Is Milwaukee the Midwest’s Hidden Gem?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin may be one of the midwest’s best-kept secrets. This underrated, laidback city has a scenic riverwalk, easy access to Lake Michigan, tons of historic buildings, several professional sports teams, and a large variety of breweries serving up refreshing beer. It’s an affordable and down-to-earth city with small local businesses, beer gardens, public parks, cheese curds, and epic summer concerts, making it a great place to visit and unwind for a weekend. Read on for the best things to do in Milwaukee!
1. Enjoy Breakfast at Sweet Diner
If you’re looking for more than just a grab-and-go breakfast, stop by Sweet Diner. This popular spot dishes up giant waffles and eggs Benedict with fruit, coffee, and lattes. Each dish is plated beautifully and the meals even come decorated with fresh flowers. The space is large, yet busy during peak hours. Get there early, or grab a seat at the bar.
2. Take a Walk at Lakeshore State Park
Lakeshore State Park is a beautiful place to walk and get up close to Lake Michigan. You’ll need to pay for parking at the state park entrance. A free alternative is to park at the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse parking lot. You’ll get a great view of the bright red lighthouse and the iconic Hoan Bridge. From there, walk along the State Trail that runs adjacent to Lake Michigan as you make your way over to the state park. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few hours.
3. See Picasso at the Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is a must-see spot in Milwaukee. This museum has a huge variety of art from Norman Rockwell and Picasso, to large metal sculptures and beautiful wood furniture. It also has a large grassy area that runs along Lake Michigan, so be sure to head outside for a beautiful view of this expansive lake. And depending on what time of day you visit, you may see the museum’s exterior “wings” open and close.
4. Eat Treats at the Milwaukee Public Market
The Milwaukee Public Market is a fun way to spend an hour or two walking around and checking out what each vendor is selling. You’ll find fresh-baked pastries, vibrant flowers, bouquets, and a wine shop with a bar. Grab something to bring home, or head upstairs to the dining hall to enjoy your treats.
5. Enjoy the Giant Basilica
A short drive from downtown Milwaukee is the Basilica of Saint Josaphat. Built in 1901, this cathedral is definitely worth checking out. It’s striking to have such an incredibly beautiful church in a quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by small homes, gas stations, and coffee shops. It’s free to enter, although you can make a donation or purchase a headset to learn more as you walk around.
6. Sip Beer at Milwaukee’s Breweries
Milwaukee is known for having great breweries, so even if you’re not a huge beer lover, I recommend you still check one out. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed and there is such a wide variety of beer you’re bound to find something you like! A few of the most popular spots are the Milwaukee Brewing Company, Lakefront Brewery, Good City Brewery, and Milwaukee Ale House. Click here for a list of Milwaukee breweries.
7. Stroll Along the Riverwalk
The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a beautiful way to stroll through Milwaukee and see more of this city on foot. The Riverwalk is a pedestrian path that runs for more than 20 blocks alongside the Milwaukee River. You’ll walk past some of Milwaukee’s best breweries, restaurants, and boutique shops.
8. Grab Burgers at Third Street Tavern
Third Street Tavern is a local and popular spot to grab lunch. You’ll find a large selection of beer on tap, as well as burgers, cheesesteaks, wraps, and sandwiches. There are also TVs, classic video games, and darts. It’s definitely a casual spot loved by the locals.
9. Pick Up Cheese Curds
Wisconsin is of course known for its incredible cheese! Be sure to visit a cheese shop, like the Wisconsin Cheese Mart, and grab cheese curds to bring home. You’ll find a huge variety of cheese, as well as cured meats and some savory sweets.
10. Where to Stay
We stayed at a quiet Airbnb about one hour from Milwaukee and 30 minutes from Madison. Rock River Rest is a beautiful home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is also a large kitchen with a dining room table and a spacious living room. You’ll also find a washer and dryer and a large refrigerator. Finish the day by sitting out back on the patio and watching the sunset.
Plan Your Trip to Milwaukee
Milwaukee is such a fun city and it’s only five hours from the Twin Cities. There is so much to do and it’s a super affordable place for a vacation. Looking for more midwest inspiration? Check out my blog posts on La Crosse, Wisconsin, Vilas County, Wisconsin, and Rochester, Minnesota.