Planning a visit to Milwaukee? Carve out time to dig into the city’s rich history and culture by exploring the Historic Third Ward. Located in the southern part of Downtown Milwaukee, the Historic Third Ward neighborhood is alive with character. The revitalized warehouse district is the city’s creative hub with art galleries, studios, and performing arts venues like the Broadway Theater Center.
The Historic Third Ward is a shopper’s paradise with stylish designer boutiques and trendy national retailers on every corner. The nationally acclaimed Milwaukee Public Market is the go-to for locally-made gourmet items like cheese, olive oil, and wine. Take a stroll along the award-winning Third Ward Riverwalk for inspiring views.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the Historic Third Ward, from national hotel chains and boutique hotels to homestays, all within walking distance of the shops. You’ll also find a fantastic choice of restaurants and bars for evening entertainment with plenty of patio dining.
Not sure where to start your adventure? Plan it all out with this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee.
What to see & do in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward
Milwaukee Public Market
There’s no better place in the city to go for delicious gourmet goodies and a bustling market atmosphere than the Milwaukee Public Market. The indoor emporium is a haven of dining and shopping experiences with over 20 independent merchants selling all kinds of delicious goodies.
At the Milwaukee Public Market, you’ll find everything from ocean-fresh fish and hand-raised meat to artisan cheeses and hand-pressed olive oils. Grab a coffee and meander around the stalls, admiring the incredible selection of artisan and ethnic products.
Watch cooking classes instructed by nationally known cookbook authors in The Madame Kuony Demonstration Kitchen. Buy fresh ingredients at the Market and test your newly learned skills back at base. You can also enjoy wine tastings and live music performances at the Market.
Grab something to eat at one of the Market’s many eateries and restaurants, like the second-floor Palm Garden or the vegetarian-friendly Green Kitchen. For the freshest seafood in town, head to St. Paul Fish Company.
Henry W. Maier Festival Park
Milwaukee comes alive in the summer at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park with various events and festivals. Also known as the Summerfest grounds, the 90-acre park is set on the shores of Lake Michigan with glorious lake views.
The Henry W. Maier Festival Park has several outdoor stages and the 23,000-seat American Family Insurance Amphitheater. It’s best known for hosting the world-renowned annual Summerfest music festival and other concerts and live performances year-round.
When the park isn’t holding a major festival or event, you can enjoy a range of outdoor recreation, like scenic walks and cycling along the lakefront trails. There are also playgrounds, picnic areas, and sports facilities for the whole family to enjoy.
Broadway Theater Center
Catch a show at the historic Broadway Theater Center on North Broadway. Designed and built to mirror the European opera houses of the 19th century, the Broadway Theater is one of the city’s most beautiful performing arts venues.
Operated by the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, the Broadway Theatre is a cultural gem in the heart of Milwaukee’s arts district. The center has two exquisitely appointed performance spaces – the Cabot Theatre and the Studio Theatre.
The Cabot Theatre is an elegant and intimate space with seating up to 358 guests and a proscenium stage. You can watch a variety of theatrical productions throughout the year here, from plays and concerts to musicals.
The Studio Theatre is an intimate black box 99-seat theater used for smaller productions, workshops, rehearsals, and other events. Relax over a drink in the lobby and bar area before and after the performance.
Soak up some of the city’s best views with a gentle stroll along the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Stretching along the Milwaukee River for more than three miles through Westown, East Town, and the Historic Third Ward, the pedestrian walkway connects lovely parks and several landmarks. It draws both locals and visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The Riverwalk features a vibrant mix of public art, restaurants, shops, bars, and plenty of entertainment. Wander along the walkway and admire striking abstract works and whimsical sculptures in the outdoor art gallery, RiverSculpture!
Hop on a boat tour or explore the river on a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. Enjoy outdoor movies at the Peck Pavilion throughout the summer and rock out to the free outdoor concert series River Rhythms on Wednesday nights.
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Grab a brew at the Lakefront Brewery and relax on the patio against a backdrop of beautiful views.
Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse
If you’re a lighthouse-lover, visiting the historic Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse is a must! Set on the end of Milwaukee Harbor’s breakwater, the lighthouse was built in 1872 and has a beautiful and distinctive design.
Standing 53 feet tall, the cast iron Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse is still active and is a navigational aid for boats entering and leaving Milwaukee’s harbor. The lighthouse had a keeper until 1926 but is solar-powered and operated automatically today.
The conical shape and bright red color of the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse have become a symbol of the city’s maritime heritage. Although the tower is not open to the public, the surrounding pier is one of the most popular places to go in Milwaukee for a gentle lakefront walk, fishing off the dock, and fantastic photo opportunities.
Stroll along the breakwater to get a close-up view of the lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of the harbor and Lake Michigan. You’ll also enjoy splendid views of the Breakwater Lighthouse from the pier.
Lakeshore State Park
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some outdoor fun with a visit to Lakeshore State Park. Set on a man-made island in the heart of Downtown Milwaukee, Lakeshore State Park is an urban oasis with a network of hiking and biking trails and a small beach.
Meander along the hiking, biking, and jogging trails against a backdrop of lake views. Head to the beach for a swim, soak up the sun, and relax over a picnic lunch. The kids can burn off energy at one of the playgrounds dotting the park.
You’ll find a fishing pier and a launch area for boats if you want to get onto the water at Milwaukee’s most famous state park. Don’t miss the unique floating boardwalk where you can walk out over the water and take in panoramic city skyline views.
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Lakeshore State Park also hosts various events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and outdoor movies.
Where to eat & drink
The vibrant foodie scene in the Historic Third Ward presents a fantastic choice of places to wine & dine.
Sweet Diner will hit the spot if you need a hearty breakfast before heading out to explore the city. This hip café serves delicious American brunch dishes in a cozy setting. Tuck into Eggs Benedict, stacks of pancakes, and perfectly cooked French toast with cinnamon sprinkles.
Meaning ‘honest’ in Italian, Onesto is just that when it comes to authentic Italian cuisine. Handmade pasta dishes with mouthwatering sauces, wood-fired pizzas, and classic meat and fish plates are the order of the day. Relax in the warm, brick-lined dining space and pair your food with drinks from an outstanding wine and craft cocktail list.
Dim sum, dumplings, noodles, and rice, DanDan is the go-to spot for delicious Chinese cuisine with an American twist. Think Walnut Shrimp, Orange Chicken, and Mongolian Beef for unusual dishes, or order the three-course Peking Duck special with wonton soup and duck leg chow fun.
For the best Bloody Mary in town, head to the Wicked Hop on the corner of St. Paul and Broadway. Open for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks, and desserts, the laid-back bistro-cum-bar serves classic pub grub in a comfortable setting. Sip cocktails in the beautiful Jackalope Lounj before dinner and enjoy live entertainment every night of the week.
If tequila is your vice, the Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria boasts over 160 diverse kinds of agave-based drinks. Choose from popular brands to exclusive, rare, and hard-to-find tequilas and dine on globally inspired fare such as tacos, poke bowls, shawarma, and falafel.
Soak up spectacular city views from the rooftop of The Outsider. Retractable glass walls, plush day beds, fire pits, and blankets create a chic, contemporary space to enjoy drinks and light plates against incredible vistas.
Where to stay
Although there are only a handful of accommodation options here, the Historic Third Ward is one of the top choices for where to stay in Milwaukee for travelers, thanks to its sightseeing opportunities and excellent food & drink options. Here are a few ideas to start your lodgings search:
Enjoy a home-away-from-home stay at FRONTDESK Jefferson Block Apts Third Ward Milwaukee. Relax in a fully furnished, air-conditioned apartment with a private entrance and free Wi-Fi. Take in lovely city views from your private balcony. Explore the city’s top attractions within a short walk from the apartments.
Just a block from the Milwaukee River, the Homewood Suites by Hilton Milwaukee Downtown is a relaxed all-suite hotel with straightforward studios and free Wi-Fi. Kitchenettes for perfect for self-catering and spacious suites offer separate living spaces. Tuck into a hot breakfast buffet every morning and stay fit in a fully equipped gym.
Unwind in warmly decorated guest rooms with soaking tubs and free Wi-Fi at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, an IHG Hotel. Located within a mile of several top attractions, the comfortable hotel offers loaner bikes for exploring and a stylish rooftop bar with fire pits. Enjoy complimentary wine tastings in the evenings and a lovely Mediterranean-style restaurant.