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Milwaukee Trip Guide

Milwaukee maintains ties to its German heritage while celebrating the present at a motorcycle museum and fantastic festivals along Lake Michigan. Check out our picks for what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has an uncanny ability to balance 21st-century energy with 19th-century German heritage. In just one weekend, you can explore an 1892 beer baron's mansion, throw calorie counts away at a Friday night fish fry, browse a high-end art festival along Lake Michigan, go for a virtual ride on a vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle and nibble stuffed grape leaves on leather couches at a Turkish restaurant. And that's just the beginning. Milwaukee's diversity—and its ability to turn gritty warehouses into condos and storefronts—gives it an authentic city feel. But its relatively small size and compact downtown make it easy for first-timers to navigate. 

Do

Brewery tours Miller Brewing Company gives a free one-hour tour that ends with samples in the Bavarian-style Miller Inn (millercoors.com). Learn the history of Pabst beers at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery (bestplacemilwaukee.com). Also recommended: Sprecher (sprecherbrewery.com) and Lakefront breweries (lakefrontbrewery.com)

Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear Get a fascinating peek at classic Americana with vignettes and displays that include a turn-of-the-19th-century grocery store, a 1920s-era doctor’s office and an old-timey movie palace at this low-cost museum. chudnowmuseum.org

Discovery World Labs, shows and interactive exhibits bring to life the cutting edge of science and technology. discoveryworld.org

Festivals Summerfest is the biggest. summerfest.com Many others reflect the city's heritage, such as Irish Fest and German Fest. The Wisconsin State Fair near Milwaukee also is a big draw (be sure to sample a cream puff, a state fair tradition). wistatefair.com

Summerfest

Summerfest

Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering Hundreds of paintings and sculptures celebrate human achievement.. msoe.edu/museum

Harley-Davidson Museum The 20-acre campus is a must-see for its hands-on exhibits and nine Harleys to “ride” past farms and rivers. h-dmuseum.com

Historic Third Ward A 12-square-block neighborhood of 1890s warehouses now holds boutiques, galleries, cafes and the Broadway Theatre Center. A highlight: Milwaukee Public Market, a collection of specialty food growers and shops selling goods and serving lunch and dinner.  historicthirdward.org

Historic Milwaukee Inc. Walking Tours Passionate volunteers lead the preservation society’s architectural tours in downtown and outlying areas. historicmilwaukee.org

Milwaukee Art Museum Glass ceilings soar 90 feet above visitors at the postmodern Quadracci Pavilion. A $34 million renovation and expansion brightened galleries displaying the 30,000-piece collection dating from antiquity. Try to be there when the museum's "wings" open or close. mam.org

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Boat Line Double-deckers ply the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan for brunch, dinner and concerts. mkeboat.com

Milwaukee Food and City Tours Choose from the popular pizza tour, a bloody mary brunch walk, Eats on Brady Street (an Italian and Polish enclave) and other neighborhood outings. milwaukeefoodtours.com

Milwaukee Public Museum Discover what the city was like during the 1880s in The Streets of Old Milwaukee. Or walk through Africa or Living Oceansmpm.edu

Miller Park Catch the Milwaukee Brewers in this major-league ballpark with a retractable roof and reasonably priced tickets. Also, behind-the-scenes tours take visitors to the dugout, luxury suite level and other areas. brewers.com

Old World Third Street This former German community has restaurants, 19th-century storefronts and cobbled streets. Usinger's, a fourth-generation business, sells 70 sausage varieties. usinger.com

Pabst Mansion Beer baron Frederick Pabst built this 1890s Flemish Renaissance mansion; the restored home hosts exhibits and tours. pabstmansion.com

Riverwalk Zigzag between past and present as you walk these 2 miles linking the Historic Third Ward, downtown and the Beerline B area along the Milwaukee River. (And snap a selfie with the Fonz.) visitmilwaukee.org/riverwalk

Riverwalk

Riverwalk

Sea Dog Sailing From June through August, the 38-foot Quinn Marie sails from McKinley Marina for 90-minute day excursions and sunset cruises. seadogsailingmilwaukee.com

Theaters Whether you seek a Broadway production (Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, marcuscenter.org) or a play written and produced by women (Renaissance Theaterworks, r-t-w.com), there’s a venue for you.  

Eat

AJ Bombers Peanut shells litter the floor and crayon graffiti decorates the walls. What you won’t find are salads: Burgers are the focus. ajbombers.com

Balzac Mismatched chairs, cherubs and taxidermy set a fun mood for wine and sharing small plates. balzacwinebar.com

Balzac

Balzac

Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro Chef Adam Siegel, a 2008 James Beard award winner, delivers seasonal French cuisine at this pastoral spot along Lake Michigan. lakeparkbistro.com

Blue's Egg It's hard to beat the Classic Benedict with piles of ham and poached eggs, but we love the goat-cheese-stuffed hash browns, too. The brunch joint's daily specials (think Hangover Maintenance Mondays) reflect the lively atmosphere. bluesegg.com

Braise About 400 Wisconsin farmers supply the ingredients for the braised dishes that will please discerning palates. braiselocalfood.com

Cafe Benelux and Market With 40 pages of beers to choose from, you’re sure to find one to go with your European-style meal of mussels and mac ‘n’ cheese with Brie. cafebenelux.com

Colectivo Coffee This local coffee cafe serves tasty cookies, huge yogurt parfaits and sandwiches, plus offers free Wi-Fi and great joe, of course. You'll find 10 local branches, but our favorite is the one along the lakefront in the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station. colectivocoffee.com

Coquette Cafe Find high-end service and ambience—and incredible food—in the Historic Third Ward. Try the grilled Berkshire pork loin with mustard spaetzle and a house brew. coquettecafe.com

Harbor House Waterfront dining is at its best with Lake Michigan views and in-season fish, like trout and whitefish. harborhousemke.com

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub Executive chef Dan Van Rite has been named a James Beard-award nominee for Best Chef Midwest three times, a fact that’s obvious once your food arrives. hinterlandbeer.com/restaurants/milwaukee/

Kopp's Frozen Custard Locals call this frozen custard their fave. kopps.com

Mader’s Open since 1902, Mader’s wealth of art and antiques turns dinner into a gallery visit. The recipes are as German as they come. madersrestaurant.com

Milwaukee Ale House Microbrews are cold and live music is hot at the Historic Third Ward restaurant. ale-house.com

Odd Duck Each day's new tapas menu keeps things fresh at this Bay View spot. Inventive dishes have international spins—think duck confit croquettes and goat cheese pierogies. oddduckrestaurant.com

The Safe House At the tongue-in-cheek spy-chic institution, the fun atmosphere outshines the food. You need a password to enter, and a martini whizzes overhead through pneumatic tubes. safe-house.com

Sobelmans At the classic, blue-collar Milwaukee bar, we love the Sobelman Burger, topped with Swiss, cheddar and American cheeses; bacon; fried onions; and fried jalapenos. milwaukeesbestburgers.com

Stack'd Bar Burgers, beer and milk shakes go high-class at a slick Fifth Ward bar. The German Stack is a potent mix of beer brat patty, raw onion, spicy mustard and sauerkraut. stackedbar.com

Uber Tap Room and Cheese Bar Next door to the venerable Wisconsin Cheese Mart, this classy spot offers flights of cheese and beer. ubertaproom.com

Stay

The Brewhouse Inn and Suites Gleaming copper brewing kettles anchor the lobby in the refurbished Pabst Brewery Complex, which has 90 guest suites. brewhousesuites.com

Brewhouse Inn and Suites

Brewhouse Inn and Suites

Hilton Milwaukee City Center The lakefront, museums and other downtown attractions are easy to access from this Art Deco hotel.  hilton.com

Hotel Metro A 63-suite Art Deco boutique lodging downtown offers a variety of accommodations including pet-friendly suites, spa suites and conference suites. hotelmetro.com

The Iron Horse Hotel An edgy yet welcoming downtown hotel mixes biker-inspired decor with sophisticated guest rooms.  theironhorsehotel.com

Pfister Hotel Opulent architectural details, antique furniture and an artist in residence combine with modern comforts in the 1893 Romanesque Revival hotel.  thepfisterhotel.com

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