Fresh Experiences in Milwaukee | Midwest Living

Fresh Experiences in Milwaukee

This year's Milwaukee visitors will find new art, hotels, public transit, restaurants, shops and celebrations in Cream City.

Milwaukee has long been on the map for its legendary beer, cheese and baseball. But if you’re ready to change up your Milwaukee itinerary, a slew of new attractions provides plenty more reasons to love the city.

1. Emile H. Mathis Gallery at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Art Museum may be one of the city’s top attractions, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on Milwaukee’s fine art scene. The new Emile H. Mathis Gallery on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus is a 2,400-quare-foot exhibition space that has featured the work of legends including Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. The gallery’s website lists current and upcoming exhibitions, and entry is free.

Photo courtesy of UWM Mathis Art Gallery

Photo courtesy of UWM Mathis Art Gallery

2. The Milwaukee Streetcar

Construction is in high gear on Milwaukee’s streetcar; The Hop project is anticipated to finish by November. A 2.5-mile route will connect Milwaukee’s primary train and bus station to the Third Ward, downtown and the lower east side, in the thick of many of the city’s most popular attractions and hotels. Rides will be free for the first year of service, so hop aboard!


Streetcar delivery for The Hop

3. Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center

A long-awaited new arena opens in Milwaukee this fall, and several big-name acts are already on the docket, including Justin Timberlake, J Balvin and Fleetwood Mac. The $524 million arena will provide an upgraded home base for the Milwaukee Bucks, and it will be the first new sports and entertainment complex to open in the state since 2002.

4. New hotels

On June 26, a new Hyatt Place will open in the former Pabst Brewery Complex, just one block from the arena opening this fall. The hotel features a bar and lounge, an outdoor terrace and easy access to the Pabst Brewing complex—a can’t-miss destination for beer history nerds.

Hyatt Place

Hyatt Place rendering

A new Homewood Suites recently opened in a historic Third Ward building, where original hardwood floors and brick arches are on display. Each suite in the extended-stay hotel is equipped with a full kitchen, and the prime Water Street location places guests within walking distance of restaurants, shops and art galleries.

5. New Stages at Summerfest

Summerfest, the 11-day-long mother of all music festivals, ups the ante this year with two new stages. The Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden will feature (you guessed it) sausage and beer for sale at the adjoining concession stand. The backyard-style space will host local acoustic musicians.

At the new U.S. Cellular Connection stage, country, alternative and pop acts will perform on the stage that includes a backstage VIP hospitality area and up-front pit viewing. This year’s festival headliners include Imagine Dragons, Florida Georgia Line and Dave Matthews Band.

6. The Pfister Hotel’s New Artist-in-Residency

For the past 10 years, the Pfister Hotel has hosted an artist in a working art studio for a yearlong residency. This year, fashion designer Stephanie Schultz steps into the role. Schultz will spend her yearlong residency designing a fashion line inspired by the hotel’s Victorian art collection, culminating in a fashion show in the hotel’s Imperial Ballroom.

Artist in Residence

Artist-in-Residence Stephanie Schultz at work; photo courtesy of Pfister Hotel

7. Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company will celebrate its 115th anniversary with a citywide party over Labor Day Weekend. Festivities include a Harley parade throughout the city, beach racing and a free Moto-Carnival on the lakefront where daredevil riders will show off stunts. If you’re heading into town on your bike, join one of the group rides that will travel to Milwaukee from each corner of the country.

Harley Davidson ride

Harley parade; photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

8. The Traveling Beer Garden

Starting in the spring, the city’s beer gardens dust off their taps for the season. In addition to five permanent beer gardens, Milwaukee County hosts a Traveling Beer Garden that tours the park system starting May 16. New this year, the Traveling Beer Garden will be accompanied by an Iron Grate BBQ food truck (don’t miss the grits), and a special 12-beer flight from Sprecher Brewing will be available for purchase—the perfect solution for indecisive drinkers.

9. Specialty shops and boutiques

A new crop of stylish entrepreneurs are making their mark on the city’s home goods and fashion scene, including Ursa in Bay View. The sun-soaked storefront is curated by a husband-wife team with a penchant for cowhide, kilim and macramé.


Ursa; photo courtesy of Kirsten Martinez Photography

Just a mile down the street from Ursa, newcomer Plume offers wearable vintage and modern clothing for men and women—a worthy destination whether you’re in the market for funky wide-leg denim or throwback formalwear.

In the Third Ward, Edie Boutique is one of the latest additions to the neighborhood’s bustling boutique scene. The store specializes in on-trend women’s clothing, jewelry and handbags.

10. New takes on culinary classics

The latest restaurants to open in and around the city will have you craving comfort foods. Snack Boys opened in Walker's Point at the end of 2017; the restaurant’s tagline is “highbrow snacks for lowbrow folks,” with menu items like caviar tater tots and duck nuggets.

In West Allis, the Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli takes a gourmet twist on the traditional brownbag lunch. Try the Crunch & Punch, a sandwich that pairs crunchy peanut butter with raspberry jalapeno jelly.

Blue’s Egg, a brunch-time favorite in Wauwatosa, recently announced it will open a second location north of Milwaukee in Shorewood. The spot is known for its monkey bread served with caramel whiskey dunking sauce and hash browns stuffed with cheese, chorizo and other indulgent ingredients.

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