Top Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee maintains ties to its German heritage while celebrating the present at a motorcycle museum and fantastic festivals along Lake Michigan. Check out our picks for what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has an uncanny ability to balance 21st-century energy with 19th-century German heritage. In just one weekend, you can explore an 1892 beer baron's mansion, throw calorie counts away at a Friday night fish fry, browse a high-end art festival along Lake Michigan, go for a virtual ride on a vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle and nibble stuffed grape leaves on leather couches at a Turkish restaurant. And that's just the beginning. Milwaukee's diversity—and its ability to turn gritty warehouses into condos and storefronts—gives it an authentic city feel. But its relatively small size and compact downtown make it easy for first-timers to navigate. 


Bradford Beach Bring a towel and relax, or get in on soccer, sand volleyball or a yoga class. Beachside snack bars make it easy to find ice cream and drinks.

Brewery tours Miller Brewing Company gives a one-hour tour that ends with samples in the Bavarian-style Miller Inn ( Sample sodas and beers at Sprecher Brewery ( Lakefront Brewery ( offers multiple daily tours, as well as in-depth technical tours. 

Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear Get a fascinating peek at classic Americana with vignettes and displays that include a turn-of-the-19th-century grocery store, a 1920s-era doctor’s office and an old-timey movie palace at this low-cost museum.

Discovery World Eighteen exhibits encourage exploring science and technology at the waterfront museum. Check out motors and gears in Milwaukee Muscle or sail Lake Michigan on a three-masted schooner.

Festivals Summerfest is the biggest ( Many others reflect the city's heritage, such as Irish Fest ( and German Fest ( The Wisconsin State Fair near Milwaukee also is a big draw — be sure to sample a cream puff, a state fair tradition.



Fiserv Forum The $524 million sports and entertainment arena opened in 2018, providing a new 17,500-seat home for the NBA’s Bucks and a venue for big-name bands like Metallica.

Grohmann Museum Paintings and sculptures at the Milwaukee School of Engineering chronicle the evolution of organized work in areas such as agriculture, skilled crafts and mining.

Harley-Davidson Museum The 20-acre campus is a must-see for its hands-on exhibits and nine Harleys to “ride” past farms and rivers.

Historic Third Ward A 12-square-block neighborhood of 1890s warehouses now holds boutiques, galleries, cafes and the Broadway Theatre Center. A highlight: Milwaukee Public Market, a collection of specialty food growers and shops selling goods and serving lunch and dinner.

Historic Milwaukee Inc. Walking Tours Passionate volunteers lead the preservation society’s architectural tours.

The Hop MKE The new streetcar connects Milwaukee’s central train and bus station to many of the city’s attractions and hotels. Take advantage of free rides for the first year of service.

Milwaukee Art Museum Glass ceilings soar 90 feet above visitors to the postmodern Quadracci Pavilion. A $34 million expansion and renovation brightened galleries displaying the 30,000-piece collection.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Boat Line Double-deckers ply the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan for sight-seeing tours.

Milwaukee Food and City Tours Choose from the popular pizza tour, a bloody mary brunch walk, Brady Street Tour (in an Italian and Polish enclave) and other outings.

Milwaukee Public Museum Discover what the city was like during the 1880s in The Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. Or walk through Africa or Living

Miller Park Catch the Milwaukee Brewers in this major-league ballpark with a retractable roof and reasonably priced tickets. Also, behind-the-scenes tours take visitors to the dugout, luxury suite level and other areas.

Old World Third Street This former German community has restaurants, 19th-century storefronts and cobbled streets. Usinger's, a fourth-generation business, sells 70 sausage varieties.

Pabst Mansion Beer baron Frederick Pabst built this 1890s Flemish Renaissance mansion; the restored home hosts exhibits and tours.

RiverWalk Zigzag between past and present as you walk these three miles linking the Historic Third Ward, downtown and the Beerline B area along the Milwaukee River. (And snap a selfie with the Fonz.)



Sea Dog Sailing From May through September, the 38-foot Quinn Marie sails from McKinley Marina.

Theaters Whether you seek a Broadway production (Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, or a play written and produced by women (Renaissance Theaterworks,, there’s a venue for you.


AJ Bombers Peanut shells litter the floor and crayon graffiti decorates the walls of the burger joint, which delivers nuts via “bombers.”

Balzac Mismatched chairs, cherubs and taxidermy set a fun mood for wine and sharing small plates.



Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro Chef Adam Siegel delivers seasonal French cuisine at this pastoral spot along Lake Michigan.

Birch + Butcher An open-fire hearth inspires the menu at this casual new restaurant. The whole roasted chicken is popular, with sides such as smoked lard potatoes.

Blue's Egg It’s hard to beat the Classic Benedict with piles of ham and poached eggs, but we love the goat-cheese- stuffed hash browns, too, at this lively brunch spot.

Braise About 400 Wisconsin farmers supply the ingredients for the braised dishes that will please discerning palates.

Cafe Benelux and Market With 40 pages of beers to choose from, you’re sure to find one to go with your European-style meal of mussels and mac ‘n’ cheese with Brie.

Colectivo Coffee This local coffee cafe serves tasty cookies, huge yogurt parfaits and sandwiches, plus offers free Wi-Fi and great joe, of course. You'll find 10 local branches, but our favorite is the one along the lakefront in the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station.

Harbor House Waterfront dining shows off Lake Michigan views and in-season fish, such as trout, whitefish and walleye.

Kopp's Frozen Custard Locals call this frozen custard their fave.

Mader’s Open since 1902, Mader’s art and antiques turn dinner into a gallery visit. The sampler features three German classics, including Wiener schnitzel.

Milwaukee Ale House Microbrews are cold and live music is hot at the Historic Third Ward restaurant.

Odd Duck Each day’s new tapas menu keeps things fresh. Inventive dishes have international spins—think duck confit croquettes and goat cheese pierogies.

The Safe House At the tongue-in-cheek spy-chic institution, the fun atmosphere outshines the food. You need a password to enter, and a martini whizzes overhead through pneumatic tubes.

Sanford James Beard Award-winner Justin Aprahamian creates seasonal fare—perhaps a cucumber gazpacho with lemon cream or pear compote with Maytag blue cheese—at his fine-dining spot.

Sobelmans At the classic, blue-collar Milwaukee bar, we love the Sobelman Burger, topped with Swiss, cheddar and American cheeses; bacon; fried onions; and fried jalapenos.

Stack'd Bar Burgers, beer and milk shakes go high-class at a slick Fifth Ward bar. The German Stack is a potent mix of beer brat patty, raw onion, spicy mustard and sauerkraut.

Third Coast Provisions The porthole in the front door hints at the seafood specialties: dishes such as king crab and sweet leek bruschetta, lobster pot pie, and chargrilled oysters.

Uber Tap Room and Cheese Bar Next door to the venerable Wisconsin Cheese Mart, this classy spot offers flights of cheese and beer.

The Vanguard It’s the place to go for housemade sausages, with more than two dozen options for classics, as well as chef-selected toppings.


The Brewhouse Inn and Suites Gleaming copper brewing kettles anchor the lobby in the refurbished Pabst Brewery Complex, which has 90 guest suites and an on-site pub.

Brewhouse Inn and Suites

Brewhouse Inn and Suites

Hilton Milwaukee City Center The lakefront, museums and other downtown attractions are easy to access from this Art Deco hotel.

Hotel Metro A 63-suite Art Deco boutique lodging downtown offers a variety of accommodations including pet-friendly suites, spa suites and conference suites.

The Iron Horse Hotel An edgy yet welcoming downtown hotel mixes biker-inspired decor with sophisticated guest rooms.

The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel To encourage local exploration, the hotel lends guests customized leather backpacks, as well as custom bikes. Come back to relax at The Outsider rooftop bar or Tre Rivali restaurant.

Pfister Hotel Opulent architectural details, antique furniture and an artist in residence combine with modern comforts in the 1893 Romanesque Revival hotel. Guests can also enjoy a spa and indoor swimming pool.


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