Travel Guide | Wisconsin

City Guide: Milwaukee, WI

A city known for its cheese, beer and festivals, Milwaukee is the heart of Wisconsin.

Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, downtown Milwaukee is mere blocks away from the sandy shores. Even though it’s winters are cold and summers hot, Milwaukee prides itself on its ability to celebrate cultural and economic diversity year-round.

Originally settled in 1836, Milwaukee has grown to become Wisconsin’s largest city. In the early 20th century, it saw a large number of German immigrants settling into its neighborhoods. Now, Milwaukee is home to numerous ethnic backgrounds and religions.

Milwaukee is also home to Miller, Blatz, Schlitz and Pabst breweries. Along with these household-names, Milwaukee has welcomed many new breweries over the years, like Lakefront Brewery.

The city is not all beer though – one of the most famous landmarks of Milwaukee is on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Stretching from residential neighborhoods to the Hoan Bridge, the shoreline’s call to fame is the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Milwaukee-ans are known for being easy-going, passionate about sports, festival-goers, and always in the mood to tailgate. Here are the top 5 sites you should see to feel like a true Wisconsinite.

Top 5 Sites to See:

– Milwaukee Art Museum: Potentially Milwaukee’s biggest claim to fame, the Milwaukee Art Museum is one of the newest additions to the skyline. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the art museum displays over 35,000 pieces of art ranging from antiques to modern artwork. The building itself is stunning to explore so if architecture is more your thing, keep this on your list! Tip: Free admission for all on the first Thursday of the month.

– Marcus Center for the Performing Arts: Milwaukee is always supporting the arts, whether a small band at a venue or a large national tour at the Marcus Center. While there are numerous theaters and music venues across town, the Marcus Center has the biggest and best shows. Stop by for a matinee showing of a musical or to see the Symphony.

-Lakefront Brewery Tour: While there are many breweries in Milwaukee, the Lakefront Brewery has the best tour! For $7, you get to experience the brewing process while sipping on four free beers. Talk about a great afternoon.

-Milwaukee Public Market: Stroll the aisles of the Public Market at lunch and choose one of many types of food. Eat your fresh fish sandwich or your hummus and pita outside! You’ll appreciate the view of the Third Ward. P.S. You may have seen this building in the opening credits of Bridesmaids…

-Experience a Festival at Henry Maier Festival Park: Milwaukee is home to numerous festivals, Summerfest being the largest. If you visit during the summer, stop by one of the festivals! They range from German Fest to Polish Fest to even more! You’ll eat great food and experience one of the many cultures represented in Milwaukee.

Fun for Free:

While most typical tourist attractions cost money, here are a couple ideas of what you can do for free!

– Walk the entire RiverWalk: The Riverwalk is a three-mile sidewalk that lines the Milwaukee River, which runs through downtown Milwaukee to the Lakefront. There is no better way to see the different neighborhoods, restaurants, and streets of Milwaukee then this path.

– Get a Picture Taken with the Bronze Fonz: The statue is dedicated to the character “the Fonz” from the sitcom Happy Days, which was set in 1950s Milwaukee. It’s located on the RiverWalk so make sure to stop.

– Drink Wine at Jazz in the Park: Every Thursday from June through September, pack a picnic and head to Jazz in the Park. Music starts at 6pm at Cathedral Square Park.

Places to Eat:

Out of the hundreds of restaurants, it can seem a bit daunting to find the best “cheap eats” and to choose items off the menu.

Just make sure you don’t leave Milwaukee without trying cheese-curds and a bloody mary. Tip: these are best enjoyed when watching a Saturday morning football game at a bar.

The Milwaukee Ale House is a great restaurant to grab dinner with a friend! If it’s a nice day, eat outside on their deck. You’ll take in a great view of the river while enjoying local beers and a good meal. Tip: Order the nachos as an appetizer.


Sobelman’s or AJ Bombers are constantly competing for the “Best Burger in Milwaukee” title. Check them both out and see for yourself.

After Dark:

If you’re still up for a night out after a long day of exploring Milwaukee, head to Water St. You’ll quickly find bars to choose from and numerous young people roaming about.

After all that, it’s obvious why you should add Milwaukee to your travel list. While Milwaukee is best explored in the summer, there is always something happening downtown. Head up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin soon! The cheese-curds are hot and calling your name.

Emily Poklar

University of Wisconsin - Madison | 3 stories

Emily is a junior studying Strategic Communications at the University of Wisconsin. After spending a semester studying in London, she cannot wait to explore new cities and places.

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