What to do and eat in Milwaukee

I’ll be honest. Heading North on 94, Milwaukee doesn’t exactly scream boomtown or America’s beer capital. From far away, it looks like a copy of so many other medium-sized cities we’ve visited, with a beige skyline and roads that split spaghetti-style in a dozen directions. It’s easy not knowing where to start.

But there is, in fact, a starting point, and that is Milwaukee’s Public Market.

First Stop – Public Market and Third Ward

Located on the Historic Third Ward, this space is the best introduction to what’s really underneath the city’s industrial aura. It’s where you get to try the local cheese and discuss the diversity of influences in the local food. Once you get a few treats, wash it down with a cup of coffee at Anodyne and head outside to stroll along the beautiful boardwalk. …Assuming that it’s summer, of course.

Take a look at all the fairly new condos, galleries and breweries along the canal and think of all the factories and warehouses that used to be there years ago. This was the home of hard-working European immigrants in search of a better life. First came the Irish. Then, the Italians. They built and rebuilt the city through hard times. 

Third Ward is most famous for the 1892 fire at the Water Street Union Oil & Co. Everything was burnt to the grown: 440 buildings were destroyed and 1,900 families lost their homes. It took about 35 years to bring the city back to life.

Today, this neighborhood of terracotta brick buildings is thriving as one of Milwaukee’s creative hubs with art studios, boutiques and performing art venues.

Second Stop — Downtown, Museums and German Food

From the Third Ward, we recommend taking the free trolley or public transportation to explore the beautiful architecture around the downtown area and head to the lakefront to enjoy the different museums. Two of our recommended museums are the War Memorial and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The art museum is a landmark in itself. The iconic building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and resembles a sailboat or the wings of a bird. It’s also one of the largest museums in the United States with a collection of nearly 25,000 works of art and rotating exhibitions. 

If you prefer food over museums, no worries. Another area worth exploring downtown is Old World 3rd Street. It’s the best place to experience Milwaukee’s German Heritage with a refreshing pint of beer, a good sausage platter and jumbo pretzels. Our recommendation is to start at Mader’s, a local landmark and one of America’s most famous German restaurants. You could also try the Old German Beer Hall or the Milwaukee Brat House.

If you would like to take home some of the delicious local sausages, stop by Usinger’s and choose among 70 varieties of sausage, still made with the original family recipes from 1880. And while you’re there, definitively stop by The Spice House and the Wisconsin Cheese Mart.

If you eat OR drink a little too much, stroll along the Riverwalk, which is just a short walk away. Take in the view of the city from the different bridges.

Third Stop —Beer

Now, let’s go back to the topic of beer. After all, Milwaukee IS a beer capital. It’s been recognized as such since the end of the nineteenth century and some of its past major brewers include Miller Brewing Company, Pabst Brewing Company and Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. Even today, the city is home to Miller Coors, producing over 10 million barrels of beer a year.

It doesn’t end there, of course. This is also a city of amazing microbrews. Milwaukee Brewing Company, Lakefront Brewery, Third Space Brewing and Eagle Park Brewing are some of the local favorites. And if you’re feeling a little lost, we highly recommend taking a beer tour

You could also go the historical beer route by visiting the Pabst Mansion, the Schlitz Park or the Miller Valley. We particularly recommend this last one, especially if it’s your first time in Milwaukee. A tour of the local landmark takes you through 160 years of brewing history, including a guided walk through the production lines, the historic Bavarian-Style Miller Inn and the underground caves where they used to store the beer… Yes, you heard that right, caves!

Tours typically run every 30 minutes and you can enjoy 3 samples of their beers. It does take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, so plan accordingly.

Fourth Stop —Plants, Bikes and Swings

If you want to make the most of your trip, there are a couple of other attractions that are worth mentioning. Near the downtown area, for example, you’ll find the Harley Davidson Museum. It’s a family-friendly interactive showcase of the brand with hundreds of motorcycles. They also have year-round events and great food at their Motor Restaurant.

If you’re more into plants and natural escapes, we highly recommend the Mitchel Park Domes. You’ll be able to experience 3 unique ecosystems, including seasonal shows. Our favorite part of this experience was playing Scavenger Hunt to learn more about the different species of plants available at the domes. 

Another little attraction that we enjoy is the Swing Park. It’s conveniently located close to Brewer’s Hill and walking distance from the Lakefront Brewery. The park is hidden beneath the iconic Holton Street Bridge and it’s truly a unique and relaxing space for everyone to enjoy.

Fifth Stop —Great neighborhoods for food

Finally, let’s talk food. Aside from Historic Third Ward and Old World Third Street, there are plenty of areas to enjoy great food. Here are some of our favorite neighborhoods.

Brady Street is such a colorful, eclectic street with a diversity of restaurants, fun bars and quirky shops. Some favorites are La Masa Empanada Bar, the sharable plates at The Diplomat, the Middle Eastern classics and belly dancers at Casablanca, and the pasta flights at Doria. 

Bay View is another neighborhood with a vibrant dining and bar scene. Just South of the city, it has a young and trendy vibe, with thrift shops, boutiques, record shops and galleries. Some of the local favorites are the small plates and piscos at C-Viche, the quirky menu at Odd Duck, the retro-style comforting eats at Honeypie or the creative hot dogs at The Vanguard.

--> Finally, you can’t miss Walker’s Point. It’s a neighborhood known for its nightlife, craft breweries and trendy eateries. If you’re looking for brunch, definitively try the options at Toast. For healthy a healthy option, get one of the grain bowls at Bowls. Or try the awesome steamed pork buns at Braise Restaurant.


If you're planning a trip to Milwaukee, leave us your question or comment below and we'll do our best to answer. Thank you for your support. And safe travels!

Click here to get our City Guide to Milwaukee!

Or watch our video to learn more about the different Milwaukee attractions! 

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