Take on the Town: 20 Fun things to do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Counting down all the fun things to do in Mil-town.
Wisconsin tends to get left out of the in the discussion when it come to desirable destinations in the states, which is part of what keeps this mid-western state so wholesome. For many, the only reason they know about Milwaukee is from its stint at fame as the hometown for our favorite characters of That 70s Show. But don’t be fooled by the lack of popularity, Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin and the fifth largest city in the mid-west. With a population of nearly 600,000 people, there is never a shortage of interesting things to do in Milwaukee.
1. Mr. J’s Lounge for Live Jazz
If you are going to see live music while visiting Milwaukee, then Mr. J’s Lounge is where you should be going. A state of the art jazz and night club, Mr. J’s shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for a great night out. On most nights you can catch a live show of the jazz or blues genre; other nights feature a live DJ spinning old jazz and blues tracks for your enjoyment. Most nights the lounge offers a happy hour spanning from 2 pm until 7 pm, and every night their kitchen is open for pub fare. Music isn’t the only thing to see at Mr. J’s—every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, the lounge is open for viewing of sports games on their large screen TVs. A great spot for date night or just to go out with friends, Mr. J’s is a must see while in Milwaukee.
Address: 4610 W Fond Du Lac Ave Milwaukee, WI 53216
Phone: (414) 455-8779
2. Milwaukee Art Museum
It may come as a surprise but Milwaukee has an immense amount of artistic culture existing in its streets. It is a major hub for live music, painting, photography and several other forms of self expression—those that love seeing art should make the trip to this Wisconsin city. To be specific, you should get yourself into the Milwaukee Art Museum where all of your art dreams will come true. With over 30,000 pieces of artwork in the gallery, there is something here for all tastes. The museum is broken up over four floors with more than 40 galleries to enjoy. The different types of art include painting, sculpture, photography, drawings, and many other forms. Some of the more notable artists featured through out the various galleries are Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and of course, Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe. Children under 12 always get in for free; students, senior citizens, and active military are offered discounted entry. Additionally, the first Friday of each month the museum is open for free to the public.
Address: 700 N. Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 224-3842.
Hours: Tuesday -Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
Friday 10 am – 8 pm
3. Door No. 7
Door Number 7 is a one of those spots that you spend a night at and instantly can’t wait to show your friends how cool it is. Located in the historical district of Milwaukee, Door No. 7 is the ultimate spot for nightlife in the city. Once a week they host the Groove Society Party, a night filled with live music, singing, DJ’s, and even a saxophone in the mix. The bar is spacious enough for a live music area where you can stand around and mingle; they also offer at the bar seating for those that prefer to be in the action. The overall ambiance is one of mystery and sophistication. Door Number 7 definitely has a classic cool feel about it. Open for rent for private events as well. Check out Door No. 7 if you want to hang with the coolest of the locals.
Address: 1758 N. Water St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 272-0205
4. Pabst Theater
Pabst Theater is not only a great place to catch a live show, but also a large piece of history. Built over 100 years ago in 1895, Pabst Theater is the fourth oldest operating theater in the United States! That bit of history makes it a pretty cool venue all on its own but there are many more reasons to adore the Pabst Theater. The history is evident in the architecture as this theater has one of the most regal of interiors. With tiered seating and a truly immaculate stage, you will be feeling very fancy inside of this venue. Another reason to admire this landmark is because of the amount of talent that has come through its doors over the years. Whether it’s dancing, acting, comedy, or music that you are out to see, Pabst Theater is a host to many of the talents. The space is also open for rent for private functions such as weddings and large parties, making a pretty amazing backdrop for your special evening.
Address: 144 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, United States
Phone: (414) 286-3205
5. Holey Moley Coffee and Doughnuts
Every city has a few places that the locals will assure you that you must visit. Particularly when it comes to food, often the little hidden gems that the kind woman on the street points you towards end up being the best meals. In Milwaukee, one of those places is Holey Moley Coffee and Doughnuts. Opening in 2014, Holey Moley is the only craft doughnut spot in the whole city of Milwaukee. The menu ranges from your traditional doughnuts to fritters and cakes, all made in house and with quality ingredients. The shop offers their doughnuts, baked fresh every day, for a limited set of hours, alongside local coffee. Make sure to get here early when they open for the freshest of all doughnuts.
Address: 316 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, United States
Phone: (414) 308-1616
6. Harley Davidson Museum
Harley Davidson is the crème de la crème when it comes to motorcycles. Bikers from all around the world agree that there is no finer bike than a Harley. Many dream to own one much like the boys of the 70’s dreamt of a Camaro as their dream car. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, or appreciate the craftsmanship of these guys then the Harley Davidson Museum is a must whilst in Milwaukee. Celebrating over 100 years of craftsmanship, the Harley Davidson Museum is a lot of fun to check out. The museum walks you through the evolution of the Harley through its various models over the years. There is a restaurant located right inside the museum so you can really make a day out of your visit. That’s not all the museum has to offer—for the real die hard Harley fans, the venue is open for wedding receptions as well!
Address: 400 W Canal St, Milwaukee, WI 53201, United States
Phone: (877) 436-8738
7. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory
Nature lovers rejoice! The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is a true oasis amidst the city. More popularly referred to as "The Domes," the conservatory is a place where you can experience nature from all over the world, and we mean that literally. There are varying domes you can enter depending on what your are interested in seeing, though we would argue that every last one is worth checking out.
The Desert Dome
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through the Sahara? Perhaps the deserts of South Africa instead? Any other hot, sandy places interest you? Easy enough just come over to the Desert Dome at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and transport yourself into the landscapes of deserts from all around the world. This dome is home to one of the most impressive collections of succulents, shrubs, and cacti that are found in the deserts of the world. An amazing way to experience wonders of the world you may not have the chance to see, the Desert Dome is a great component to the Conservatory.
The Tropical Dome
Home to the world's most diverse eco-system, tropical rainforests are one of the worlds finest wonders. Overwhelming amounts of different species inhabit the world’s rainforests. It’s a place many of us wouldn’t find ourselves in, where some of the strangest looking bugs can be located and the most beautiful plants, which is why we think the Tropical Dome is such an amazing place. The dome has a collection of fruits, plants, and spices found in only in the rainforests across the world. Walking through this dome will make you feel like you’ve entered a tropical oasis.
The Floral Show Dome
You’d think that it would be hard to impress one after seeing the other two domes at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, and it should be after seeing such amazing sights. However difficult, the floral shows put on by the conservatory are always breathtaking. Each show has a specific theme that it is planned around. The preparation is intense and it certainly shows in the beauty of the flowers at the shows put on here. It makes for a sweet ending to an amazing tour through the domes to end with the Floral Show Dome.
8. Visit Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery
We all know the signature blue ribbon printed on every can in all the bars you’ve been to. It’s likely that the person seen holding this beer is a hipster, or just someone who’s low on cash. It may be a cheap beer but it is also a loved one. Beginning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin over 170 years ago, Pabst Blue Ribbon has solidified itself in America’s popular culture. The history of the blue ribbon actually began after the beer gained many accolades in the late 1800’s, when they decided to start tying a blue ribbon around each bottle. But enough of the history, you can pick up plenty of that when you visit the Pabst Brewery located right in Milwaukee. On almost any day of the week the brewery is open for a beer history tour where you will be walked through the history of the brand and the brewing of the beer over the years. The brewery is also available for private group tours and even wedding receptions. Military is granted admission at a discounted price.
Address: 901 W Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233
9. Enjoy a Cone at Purple Door Ice Cream
Since 2011, husband and wife Lauren and Steve Schultz have been gifting Milwaukee with delicious, original, homemade ice cream from their business, Purple Door Ice Cream. Previously teachers, the couple worked many years towards their dream at opening an ice cream shop that offered home made and original flavors while supporting other local businesses and being earth friendly. They have succeeded at their mission with flying colors, gaining countless awards and accolades during their time in business. The dairy used in making the ice cream is 100% sourced from dairy farms located in the state of Wisconsin, and the flavors added are entirely natural, sourced from only the highest end of ingredients. Customers can go to their shop for a variety of products; you can have a single serving right there in a cup or cone, or buy a pint to save for later. Trust us, after trying Purple Door once, you will definitely be back for more. The flavors range from simple vanilla all the way to basil. The ice cream shop also offers seasonal flavors and though some are unavailable in pints, most are available to buy in bulk. After viewing the menu it can be near impossible to make a choice, which is why the Purple Door also offers tasting flights so you can have a bit of everything.
Address: 205 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204, United States
Phone: (414) 988-2521
10. Knock some pins at the oldest bowling alley in the US.
Opening in 1908, The Holler House is a novelty that shouldn’t be overlooked in Milwaukee. It originated as a bowling alley and is now the oldest operating one in the country. Later in life the Holler House became a pub, but the owners decided to keep the historic bowling lanes intact for the patrons' enjoyment. The result is a seriously awesome place to have some fun with friends or family. The bar offers up many craft brews and cocktails for you to enjoy. If you would like to bowl during your visit to the Holler House you will have to call ahead; this bowling alley is so old that the lanes still require pinsetters to get the pins ready for each bowler.
Address: 2042 W Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53215
Phone: (414) 647-9284
11. See where Teddy Roosevelt was shot
You don’t have to be a history buff to be interested in this historic site. Over 100 years ago, in 1912, a local Milwaukee saloonkeeper attempted to assassinate a former President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt was in the city campaigning for what would have been his third term of Presidency when he was shot in the chest in front of the Gilpatrick Hotel. He went on, with only a small wound, to give his campaign speech with the bullet still lodged in his chest. That might be the most badass move we’ve ever seen off the big screen. The hotel has since been changed to the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, but it is still visited by crime and history lovers alike. Take a trip to this historical site while making your way through the city for a cool story to bring home with you.
Address: 333 W. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee, WI
12. Visit the St. Joan of Arc Temple
As previously proven, That 70’s Show isn’t Milwaukee’s only claim to fame. This mid-western state has a surprisingly high number of historical sites located within its borders. Take Marquette University for example—residing inside the campus grounds is the Joan of Arc Temple. Marquette University is already a cool spot to visit ,considering its famous alumni, including Chris Farley and Dwayne Wade, to name a few. But this historical temple really ups the cool factor of this American university. This temple was originally built in France, then transported to New York, and in 1966 made its way to Milwaukee where it was dedicated to the Joan of Arc. Still standing today, the Joan of Arc Temple at Marquette University has been said to be the only medieval structure to be found in the West that is dedicated to its original purpose. An amazing and truly unique site to see, the Joan of Arc Temple is worth the visit, and it also happens to be free!
Address: 1250 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233, United States
13. Lake Front Brewery
Located right on the banks of the Milwaukee River, the Lake Front Brewery is a perfect place to enjoy local beers with a beautiful view. According to the owners, sibling rivalry was the catalyst for this brewery. Started by two brothers in competition over who could brew a better beer, the Lake Front Brewery was born. The brothers have managed to make themselves a staple in the Milwaukee beer scene, 29 years later. The Kilsch brothers have gained several awards for their beers. The beer brewed at Lake Front ranges from the staple brews such as Riverwest Stein Beer to the seasonal beers such as the spring seasonal cherry brew. Gluten free and organic beers are also a part of the collection brewed in Milwaukee. Sign up for a tour at this brewery, and for just $10 you are given a pint glass rocking the Lake Front Brewery logo, four different 6 oz. samples of their beer, a tour of the brewery, and a whole lot of fun. Weekday and Saturday tours are offered at a lower price. After visiting the Lake Front Brewery, you won’t have any unanswered questions about why Milwaukee is nicknamed the "Brew Town."
Address: 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212, United States
Phone: (414) 372-8800
14. Enjoy the many facets of the Milwaukee Public Market
Whether you are a food lover or not, you will undoubtedly love the Milwaukee Public Market. The market is bustling with several stalls offering delectable artisanal goods, locally made of course. Each stall holds a new possibility at the market; you may be met with a gelato stall, filled with sweet cold cream; walk a few more feet and you may stumble upon an organic goat cheese stall. The possibilities are endless here at the Public Market. If you prefer to sit down while you enjoy your food and drink, the second floor of the market has a Palm Garden restaurant where you can satisfy your cravings. Additionally, the market also has a variety of cooking classes that you can sign up for. The classes are taught by professional chefs, often times local to Wisconsin. This is a great activity to do with a friend or spouse, and also makes for a great gift. Taking a cooking class at the Public Market can be fun and will give you something to show off about later. Further more, the Public Garden restaurant and kitchen are both available for rent for private functions.
Address: 400 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 336-1111
15. See the Basilica of St. Josaphat
The original church was founded in Milwaukee in 1888, sadly it burned down in 1889. Post-fire, Father Wilhelm Grutza hired an architect to construct another building resembling the famous Saint Peters in Rome. The structure was completed in 1901, and in 1926 Gonippo Raggi, a Roman artist, was hired by the church to paint the domed ceilings. The results are absolutely stunning; you may leave with a kink in your neck from looking up. By 1929, the church was awarded the title of the third basilica in the United States. The word basilica is directly translated from Latin as "royal palace" and the term is reserved for only the largest, most important and beautiful churches in the world. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Basilica of Saint Josaphat is an absolutely stunning landmark that shouldn’t be forgotten about when visiting Milwaukee.
Address: 2333 South 6th Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215
Phone: (414) 645-5623
16. Enjoy dinner and drinks at Swig
There are certain restaurants in cities that should be considered landmark spots. As every city does, Milwaukee is loaded with amazing places to enjoy a meal. Swig is one of those places. Offering a cozy setting complete with a fireplace, Swig is a Milwaukee staple and is always sure to draw a crowd. Since 2005, this posh tapas restaurant has been serving up great food with style. Their aim is to create a friendly, open environment for sharing food, drinks, and laughter. The menu ranges from lunch to dinner fare, varying in culinary style so that there is something for everyone to enjoy. The cocktail list is equally versatile with upwards of 20 martinis to choose from and an extensive wine list to pair with the carefully curated dishes. From the same owners as Holey Moley Doughnuts—it’s clear that this family of business owners knows how to give the people what they want.
Address: 217 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202, United States
Phone: (414) 431-7944
17. Take a walk along the Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park
Wisconsin is undoubtedly a picturesque state, with the rivers and various lakes, it would be hard to find something that was not aesthetically pleasing in this mid-western state. One of our favorite places to enjoy the beautiful nature of Wisconsin is Grant Park. The Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park to be specific. Along this beautiful trail are both natural and man-made rock structures, rock stairs, footbridges, and small babbling brooks for you to explore. A great walk for any time of year, the Seven Bridges Trail is particularly lovely during the fall season when the woods come alive in vibrant reds and oranges, littering the trails with a confetti of foliage. The Park is free to enter and makes for a great afternoon activity if you want to get some exercise and enjoy some nature.
Address: 9480 Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53226
Phone: (414) 257-7275
18. Spend the day at Discovery World at the Pier
For a truly unforgettable and educational experience, you should certainly visit Discovery World at the Pier. This large museum is home to many interesting and awe inspiring exhibits. The exhibits rotate every several months, so there is always something new to see and learn when visiting Discovery World. The exhibits range through all different topics, so no matter what your interests are, chances are you’ll find something fascinating here. Topics range from aquariums, to science exhibits, right down to music analytics. If you love it here enough, a membership can be a great way to contribute to the non-for-profit museum. Having a Discovery World Membership allows the member year-round free admission into the museum, discounted rates on parking, and several other awesome perks. If a membership doesn’t interest you, another meaningful way to contribute to this great museum is by donation. College students, military members, senior citizens and young children are offered a discounted rate for entry. Great for a family outing or school field trip, the Discovery World Museum is guaranteed to keep you entertained and having a lot of fun in Milwaukee.
Address: 500 N. Harbor Dr. Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 765-9966
19. Enjoy the nature at Oak Leaf Trail
This 108 mile long trail goes around the city of Milwaukee and is great for multi-purpose exploration. There are countless off shoots from the main trail that vary in length and terrain. Most trails are great for walking, running, and biking, and during the winter it makes a lovely backdrop for some cross-country skiing as well. Much of the trail is paved, making it safe and easy to enjoy the stretch, though the state does caution people to proceed carefully along the trail during heavy rain. Free to use, the Oak Leaf Trail is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the scenery whilst getting some fresh air and maybe bonding with friends and family.
20. Grab a drink at Vintage
Walking into Vintage is like coming home, as simple as that. The people are hospitable; with large smiles and welcoming eyes, one of the bar staff will promptly ask you what they can get you to drink. Vintage is the kind of bar that you become a regular at because it’s just that damn good. Serving only beer, the list is still quite extensive. From craft brews to ciders and imports, Vintage carries no crap on their tap. The bar often throws parties during the holidays and sometimes just for fun, live music is a frequent event, and the outdoor patio space is pretty great. The bar staff is not only lovely to be around, they also really know their stuff when it comes to beer. Particularly Kristin, now that girl knows her brews. Interested in shooting the shit? If the bar isn’t too busy she’d be happy to allow you to pick her brain on one of her favorite subjects. After visiting Vintage, you’ll be coming back for more in no time.
Address: 2203 N. Prospect in Milwaukee
Phone: (414) 226–2303
If you didn’t know much about Milwaukee, you do now! There is no lack of amazing things to enjoy in this Wisconsin city. Check out these spots during your visit to increase your odds of having an amazing time.
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