Photo courtesy Henryk Sandura/Fotolia
Vikings fans may have an opinionated view of our neighbors, the Wisconsinites, but not even they can dispute Milwaukee as a good weekend destination. Okay, so maybe some of them will put up a fight, but don’t pay them any attention—Milwaukee has a culture all of its own, with breweries, restaurants, performing arts venues, and fun districts to explore at every turn. Plus, it’s right on Lake Michigan, so you’re sure to get your full of a lakeside view (yes, even in winter). So grab your duffel bag, pack some snacks, and create a playlist for the five-hour road trip. Below are seven notable places you should visit during your time in Milwaukee.
According to my coworker Matthew (a Milwaukee native), Wolski’s Tavern is quintessential Milwaukee—he knows, because his family has been running the bar since it opened in 1908. Iconic and everything you’d expect an old bar to be, Wolski’s celebrated its 110th anniversary on September 23, 2018. It’s famous for its “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper stickers that have been posted all over the world. Keep in mind that you can’t just purchase one. People who have them had to earn them by staying until bar close. You’ll want to enjoy a few beer pours from Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery while you’re there, too. Oh, and grab some free popcorn.
Lakefront Brewery is almost aptly named, except instead of being on Lake Michigan, it is located about a mile away on the Milwaukee River. Besides creating innovative beers, it also offers one of the best brewery tours in the country with a crowning (of sorts), singing, and a few other surprising twists. You’ll enjoy a souvenir pint glass plus four six-ounce pours of beer. Before your tour, take a seat in the beer hall and order some pretzels, fried cheese curds, or chili cheese fries.
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is a work of art—no, seriously. Comprised of three buildings, the Milwaukee Art Museum was designed by Eero Saarine, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava, each legendary in his own right. The museum consists of 30,000-plus works of art and welcomes more than 400,000 visitors a year. Admission is $19 for adults and free for kids 12 and under.
The Third Ward
Very similar to the North Loop (according to Matthew), the Third Ward is home to some of Milwaukee’s best restaurants, shops, and galleries. Try Colectivo for a quick coffee break; the Milwaukee Public Market for culinary demonstrations, hand-crafted goods, and delicious food; and Fauntleroy, which just opened up last summer, for French-inspired cuisine. The Third Ward is also home to Milwaukee’s theater and arts district, so be sure to check out the upcoming shows or slowly meander through the many galleries that call Milwaukee home.
A pedestrian walkway that follows the river through the city, the Riverwalk is the perfect way to explore the Third Ward, downtown, and Beerline B. At 20 blocks long, the Riverwalk will bring you to some of Milwaukee’s best pubs (some with patios in the warmer months), night life, and urban art galleries, including RiverSculpture!, which includes 20 permanent and rotating sculptures from local and national artists.
Note: If long walks in the winter isn’t your cup of tea, you can check out The Hop, Milwaukee’s new street car with stops and stations all around downtown.
Milwaukee County Zoo
Yes, maybe it’s the off season for the Zoo, but the animals are still just as cute, even in colder weather. You can check out the animals in the winter quarters and then buy tickets here; admission from January 1 to March 31 is $13 for adults, $10 for children, and free for children two and under.
Speed Queen Bar-B-Q
Looking for a quick lunch to go in Milwaukee? Speed Queen Bar-B-Que has been known for its BBQ and special sauce since 1956, when Betty Gillespie and Leonard Partee took their homemade BBQ public. Call in for take-out and come prepared with cash—no credit cards are accepted (there’s an ATM available onsite).