Top 12 Things To Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Milwaukee offers the perfect blend of midwestern charm and modern attractions. Located on Lake Michigan’s western shore, the city has a vibrant history and culture intertwined with diverse neighborhoods, architectures, and communities. Beyond its brewery heritage, Milwaukee also impresses visitors with museums, festivals, and a blossoming food scene.

ActivityDescription
Milwaukee Public MarketIndoor market offering diverse food options and artisanal products.
Harley-Davidson MuseumMuseum showcasing the history and culture of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Milwaukee Art MuseumArt museum renowned for its unique architecture and extensive collections.
Lakefront Brewery TourGuided tours of a local brewery, including beer tastings.
Milwaukee RiverWalkScenic walkway along the Milwaukee River, lined with shops and restaurants.
Historic Third WardTrendy neighborhood with boutiques, galleries, and dining options.
Mitchell Park Horticultural ConservatoryBotanical garden featuring three glass domes with different plant collections.
Milwaukee County ZooZoological park with a wide range of animal exhibits and attractions.
Milwaukee County ParksExtensive park system offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation.
Pabst MansionHistoric mansion offering guided tours showcasing Milwaukee’s Gilded Age architecture.
Bradford BeachPopular beach along Lake Michigan with sandy shores and recreational activities.
Milwaukee Public MuseumNatural history museum with exhibits on anthropology, geology, and biodiversity.

Families, couples, and solo travelers can all craft an unforgettable Milwaukee itinerary. Iconic attractions like the Milwaukee Art Museum and Harley Davidson Museum capture the city’s bold spirit. And green spaces like Lake Park provide urban oases for outings or picnics. From historic Third Ward to the redeveloped Deer District, the best things to do in Milwaukee make for a getaway as hearty and flavorful as its beloved beers.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Name and Location: Located on Lake Michigan’s shore, the Milwaukee Art Museum is a landmark of the city with its dynamic architecture.

History and Significance: Founded in the late 19th century, it has grown to house over 25,000 works of art, ranging from antiquities to contemporary pieces. The museum’s Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened in 2001 and is celebrated for its moving sunscreen, the “wings.”

What to Expect: Visitors can explore a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artworks. The building itself is a piece of art, offering stunning views and architectural tours.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Sunday, with free admission on the first Thursday of each month. Special exhibitions may require a ticket. Photography is allowed, but flash is prohibited.

Even travelers not normally enthused by art museums will find themselves captivated by Milwaukee Art Museum. Its complex of three architecturally impressive buildings sits right on Lake Michigan, providing a picturesque backdrop. Inside, the collection houses over 30,000 works spanning antiquity to the present. Guests will discover stunning pieces from Monet, Warhol, O’Keeffe, and Picasso among other legends. The museum also spotlights Wisconsin natives and folk arts. Milwaukee Art Museum brings this comprehensive, encyclopedic collection to life through interactive technology, family programs, and special exhibitions. An iconic highlight is the museum’s moving wing-like sunscreen atop the Quadracci Pavilion. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, it unfurls twice daily like a bird stretching its wings.

Harley Davidson Museum

Name and Location: Located in downtown Milwaukee, the Harley Davidson Museum showcases the history and culture of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

History and Significance: Opened in 2008, the museum presents over 100 years of Harley Davidson history, featuring more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts. It’s a tribute to American engineering and motorcycle culture.

What to Expect: Exhibits include vintage and modern motorcycles, interactive displays, and stories about the people behind the brand. The museum also hosts special events and motorcycle rallies.

Visitor Information: Open year-round, with hours varying by season. Admission fees apply, with discounts for seniors, students, and military. The museum includes a restaurant, café, and shop.

Harley Davidson and Milwaukee go together like beer and brats. The motorcycle manufacturer was founded here in 1903. And its sleek metal masterpieces and burly bikes have conquered the world’s highways and back roads ever since. At the Harley Davidson Museum downtown, guests can learn this epic history first-hand. Over 450 eye-catching motorcycles fill its sprawling galleries and displays. Interactive exhibits let visitors get acquainted with bike components and design process. Fans soak up factoids and figures from Harley’s storied timeline. Custom culture exhibits reveal rad paint jobs, modifications, and chromed-out concepts. The ultimate highlight may be having your photo snapped while straddling a parked Harley Davidson. Because at this beloved museum, Harley fever proves wonderfully contagious for riders and non-riders alike.

Discovery World Science + Technology Center

Name and Location: Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Discovery World connects science, technology, and the environment with interactive exhibits and programs.

History and Significance: Discovery World seeks to inspire learning and curiosity through hands-on exhibits and educational programs, focusing on innovation and conservation.

What to Expect: Interactive exhibits on technology, freshwater sciences, and the Great Lakes. The center also features an aquarium, a digital theater, and labs for public programs.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission fees apply, with membership options offering unlimited visits. Some exhibits and programs may require additional fees or reservations.

With a prime location on Milwaukee’s lakefront, Discovery World makes science and technology exciting for guests of all ages. Colorful interactive exhibits fill two floors, focusing on innovation, environment, energy, health, transportation, communication, industry, and more. Visitors can talk with a virtual Les Paul at the Guitar Gallery. Kids construct towering structures at the Kohl’s Design It! Lab. City of Freshwater aquariums reveal Great Lakes curiosities. And motion simulators like the Flight Lab take you looping, rolling, and diving through virtual skies. Discovery World also houses the Reiman Aquarium and the Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan, a 19th-century-style Great Lakes schooner offering summer cruises. So take your imagination and curiosity to these Milwaukee shores for an experiential STEM adventure.

Lakefront Brewery Tour

Name and Location: Lakefront Brewery is a popular Milwaukee brewery located on the Milwaukee River, known for its craft beers and lively tours.

History and Significance: Founded in 1987, Lakefront Brewery is a pioneer in producing organic and gluten-free beers, contributing significantly to Milwaukee’s brewing heritage.

What to Expect: An entertaining tour showcasing the brewing process, with plenty of humor and samples of beer. The tour includes a souvenir pint glass.

Visitor Information: Tours are offered daily, with tickets available for purchase online. Age restrictions apply for beer sampling, but all ages are welcome on the tour.

As America’s top beer producing city, Milwaukee proudly represents its brewing heritage and culture. And Lakefront Brewery stands tall as a beloved hometown brewer. Their riverside facility has been churning out tasty brews like Riverwest Stein, Eastside Dark, and New Grist since 1987. Lakefront Brewery also sets itself apart by using all vegetarian ingredients and eco-friendly processes. But what draws over 50,000 thirsty visitors annually is the brewery’s daily tours. These affordable, engaging outings last about an hour and conclude with 45 minutes of beer sampling. As visitors learn about brewing history and Lakefront’s techniques, they taste 6 generous samples. Signature brews like Riverwest Stein pair perfectly with curds and pretzels too. It all makes for an affordable, delicious, quintessentially Milwaukee experience to share with friends.

Milwaukee Public Market

Name and Location: Located in the Historic Third Ward, the Milwaukee Public Market is a bustling marketplace for local artisans, farmers, and food producers.

History and Significance: Since its opening in 2005, the market has become a hub for fresh produce, gourmet foods, and specialty products, supporting local businesses and the community.

What to Expect: A variety of vendors selling everything from fresh seafood and meats to baked goods, cheeses, and prepared meals. Cooking classes and culinary events are also offered.

Visitor Information: Open daily, with individual vendor hours varying. The market offers indoor and seasonal outdoor seating.

For innovative eats and ethnic eats, Milwaukee Public Market has it all. The downtown food hall gathers artisan bakeries, butcher shops, chocolatiers, restaurants, delis, produce stands, and more under one roof. Graze the expansive vendor aisles to discover both familiar flavors and exotic ingredients from around the globe. Some longtime favorites include the seafood counter St. Paul Fish Company, Thai restaurant Allie Boy’s Bagelry, and Purple Door Ice Cream. Or assemble the ultimate Milwaukee-style picnic across multiple vendors. The market’s seasonal outdoor plaza also hosts a weekly farmers market and free events like fitness classes, cooking demos, and children’s activities. It becomes a community hot spot with al fresco meals and local camaraderie. So whether you snack as you shop or settle in for a sit-down international lunch, Milwaukee Public Market delivers a delicious dose of Midwestern hospitality.

Pabst Mansion

Name and Location: An historic house museum located on Milwaukee’s west side, the Pabst Mansion was the home of beer magnate Captain Frederick Pabst.

History and Significance: Built in the late 19th century, the mansion is an example of Gilded Age opulence and design, showcasing the wealth and lifestyle of one of Milwaukee’s most famous families.

What to Expect: Guided tours offer insights into the Pabst family’s life, the brewing industry, and the mansion’s architecture, art, and furnishings.

Visitor Information: Open for tours year-round, with seasonal variations in hours. Admission fees apply, with discounts available for students, seniors, and military.

History and architecture buffs adore touring the restored 1893 Pabst Mansion. For nearly seven decades, this Flemish Renaissance Revival home was owned and occupied by Captain Frederick Pabst. After immigrating from Germany, he founded the iconic Pabst Brewing Company in 1844. Thanks to this industrious brewer and savvy businessman, Pabst became the largest brewery in the world by 1874. Pabst’s business success, Milwaukee civic pride, and lavish hospitality are reflected throughout this impressive 20,000-square-foot home. Guests admire original features like decorative plaster, quarter-sawn oak, Delft tiles, Limoges china, Bohemian glassware, 16 fireplaces, secret passageways, and a basement bowling alley during guided tours. With many furnishings original to the mansion, it feels as if the Pabst family resides here still. The Pabst Mansion’s rich details offer an authentic peek into Gilded Age life and brewing history.

Milwaukee Riverwalk

Name and Location: Stretching along the Milwaukee River through downtown Milwaukee, the Riverwalk is a pedestrian path that links various neighborhoods, parks, and attractions.

History and Significance: Developed in stages since the 1990s, the Riverwalk has transformed the riverfront into a vibrant public space that enhances the city’s urban fabric and accessibility.

What to Expect: Scenic views of the city, outdoor art installations, access to restaurants and bars, and opportunities for recreational activities like kayaking and boat tours.

Visitor Information: Accessible 24/7, free of charge. Seasonal boat docks and kayak rentals are available along the route.

For sightseeing, recreation, dining, and more, the Milwaukee Riverwalk has it all. Winding through downtown adjacent to both banks of the Milwaukee River, phases of this vibrant path opened in recent decades to connect neighborhoods. Locals and visitors now come to stroll, jog, bike, or rollerblade the Riverwalk’s lush trails and bridges while soaking up attractive views. Historical plaques add intrigue by noting riverfront sites like the pioneering Harley Davidson motorcycle factory. The Riverwalk also grants easy access to riverfront parks, cultural attractions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, and waterfront restaurants and bars. Visitors can even book kayak and boat cruises along the Milwaukee River from convenient Riverwalk docks. From the Beerline B urban green space to the shops at the Plaza, the Milwaukee Riverwalk showcases the city at its innovative, natural, and neighborly best.

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Name and Location: Known as “The Domes,” this unique set of three glass domes is located in Mitchell Park, showcasing different climates and plant species.

History and Significance: Opened in the 1960s, The Domes offer a desert oasis, a tropical jungle, and a floral showroom under architecturally distinct glass domes, contributing to Milwaukee’s cultural and educational landscape.

What to Expect: An opportunity to explore plant life from around the world, seasonal floral displays, and special events throughout the year in a unique environmental setting.

Visitor Information: Open daily, with an admission fee. Free days are offered periodically to Milwaukee County residents with proof of residency.

Cultivating lush botanical diversity since 1967, the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory earns its nickname, “The Domes.” The cone-shaped glasshouses emulate geodesic dome architecture and futuristic Midcentury design. Step inside each unique biome to encounter tropical plants and colorful seasonal floral shows. Stately palms, rare orchids, and fragrant flowers thrive within the Domes’ carefully cultivated environments. Many visitors make happy beelines for the butterfly garden. Here hundreds of dazzling wings flutter through warm, humid air heavy with fruity scents. It’s an unforgettable tropical encounter just minutes from downtown. Themed displays like train garden shows, fall pumpkin panoramas, and decorated holiday trees keep The Domes constantly enchanting. And special events like yoga, crafts, and live music ensure this Milwaukee park landmark remains a beloved community gathering space.

Milwaukee Boat Line River Cruises

Name and Location: Operating from the Riverwalk, Milwaukee Boat Line offers sightseeing cruises along the Milwaukee River and into Lake Michigan.

History and Significance: For decades, Milwaukee Boat Line has provided locals and visitors alike with informative and entertaining tours, highlighting Milwaukee’s history, architecture, and waterfront development.

What to Expect: Narrated tours offering insights into Milwaukee’s past and present, with options for sunset cruises, themed tours, and private charters.

Visitor Information: Seasonal operation, typically from spring through fall. Tickets can be purchased online or at their kiosk. Various cruise options are available, including happy hour and live music cruises.

For a relaxing Milwaukee sightseeing adventure, hop aboard Milwaukee Boat Line. The family-owned company has offered scenic river cruises along the Milwaukee River, Lake Michigan shoreline, and city harbor for over 45 years. Guests can savor passing views of Downtown Milwaukee, Historic Third Ward, Beerline B, and Walker’s Point from multiple enclosed cruise vessels. Food cruises with light meals pair sightseeing with Sunday brunch, Friday fish fries, or locally sourced dinners. Specialty cruises like wine tastings, weddings, live music, and craft beers afloat add to the fun too. But Milwaukee Boat Line’s staple 30 or 90-minute narrated cruises ideal introduce visitors to major landmarks and glimpses of neighborhoods lining Milwaukee’s vibrant waterways. It’s smooth sailing through this scenic port city.

Milwaukee County Zoo

Name and Location: Located west of downtown Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the nation’s largest zoos, home to over 2,000 animals representing 330 species.

History and Significance: Established in 1892, the zoo has been a leader in animal management, conservation, research, and education, offering an immersive experience into the animal kingdom.

What to Expect: A wide range of animals in naturalistic habitats, educational exhibits, behind-the-scenes tours, and interactive experiences such as feeding and encounters.

Visitor Information: Open year-round, with varying seasonal hours and admission fees. Discounts are available for Milwaukee County residents, seniors, and children.

Sprawling across 200 wooded acres, the Milwaukee County Zoo immerses guests in wildlife encounters and family fun. As one of the country’s largest zoos, it provides expansive habitats like the Florentine-inspired Herb and Nada Mahler Family Aviary. And visitors delight in getting nose-to-nose with orangutans in the state-of-the-art great Apes building. The zoo’s mammal collection shines with big cats, polar bears, giraffes, rhinos, and more. Special exhibits highlight fascinating species like Australian creatures or the Tiny Titans of tiny primates and frogs. Daily animal enrichments like training demonstrations enhance understanding of species behavior too. When guests need refueling, the zoo offers several dining options with scenic picnic grounds and lakeside Milwaukee skyline views. Hosting over a million annual guests, the Milwaukee County Zoo sparks smiles as visitors forge wonderful connections with extraordinary creatures great and small.

Brady Street Neighborhood

Name and Location: East of the Milwaukee River, Brady Street is a vibrant neighborhood known for its eclectic shops, restaurants, and nightlife.

History and Significance: With roots dating back to the 19th century, Brady Street has evolved into a lively, culturally diverse district, reflecting Milwaukee’s rich heritage and contemporary urban lifestyle.

What to Expect: A bustling street scene with a mix of vintage clothing stores, coffee shops, ethnic eateries, and bars. Frequent community events and festivals add to the neighborhood’s charm.

Visitor Information: Most businesses are open daily, with varying hours. Street parking is available, but walking or biking is encouraged to fully enjoy the area’s offerings.

For an authentic taste of Milwaukee culture, visit bustling Brady Street. The East Side neighborhood echoes Milwaukee’s ethnic heritage with European bakeries, Italian delis and cafés, and Polish butcher shops still lining the thoroughfare. But today Brady Street also claims some of Milwaukee’s trendiest bars, boutiques, and eateries. Spend an afternoon gallery hopping, vintage shopping, grabbing artisan coffees, and tasting creative cuisine. Stop at bars renowned for their craft cocktails, beer lists, and cozy atmosphere. And don’t miss the iconic neon signage glowing into the night above this walkable stretch. Brady Street’s vibrant business community hosts special events and festivals year-round as well celebrating holidays like St. Patrick’s Day or Bastille Days. Neighborhood parklands even offer green spaces for picnics with goodies from the shops and markets. Sample Brady Street’s irresistible urban energy and European influenced charm.

Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Game

Name and Location: American Family Field, formerly known as Miller Park, is the home of the Milwaukee Brewers Major League Baseball team, located just west of downtown Milwaukee.

History and Significance: Opened in 2001, American Family Field is known for its fan-friendly atmosphere, modern amenities, and retractable roof, ensuring games are played rain or shine.

What to Expect: An exciting baseball experience with state-of-the-art facilities, including a variety of food and beverage options, entertainment for all ages, and the chance to see the famous sausage race.

Visitor Information: The baseball season runs from April to October, with tickets available for purchase online or at the box office. Promotional days offer special deals and giveaways.

For many travelers, catching a Major League baseball game captures a quintessential slice of Americana. And Cheer on Milwaukee’s beloved Brewers at PetCo Park for an only-in-Wisconsin experience. The state-of-the-art ballpark first opened in 2001 right in downtown Milwaukee. Now seating over 41,000 fans, the Brewers’ home incorporates architectural elements honoring the city’s brewing history. And remained baseball traditions like tailgating, racing sausages, and cheering for home runs keep excitement high every season. Tours offer behind-the-scenes glimpses on non-game days too. But of course the best way to enjoy this piece of Milwaukee culture is by being part of the crowd at a edge-of-your-seat Brewers game. With affordable tickets, iconic traditions, and an electric hometown vibe, visitors step up to the plate for an unforgettable baseball memory.

Conclusion

Milwaukee surprises first-time visitors with just how much this midwestern hub offers for unforgettable vacations. Beyond beer, Harley Davidsons, and major league baseball, the city provides cultural attractions, urban adventures, entertainment districts, and community charm perfect for getaways. Iconic museums capture Milwaukee’s creative spirit. Foodie fare spans public markets, brewery tours, and European heritage. And lakefront recreation mixed with lively urban neighborhoods let you craft anything from a relaxing to rocking itinerary. Milwaukee proudly balances its history and innovation to deliver fresh fun at every turn. So tap into this Wisconsin hot spot’s hearty hospitality and make your own Milwaukee memories.

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