22 Best Things To Do In Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2024 Guide)

Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in Brew City? Our guide to the best things to do in Milwaukee is just what you need!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a city known for its vibrant neighborhoods, Midwestern hospitality, world-class breweries, and enduring community spirit.

Milwaukee has attractions to entertain history buffs, sports fans, art lovers, nature enthusiasts, families, and more.

The city is full of fun things to do, from wandering through historic buildings in the Historic Third Ward to sampling local food at the Milwaukee Public Market to admiring the creativity at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

From the beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan and the charming walkway along the Milwaukee River to the various parks and gardens, the city is full of natural beauty and green spaces as well.

Here are some of the best things to do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

22 Best Things To Do In Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From touring the iconic Lakefront Brewery to climbing to the top of the North Point Lighthouse, to attending a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game, here are the most fun things to do in Milwaukee, WI!

Having a rental car is a great way to get around Milwaukee, as you can explore on your own schedule and take fun day trips to the lake, the beach, and the neighboring city of Chicago. There is also public transport in the city if you plan to just stay around downtown Milwaukee.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Tour the incredible Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is a stunning architectural and cultural gem. The museum’s most iconic feature is the Quadracci Pavilion, a masterpiece designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. The pavilion, with its soaring wings that open and close like a bird’s wings in flight, has become an emblematic symbol of both the museum and the city.

This architectural marvel not only serves as the entrance to the Milwaukee Art Museum but also houses a variety of exhibition spaces, including the Windhover Hall, which showcases a breathtaking view of the lake and city skyline.

The art museum has a collection that spans over 30,000 works of art, encompassing a wide range of genres and time periods, from ancient to fine art to contemporary. Visitors can explore galleries dedicated to European and American art, contemporary works, folk and self-taught art, and much more.

Whether one is drawn to the architectural splendor, the diverse collection, or the vibrant cultural programming, the Milwaukee Art Museum stands as a testament to the power of art to enrich and connect communities.

2. Enjoy nature at Lakeshore State Park

One of the best things to do in Milwaukee is explore Lakeshore State Park, nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan. Spanning 22 acres, the park provides a stunning blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Visitors can enjoy walking and biking along well-maintained trails that wind through lush greenery, providing panoramic views of the lake and the Milwaukee skyline.

Lakeshore State Park is located on a man-made peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides, creating a serene environment where visitors can relax, unwind, and connect with nature without having to venture far from the heart of the city.

The park features fishing areas, a marina, and bird-watching spots, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The park’s accessibility and diverse amenities make it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, fostering a sense of community and appreciation for the natural beauty that exists within the urban landscape.

Heading south to Chicago next? Here are the best things to do in the Windy City!

3. Escape to the waterfront at Bradford Beach

Bradford Beach is a popular destination on the shores of Lake Michigan, particularly in summer! Known for its expansive sandy shores and vibrant atmosphere, Bradford Beach is a hub of recreational activity and relaxation during the warmer months.

With stunning views of the lake and the city’s skyline, the beach provides a picturesque setting for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and water sports. The beach’s soft sands are complemented by a variety of amenities, including volleyball courts, picnic areas, and a beachfront tiki bar, creating a lively and enjoyable environment for anyone seeking a day of outdoor fun.

Bradford Beach hosts lots of cool events and activities in summer, from beach volleyball tournaments to live music concerts. The beach has become a focal point for the community, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

Whether it’s a refreshing swim in the lake, a stroll along the shoreline, or a game of beach volleyball with friends, Bradford Beach offers the perfect place to relax in the sunshine during your Milwaukee vacation.

Bradford Beach
Enjoy a refreshing lakeside getaway at Bradford Beach.

4. Go on one of the best brewery tours of your life

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is often referred to as the “Brew City” because of its vibrant brewing history dating back to the 19th century when German immigrants settled in the area.

Today, Milwaukee is home to a diverse array of breweries that celebrate both the city’s brewing heritage and the innovation of the craft beer movement.

Take yourself on a self-guided brewery tour of Brew City so you can taste all the best beers for yourself! Start at Lakefront Brewery, known for its distinctive riverfront location and award-winning beers.

Established in 1987, Lakefront Brewery has become a local favorite, offering guided brewery tours that provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process and a chance to sample their unique and flavorful beers.

Another top location is Milwaukee Ale House, situated in the Historic Third Ward with a lively atmosphere and a menu featuring a wide range of craft beers.

You also have to check out the Historic Pabst Brewery. Founded in 1844 by Captain Frederick Pabst, the Pabst Brewery played a pivotal role in shaping Milwaukee’s reputation as the “Brew City.” Today, the Historic Pabst Brewery serves as a cultural hub, hosting popular events and brewery tours.

5. Visit the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo

Animal lovers and families should try to visit the Milwaukee County Zoo, one of the top tourist attractions in the city.

Home to over 2,000 animals representing more than 300 species, the Milwaukee County Zoo offers a diverse and educational experience. Visitors can explore various habitats, from the lush forests of the primates to the expansive savannahs of the African hoofed animals.

One of the highlights of the Milwaukee County Zoo is the Adventure Africa exhibit, a sprawling area that replicates the African savannah and allows guests to observe elephants, giraffes, and other iconic species in a habitat designed to mimic their natural environment.

Beyond its captivating animal exhibits, the Milwaukee County Zoo is committed to conservation and education. The zoo conducts research and participates in numerous breeding programs to support endangered species. Educational programs, interactive exhibits, and events provide visitors with valuable insights into wildlife conservation and the importance of biodiversity.

The zoo’s dedication to both entertainment and education makes it a beloved institution within the community, drawing families, school groups, and nature enthusiasts to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom while promoting a greater understanding of the need for conservation efforts.

6. Shop, browse, and dine in the Historic Third Ward

One of the best Milwaukee attractions is the Historic Third Ward, a vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood that seamlessly blends past and present. Once a declining industrial area, the Historic Third Ward has undergone a remarkable transformation into a trendy and artistic district.

The streets are lined with meticulously preserved historic buildings, showcasing the area’s industrial roots and architectural heritage. Visitors can explore cobblestone streets, warehouses turned into art galleries, and repurposed factories that now house chic boutiques, restaurants, and creative studios.

The Historic Third Ward is also a hub for art lovers and food connoisseurs. The Milwaukee Public Market, located in the heart of the neighborhood, is a bustling food emporium offering a diverse array of fresh produce, artisanal foods, and international cuisine. Art galleries and studios showcase the work of local artists, adding a dynamic and creative flair to the area.

Throughout the year, the Historic Third Ward hosts cultural events, art festivals, and outdoor markets, creating a lively atmosphere that attracts both locals and tourists. With its unique blend of history, culture, and modern amenities, exploring the Historic Third Ward is one of the best things to do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

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7. Stroll along the Milwaukee Riverwalk

Another highlight of the city is the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Stretching along the Milwaukee River, the Riverwalk is a meticulously planned pedestrian pathway that meanders through the downtown area, connecting various neighborhoods and providing a unique perspective of the city’s sights.

Strolling along the Milwaukee Riverwalk, visitors are treated to stunning views of the riverbanks, lined with a mix of modern skyscrapers, historic buildings, and green spaces.

The pathway is adorned with public art installations, charming bridges, and inviting seating areas, creating a welcoming environment for both residents and tourists.

The Milwaukee Riverwalk is also home to waterfront dining options, trendy shops, and entertainment venues. From kayaking and boat tours on the river to al fresco dining with a waterfront view, the Riverwalk offers a diverse range of experiences that capture the essence of Milwaukee’s urban charm.

8. Explore the domes at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Also known as the Mitchell Park Domes, the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, is one of the top Milwaukee attractions. This iconic horticultural destination comprises three distinct domed structures, each showcasing a unique environment: the Show Dome, the Tropical Dome, and the Desert Dome.

The Show Dome hosts seasonal floral displays and themed exhibits, providing a kaleidoscope of colors and fragrances that change throughout the year.

The Tropical Dome transports visitors to a lush rainforest environment, complete with towering palms, vibrant flowers, and exotic plants.

Meanwhile, the Desert Dome showcases a striking collection of arid landscapes, featuring cacti, succulents, and other plants adapted to desert climates. This trio of domes collectively offers a diverse and immersive botanical experience.

The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory hosts workshops, lectures, and family-friendly activities that promote environmental awareness and appreciation for the world of plants.

The unique architectural design of the domes, with their sleek glass structures, allows natural light to filter through, creating a serene and uplifting atmosphere. The Domes showcase the beauty of plants and are one of the most beloved things to do in Milwaukee.

Mitchell Park Domes
Explore the greenery at the fascinating Mitchell Park Domes!

9. Visit the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum

Discovery World Science and Technology Museum, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, is a captivating destination that combines education, innovation, and hands-on exploration. This dynamic museum engages visitors of all ages through its amazing exhibits spanning various disciplines, from physics and engineering to biology and sustainability.

Discovery World visitors can immerse themselves in a range of experiences, from experimenting in the Innovation Lab to exploring freshwater ecosystems in the Reiman Aquarium, which features the diverse aquatic life of the Great Lakes.

One of the standout features of Discovery World is its commitment to providing a real-world context for scientific discovery. The museum is home to the S/V Denis Sullivan, a fully functional, three-masted schooner that serves as an educational vessel, allowing visitors to learn about maritime history, navigation, and environmental science through hands-on experiences.

The interactive exhibits and educational programs at Discovery World make it a valuable resource for school groups and families alike, fostering a deeper understanding of the scientific principles that shape our world.

With its stunning location, engaging exhibits, and commitment to STEM education, Discovery World Science and Technology Museum stands as a beacon of exploration and learning in the heart of Milwaukee.

Related: The 21 Best Things To Do In Minneapolis, Minnesota

10. Go on a day trip to Chicago

If you’re up for a day trip, the mighty city of Chicago is only about 1.5 hours away from downtown Milwaukee. This iconic metropolis on the southern shores of Lake Michigan is renowned for its stunning architecture.

Chicago boasts an iconic skyline adorned with architectural marvels such as the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center. You can get the best views of the Chicago Skyline with a river cruise on the Chicago River!

The city is also celebrated for its rich cultural scene, with world-class museums and venues like the Art Institute of Chicago and the historic Chicago Theatre. Travelers also flock to the city for its deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and diverse culinary scene. The city’s food culture reflects its history of immigration, with neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown offering authentic tastes from around the globe.

Additionally, Chicago is a sports enthusiast’s paradise, home to iconic franchises like the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Cubs. Whether you want to go on a river tour, attend a sports game, or visit museums, a day in Chicago will never disappoint.

11. Visit the fascinating Harley-Davidson Museum

The Harley-Davidson Museum is a captivating tribute to the legendary American motorcycle manufacturer and the culture surrounding it. Founded in 1903, Harley-Davidson has become an iconic brand, synonymous with freedom and the open road.

The Harley-Davidson Museum, situated on a picturesque 20-acre campus in Milwaukee, showcases the evolution of Harley-Davidson motorcycles over the years, with a stunning collection of vintage bikes, rare prototypes, and custom creations that highlight the brand’s innovative spirit.

Visitors can explore exhibits that delve into the company’s rich history, including its wartime contributions, cultural impact, and the camaraderie fostered among riders.

Beyond the impressive display of motorcycles, the museum offers an immersive experience through interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, and artifacts that tell the story of Harley-Davidson’s enduring legacy.

The campus also features a motorcycle-themed restaurant, The MOTOR Bar & Restaurant, offering a unique dining experience surrounded by the roar of Harley engines. Touring the Harley-Davidson Museum is one of the most fun things to do in Milwaukee!

12. Tour the magnificent Pabst Mansion

One of the top attractions in Milwaukee is the opulent Pabst Mansion from the Gilded Age. Built in 1892 for Captain Frederick Pabst, the wealthy beer magnate and founder of the Pabst Brewing Company, the mansion is a stunning example of Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture.

Designed by architect George Bowman Ferry and constructed with the finest materials of its time, the Pabst Mansion boasts intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and ornate detailing throughout its 20 rooms.

The mansion served as the Pabst family residence until 1908 when it was sold, and it has since been meticulously preserved to offer visitors a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Milwaukee’s elite during the Gilded Age.

Today, the Pabst Mansion is a museum and tourist attraction that provides guided tours of the well-preserved rooms and artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum showcases the architectural beauty of the mansion, its historical significance, and the cultural legacy of the Pabst family.

The Pabst Mansion is not only a local treasure but also a nationally recognized historic landmark that contributes to the understanding and appreciation of America’s rich architectural and industrial history.

Exploring more of the Midwest? Check out these things to do in St. Louis, Missouri!

13. Learn about history at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Another amazing place to check out when you visit Milwaukee is the Milwaukee Public Museum. This incredible institution in downtown Milwaukee is one of the region’s premier natural history and human history museums, boasting a vast and diverse collection of artifacts and exhibits.

The museum’s three floors house exhibits that span a wide range of subjects, from the natural world and cultural anthropology to ancient civilizations and local history. One of the highlights is the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit, a meticulously recreated streetscape that transports visitors back in time to the city’s early days, providing a glimpse into daily life in the late 19th century.

The Milwaukee Public Museum is renowned for its commitment to interactive and immersive learning experiences. Visitors can explore dioramas, participate in hands-on exhibits, and engage with multimedia presentations that bring history and science to life.

As a cultural gem in the heart of the city, the Milwaukee Public Museum continues to inspire curiosity and appreciation for the world’s rich tapestry of life and history.

14. Learn about maritime history at the North Point Lighthouse and Museum

Perched on the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline, the North Point Lighthouse is a picturesque historic landmark and a beacon of maritime history. The lighthouse was built in 1888 and served as a crucial navigational aid for ships entering the bustling Milwaukee harbor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Victorian-era structure, designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost, is a captivating example of the architectural elegance of its time, featuring Cream City brick and an iconic tower that rises 74 feet above the lake.

Today, the North Point Lighthouse has been meticulously preserved and transformed into a museum that offers people a fascinating glimpse into Milwaukee’s maritime past. The museum showcases artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that explore the history of the lighthouse. Climbing to the top of the North Point Lighthouse Tower provides breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

North Point Lighthouse
Check out the iconic North Point Lighthouse and Museum while you’re in Milwaukee.

15. Relax in the stunning Boerner Botanical Gardens

Located within the scenic Whitnall Park in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, Boerner Botanical Gardens is a beautiful oasis that showcases the diversity of plants from around the world. It’s just a short drive from downtown Milwaukee and is one of the top attractions in the county.

The expansive gardens span 40 acres and feature a myriad of themed areas, including the Rose Garden, Herb Garden, Perennial Garden, and Rock Garden. Each section is carefully curated to highlight different plant species, creating a stunning display of colors, textures, and fragrances throughout the seasons.

With its serene pathways, blooming flowerbeds, and tranquil ponds, Boerner Botanical Gardens provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s one of the best places to visit while exploring Milwaukee, especially if you’re looking for a bit of greenery.

16. Attend a sports game

Attending a sports game in Milwaukee is a must-have experience for sports fans!

Whether it’s catching a Milwaukee Brewers major league baseball team game at the iconic American Family Field (previously called Miller Park) or cheering on the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum during basketball season, the energy and camaraderie within the city are palpable.

The fanbase in Milwaukee is known for its fervor, creating an electric atmosphere that resonates throughout the venue. From the infectious cheers to the sea of team colors, attending local sporting events is not just a spectator event but a community celebration.

Milwaukee’s sports venues also offer a variety of amenities, from delicious local cuisine to state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring that the overall game-day experience is memorable. Win or lose, attending a sports game in Milwaukee is a celebration of community, competition, and the shared love for the home team.

17. Attend a show at the Pabst Theater

The Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee is a historic venue that has played a significant role in the city’s cultural landscape since its opening in 1895. Designed by architect Otto Strack in a Flemish Renaissance Revival style, the theater stands as a testament to Milwaukee’s Gilded Age architecture.

Originally built as a showcase for the beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst’s cultural interests, the Pabst Theater has retained its architectural grandeur over the years, becoming one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the United States.

The venue’s intimate and ornate interior hosts a diverse array of performances, including plays, musicals, concerts, and lectures.

Renowned for its exceptional acoustics, the Pabst Theater has been a sought-after destination for both local and touring artists. Beyond its aesthetic and acoustic appeal, the theater’s cultural significance extends to the community, as it continues to be a cherished space for the arts in Milwaukee.

18. Bring the young ones to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

One of the best things to do in Milwaukee with kids is visit the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. The museum is named after its founder, Betty Brinn, who envisioned a place where children could experience hands-on, interactive exhibits that stimulate their curiosity and creativity.

The museum’s mission is to provide a safe and stimulating environment that encourages the development of essential skills in children through play-based learning.

With a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum offers a range of exhibits and activities that cater to diverse interests and age groups.

Visitors to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum can immerse themselves in a variety of exhibits, from a pretend market where kids can explore the concepts of commerce to a “Hometown” area that introduces them to different community roles. The museum’s commitment to fostering a love for learning is evident in its interactive displays, workshops, and special events that inspire young minds.

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19. Try a haunting ghost tour of the city

Put a fun and mysterious twist on your sightseeing of Milwaukee and try a ghost tour!

Stroll around downtown with a charismatic local guide and hear about all the interesting and unsolvable mysteries and stories of the city. You’ll learn about local ghosts and tragedies, monsters in the Milwaukee River, and other questionable historical events that happened in Milwaukee.

This is an exciting way to explore the city after dark and learn about the more spine-chilling side of Milwaukee’s history!

20. Immerse yourself in nature and art at the Lynden Sculpture Garden

A haven for art and nature lovers, the Lynden Sculpture Garden provides a unique fusion of sculpture, landscape, and the outdoors. Here you can meander through a series of thematic gardens, woodlands, and open fields, encountering an impressive collection of over 50 monumental sculptures by renowned artists.

The immersive experience at Lynden Sculpture Garden encourages contemplation and exploration, as each piece interacts with the natural surroundings, creating a dynamic and ever-changing outdoor gallery.

Lynden Sculpture Garden also serves as a cultural and educational hub, hosting artist residencies, workshops, and special events throughout the year. As a tranquil retreat from the urban bustle, Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a respite where visitors can appreciate art and nature.

21. Feast at the Milwaukee Public Market

The best place to experience the Milwaukee food scene is the incredible Milwaukee Public Market! This vibrant marketplace is a food lover’s paradise, featuring an array of local vendors, artisans, and purveyors showcasing their diverse offerings.

From fresh produce and meats to gourmet cheeses, chocolates, and international delicacies, the market is full of delicious food that will keep you fueled up for a day of exploring.

The inviting atmosphere, with its high ceilings and open layout, encourages patrons to meander through the stalls, sampling a variety of flavors, and interacting with passionate local vendors.

Sometimes the Milwaukee Public Market hosts cooking classes, food demonstrations, and special events that celebrate the city’s culinary traditions.

Whether grabbing a quick bite, shopping for fresh ingredients, or simply soaking in the lively atmosphere, the Milwaukee Public Market has become a beloved destination that reflects the dynamic and ever-evolving culinary spirit of the city.

Milwaukee Public Market.
There is so much food to try at the Milwaukee Public Market.

22. Explore the grounds or attend a festival at Henry Maier Festival Park

Henry Maier Festival Park, commonly known as the Summerfest grounds, is an expansive event space located along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. Named in honor of Milwaukee’s longest-serving mayor, Henry Maier, the park spans 75 acres and serves as the primary venue for Summerfest, one of the world’s largest music festivals.

The park itself is not only a music festival destination but also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including ethnic and cultural festivals, food and drink celebrations, and community gatherings.

With its stunning views of Lake Michigan, ample green spaces, and iconic architecture, including the striking Henry Maier Festival Park amphitheater, the grounds provide a picturesque setting for both large-scale concerts and intimate gatherings.

The Summerfest grounds have become a central hub for entertainment, celebration, and community engagement, contributing to Milwaukee’s vibrant cultural scene and serving as a dynamic space for people from all walks of life to come together and enjoy the festivities.

Where To Stay In Milwaukee, WI

Continue planning your Milwaukee, Wisconsin vacation with these top hotel recommendations! You’ll need somewhere nice to relax after a big day of eating street food, learning about the fascinating history, and seeing the city’s top attractions. Here are some top-rated hotels that suit a range of budgets.

Best Budget Accommodation in Milwaukee, WI: Cambria Hotel

Located right in the center of downtown, this affordable 4-star hotel is the perfect budget-friendly hotel that still feels upscale. With daily housekeeping, an indoor swimming pool, and excellent service, travellers rave about their stay at the Cambria Hotel.

Best Mid-Range Accommodation in Milwaukee, WI: The Trade

The Trade, part of the Autograph Collection, is a beautiful hotel in downtown with rooms that offer exceptional city views. The hotel is pet-friendly, air-conditioned, and equipped with premium amenities. There’s nothing more you could want in a centrally-located hotel!

Best Luxury Accommodation in Milwaukee, WI: Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel

Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel is a magnificent place to stay during your visit to Milwaukee. This 4-star hotel has a fine dining restaurant on-site, panoramic city views, and a rotating art exhibit in the lounge area of the building. You can relax in comfort while admiring unique and creative arts at this lovely hotel.

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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