everyone.
From outdoor activities in our many parks and trails, great restaurants with unique flavors from around the world (don’t miss out on that famous cheese curd!), and culture-filled events enjoyed by locals & visitors alike—the possibilities are endless. Milwaukee has something for everyone – come explore what this wonderful city offers!
There’s plenty to do in Milwaukee, from breweries to parks to festivals. Check out this insider’s guide for the best of the best!
Table of Contents
Things To Do In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Cream City
- While In Milwaukee, Go Out for Beer and Brats
- While In Milwaukee Go, Bar Hopping
- While In Milwaukee, Enjoy Frozen Custard
- In Milwaukee, Check Out A Museum
- In Milwaukee, Experience the Harley- Davidson Campus
- Explore Pabst Mansion & Museum In Milwaukee
- Go to the Milwaukee County Zoo
- Attend a Festival in the Milwaukee -The City of Festivals
- Go to a Sporting Event in Milwaukee
- Explore Milwaukee’s Lakefront Area
- Go Cruising on Lake Michigan
- Go Sailing around Lake Michigan.
- Kayak, Canoe, or Paddleboard on The Waterways in Downtown Milwaukee
- Go to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s – Burnham Street Block
- Visit the Mitchell Park Domes – A Milwaukee Favorite
- Related Questions
Things To Do In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Cream City
Milwaukee is an exciting city with something for everyone! With a population of over 600,000, it’s the largest urban area in Wisconsin and one of the 5th biggest cities in the Midwest.
You’ll find plenty to do along Lake Michigan – just two hours north of Chicago! From its rich culture and hidden gems to outdoor activities like fishing or sailing on picturesque lakes – Milwaukee has something unique waiting around every corner.
Milwaukee is also called Cream City, not because it is in Wisconsin, the dairy state, but because of the light-colored bricks found throughout the city of Milwaukee.
While In Milwaukee, Go Out for Beer and Brats
When you are in Milwaukee, make sure you get yourself a good brat and if you are a beer drinker, try some of the famous local beer. For Wisconsinites, beer and brats usually go hand-in-hand.
Here are some locations to get some good brats and beer:
- Mader’s Restaurant – Maders is an old-style German Tavern that was established in 1902. Today it continues to be a premier location for all kinds of German food, including brats and German beer. This is a not to be missed German-style tavern and restaurant. It is located at 1041 N Old World 3rd St in downtown Milwaukee. You can find out more about Mader’s Restaurant by clicking here.
- Usinger Sausage – Usingers Sausage is a famous Milwaukee brand of deli products, including sausages. They have a historic factory in downtown Milwaukee near the Milwaukee Riverwalk at 1030 N. Old World Third Street. This is a must-stop place on your trip to Milwaukee, especially if you like good-quality sausage. You can click here to learn more about Usinger Sausage and Deli.
- Milwaukee Brat House – The Milwaukee Brat House has two locations, one is in downtown Milwaukee, and the other is in Shorewood. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Brat House by clicking here.
- Vanguard – House-Made Sausages – Vanguard is in downtown Bayview just outside Milwaukee City, at 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue. They make their own sausage in-house. You can find out more about Vanguard by clicking here.
- The Water Street Brewery – The Water Street Brewery has 4 locations around Milwaukee. One is downtown, and the others are in Grafton, Delafield, and Oak Creek. They have an Old World Sausage platter that has a brat. You can find out more about The Water Street Brewery by clicking here.
- Pabst Brewery – The Pabst Brewery serves not only beer but also has a small food menu that includes many German favorites such as brats. They are located at 1037 West Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. You can learn more about the Pabst Brewery menu and the beers they have on tap and in bottles and cans by clicking here.
If you do not have time to go to any of these places, you can usually find a good brat in any place that would normally serve hotdogs as a Brewers game at the American Family Field (formerly Miller Park).
While In Milwaukee Go, Bar Hopping
From the tap to your table, Milwaukee is a mecca for beer lovers! As Brew City’s moniker implies, many bars and breweries are scattered throughout, providing plenty of opportunities to sample some delicious brews.
Traveling down any street in Wisconsin will surely lead you toward an inviting pub or tavern offering great beers and delectable food items sure to tantalize anyone’s taste buds.
Here are some of the favorite local places to go:
- Safehouse – If you are James Bond Fan or love spy novels, then the Safehouse is a place you must go. The restaurant is an old Milwaukee establishment that has been operating since 1966. The Safehouse is at 779 Front Street in Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Safehouse by clicking here.
- Mo’s Irish Pub – A Milwaukee favorite with live bands and music on the weekends is Mo Irish Pub. They are located at 142 Wisconsin Avenue, right in downtown Milwaukee. You can find out more about Mo’s Irish Pub by clicking here.
- Camp Bar – This bar and restaurant are about camping and living outdoors. They have three locations in Shorewood, Wauwatosa, and downtown Milwaukee at the Historic Third Ward on 525 E Menomonee Street. You can find out more about the Camp Bar by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Ale House – The Milwaukee Ale House is another Milwaukee favorite with great views on the Milwaukee River. They have beers on tap, live music, and great food. They are located in the Historic Third Ward at 233 North Water Street. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Ale House by clicking here.
While In Milwaukee, Enjoy Frozen Custard
Frozen custard is a Milwaukee favorite eaten and enjoyed all year round, even in the very cold winter. It is a true taste of Milwaukee and the dairy state of Wisconsin.
Most local places with frozen custard will also have a flavor of the day and a full menu with hamburgers and other foods. The flavor of the day will change from day to day.
You can get daily alerts on your cell phone or in your email inbox that will tell you what the day’s flavor is each day of the week. If you are not sure what the flavor is, you can just drive by the frozen custard place, and usually, a sign will announce the frozen custard flavor.
Here are some of the favorite Milwaukee places to eat frozen custard:
- Kopps Frozen Custard – Kopps Frozen Custard is a Milwaukee favorite. Not only do they have amazing frozen custard, but they also have very good hamburgers and other food. There are three locations in Milwaukee Greenfield, Brookfield, and Glendale. The two closest locations to downtown Milwaukee would be the Greenfield and Glendale location. Kopps has a flavor alert system, so when your favorite flavor comes up, they will send you an email to let you know. You can find out more about Kopps and their locations by clicking on their website here.
- Culvers – Another Milwaukee favorite is Culvers. Like Kopps, they also have a full menu with various food items. They also have a flavor of the day; you can search on their website what flavor is in what location. Though Culvers is a Wisconsin company, it is now located in many other states. You can find out more about Culvers and their locations by clicking here.
- Gilles Frozen Custard – Gilles is a very old Milwaukee frozen custard establishment operating since 1938. They have one location at 7515 West Bluemound Road, about 75th Street and Bluemound Road. Like the other places, they have a full menu and a flavor daily. Gilles is like a true old fashion Frozen Custard place. You can find out more about Gilles by clicking here.
- Leon’s Frozen Custard – Leon’s is another old-time Milwaukee favorite that has been around since 1948. It inspired Arnold’s Drive-In from the popular television sitcom Happy Days. This is one of the frozen custard places closest to downtown at 3131 S. 27th Street in South Milwaukee. They also have a flavor of the day. You can find out more about Leon by clicking here.
- Mosa Burger – Mosa Burger is a small burger and custard stand at Bradford beach in downtown Milwaukee. It is open during the summer months when the beach is open. They have hamburgers, brats, and other food, including frozen custard. You can find out more about Mosa Burger by clicking here.
In Milwaukee, Check Out A Museum
Milwaukee has a lot of great museums. So if you like museums, you will have a lot of choices to go to throughout Milwaukee. Some museums are large and well-known; others are smaller, independent museums.
Here are some of your museum choices in Milwaukee:
- Milwaukee Art Museum – The Milwaukee Art Museum is a world-class museum in downtown Milwaukee at 700 N. Art Museum Drive. The building is interesting because it has Burke Brise Soleil, a set of wings similar in size to a Boeing 747 wingspan. But these wings will open and close throughout the day, You can find out more about the Burke Brise Soleil by clicking here. You can also find out more about the Milwaukee Art Museum by clicking here
- Milwaukee Public Museum – The Milwaukee Public Museum is also a very good museum with some interesting exhibits. If you enjoy museums, then this is an interesting place to visit. The Milwaukee Public Museum has an exhibit of the Streets of Old Milwaukee. The museum is located in downtown Milwaukee at 800 West Wells Street. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Public Museum by clicking here.
- Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum – The AO Smith family left their house in downtown Milwaukee at 2220 N. Terrace Ave. It overlooks Lake Michigan, and the former AO Smith home is now a decorative arts museum. This home is in an amazing setting, To find out more about the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum you can click here.
- Grohmann Museum – The Grohmann Museum is located in the Milwaukee School of Engineering at 1000 N. Broadway Street. The Museum has some interesting artwork and other displays. You can find out more about the Grohman Museum by clicking here.
- Betty Brinn Children’s Museum – The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is a great museum to take children to; they have a lot of hands-on and interactive displays. The museum is located at 929 E. Wisconsin Ave. You can learn more about the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum by clicking here.
- Charles Allis Museum – This is a very interesting museum as it is in the old Allis Family Mansion. The mansion was built to have a place to house their art collection. It is located at 1801 N Prospect Avenue. You can find out more about the Charles Allis Museum by clicking here.
- Discovery World Museum – Another great museum to take children is the Discovery World Museum on the lakefront in Milwaukee, The museum is located at 500 N Harbor Drive. You can find out more about the Discovery World Museum by clicking here.
- Haggerty Museum of Art – Marquette University also has an art museum called the Haggerty Museum of Art. The museum is located at 1234 W Tory Hill Street. You can find out more about the Haggerty Museum of Art by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Historical Society – The Milwaukee Historical Society is located in downtown Milwaukee at 910 N. Old Water Street. They have a series of educational exhibits. The society is located in an elegant old bank building that was designed by the Kirchhoff and Rose Architectural Firm. If you love old architecture, this is a wonderful old building to visit. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Historical Society and its exhibits by clicking here.
- Wisconsin Black Historical Society – Another smaller museum that focuses on the African- American history in Milwaukee and Wisconsin is the Wisconsin Black Historical Society. You can find out about the events and exhibits of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society by clicking here.
In Milwaukee, Experience the Harley- Davidson Campus
Milwaukee is famous as the hometown of Harley- Davidson Motorcycles. You can see and do a lot at the Harley-Davidson Campus. Visiting Harley-Davidson is like visiting an important part of American life and culture.
Here are things to experience at Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Campus:
- Harley-Davidson Museum – At the core of the Harley- Davidson visit is the Harley-Davidson Museum. It is a walk through the history of America and the great iconic motorcycle brand. On Wednesdays and Fridays, there is also a special behind-the-scenes tour. To see all their museum programs, you can learn more about the Harley-Davidson Museum by clicking here.
- Harley Davidson Museum – Try a Bike Gallery – At the museum, you can try a bike and get your photo taken on various bikes. There are also some videos with Harley-Davidson’s motorbikes so that you can feel like you are riding on the open road. To learn more about Harley-Davidson Museum Try a Bike Gallery, you can click here.
- Harley Davidson Museum – Jumpstart Demo – You can jump on a Harley- Davidson and experience what it is like to actually ride on a motorcycle with their jumpstart demo. You can even go through shifting the gears while safely attached to the jumpstart platform. To find out more about the Harley Davidson Museum – Jumpstart Demo, you can click here.
- Saturday Harley-Davidson Demo Rides – Try out some of the latest Harley-Davidson motorcycles on Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm between May to September. To find out if you can qualify for these Harley Davidson Demo Rides you can click here.
- Motor Bar and Restaurant – On the Harley-Davidson campus is a restaurant that offers a lot of great American food. They also host some special events throughout the year. You can find out about their special events by clicking here. To see the Motor Bar and Restaurant menu you can also find out more by clicking here.
- Harley-Davidson – The Shop – The Harley-Davidson campus in Milwaukee also had a shop where you could purchase a host of Harley-Davidson merchandise. You can also buy from them online To find out more about The Shop, you can click here.
- Stroll around the Harley-Davidson campus – There are a lot of places you can stroll around the Harley-Davidson campus To find a map of the campus you can find it by clicking here,
Explore Pabst Mansion & Museum In Milwaukee
Like Harley-Davidson is a well-known Milwaukee name, so is Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. In Milwaukee, you can go to the Pabst Museum, which is in the Pabst Mansion or go on a tour of the Pabst factory and sample their beers at the end of the tour.
Here is some information on the Pabst Mansion & Museum and the Pabst factory tour and Pabst Theater:
- Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion – Captain Frederick Pabst was a German- American who the Pabst Brewing Company was named after. This home, on 2000 W. Wisconsin Avenue In Milwaukee, was the Pabst family home from 1892 to 1908. You can visit the Mansion, which is also a Museum. They also have a lecture series and some events that will occur throughout the year. You can find out more about the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion and Museum by clicking here.
- Pabst Brewery Tours – Pabst Brewery also gives tours of the Brewery. Tour runs mainly in the evenings on weekdays and Saturdays and Sundays during the day. Tour also includes beer tastings. The Pabst Taproom also has a lot of events going on. You can find out more about the Pabst Brewery events by clicking here. You can find out more about the Pabst Brewery Tours by clicking here.
- Pabst Theater – The Pabst Theatre was built by Captain Frederick Pabst in 1895 as a German-style opera house. It has opulent glamour both inside and out. Inside there is a two-ton Austrian crystal chandelier and a staircase made with white marble. The Pabst Theater is still in operation today so you can catch a show there. To find out more about the Pabst Theater and what is playing there you can click here.
Go to the Milwaukee County Zoo
The Milwaukee County Zoo is considered to be one of the best zoos in the United States. Not only does the zoo have a lot of animals, but they have rides and other educational events. Plus many times during the summer or the holidays, they have special events taking place. The zoo is located at 10001 West Blue Mound Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But you can get there by car, taxi or bus.
To find out more about the Milwaukee Country Zoo and its events and facilities, you can visit their website by clicking here.
Attend a Festival in the Milwaukee -The City of Festivals
Milwaukee is also called the City of Festivals, as the city has so many different kinds of festivals that happen all year round. Many of these festivals happen in the summer, but some take place at other times of the year.
Here are some of the major festivals in the City of Milwaukee:
- Summerfest – takes place in June and July each year.
- Brady Street Festival
- Brewfest – Held at McKinley Park each July.
- Polish Fest – takes place in June each year.
- Pridefest – takes place in June each year.
- Festa Italiana – takes place in July each year.
- Lakefront Festival of Arts – takes place in June each year.
- Locust Street Festival of Music and Arts – takes place in June each year.
- Cedarburg Strawberry Fest – takes place in June each year.
- Bastille Days – takes place in July each year
- Garlic Fest – takes place in June each year.
To find out more about most of Milwaukee’s festivals, you can visit the Visit Milwaukee website by clicking here.
Wisconsin also has an excellent State Fair in August each year. The Stake Fair Park is in West Allis but not too far from downtown Milwaukee. The Wisconsin State Fair Park also has events at the park year-round. You can find out more about the Wisconsin State Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair park by clicking here.
Go to a Sporting Event in Milwaukee
Milwaukee is a huge sporting city, so all the Milwaukee teams are highly supported. Here are some of Milwaukee’s favorite teams and where you can get tickets to see them play:
- Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee Brewers is the major league baseball team who calls it home Milwaukee. They play at the American Family Field Stadium. You can always tell when they have a home game, as the freeways all around the stadium can be backed up for miles as they have a lot of support from the city of Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Brewers and their schedule by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Bucks – The Milwaukee Bucks is an NBA professional basketball team whose stadium is the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Bucks and their schedule by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Admirals – The Milwaukee Admirals is a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League, and they play in Milwaukee at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Panther Arena. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Admirals and their schedule by clicking here,
- Milwaukee Wave – The Milwaukee Wave is a champion Milwaukee-based indoor soccer team. They are part of the Major Arena Soccer League. They play at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Wave and its schedule by clicking here.
Explore Milwaukee’s Lakefront Area
Milwaukee has a wonderful lakefront area with many different things you can explore on the lakefront. It is a great place to walk, cycle or just drive around and enjoy. While there check out some of the mansions and older houses nearby.
Here are some fun things you can explore on the Milwaukee Lakefront:
- Veterans Park – Veterans Park is a small lagoon that connects the city of Milwaukee to Lake Michigan. Throughout the summer months, they host a lot of even events. They have bicycles for rent so you can explore the Oak Leaf Trail by bike or paddleboat to paddle around the lagoon. This area is also popular for kite flying. You can find out more about Veterans Park by clicking here.
- Bradford Beach – Bradford Beach is a public beach in downtown Milwaukee that has lifeguards during the summer months. Also, during the summer, beach volleyball leagues play on the beach throughout the summer months. You can find out more about Bradford Beach by clicking here.
- Lake Park – Lake Park is a historic park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted a famous landscape architect that designed a lot of urban public parks, including Central Park in New York City, You can also climb the Northpoint Lighthouse for some magnificent views across the city and lake. Lake Park also has free concerts at the Summer Stage on Monday and Wednesday nights in the summer. Lake Park is right across the street from Bradford Beach. You can find out more about Lake Park by clicking here.
- McKinley Beach – McKinley Beach is next to McKinley Marina. You can recognize it as there are a lot of boats docked there. The beach is also home to one of the best sailing schools in the nation, the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center. You can learn more about McKinley Beach and the Milwaukee Sailing Center by clicking here.
Go Cruising on Lake Michigan
You cannot visit Milwaukee without exploring all the wonders of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is the largest freshwater lake entirely in the United States.
As Milwaukee is on Lake Michigan, several cruise companies have boats you can take to see the lake and waterways of Milwaukee.
Here are some boat tours you can take to cruise around Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee rivers:
- Riverwalk Boat Tours – The Riverwalk Boat Tours has public cruises, boat rentals and also pontoon boat rentals. You can find out more about the Riverwalk Boat Tours by clicking here.
- Edelweiss Cruise and Boat Tours – Edelweiss Cruise and Boat Tours also have cruises and boat rentals. You can learn more about Edelweiss Cruise and Boat Tours by clicking here.
There is also fishing charters that go out on Lake Michigan to fish for salmon, trout and other fish.
Go Sailing around Lake Michigan.
Lake Michigan is a wonderful lake to sail on. The lake has some wonderful views of the city. Here are some places you can go sailing:
- Sea Dog Sailing – Sea Dog Sailing has a 38-foot boat that will take you around Lake Michigan. You can find out more about this and the Sea Dog Sailing by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Community Sailing Center – To really sail at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, you need to be a center member. If you live in Milwaukee and want to sail, this is a wonderful club to join, It is an excellent sailing school. But sometimes, they offer trying-to-sail classes where you can get on a boat for a few hours with an experienced sailor. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center and its schedule by clicking here,
Kayak, Canoe, or Paddleboard on The Waterways in Downtown Milwaukee
Milwaukee also has some great kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding on the riverways in downtown Milwaukee. This is a great way to experience life around the waterways of Milwaukee.
Here are the places you can get a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard rental or tour:
- Milwaukee Kayak Company – You can rent a kayak or take a guided tour. Their main location is at 318 South Water Street in Milwaukee, They have kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards for rent. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Kayak Company by clicking here.
- Brew City Kayak – At Brew City Kayak, you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. They have rentals and tours available. They are located at 818 South Water St.in Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Brew City Kayak by clicking here.
- Clearwater Outdoors – Clearwater Outdoors also offers kayaks and paddleboards for rent. They are also a retail store. They are located at 407 N Water Street, right across from the public market. You can find out more about Clearwater Outdoors by clicking here.
- Milwaukee Kayak Tours – Milwaukee Kayak Tours also offers kayak tours and also kayak rentals. They have quite a few different tours. They are located at 113 E Juneau Ave in Milwaukee. You can find out more about the Milwaukee Kayak Tours by clicking here,
Go to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s – Burnham Street Block
Frank Lloyd Wright was from Wisconsin, so he designed many significant buildings. One of these hidden treasures is the entire block on West Burham Street with small houses that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his American System-Built Homes in South Milwaukee. You can find these homes at 2714 West Burnham Street.
You can read more about these homes by reading our blog entitled Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System-Built West Burnham Street Homes by clicking here.
Visit the Mitchell Park Domes – A Milwaukee Favorite
The Mitchell Park Domes are part of the Milwaukee Public Park System and three dome-shaped horticulture greenhouses with different kinds of plant species. If you love greenhouses this is a must see series of greenhouses.
Growing up, each time we rode past the Mitchell Park Domes, we would call it the bra factory as you could only see two domes at a time, and we always thought it looked like an oversized woman’s bra.
Here is some information on the different Mitchell Park Domes:
- Show Dome – This dome will change its displays and flowers about five times a year according to the season.
- Desert Dome – The Desert Dome has plants from the deserts of Africa, Madagascar, South America, and North America.
- Tropical Dome – The Tropical Dome is like a rainforest that has over 1,200 species of tropical plants, including chocolate, banana, and vanilla.
You can find out more about the Mitchell Park Domes by clicking here.
With a bustling city vibe and beautiful lake views, Milwaukee is the perfect place to explore! From cultural activities to outdoor recreation, this vibrant Wisconsin destination has something for everyone. So come experience all that the town on Lake Michigan’s shoreline has to offer!
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Is it Safe in Milwaukee?
Most parts of the city of Milwaukee are safe, especially in the established tourist areas. But you should avoid the inner city area which is generally the northside or northwest of downtown areas, especially at night. Unless you know someone in these areas, the chances are you will not travel there. I grew up in Milwaukee and we rarely go to that part of Milwaukee. The lakefront area and downtown area in Milwaukee are usually safe.
But with that said, if it is at night do not go out alone and like in any major city around the world avoid areas you do not know or are not sure are safe.
Is the Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport area safe?
Most of the areas around the Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport is safe. But as with all major cities, I would not go out alone at night and also avoid going into areas you are not sure are safe.