25 Best Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Stroll along the river past great shops, cafes and restaurants, tour the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, and visit the trendy Historic Third Ward on your weekend trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Best things to do in Milwaukee with kids include the Milwaukee County Zoo, the Manfred Olson Planetarium, the Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World and the Betty Brinn Children's Museum. Photo: rudi1976/Fotolia
Strolling along the two-mile long RiverWalk by the Milwaukee River is an excellent and unique way to get to know Milwaukee. You can stop at one of many great restaurants or brewpubs along the way. Numerous exhibitions of public art turn the RiverWalk into a sort of outdoor gallery where you can see the current art trends in the city.
Many colorful signs placed along the Riverwalk explain the city's history. The Riverwalk area is also a venue for many annual city events such as River Rhythms and the Milwaukee River Challenge. The Riverwalk area links three of the most interesting Milwaukee districts: Downtown, Historic Third Ward, and Beerline B.
Next read: Milwaukee Art Museum Photo: Christopher Boswell/Fotolia
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» Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)
You might think you’ve somehow left Milwaukee when you enter the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes). Once inside, you can choose from several Domes, each one offering a unique experience. The Desert Dome showcases one of the world’s greatest collections of shrubs, cacti, and other intriguing plant life found in the desert.
The Tropical Dome, on the other hand, has lush greenery, flowers, and nut and fruit bearing trees. You can hear the rushing waterfall in the distance, and be on the lookout for the exotic birds that call this area home. The Floral Show Dome bursts with color, and its beautiful gardens of flowers are always a treat.
Address: 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215, Phone: 414-257-5611
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» Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Historic Third Ward is located south of downtown Milwaukee and is one of the top Milwaukee attractions. Originally a busy and rough warehouse district known as the location of frequent brawls, it used to be called “Bloody Ward.” Today it is the trendy Milwaukee's Arts and Fashion District, with a number of popular restaurants, theaters, spas, galleries, and boutiques.
It is home to the Third Ward Riverwalk, the Milwaukee Public Market, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), and the Broadway Theatre Center. Third Ward’s renaissance has attracted many locals who enjoy the unique atmosphere so much that they decided to buy one of the renovated warehouses-turned-condos. The Third Ward is fun, lively neighborhood to visit to do some shopping, see a show, or just stroll around.
Address: 219 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-273-1173
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»Milwaukee County Zoo
The Milwaukee County Zoo is a fun wooded park spread across 200 acres that provides a home and natural habitat for 3,122 animals belonging to 377 different species. It is amazing how far the zoo has come since its modest beginnings in the 1890s. It started as a tiny mammal and bird zoo in a barn at what is now Washington Park.
You can visit mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles at this exhilarating zoo. Most of the animals are alive and thriving, and some, like the dinosaurs, are just a part of the special outdoor exhibit, which includes moving, spitting, roaring life-sized dinosaur models. If you are wondering what to do in Milwaukee on a sunny day, the Milwaukee County Zoo is a great place to visit with the whole family. The Zoological Society's Education Department organizes tours for school and youth groups, day camps, family programs, and workshops.
Address: 10001 West Blue Mound Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, Phone: 414-256-5412
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» Milwaukee Public Museum
The Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and human history museum in downtown Milwaukee that first opened to the public in 1884. It has 150,000 square feet of exhibit space on three floors and is one of the best things to do in Milwaukee. It showcases permanent and temporary travelling exhibits and houses the first IMAX Theater in Wisconsin.
The museum moved to its current location, formerly the Milwaukee Central Library, in 1962. It has gained a worldwide reputation for its collections, exhibits, scientific research, and educational programs. Everything, starting with the Hebior Mammoth at the entrance to the museum and going to the hall of shells in the Living Ocean exhibit, is designed to grab the attention and spark the imagination of both adults and children.
Address: 800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233, Phone: 888-700-9069 Photo: Milwaukee Public Museum
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» Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery is a tavern, event center, and a gift shop located in the old Historic Pabst Brewery. Owner Jim Haertel has lovingly restored The Best Place, as well as some parts of the old brewery.
For a small fee, you can take a guided tour that starts at The Best pub and takes you through the history of Pabst brewery from 1844 when Best & Company started its life right up to today. That small fee includes a 16 oz. Pabst or Schlitz on tap.
The tour takes you to the historic Blue Ribbon Hall where you will hear the fascinating history of Pabst Brewery. You can stroll through the preserved areas of the old brewery and try to imagine the days when the brewery was buzzing with activity. In a city where the history of beer reflects the history of the city’s ups and downs, visiting The Best will help you understand just what makes Milwaukee tick. You will also be able to taste some absolutely outstanding beer.
Address: 901 W Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233, Phone: 414-630-1609 Photo: Syda Productions/Fotolia
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»Milwaukee Public Market
The Milwaukee Public Market, located in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood, is one of the prime attractions of the area, and it serves as the location where the locals, farmers, artisans, and tourists all get together to get some delicious fresh local food, load up on supplies, do some people-watching, or just stroll around.
The choice of goodies is huge: baked goods, meats, soups, produce, seafood, cheese, wine, spices, coffee, and candies. If you’re interested in non-edible items, you can find flowers, clothes, and other trinkets. Palm Garden, situated on the second floor, is the place to sit down, rest, and nibble on some of the tasty treats you just bought. The market also regularly puts on popular cooking classes and cooking demonstrations. The market is open every day.
Address: 400 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-336-1111
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»Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Lakeshore State Park isn’t your average park. This unique urban retreat located in the city has gorgeous views of the skyline, but it certainly isn’t lacking in outdoor activities. There’s a plethora of attractions and recreation available right along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Take yourself and your four-legged companion out for a run on any one of the parks many paths, or go biking or skating along the paved trails. When the lake is calling your name, feel free to go kayaking or canoeing on the lagoons. If you have a boat, take it out for a ride on the scenic lake and get a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding areas.
Address: 500 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-274-4281
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» Discovery World
Discovery World in Milwaukee provides visitors with a wide variety of exciting and entertaining adventures. The center focuses on science and technology, making these normally challenging and intimidating fields fun and accessible.
Learn bizarre facts about the human body, discover what makes robots and other complex machines tick, and discover Morse code and the wireless telegraph – these are just a few examples of the exhibits you can find here.
The whole family can delve into a truly stimulating educational experience at this establishment. Stop by any day of the week and explore the many attractions that make learning more enjoyable at Discovery World.
Address: 500 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-765-9966
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The Grohmann Museum features a unique collection of paintings and sculptures that date from 1580 to the present day. Eckhart Grohmann initially collected all these masterpieces before donating the priceless assemblage to MSOE in 2001.
The collection is entitled Man at Work, as the paintings reflect the evolution work has undergone over time. Paintings depict the humble farmer in his pasture, for example, along with miners, glassblowers, and blacksmiths.
As labor progresses in time and in technology, the paintings begin to show men working with machines during the industrial period, or they show factory workers and men carrying out daily tasks near bulky trains. Wandering through this fascinating museum will take you back to a much simpler time before showing you the transformations the world of work has experienced. It is a fascinating journey any visitor would be happy to take.
Address: 1000 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-277-2300 Photo: Grohmann Museum
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»Manfred Olson Planetarium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A physics professor from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee opened the Manfred Olson Planetarium in 1965. Today, this planetarium will pique the interest of any visitor, particularly those interested in science.
The facility is equipped with digital projectors and visual effects, all of which provide a stimulating visual experience. If you are looking for fun things to do in Milwaukee with kids, head to the Manfred Olson Planetarium. Astronomical items of interest are on display throughout the planetarium, and on the outside deck, you’ll find an observatory.
Stargazing sessions are held here as well, and you are welcome to use the telescopes to spot planets, stars, and other astronomical wonders.
Address: 1900 E Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53211, Phone: 414-229-4961 Photo: Tryfonov/Fotolia
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»Blu Bar & Lounge
Blu Bar & Lounge, located on the 23rd floor of the Wisconsin venerated Pfister Hotel with its spectacular view of the Lake Michigan, is a true gem.
The bar, which is astoundingly elegant with its muted blue colors, offers some great local beers on draft, a nice selection of wines, 19 kinds of scotch, 26 kinds of whiskeys and bourbons, and a selection of very interesting house cocktails.
Try Heat, a mix of Don Julio Reposado tequila, Spanish Licor 43, fresh lime, agave nectar, and a jalapeño slice. The beer nuts are on the house and there is live jazz almost every night. On the first Thursday of every month, pianist Dr. Jeffrey Hollander will treat you to a performance of his Rhapsodies in Blu series. If you are looking for romantic date night ideas in Milwaukee WI, Blu Bar & Lounge is a great place to try.
Address: 424 East Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-298-3196
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»Milwaukee Food and City Tours
A great way to really see what Milwaukee is all about is with the help of an insider. Milwaukee Food & City Tours will take you to the city’s nooks and crannies that many locals do not even know about.
The company focuses on food, but it also offers tidbits of information and anecdotes about the city culture, history, and architecture while you sample the city’s best pizzas or taste the most popular beers.
You can choose to explore on foot with one of the six tours through different neighborhoods and experience typical neighborhood foods – German, Polish, Italian, or Irish. Or you can do it in the comfort of a luxury bus. In both cases, bring your appetite and be prepared for some serious eating. Milwaukee has a lot to offer.
Address: 2419 N 62nd St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Phone: 800-979-3370
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»Uber Tap Room, Milwaukee, WI
When Ken McNulty added the Uber Tap Room to his venerated Wisconsin Cheese Mart, the addition seemed like a marriage of convenience – McNulty wanted to get people to sit back and have something to drink while sampling Wisconsin fabulous cheeses.
However, the tap room became a local favorite, and the pairing of microbrews and cheese became something of a social staple in Milwaukee.
Uber Tap Room is a hip tavern with a pleasant, cheerful atmosphere, good music, a well-stocked bar, and no frills furnishings. Everything centers on beer and cheese. They have 36 local tap beers, six of which are Nitro Taps.
The servers are always more than happy to help guests expertly pair their beers with just the right cheeses – all 175 of them.
Address: 1048 N. Old World Third St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203, Phone: 414-755-2424
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» Purple Door Ice Cream
Only in Milwaukee does a beer-flavored ice cream make sense. And at Purple Door Ice Cream, their frozen desserts are adults-only treats and contain 1-3 percent of alcohol.
Purple Door Ice Cream parlor is located in the historic Walker's Point area of Milwaukee, and it is a popular place where people go for their favorite scoop of ice cream or just to see what new concoction the owners Lauren and Steve Schultz have come up with.
There are 20 flavors of ice cream, shakes, sundaes, pints, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream pops, and ice cream cakes that can be enjoyed in their cool purple store, or you can take them home for later. You can even do both!
Address: 205 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53204, Phone: 414-988-2521
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»Betty Brinn Children's Museum
The Betty Brinn Children's Museum first opened its doors in 1995. Since then, it has provided the community with invaluable educational resources specifically geared at young people. The museum's main objective is to promote the healthy development of children.
It is an interactive museum and features an array of activities and exhibits that help develop fundamental skills, boost children’s self esteem, and helps young people recognize the importance of teamwork.
The Betty Brinn Children's Museum has special programs supporting low-income and special needs families as well. The activities and exhibits are always changing, so be sure to look up what is being featured this week.
Address: 929 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-390-5437 Photo: Betty Brinn Children's Museum
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»North Point Lighthouse Museum
The North Point Lighthouse Museum is your ticket to understanding the role that Milwaukee played in the regional maritime activities of the Great Lakes. The museum features artifacts, documentation, and artwork from the lighthouse and its various keepers.
The museum proudly displays a Fresnel lens and provides a detailed explanation of how it works. It also features panels that describe and illustrate the story of the keepers of the lighthouse and their duties and heritage, along with personal scrapbooks and artifacts from wrecks.
The intriguing history of this period of time really comes to life at the North Point Lighthouse Museum. Be sure to check on the museum’s hours, as they change periodically.
Address: 2650 N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211, Phone: 414-332-6754 Photo: eunikas/Fotolia
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»Honeypie, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Honeypie is a diner-style restaurant to which locals and tourists flock for honest-to-God Midwestern comfort food, pies, and desserts.
Everything is made from scratch using fresh, local ingredients. You can eat at the bar, in a booth, at a table, or outside on their patio. There are no surprises on the menu – just great, delicious soups, sandwiches, and pies. And they are not just any pies; food critics from all over the country have been writing about them.
Check out the Bourbon Walnut Pecan or the Cheddar Bacon Apple, just two choices among dozens of options. Honeypie also has a nice selection of beer on tap to go with your pie. You can enroll in their pie making classes or buy whole pies in their attached bakery to take home.
Address: 2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53207, Phone: 414-489-7437 Photo: Honeypie
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»Palermo's Pizza Factory Tour
If there is one food everyone around the world can get excited about, it has to be pizza. At Palermo’s Pizza Factory Tour, everyone has the opportunity to try some absolutely delicious, fresh, hand tossed pizza.
Palermo's Pizza Factory Tour offers not only great pizza, but also valuable insight on the process they use to make their pizzas. You will get a bird’s-eye view of the production floor as well as interesting information on the company's history.
After you’ve filled up on facts and secrets about Palermo’s Pizza, you can sit down and enjoy eating one of their tasty creations. Check their website for tour dates and times.
Address: 3399 W Roundhouse Rd, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215, Phone: 888-571-7181 Photo: Palermo's Pizza Factory Tour
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»Braise, Milwaukee, WI
Braise is located in Walker's Point on Milwaukee's south side in a former bowling alley. The dining room is comfortable and inviting, with both private and farm-style communal tables available.
The dining room overlooks the kitchen, giving you a great view of the action. The menu changes daily and depends on what ingredients are in season. Chef-owner Dave Swanson is known not only for his delicious food but also for his development of the first restaurant-supported agriculture program in the country.
Many of his ingredients come from his own rooftop garden or are the result of his active collaboration with local farmers and food producers. You might be able to try the grilled bison strip loin and boudin blanc. And if you have the time, enroll in Chef Dave’s culinary school. You are guaranteed to learn a lot and eat well.
Address: 1101 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53204, Phone: 414-212-8843
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Take a pleasant stroll around the Brady Street area and admire beautifully designed buildings dating from the 1860s to the 1930s.
Early immigrants from Germany, Poland, Ireland, and Italy settled here, making this one of Milwaukee's most ethnically diverse communities. The street is studded with the city's best lounges, cafes, shops, restaurants, and taverns, so you’re guaranteed to find something of interest here.
The streets run all the way from Lake Michigan to the Milwaukee River. The thriving, locally owned businesses are passionate about providing the community with everyday goods as well as extraordinary and rare items.
Address: 1224 LR E. Brady St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202 Photo: Brady Street
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Streetza is a food truck that sells slices of pizza. These are not your every day pizza slices. In fact, they are so incredible that Streetza has been declared the Best Street Food in Milwaukee four years in a row.
You will find Streetza truck anywhere where there is a street party, summer concert, or any other fun public gathering. Streetza serves good old traditional pizza slices, but they always include a special on their menu.
Depending on the season, it just might be a crab leg pizza with basil and thyme cream sauce, fresh crabmeat, fresh corn, leeks, and mozzarella. There are even whole crab legs on top.
Address: 2201 S 84th St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53227, Phone: 414-215-0021 Photo: Streetza
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»Lynden Sculpture Garden
The Lynden Sculpture Garden is the former home of Harry and Peg Bradley. In May 2010, they opened their doors to the public, permitting everyone to enjoy the tranquility and beauty for which these 40 acres of woodlands have become famous.
The lovely lakeside park is studded with intriguing sculptures, while the inside galleries hold contemporary exhibits that contain thought-provoking paintings and other works on paper. The Lynden Sculpture Garden offers educational programs and interactive experiences.
Address: 2145 West Brown Deer Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53217, Phone: 414-446-8794 Photo: Lynden Sculpture Garden
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»Ardent, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Ardent redefines simplicity. This restaurant in Milwaukee’s Lower East Side manages to pull off an effortless upscale elegance.
The décor is understated with muted colors, and modern, industrial touches create a peaceful, Zen atmosphere, an aura that extends to the food. Chef Justin Carlisle sources all his ingredients from local producers and farms, including his own, where his father raises beef.
The high quality ingredients are fresh, and they combine in the most imaginative ways: try Pig Head Terrine with apples and mustard greens. Portions are small and exquisitely presented, and the flavors are rich and unique. For true foodies, this place is worth a long trip.
Address: 1751 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202, Phone: 414-897-7022 Photo: Ardent
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25 Best Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Milwaukee RiverWalk, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes), Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Photo: Historic Third Ward
- Milwaukee County Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Lunja - Fotolia.com
- Milwaukee Public Museum, Photo: Milwaukee Public Museum
- Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, Photo: Courtesy of Syda Productions - Fotolia.com
- Milwaukee Public Market, Photo: Courtesy of luckybusiness- Fotolia.com
- Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Riverwalker - Fotolia.com
- Discovery World, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Grohmann Museum, Photo: Grohmann Museum
- Manfred Olson Planetarium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Tryfonov - Fotolia.com
- Blu Bar & Lounge, Photo: Blu Bar & Lounge
- Milwaukee Food and City Tours, Photo: Milwaukee Food and City Tours
- Uber Tap Room, Milwaukee, WI, Photo: Uber Tap Room
- Purple Door Ice Cream, Photo: Purple Door Ice Cream
- Betty Brinn Children's Museum, Photo: Betty Brinn Children's Museum
- North Point Lighthouse Museum, Photo: Courtesy of eunikas - Fotolia.com
- Honeypie, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Photo: Honeypie
- Palermo's Pizza Factory Tour, Photo: Palermo's Pizza Factory Tour
- Braise, Milwaukee, WI, Photo: Braise
- Brady Street, Photo: Brady Street
- Streetza, Photo: Streetza
- Lynden Sculpture Garden, Photo: Lynden Sculpture Garden
- Ardent, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Photo: Ardent
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of rudi1976 - Fotolia.com
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