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.
Kayak Milwaukee
Credit: Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

1. Paddle With 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.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Milwaukee
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
| Credit: Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

2. Visit 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).

3. Sail with Sea Dog

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.

Oak Leaf Trail Milwaukee
Oak Leaf Trail
| Credit: Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

4. Head for the Oak Leaf Trail

Climb on your bike (or lace up your sneakers) to explore this leafy 135-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). 

5. Walk and Nibble with 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 walking tour lasts about 2.5-3 hours.

6. Learn About Local Habitats

Five miles of trails link several natural habitats at Wehr Nature Center 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.

7. Eat Creatively at Odd Duck

Made with organic, locally sourced ingredients, 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.

Milwaukee Boat Line
Milwaukee Boat Line
| Credit: Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

8. Cruise on Milwaukee Boat Line

Double-decker boats ply the picturesque waters of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan; learn history and trivia while you cruise.

9. Try a Historic Walking Tour

The Historic Milwaukee preservation society offers a lineup of architectural tours in downtown Milwaukee and outlying neighborhoods, all led by passionate volunteer guides.

Brewhouse Inn and Suites Milwaukee Wisconsin
Brewhouse Inn and Suites
| Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

10. Stay at a Former Brewery

Located in the refurbished Pabst brewing facility, Brewhouse Inn and Suites 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.