23 Cool Things to do in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Unlike New York or San Francisco, people don’t automatically imagine all the cool things you can do in Milwaukee. There are plenty of other American cities to visit first, right? Well, we’re about to change your mind and show you why you should visit Milwaukee. There are so many unique things to do in Milwaukee that make it a perfect holiday for anyone planning a city break.

We had heard that Milwaukee was a great city, but we only knew it from Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. When we arrived, our idea of Milwaukee immediately changed from “little-known American city” to “why haven’t we come to Milwaukee before?”.

Things to do in Milwaukee

Located at the confluence of three rivers (Milwaukee, Menomonee, Kinnickinnic) and Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is one of the coolest cities in the Midwest. We present the best things to do in Milwaukee, from attending the famous music festival to finding a hidden pub. So sit back and enjoy our tour of Milwaukee.

Note: There are many things to do in Milwaukee, but check safety protocols and restrictions before visiting each attraction.

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Milwaukee and it was a fantastic location and hotel. It is located in a converted 125 year old national historic landmark and it is beautiful. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a five-story atrium with historic photos in the hallways. There are also old bench vaults. Check availability and rates here.

1. Harley Davidson Milwaukee

things to

No trip to Milwaukee would be complete without touring the Harley Davidson Museum. Founded in Milwaukee, Harley Davidson has been around for more than a century and is on every motorcycle lovers list of dream machines. This museum traces the history of Harley Davidson from its humble beginnings of William S. Harley and Aruthur Davidson working on their bikes in a machine shop to becoming one of the most sought after motorcycles on the planet.

Interactive Displays

Interactive displays Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee
Harley display in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

You can even Jump Start a Harley Davidson motorcycle just outside the museum to see what it feels like to ride your own. The Harley Museum is filled with interactive displays like the virtual ride room where we took some shots of ourselves sitting on a hog and the Evil Knievel video game where we failed miserably jumping the shark.

Tickets are $18 for more information visit the Harley-Davidson Website.

2. The Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is a spectacular building overlooking Lake Michigan. When you enter the museum, you will walk into Windhover Hall, a magnificent room with a 30 metre (90 foot) high glass ceiling.

In truth, the entire building was impressive. While others were looking at the art, we were busy looking at the design. How can you not take notice when the building was designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava who designed the Olympic bridge for the Barcelona Summer Olympics in Spain.

3. Watch the Wings open from Reiman Suspension Bridge

 Burke Brise Soleil in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Be sure to get to the waterfront at 10:00 am sharp to watch the sails of the Milwaukee Art Museum open up. The Burke Brise Soleil has a wingspan of a Boeing 747 and to watch it open up is magnificent. It opens so gracefully and effortlessly that you almost don’t even notice until it is too late.

Make sure to stand in the centre of the Reiman Suspension pedestrian footbridge that connects the museum to the city of Milwaukee to capture it’s beauty.

See more at the Milwaukee Art Museum website

4. Summerfest in Milwaukee

Attending Summerfest in Milwaukee

You may have heard of a little thing called Summerfest? Well, it’s the largest music festival in the world that happens every June.

This annual event is held at the Henry Maier Festival Park and is the best festival in the US to catch live music. It takes place on 11 stages over 11 days. It had been continuously running for 53 years but last year it was canceled for the first time due to COVID_19. But it’s back baby!

Summerfest Concert Venue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The 2021 lineup of Summerfest in Milwaukees looks awesome so far! The 53rd edition of Summerfest will take place September 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18, 2021. Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and the Dave Matthews Band are just a few of the massive lineup. See the full schedule for Summerfest here.

5. Milwaukee Riverwalk

Riverfront Walk in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a beautiful boardwalk that winds right through the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Winding along the Milwaukee River, the Riverwalk goes on for 20 city blocks. Keep an eye out for the outdoor gallery showcasing various sculptures. You can take a sculpture tour along Riverwalk.

While walking along the river, you can hop on one of the many boat tours for a historic view of the city.

The complete Riverwalk runs through three neighborhoods of Milwaukee for 3.1 miles –  the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B

6. Say Hello to the Bronze Fonz

The Fonz statue in Milwaukee

While strolling along the downtown RiverWalk, we happened upon the Bronze Fonzie statue paying homage to Happy Days. The nostalgic TV show put Milwaukee on the map and Fonzie is the most enduring character from this iconic sitcom. The Bronze Fonz is a popular attraction and we weren’t the only ones who stopped by for a snapshot.

7. Milwaukee Food tours

Milwaukee Public Market food Tour

We also took a walking tour on the Riverwalk with Milwaukee Food Tours. This lovely afternoon took us through the history of food and drink in Milwaukee sampling cheese, microbrews, German food, and the famous Usingers Sausage. The history of Milwaukee food is amazing. Settled by Europeans, this is a town that has held on to its heritage and kept the old world traditions alive.

8. Milwaukee Public Market

Public Market Milwaukee

If you want a quick and easy lunch option, the Milwaukee Public Market is nearby. Browse the different stalls for a rich and creamy soup and sandwich before taking your stroll on the Riverwalk in search of The Fonz.

For more information on tours around Milwaukee visit the Milwaukee Food Tours website to book your tour.

9. Great Lakes Distillery Tour

Great Lakes Distillary in Milwaukee

The Great Lakes Distillery Tour is a unique tour, well worth the trip. Here I learned that the correct way to serve absinthe is to strain it through ice and that, contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to add sugar.

Great Lakes Distillery handcrafts vodka, gin and Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Whiskey, which you can sample on site after the tour. They use fresh local ingredients like basil and ginseng for the gin, real citrus and pure Wisconsin honey for the vodka. We learned that they use mountain water that is perfectly distilled, without chlorine or fluoride, for a pure and smooth result. Book your tour of the distillery here.

10. Micro Brewery Tours

Brewery Tour in Milwaukee
Lakefront Brewery

It is said that there are 30 things to do in America before the age of 30 and one is to have a beer in Milwaukee. Known as the Brew City, Milwaukee is the place in America to go on a brewery tour.

Drinking a beer at a local brewing company is like having clam chowder in Boston or cheesesteak in Philly. If you decide to do a brewery tour in Milwaukee, may we suggest the Lakefront Brewery? It was one of the most entertaining brewery tours we’ve ever taken in this racy, comedic tour.

We also learned a lot about the process of brewing beer as well. We won’t go into detail because we wrote all about it in our Drinking and Dining through Milwaukee post, but for those of you who haven’t read that yet, check it out!

11. Miller Park

Continue with the Brewing Tradition and catch a ball game at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. The main sponsor of the stadium in the Miller Brewing Company. It’s one of America’s largest brewers and its located in Milwaukee! There’s nothing more American than watching baseball in the Midwest.

12. Eat at Historic Maders

maders milwaukee where to eat

You cannot miss eating at Maders when in Milwaukee, it was voted the most famous German Restaurant in North America. Many famous patrons have gone through Maders including Justin Bieber (I had to put him in). But seriously, everyone who is anyone has eaten there from Presidents Kennedy and Reagan to Frank Sinatra, Usher and the Foo FightersBut what was more fascinating was the  3-million dollar collection of Medieval Germanic weaponry. It’s quite impressive.

13. Potawatomi Hotel and Casino

 Dream Dance Steak House in Milwaukee

Steak dinner at the Dream Dance Steak House before hitting the tables at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino will keep you going all night long. It is run by the  Forest County Potawatomi Peoples.

Our five-course dinner consisted of signature Wisconsin Cheese curd fritters, fresh salad, kangaroo, and filet mignon for me. Chef Matt Baier and the Dream Dance sommelier are top notch offering a world class fine dining experience for everyone to enjoy.

14. Historic Third Ward

The Third Ward in Milwaukee

One of the best places to hang out in Milwaukee is the historic third ward. It’s billed as Milwaukee’s answer to SOHO. This part of the city has restaurants, theaters, spas, and boutiques in renovated and chic warehouses. Here you’ll find the Third Ward Riverwalk and the Milwaukee Public Market. 20 galleries and art studios, the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), and the Broadway Theatre Center.

To explore this district, book this Around the Ward in 90 minutes walking tour where you’ll hear how the Historic Third Ward rose from a bloody history and devastating fire to become one of the best neighborhoods in Milwaukee, tour the warehouses that have been transformed to boutiques and shops and peruse local art.

15. Safe House Speakeasy

The Safe House Speakeasy in Milwaukee

Half the fun of going to the Safe House in Milwaukee, is trying to find it. Once you do, you have to tell them the secret password to get in.

This Milwaukee Speakeasy will have you entertained all night long with its Spy themed decor. There are trap doors, swinging walls, and giant puzzles to keep people entertained. The night ends with trying to find the secret exit.

16. Milwaukee Press Club

Milwaukee Press Club

The Milwaukee Press Club is another facsinating place to visit. This historic bar has attracted journalists and celebrities from around the world for since 1882!

Henry Winkler Milwaukee Press Club

It’s the oldest continously running press club in North America. Be sure to browse the chalkboard walls covered in historic signatures s from visitors such as Barak Obama to Babe Ruth!

17. Discovery World Science and Technology Center

Who doesn’t love a science center? Discovery world has hands-on exhibits and experience new tech and science at this lakefront attraction. Learn about the Great Lakes in the Great Lakes Future area, visit the Techno Jungle to see the latest robotics technology and our personal favourite, the Les Paul House of Sound exhibit. The legendary musician and designer of the Les Paul guitar was born and raised in Wisconsin.

18. Bryants Cocktail Lounge

Bryants Cocktail Lounge

Bryants Cocktail Lounge doesn’t have a menu but instead has 400 specialty craft cocktail which are chosen for you by letting your server choose for you. When you order your drink, let your server know your mood and interests. They will then create something to suit your taste. Bryants Cocktail Lounge feels as if it should be set in the 1960’s Las Vegas instead of suburban Milwaukee. It has been running since 1938 and is the city’s oldest cocktail lounge. For a bit of nostalgia in a cool vibe setting, this is the place to be.

19. Visit Milwaukee for the Food and Drink

Food and drink in Milwaukee
Great bars and restaurants in Milwaukee

As we ate at the different restaurants downtown Milwaukee, all I could think of was how cool this city is. There are so many world-class bistros and cafes. Milwaukee is a place that has a speakeasy, cocktail lounges, boutique hotels with regionally inspired foods, beer halls, gourmet roasted coffee. There are so many cool eateries in Milwaukee, we felt like it was America’s boutique dining capital.

Brady Street in Milwaukee’s East Side is a popular spot for bar hopping and dining.Bay View is another popular spot for nightlife located just south of downtown. Book this private Milwaukee Bar Tour to sample the best Milwaukee Beers. See our full breakdown of where to eat in Milwaukee

20. Pabst Mansion

One of the most popular brews is to visit the Pabst Mansion. Home to the pioneer of Milwaukee Breweries, the Pabst Mansion is a historic monument and museum. Here you can learn about the Pabst family and Milwaukee’s Brewing History. Reserve your spot for a tour here.

21. Laverne and Shirley in Milwaukee

Laverne and Shirley in Milwaukee

There are several microbrew tours in town. Dave and we had hoped to recreate the Laverne and Shirley opening at the Bottle Factory, but unfortunately we didn’t find that tour anywhere. We put on our best “Schlemeil, Schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” anyway.

You can book a Lavern and Shirley tour with actresses who will show you the sights of Milwaukee, including not only the Lavern and Shirley sites, but also St. Josephat Basilica, Forest Home Cemetery, the Milwaukee River Tour and, of course, the Bronze Fonz. The tour starts at Lakefront Brewery, which we can attest is the best brewery tour in Milwaukee. The tour takes you bowling and tasting Pepsi and milk.

22. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory – The Domes

There’s something about going into Bio-Domes. It can be freezing outside, and then you go into a tropical rainforest or feel the heat of a desert Oasis. Technology fascinates me. The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, also known as The Domes, is one of the most unique things to do in Milwaukee. Stroll through the three beehive domes to see plant life from around the world.

23. Other Milwaukee Museums

Museums in Milwaukee

Discovery World – If science is your thing, Discovery World Science and technology museum is fun for the whole family. Milwaukee Public Museum – Wisconsin’s natural history museum is a great place to hang out on a rainy day. Grohmann Museum – A museum dedicated to engineering, the only one of its kind in the United States.

We really loved our time in Milwaukee. Even though Milwaukee is becoming a contemporary city with some funky destinations, they still have that welcoming vibe that will never go away.That’s what we love about Milwaukee, it’s got an urban refinement with a small town feel.

Where to Stay in Milwaukee

ironhorse hotel flag

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Milwaukee and it was a fantastic location and hotel. It’s in a 125-year-old converted National Historic Landmark and is beautiful. When you walk in, you are greeted by a five-storey atrium with historic photos lining the hallways. There are also old bench vaults. Check availability and rates here.

The Iron Horse Hotel is one of Milwaukee’s most popular places to stay. We ate here and toured the rooms and it’s a fantastic place. This luxury boutique hotel has been transformed from a 100 year old downtown warehouse into a modern luxury boutique hotel. Check availability and rates here.

There are so many things to do in Milwaukee, we look forward to returning there again. Have you ever been to Milwaukee? What are your favourite things to do that we missed?

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