Looking for an extra dose of culture on your Wisconsin trip? Spend some time exploring East Town, Milwaukee. This buzzing district, composing the east end of Downtown Milwaukee, is packed with creative flair, beautiful outdoor spaces, and family-friendly activities.
Take in Lake Michigan views and 19th-century architecture while strolling Juneau Park. Spend your afternoons finding inspiration in the Milwaukee Art Museum or watching the kids marvel at science at Discovery World. With a nighttime scene packed with theatre, gastronomy, and chic bars, there’ll never be a dull moment on your East Town adventure.
Craving more inspiration? Decide what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay with this complete guide to Milwaukee’s bustling East Town.
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What to see & do in Milwaukee’s East Town
Milwaukee Art Museum
Ignite your creativity at Milwaukee Art Museum. This popular art museum offers a strong collection of 19th- and 20th-century American and European art and exhibits spanning all the way to modern contemporary design. With 25,000 pieces, it’s easy to lose a whole day wandering its halls.
Explore works of everything from paintings to mixed media. With a variety of rolling exhibitions, no two visits to the Milwaukee Art Museum will be the same. The permanent collection here includes pieces by iconic painters like Georgia O’Keefe and colorful work by Katharina Grosse.
The stunning buildings of the Milwaukee Art Museum are a work of art in their own right. Explore the War Memorial Center, shaped into a floating cross. The impressive Quadracci Pavilion is a web of winding white pillars. Step into the soothing space of its immense main hall, designed as a modern interpretation of a cathedral.
If you’d rather get outside, the Cudahy Gardens is an intricate maze of gardens, fountains, and plazas that’ll light up your senses.
Expand your mind at Discovery World. One of the most popular places to visit in Milwaukee, this science & technology museum was created to get people excited about the world of STEM. Fun and immersive exhibits help you to see the world in new and unexpected ways.
A trip to Discovery World lets you trace back how technology has changed our lives. Practice Morse code on the wireless telegraph, search for fossils with a mini digger and create your own toy in the dream machine. Train enthusiasts and history buffs will love the miniature model of 20th-century Milwaukee while aspiring pilots can try their skills on the virtual flight simulator.
If you’re more into marine biology, check out one of the largest interactive models of the Great Lakes in the world. Make it rain, create fog, and learn about the habitats that live there.
The Aquatarium Building includes tanks with species native to the Caribbean and Lake Michigan, as well as a touch tank full of sturgeon and sting rays.
Cathedral Square Park
Cathedral Square Park is a wonderful spot to watch locals coming together. The pretty green space in Downtown Milwaukee is named after its neighboring cathedral. Throughout the year, the square is the destination for some of East Town’s biggest events.
With lots of shady green spaces and serene views of the surrounding Milwaukee architecture, Cathedral Square Park is a fantastic place to stop for a break in between exploring the city. In the winter, the park becomes illuminated by vibrant light installations, with hanging lanterns and geometric sculptures transforming the square into a magical world.
Visit in the summer to check out the bustling Cathedral Square Market. As well as crafts, local produce, and entertainment, the market offers a free yoga class in the morning. Music fans can also attend Jazz in the Park, a free weekly festival giving guests the opportunity to enjoy music al fresco.
Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
Kids will have a fantastic time exploring the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. The popular attraction is designed for children under 10 to encourage them to explore the world around them. Interactive experiences give kids a chance to build their problem-solving, physical, and social skills.
Your little ones can play at being adults in the Community exhibit. They’ll have an opportunity to create a bank account, go shopping in the supermarket, and take their pet to the vet. They’ll get around town on the special city bus.
Take budding scientists to Science CITY, where you can learn about the magic of forces like electricity, velocity, and gravity. Betty Brinn Children’s Museum also has an exhibit for children under four. At Pocket Park, they can try out fishing, gardening, and apple picking. There are also dedicated sensory-friendly sessions so that all children have an opportunity to develop their skills in a calm and quiet environment.
One of East Town’s loveliest green spaces, the beautiful Juneau Park is nestled on the edge of Lake Michigan. The Juneau Monument in the park is dedicated to Solomon Juneau, the city’s first mayor. It’s a peaceful place for you to relax during an afternoon in the city.
Whether you want long lazy days in the sunshine or a pretty winter walk, you’ll find excellent scenery in Juneau Park. The large green space offers dreamy views of the lake and the city framed by the changing trees.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer, one of the best times of the year to visit Milwaukee, you might be able to catch the traveling beer garden. The two fire trucks full of beer taps bring tasty drinks and live music to parks across Milwaukee.
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Stroll along the lakefront path and gaze out onto the endless blues. There’s also a small lagoon in Juneau Park where you can rent a paddleboard and drift away your day. If you want to see what’s biting, you can catch and release the largemouth bass and panfish in the water.
Marcus Performing Arts Center
Get your evening entertainment at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. The venue has been bringing high-quality performing arts to Wisconsin for over 50 years. As well as Tony Award-winning Broadway shows, the theater brings in global stars from the world of music, dance, and theatre.
Opened in 1969, the stunning interior features plush seating and a grand chandelier. As you enter the Marcus Performing Arts Center building, you’re greeted by colorful illuminated blocks. Once you’ve taken your seat, it’s time to be treated to a spectacular performance.
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You’ll find a wonderful selection of shows on offer at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, from festive favorites to exciting newcomers. As the theater is home to Black Arts MKE, First Stage, The Florentine Opera, and Milwaukee Ballet, you’ll have the chance to see some of the highest-quality talent in the area. Sing along to Disney classics like Aladdin or shed a tear at the beautiful sounds of the orchestra strings.
Red Arrow Park
Take a break between exploring East Town’s tourist attractions with a stop in Red Arrow Park. The park is located just north of Milwaukee City Hall, so there are always lots of people coming and going.
Red Arrow Park was created in honor of the men and women who served in the U.S. Army’s Red Arrow Division. You can visit the red granite memorial there to pay your tributes.
Grab a coffee and take a stroll through the green spaces nestled among skyscrapers. Take a seat on one of the benches and spend some time watching the world go by.
Red Arrow Park is the place to be in East Town in the wintertime. The space transforms into a winter wonderland with a huge ice rink among the twinkling city lights.
Skates are available to rent, as well as penguin aids if you’re nervous. Or sit on the side and warm up with a hot chocolate from the on-site Starbucks.
The Pabst Theater
Have a grand night out in East Town at The Pabst Theater. The National Historic Landmark has been standing since 1895 and is the fourth-oldest continuously operating theater in the country.
The impressive building has the design of a European Opera House. The intricate carvings on the front façade of the Pabst Theater invite you in for an opulent evening.
Feel like a celebrity as you ascend the white Italian Carrara marble staircase. Take your seat under the Austrian crystal chandelier as you wait for the curtains to open. An elaborate gold leaf archway surrounds the stage, setting the scene for a magical show.
Thanks to its design inspiration from the top German Opera Houses, The Pabst Theatre has incredible acoustics. And with a hydraulic orchestra pit, it’s hard not to be immersed in any show you choose to attend.
From popular musicals to world-class comedians, you’re sure to find a ticket that will make your Milwaukee vacation memorable. Check the official events schedule to see what’s on during your trip.
Milwaukee City Hall
The Milwaukee City Hall is an iconic part of the city’s skyline and is a must-visit in East Town Milwaukee. As it’s a working city hall, visitors are welcome to step in and take a look around during their business hours.
The 1895 building is built in a Flemish Renaissance Revival style. As you enter Milwaukee City Hall, you’re welcomed by an 18-foot bronze sculpture. The abstract artwork by Tony Cragg is a stunning contrast of glowing lines against the backdrop of the uniform brickwork.
Step inside and listen to the clapping of shoes over the marble and mosaic floors. The impressive Milwaukee City Hall atrium is flooded with light from the glass roof.
Milwaukee City Hall features a towering clock tower with a spire reaching 350 feet. The 22,500-pound bell inside is named after the city’s first mayor, Solomon Juneau.
Take a tour of the tower to make the climb up the steep steps and see the huge copper bell for yourself!
Where to eat & drink
As a cultural hub of Milwaukee, East Town attracts creative souls and glitzy theatergoers looking for their evening entertainment. In this downtown district, you’ll find chic restaurants and glitzy bars, as well as plenty of creative nods to the history of the city.
Step into old-school charm at Swingin’ Door Exchange. The classic saloon is inside the landmark Grain Exchange Building. Its antique décor will get you in the mood for classic American food and cocktails.
Savor the wholesome flavors of southern cuisine at Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar. Tasty dishes like waffles and meatloaf are made from scratch using responsibly sourced ingredients.
The elegant East Town Kitchen + Bar is popular for its casual atmosphere and extensive whisky menu. Order one of the locally sourced cheese and charcuterie boards and enjoy the sociable ambiance.
Get a taste of Mexico at Vagabond. The shimmering interior sets the mood for tasty tacos and margaritas. Enjoy a street food-style menu and order drinks from the converted food truck.
The Brewery makes its award-winning handcrafted beer on-site. With an eclectic mix of neon signs, local artwork, and memorabilia, this brewpub is a funky way to get your evening tipple.
Channel your inner spy at SafeHouse. Step through the secret door and enter a curious world of vintage décor and quirky cocktails.
The beautiful Belmont Tavern is full of art deco charm. Feel like a film star as you sit with your champagne cocktail by the 45-foot glass windows.
For a drink with a view, head to Blu. On the 23rd floor of the Pfister Hotel, you’ll have sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan and the twinkling lights of Milwaukee. Enjoy live jazz music while you sip on their innovative signature cocktails.
Where to stay
As it’s the heart of downtown, many of the most popular places to stay in Milwaukee lie within the East Town neighborhood. The area offers a variety of accommodation options, with everything from hotels to vacation rentals available.
This boutique hotel is just a few blocks away from the shores of Lake Michigan. Glorious 1920s décor will give you a fabulous Milwaukee experience. Each hotel room is a mini apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, so you can live like a local. When you get hungry, head to the art deco café and sample their wholesome menu.
The First Financial Center is a 1928 building that’s now a thriving hotel. Its art deco style has been reworked into a modern design with a nod to its past, such as the elaborate lobby elevator doors that have been left untouched. Feast on free hot breakfasts and attend their social event in the evenings, including complimentary food and drinks.
This hotel offers an eclectic but flawless design. The selection of bars and restaurants on-site put in just as much flair and attention to detail as the rooms. Stunning suites with local artwork and memorabilia give you a true Milwaukee experience, while regular exhibitions make this a great option if you want to get your creative juices flowing.
Lavish art deco style and a central location make this boutique hotel a fantastic option for your stay in East Town. Maintain your routine in the fitness center before grabbing a bite and a cocktail from the global menu in the restaurant. Finish the evening by taking in the sparkling city views on the rooftop.
One of the most iconic hotels in Milwaukee, The Pfister has been standing since 1893. Opulent architecture is dripping with gold, while flawless suites combine the magic of the old world and the new. Indulge your senses in the spa and Turkish baths. The highlight of your stay will be a cocktail at the stunning rooftop bar on the 23rd floor.