Your Milwaukee Must-See List This Year
The political spotlight shines on Milwaukee in 2020, with the Democratic National Convention heading to the city in July. Whether you’re planning a convention trip or a nonpartisan getaway, we’ve rounded up some of the city’s top attractions, with a mix of new and iconic Brew City highlights.
Milwaukee is gearing up to host hordes of political guests: Up to 50,000 visitors are expected for the Democratic National Convention from July 13-16, 2020. The convention buzz has also drawn attention to Milwaukee for tourists without political aspirations. Here’s what we suggest checking out:
• The Saint Kate Arts Hotel opened last summer, with plenty of artsy vibes. Admire work from local and international artists in the halls en route to your room (which comes with a record player, ukulele and coloring pages), or stop in the MOWA gallery off the lobby to walk through the latest exhibit from Wisconsin artists. For a speakeasy-inspired splurge, book a table at The Dark Room, an intimate restaurant where plush velvet booths and dramatic candelabras set the mood for a memorable meal.
• If your favorite greasy spoon cleaned up its act, it would probably look like Wonderland, a delightfully retro new diner in Riverwest. Pull up to a booth or the bar and enjoy a throwback playlist over a burger, fried green tomato sandwich or brunch classics like chicken and waffles and eggs benedict (pro tip: the house-made biscuits are perfectly buttery and crisp).
• In 2019, Zócalo became Milwaukee’s first food truck park and a go-to spot for large groups with different food cravings. Head to this foodie mecca in Walker’s Point and browse the menus at local food trucks that serve burgers, tacos, Asian rice bowls, bagels and ice cream.
• Local artist Bigshot Robot has been busy creating some of the city’s most stunning new murals. In 2019, he spent 80 hours completing a massive mural celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks in the plaza outside the Fiserv Forum, where the DNC will be held. In December, he unveiled his latest colorful creation on Milwaukee’s east side: An interactive mural with a QR code that leads to a custom Pandora playlist curated by the artist.
Bacchus has been a fine dining institution in Milwaukee for more than 15 years, but in late 2019, the steak-and-wine restaurant reopened after a major makeover. The interior transformed from dark and brooding to bright and lively, with new light fixtures and a sleek marble bar top. The menu got a facelift, too: Diners can sample new vegetarian options like polenta cake with heirloom squash and pickled peppers, or stick to the signature three-course menu.
Bublr, Milwaukee’s bikeshare program, recently introduced a fleet of new tricycles and handcycles to expand bike access to riders with different abilities. Phase two of the pilot program is slated to begin in 2020. The adaptive bikes are available to rent along with traditional two-wheelers docked at stations around the city.
The historic Milwaukee Athletic Club began extensive renovations in 2019, including a refresh of old guest rooms that will be converted into a boutique hotel by summer 2020—just in time for DNC visitors to roll into town. Upgrades also include a new coworking space, restaurant, coffee shop and a rooftop with synthetic turf for fitness classes with a view of the lake.
If all goes as planned, Milwaukee’s golden Hoan Bridge will be illuminated in time for the DNC. The group behind the Light the Hoan initiative hopes to raise enough money to complete the purchase and installation of thousands of LED lights on the bridge in the next few months; the Hoan spans the Milwaukee River, connecting downtown Milwaukee to southside neighborhoods.
A stroll along the Milwaukee Riverwalk isn’t complete without a visit to the Bronze Fonz. Take your selfie with Henry Winkler’s likeness for the ultimate Milwaukee photo op—Arthur Fonzarelli gives the experience two thumbs up.
Go HOG wild at the Harley-Davidson Museum and learn about one of the city’s most iconic brands. After perusing the museum’s collection of classic bikes, hop on the Jumpstart Demo and feel the real-life rumble of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In summer, sign up for demo rides and take a 2020 bike out for a spin on Saturdays.
Milwaukee’s burger rivalry was immortalized in an episode of “Food Wars” back in 2010, but you’ll have to visit to AJ Bombers and Sobelman’s Pub and Grill to decide for yourself which burger reigns supreme today. At AJ Bombers, munch on peanuts that come to your table from a Rube Goldberg contraption while you wait for your meal, or head to Sobelman’s for a Bloody Mary of epic proportions: The Beast will set you back $45, but it comes with enough garnishes to feed a hungry table of four.
After all the burgers and bloodies (not to mention beer—oh yes, don’t forget tours at locations like Sprecher Brewery, Lakefront Brewery and Miller Brewing Company), you might be craving some exercise. The Oak Leaf Trail is a beloved haven for walkers, runners, bikers and nature-lovers. Hop on the trail at entry points throughout the city and enjoy miles of stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River.