Milwaukee is home to a variety of entertainment options to befit the interests of any traveler. Its famous art museum, summer festivals and brewing history attract flocks of tourists at all points of the year, though especially in summer, when beautiful vistas of the Lake Michigan horizon are readily accessible on drives downtown. Here are our top 10 things to do and see in Milwaukee, WI.
Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum
This famous Milwaukee landmark, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, should be the first place on every visitor’s list. The Milwaukee Art Museum is a building to behold, known for its beautiful, wing-like Quadracci Pavilion. However, with over 30,000 works in-house, and A-list exhibitions year round, the Milwaukee Art Museum has grown to become one of the Midwest’s finest cultural institutions too!
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee WI, USA, +1 414-224-3200
Eat cheese at Mars Cheese Castle
Wisconsin is the cheese and sausage capitol of the US, and is supported by roadside stores such as the Mars Cheese Castle to maintain its delicious legacy. Kenosha lies just a short drive south from Milwaukee, but whether it’s on route or not, visitors to the state are advised to stop here for a snack. Mars Cheese Castle is perhaps the largest store of its kind, and assuredly the most popular. Their incredible variety of cheese and meat is sure to rouse the appetites of customers, especially with their variety of summer sausage and baby Swiss wheels.
Mars Cheese Castle, 2800 W Frontage Rd, Kenosha WI, USA, +1 855-352-6277
Take a boat ride down the Milwaukee River
While exploring Milwaukee’s downtown, be sure to wind down a night on the river, via the Milwaukee River Cruise Line. This company has the best boats in town: European-styled leisure boats, perfect for floating along the city’s canals. With a variety of trip types, including a wine and cheese cruise, a beer and brat cruise and even a champagne brunch cruise, this cruise line has every river traveler covered!
Attend an ethnic festival in summer
Milwaukee has had a rich heritage of immigration ever since the establishment of the city. While the city is mostly of German heritage, the Poles, Irish, Italians and Greeks came en masse to work in the then thriving industrial sector. Today, numerous summer and autumn festivals celebrate this legacy, with celebrations like Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, and Oktoberfest just to name a few. Be sure to come to all with an appetite; many vendors sell food at a discounted price inside the festival grounds.
See a movie at the Oriental Theater
Few movie theaters today are quite like the Oriental Theater. Its beautiful interior, inspired by Chinese, East Indian, and Japanese styles, is one of Milwaukee’s landmarks. The Oriental shows movies the old fashioned way too; only recently replacing the organist who used to introduce films by playing a few tunes. If possible, visit the Oriental for one of their annual showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cult horror classic that the theater holds the world record for showing the most times!
Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee WI, USA, +1 414-276-5140
Tour the Streets of Old Milwaukee
As the most popular exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Streets of Old Milwaukee tells a tale of a city in a way few other exhibits could, with the use of modeled buildings harkening back to the turn of the 20th century, lifelike wax characters and cobblestone streets. At first the exhibit might come off as a little haunting, however this is part of the experience for the first timer. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the exhibit at the museum, and a fitting remodelling of the displays is due to take place.
Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W Wells St, Milwaukee WI, USA, +1 414-278-2728
Visit the Harley Davidson Museum
Milwaukee is incredibly proud to be the home of the iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson, so proud in fact that they made a museum to celebrate its more than 100-year-old legacy! The Harley Davidson Museum hosts more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts, dating back to the very beginnings of the company, and honors the brand’s image of freedom and rebellion with a variety of informative exhibits. Set on Milwaukee’s lakefront, access the museum is quite easy, and is best done on two wheels!
Harley Davidson Museum, 400 W Canal St, Milwaukee WI, USA, +1 877-436-8738
Tour the Miller Brewing facilities
Founded by a German immigrant in 1855, MillerCoors is the largest testament to what is left of the brewing monopoly that Milwaukee held strong until the 1960s. The brewing company has become one of the largest in the country with the acquisition of Coors, however still maintains its roots in the Milwaukee Valley by giving daily tours of the facilities to thirsty guests. The tour covers the origins of the company as well as the modern technology it takes to compete in today’s brewing market – and, of course, samples are provided at the end!
Miller Brewery, 4251 W State St, Milwaukee WI, USA, +1 414-931-2337
Sip a coffee at Colectivo Coffee
Travelers should be told this ahead of time: if they get caught drinking anything but Colectivo coffee, they will be labeled as tourists! Colectivo is the most popular coffee roaster around town, and with good reason. Their store fronts bring trendy, cutting-edge filtering techniques to the fore in Milwaukee, along with a genuinely good and socially conscious product. Their cafés feature a delicious menu as well, utilizing many local products in their bakery and sandwiches.
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