Top 12 Attractions in Milwaukee

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

From its brewery roots to modern culinary and cultural scenes, Wisconsin’s largest city combines Midwestern charm with dynamic urban attractions. Beyond favored institutions like baseball stadiums and brewery tours, Milwaukee offers a wealth of museums, performance venues, architectural gems, parks and vibrant neighborhoods to explore.

AttractionSummary
Miller BreweryOffers tours exploring its brewing history and process, ending with beer tastings.
Harley-Davidson MuseumShowcases Harley-Davidson’s history, culture, and motorcycles, with interactive exhibits.
Milwaukee Public MuseumFeatures extensive exhibits on natural and cultural history, including a European Village.
Pabst MansionA preserved Gilded Age mansion highlighting the opulence of Milwaukee’s past elite.
Milwaukee Art MuseumKnown for its architecture and extensive art collections, from ancient to modern works.
Discovery WorldA science and technology center with interactive exhibits, including an aquarium.
Milwaukee’s Third Ward NeighborhoodA trendy area with upscale boutiques, restaurants, and the Milwaukee Public Market.
Milwaukee Symphony OrchestraOffers a range of musical performances in a stunning venue.
Mitchell Park Horticultural ConservatoryKnown as “The Domes,” it showcases plant life in three distinct glass domes.
Milwaukee County ZooAn expansive zoo featuring a wide range of animals and habitats.
Lakefront BreweryA craft brewery offering tours, tastings, and a riverfront beer hall.

Delve into this selection of Milwaukee’s top 12 attractions showcasing quintessential Brew City alongside some hidden gems. It spotlights just a fraction of what makes Milwaukee such an appealing destination in America’s heartland.

Overlooking Lake Michigan, Milwaukee provides an affordable alternative to the larger metropolises back east with a distinctly Midwestern flavor. Historical architecture meets modern amenities from vibrant dining to cultural institutions fit for a much bigger city.

While its brewing heritage takes center stage, Milwaukee also impresses visitors with museums showcasing everything from motorcycles to music along with one of the nation’s top zoos. Quaint neighborhoods have their own flair while the downtown and Third Ward areas mix sleek high rises with converted warehouses housing shops, eateries and entertainment.

Milwaukee seamlessly blends urban sophistication with approachable Midwest friendliness for an authentic taste of Americana. Its jewel location on the shores of Lake Michigan provides both scenic beauty and plenty of summertime waterfront fun.

Keep reading for our curated list of Milwaukee’s 12 top attractions you shouldn’t miss for getting the quintessential Milwaukee experience. It mixes must-see institutions with some local gems you may not know before arriving.

Miller Brewery

Name and Location: The Miller Brewery is one of the largest beer breweries in the United States located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It offers popular tours showcasing beer making.

History and Significance: Founded in 1855, Miller has a long brewing history in Milwaukee. Its caves dug into a hill for aging beer are on the national historic register. Now owned by MolsonCoors, Miller continues brewing favorites like Miller Lite, High Life and more.

What to Expect: The tour gives an in-depth look at the entire brewing process, from raw ingredients to packaging. Guests walk through the plant floor and caves, with a beer tasting finale. Souvenirs are available to purchase.

Visitor Information: Tours start at $10 per person. Advance ticket purchase recommended as tours sell out. Closed on major holidays but open year-round otherwise. Valid ID required for beer consumption.

No trip to Milwaukee is complete without a pilgrimage to one of its most famous products and key exports – beer! Miller Brewery stands as the second largest beer producer in America established back in 1855. The “Miller Valley” campus provides a variety of tour options to explore its facilities and history.

The Classic Tour takes guests through iconic structures like the historic Brew House and Caves Lagering Halls followed by tastings in the decorated Bavarian-style Miller Inn. For a more in-depth experience, the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion Tour combined with the beer tastings tells the entire story of brewing in Milwaukee from the mid-19th century onwards with additional time exploring the stunningly preserved Pabst Mansion.

All tours finish with generous beer samplings making this a beloved attraction for both beer aficionados and casual drinkers to immerse in one of Milwaukee’s most cherished traditions.

Harley-Davidson Museum

Name and Location: The Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates this iconic American motorcycle brand with a sprawling complex along the Menomonee River Valley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

History and Significance: Founded in 1903 in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson bikes are an integral part of American culture. The museum opened in 2008 to showcase the history of Harley and motorcycle culture. Over 450 motorcycles and artifacts are displayed.

What to Expect: Guests can view floors of exhibits on two wheels, from turn-of-the-century bicycle predecessors to the latest Hog models. Motorcycle fanatics can get hands-on in the experience gallery. Demo rides offered in season.

Visitor Information: Open year-round except Thanksgiving/Christmas. Admission fees apply with discounts online. The museum contains a restaurant and shops for all your Harley needs.

Another quintessential Milwaukee brand, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company permeates American culture almost as deeply as the city’s breweries. The Harley-Davidson Museum in downtown Milwaukee pays homage to this heritage with one of the most unique and engaging corporate museums around.

Beautifully curated exhibits trace Harley history decade by decade displayed alongside equally important cultural context, technological innovations and stunning motorcycles themselves from rare antiques to modern marvels. Interactive presentations keep all generations engaged, from simulated test rides to custom bike configurators. Harley super fans can even get married right on site!

For an only-in-Milwaukee experience, the Harley-Davidson Museum ranks among America’s finest tributes to brands deeply ingrained in the cultural identity.

Milwaukee Public Museum

Name and Location: The Milwaukee Public Museum in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin contains over 150,000 objects exploring human cultures, history and the natural world. It is one of the largest museums in the United States.

History and Significance: Founded in 1884, the museum serves over half a million annual visitors with interactive science and cultural exhibitions. Key displays include a European Village, rainforest, Great Lakes exhibits, and an acclaimed third floor Butterfly Vivarium.

What to Expect: Guests are transported through time and space via the museum’s wide-ranging anthropological and natural history collections. Popular stops include the Streets of Old Milwaukee and a real-life Puelbo Indian village replica.

Visitor Information: Open daily year-round except select major holidays. Admission fees apply with discounts online. The site includes gift shop, cafe and planetarium shows.

Milwaukee Public Museum stands as one of America’s finest museums for discovering everything surrounding the region’s culture, landscapes and heritage. Massive core exhibits like the Streets of Old Milwaukee recreate sights and sounds of the late 19th century as you explore shops, homes and community spaces of an immigrant filled neighborhood.

Equally vast is the European Village where over 100,000 artifacts spanning countries and eras provide insights into art, clothing, music and daily living customs. Dioramas, ethnographic displays and even a real Spillville church recreate global cultures during other eras. While imaginative exotic locales like the Rainforest and Africa displays wow as well, the First People exhibits provide invaluable education into Native American history from Paleo to modern times. From recreation to preservation, the Milwaukee Public Museum enlightens visitors on customs around the world and over time.

Pabst Mansion

Name and Location: The Pabst Mansion is an elegant Victorian era home located downtown that belonged Captain Fredrick Pabst, founder of the iconic Pabst Brewing Company.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1893, the Flemish Renaissance Revival mansion was the height of luxury in its day. Originally costing $254,000 to create, today it offers a peek into Gilded Age high society life.

What to Expect: Guided tours allow guests to explore preserved period rooms reflecting the Pabst family’s affluent tastes, like original furnishings, decorative details and early technological wonders. Interpretive exhibits detail society life then.

Visitor Information: Timed guided tour tickets start at $12 for adults. The mansion is open year-round, closing only Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. A museum gift shop is open during tour hours.

As one of just a few intact Gilded Age mansions open to the public nationally, the Pabst Mansion amazes with the preserved grandeur of late 19th century Victorian high society. Crafted with stunning architectural details in 1893, Captain Frederick Pabst’s estate reflects one of Milwaukee’s richest eras fueled by brewing, brickmaking and manufacturing giants.

Elegant parlors, dining rooms, private suites andFunctional spaces boast period artifacts and décor transporting you back into the stylish comforts their original socialite residents enjoyed. The estate’s sheer size, rare intact features, and abundance of personal effects make touring this rare time capsule a sublime glimpse into Milwaukee’s affluent heyday.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Name and Location: The Milwaukee Art Museum is located lakeside downtown, recognizable by its iconic winged architecture. Its collection contains over 30,000 works spanning eras and genres.

History and Significance: Beginning around the turn of the century, the museum today is beloved for both its extensive collections and striking modernist additions. Holdings include American and European pieces, folk and Haitian art, modern design and more.

What to Expect: Guests view displayed collections and special exhibitions across multiple floors connected by dramatic open atrium spaces. Of note are works by Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe and Postwar American painters.

Visitor Information: Open year-round with admission fees. Closed only Thanksgiving and Christmas. The site includes a gift shop, dining options and sculpture garden. Check for special events.

Like any world-class city, Milwaukee boasts an incredible Fine Art institution as well – the Milwaukee Art Museum in Lakeshore State Park. While its extensive collections entice on their own merits, even more iconic is the Museum’s stunning architecture.

The original Eero Saarinen designed building impresses with its stark white arches floating over Lake Michigan while the Quadracci Pavilion addition captures eyes with its moveable, wing-like Brise Soleil resembling a ship’s sails that actually opens and closes twice daily. Inside, collections traverse eras and genres from ancient artifacts to iconic European masterpieces and modernist wonders. Special exhibits further enchant from the largest Monet show in decades recently to Andy Warhol’s glitzy retrospectives. For beauty inside and out, add the Milwaukee Art Museum to your artistic pilgrimages.

Discovery World Science + Technology Center

Name and Location: Discovery World is an interactive science and technology center located along Milwaukee’s scenic lakefront. Its mission is to ignite curiosity while inspiring innovation.

History and Significance: Founded in 1995, today it contains over 150 hands-on exhibits focused on science, math and technology education. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, it partners to create impactful programming.

What to Expect: Patrons learn through interactive play! Test a Segway, design machines in Robotics Lab, explore freshwater practices in the aquarium, take Tech Studio workshops and much more science fun.

Visitor Information: Open year-round with admission fees. On-site amenities include Recharge Cafe, Lessons Innovations gift shop, and group facilities. New exhibits rotate regularly with member sneak peeks.

For family friendly exploratory fun, Discovery World delivers dozens of interactive exhibits making science and technology both educational and engaging. Permanent exhibit highlights include the Reiman Aquarium putting you eye to eye with aquatic beasts in the underwater tunnel, simulations of Great Lakes storms, and creative building workshops.

Special touring exhibits have included things like mummy scans, nature photography, Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked The World and acclaimed Invention Convention showcasing quirky modern marvels. Just outside Discovery World, additional interactive fun awaits with a replica side wheeler to board, a towering beam to walk balancing skill, and a sailing ship for summer rides. Interactive, educational and just plain fun, Discovery World makes for an awesome museum attraction for all ages.

Milwaukee’s Third Ward Neighborhood

Name and Location: Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward neighborhood adjacent downtown features excellent dining, boutique shopping and artistic/cultural attractions within a walkable multi-block district.

History and Significance: Once a hub for railroads and wholesalers, today converted warehouses house vibrant culinary destinations alongside art galleries, studios, theaters, markets and indie retail in an architecturally intriguing landscape.

What to Expect: Stroll along Broadway lined with patio cafes, poke into arty shops, admire public alleys muralled by street artists. The neighborhood hosts summer jazz/ethnic festivals, holiday markets at the Public Market building and more.

Visitor Information: Free public parking options like Market garage available. Year-round district walking maps at visitor kiosk on St. Paul Ave. Area lodging, retail hours vary individually by business.

Nestled between Downtown and the lakefront Milwaukee Art Museum, the trendy Third Ward neighborhood oozes upscale appeal. Once warehouse row, the Third Ward now overflows with converted loft condos, sleek restaurants run by award winning chefs and a parade of tempting boutiques.

Strolling along Broadway offers boutique hopping at its best with independent stores rivaling Newport Beach. Sample olive oils, artisan cheeses, funky accessories, custom leather jackets, handcrafted decor and indulgent sweets as you go. Stop for an exquisite brunch or dinner along the way – this foodie find hosts some of Milwaukee’s hottest dining. Don’t miss the famous Milwaukee Public Market for locavore grocery shopping as well.

For upscale shopping and dining with urban flair, schedule an afternoon to immerse in the Third Ward’s charms.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at Bradley Symphony Center

Name and Location: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is an acclaimed professional orchestra that performs at Bradley Symphony Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

History and Significance: Dating back to 1959, the MSO today fills a city block with world-class classical and pops musical performances from its historic converted movie palace concert hall.

What to Expect: Enjoy symphonic sounds from great opera choruses to film score suites performed by talented musicians. Concert season runs September through May but summer festival series also offered.

Visitor Information: Buy single seats or season packages online. Student discounted tickets may be available. Year-round box office hours vary – call ahead. Adjacent parking structure accessible.

As Wisconsin’s largest performing arts organization, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra provides a full season of stunning classical and pops productions inside its visually exquisite home – the Bradley Symphony Center. Broadway musical tributes, beloved movie scores performed live to film, festive holiday concerts and more headline the Pops series while Masterworks presents iconic composers and guest vocalists bringing opera, oratorio and classical genres to vivid life.

Internationally acclaimed guest artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell and Joyce DiDonato enthralled in recent seasons as well. For affordable musical magic from rock to baroque to Broadway and beyond, indulge in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s auditorium listening experience.

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory “The Domes”

Name and Location: The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, better known as The Domes, is located on Milwaukee’s south side. This botanical garden contains three unique beehive glasshouses displaying exotic plant life.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1959 and renovated in the 1980s, these futuristic conservatories showcase floral displays and recreate tropical, arid and temperate environments within the historic structures year-round for public enjoyment.

What to Expect: Marvel at thousands of plant varieties from majestic palms to delicate bonsai trees. Seasonal themes like trains or fairy gardens make the spaces magical. Attend special events like concerts under the stars.

Visitor Information: Free parking available at Mitchell Park. Open daily with modest entry fee. Closed only major holidays. All ages welcome these accessible urban oases.

Milwaukee’s iconic Mitchell Park Domes have enthralled locals and tourists alike since opening in 1967 – an engineering marvel enveloping three distinct plant habitats under giant glass geodesic dome structures. These historic domes mother thousands of plants from exotic tropicals, super sized cacti and fragrant floral arrays.

Unique seasonal displays like a vintage train set amid enchanted holiday lights or thousands of butterflies emerging within the tropical dome further the magic and discovery around every corner. While temporarily closed for renovations through 2023, the Mitchel Park Domes remain one of Milwaukee’s architectural marvels blending iconic midcentury design with indoor botanical beauty.

Milwaukee County Zoo

Name and Location: The 200-acre Milwaukee County Zoo located within city-owned parkland displays over 2,100 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. It is one of the country’s finest zoological attractions.

History and Significance: Established in 1892, today the zoo supports animal conservation and education alongside recreational visits. Notable exhibits include the Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country. The zoo contributes to Species Survival Plans.

What to Expect: Get eye-to-eye with gorillas, feed friendly giraffes, watch the seal & penguin show, and encounter everything from camels to butterflies along pathways winding through naturalistic habitats. Special events occur seasonally.

Visitor Information: Open daily with admission fees. Route buses available seasonally. Park amenities include dining options, gift shops, stroller rental and wheelchair accessibility. Some areas closed in winter months.

One of America’s finest zoological attractions lies right in Milwaukee’s own backyard. Spanning two hundred acres, the Milwaukee County Zoo immerses you into creatures and ecosystems from around the globe at every turn. From the undersea marine life of the Aquatic & Reptile Center to the free flight raptor aviary and wild cats in the Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country, nearly every animal habitat impresses.

Walk through underground tunnels gazing at polar bears and grizzly bears or trek open air trails encountering farm animals, camels, apes and more at this expansive zoo. Special exhibits further engage with seasonal baby animals, dinosaur skeletons, and additional educational wildlife spotlights rotating regularly. For an incredible zoo experience without leaving Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Zoo delights young and old alike.

Lakefront Brewery

Name and Location: Founded in 1987, Lakefront Brewery is an award-winning craft brewery located in a former bakery along the Milwaukee River. It offers tours with beer tastings in a relaxed, fun environment.

History and Significance: Lakefront stuck to its roots using devoted local ingredients while growing distribution nationwide. Signature brews like Riverwest Stein Beer and Eastside Dark lager exemplify Milwaukee pride. The “world’s only brewery-owned fish fry” serves their beer batter crispy cod weekly.

What to Expect: Tours run the gamut from visual overview to hands-on experiences making chai or tasting rare brews. All end with a sample session of current lineup. The festive taproom pours pints and brewpub menu items daily onsite.

Visitor Information: Public tours run daily with varying fees. Space is limited so reservations strongly recommended. Valid ID required for tastings. Family-friendly site offers soda options for kids and non-drinkers to still enjoy facilities.

While beer enthusiasts already hit the Miller tour, Lakefront Brewery stands as Milwaukee’s home grown craft favorite for getting your local craft beer fix straight from its iconic riverfront brew house. Daily brewery tours share the basics of craft beer creation from mash to fermentation plus history of Lakefront’s local roots. The highlight comes at tours’ end with generous samples available from flagship, seasonal and limited brews.

The adored Riverside Beer Hall pours pints and serves beer-friendly fare daily as well so you can soak up the views of beer making still happening just behind the glass. Live music and events like FriYAY fish fries keep things hopping in true Milwaukee fashion. For craft suds and chill atmosphere along the Milwaukee River, Lakefront Brewery delivers.

Conclusion

This taste of Milwaukee’s top attractions provides a well rounded itinerary mix to discover Brew City’s natural highlights, cultural institutions, entertainment venues and local flavor. Beyond the attractions shared here, diverse neighborhoods like Brady Street, Bay View and Walker’s Point invite exploration for bars, boutiques, cafes and art glimpses galore.

Big city amenities like museums, music and dynamic new restaurants may surprise out-of-towners unfamiliar with America’s Heartland offerings. But just as Milwaukee seamlessly blends urban energy with Midwestern hospitality, its attractions mix cultural sophistication with laid back charm in a beautifully livable lakeside metropolis. Those lucky enough to visit walk away agreeing Milwaukee makes an undeniably appealing destination.

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