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With Lake Michigan as a backdrop, it’s no surprise that a Midwest weekend getaway to Milwaukee revolves around the scenic lakefront, whether on the water or along the shore.

By Amy Lynch
Updated November 20, 2020
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Pandemic-related closures and restrictions may be in place. Please check destinations' websites before making travel plans.

1) Schlitz Audubon Nature Center This 185-acre expanse hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline about 15 minutes north of downtown. In the 1800s, Schlitz Brewery's draft horses rested here; now you can stretch your legs on 6 miles of hiking trails. For the best views, scale the 60-foot observation tower. The center also is home to 16 raptors featured during special programs (check the online events calendar). sanc.org

2) Sea Dog Sailing Each summer, this 38-foot yacht sails from McKinley Marina for 90-minute daytime excursions and two-hour sunset cruises. Whether you prefer to participate on deck or just want to sit back and enjoy the ride, the Quinn Marie makes a great way to see Milwaukee from the water. seadogsailingmilwaukee.com

Sea Dog Sailing. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
Sea Dog Sailing. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.

3) Oak Leaf Trail Climb on your bike to explore this leafy 114-mile greenway. The paved trails loop through the Milwaukee County Park System and connect to many of the city's neighborhoods and the Hank Aaron State Trail (grab a Milwaukee by Bike map to help you navigate). county.milwaukee.gov

4) Milwaukee Food Tour Sample some of the best food in Milwaukee on this progressive tour, then walk off the calories between stops. The city's robust Italian, Irish, Polish and German heritages mean you'll enjoy tasty ethnic eats as you stroll through Brady Street, the Historic Third Ward, and other character-rich neighborhoods and districts. The walking tours last about two hours and cover about a mile. (Paused as of February 2021, but gift boxes and virtual tours are available.) milwaukeefoodtours.com

5) Milwaukee Kayak Company You can't get closer to the water than this unless you're actually in it. This seasonal, locally owned operation celebrates Milwaukee's waterways by renting kayaks, canoes and  paddleboards from its riverside location in Walkers Point. Friendly staffers accommodate all skill levels. milwaukeekayak.com

6) Wehr Nature Center Five miles of trails link several natural habitats on these 220 acres within Whitnall Park. Interpretative signs make self-guided strolls educational. (Wildlife sightings are common.) At the nature center, you'll find an indoor beehive, snakes, salamanders, and a gift shop. There's a children's play area and a variety of programming; check the website for the latest on events. friendsofwehr.org

7) Odd Duck This offbeat Bay View restaurant keeps things fresh with a new tapas menu every day. Made with organic, locally sourced ingredients, these inventive dishes snap tastebuds to attention with international spins, such as duck confit spring rolls, Indian lentil daal and flatbreads with spicy chorizo. The small and large plates are meant to be shared. In summer, sit next to planters filled with fragrant herbs on the outdoor patio. (Carry-out menu and chef-curated baskets available as of February 2021; check website for updates.) oddduckrestaurant.com

8) Milwaukee Boat Line Double-decker boats ply the picturesque waters of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan; learn history and trivia while you cruise. mkeboat.com

9) Historic Milwaukee Inc. Walking Tours Tours are expected to resume in spring 2021. The Historic Milwaukee preservation society typically offers a lineup of architectural tours in downtown Milwaukee and outlying neighborhoods, all led by passionate volunteer guides. historicmilwaukee.org

10) Brewhouse Inn and Suites Located in the refurbished Pabst brewing facility, this funky all-suite hotel displays the big old copper kettles used to make beer more than a century ago. Despite the Victorian steampunk decor, the 90 LEED-certified guest rooms are modern and comfortable with plush beds and oversize windows. Tip your hat to King Gambrinus, the patron saint of beer, commemorated on a stained-glass window in the airy atrium. brewhousesuites.com

Brewhouse Inn. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
Brewhouse Inn. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.