Thinking about heading to the dairy-filled state of Wisconsin? Well then, you’re definitely going to want to check out the best things to do in Milwaukee. As the state’s biggest city and most exciting urban hotspot, visiting Milwaukee is a must on any road trip to America’s Midwest.
Otherwise known as Brew City, thanks to almost two centuries of brewing and beer-making heritage, Milwaukee is full of delicious places to eat and drink. With the top tourist attractions in Milwaukee, including museums, parks, zoos, and gardens, there’s a little something to suit every style of traveler here.
Not sure what to do on your next trip to Milwaukee? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Best places to visit in Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee County Zoo
Looking for a day full of fun for the entire family? Look no further than the expansive and engaging Milwaukee County Zoo. Home to 1,800 fascinating animals and spanning 190 acres, it’s the ideal place to spend the whole day.
Within the habitats, visitors will scope out everything from primates like bonobos and gorillas to North American species like grizzly bears and prairie dogs. With special exhibits and conservation programs in addition to the animal enclosures, the Milwaukee County Zoo also serves as a valuable educational opportunity for visitors of all ages.
Adult entry is only $8.75, but the zoo operates a number of free family days throughout the year; check their website before you visit to see if you can grab yourself a bargain!
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory
Want to get your fill of nature in the center of the city? Then you’re going to want to head to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, locally referred to as The Domes.
These huge mesh structures are home to thousands of plants and greenery as well as plenty of benches to sit back and watch the world go by. With three domes to choose from; the Floral Show Dome, the Desert Dome, and the Tropical Dome, you’ll feel miles away from the city that’s just outside the door.
The Domes are opening seasonally to perform maintenance, and can sometimes be closed for weddings or other events; it’s always best to check online before you visit.
Milwaukee has the nickname Brew City for a reason! One of the major breweries to put Milwaukee on the map was the Pabst Brewing Company. The Pabst Mansion, the former home of its founder, Frederick Pabst, is now one of the top Milwaukee tourist attractions.
Whether you love beer or history—or are a fan of Flemish Renaissance Revival-styled architecture—the Pabst House offers an interesting peek into the life of a 19th-century entrepreneur. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, it’s remarkably preserved for visitors from all around the world.
Jump on a tour and check out the Pabst Mansion for yourself. Entry is in timed slots; it’s recommended that you book in advance.
Milwaukee Public Museum
Looking for a great way to spend a day in Milwaukee and learn something new? The Milwaukee Public Museum is the ideal spot to check out the best in natural and human history.
Opened in 1884, the Milwaukee Public Museum has dazzled visitors for over a century, offering intriguing exhibits, special events, and enlightening insight from the many experts that work there. At just $3 per person, it’s a no-brainer on your next trip to Milwaukee.
Don’t forget to check out their website and socials for any upcoming temporary exhibits or events happening during your stay.
North Point Lighthouse
Seeking out the perfect vantage point to take in Lake Park? Well, the North Point Lighthouse is going to tick all of your boxes as you figure out what to do in Milwaukee.
If you’re interested in the fascinating maritime history of the legendary Great Lakes, then this is the place for you. This unique 74-foot tall museum shows just how pivotal the North Point Lighthouse was in the trading industry of the lakes and has numerous artifacts that bring history to life.
It’s worth noting that the North Point Lighthouse is only open on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 pm and 4 pm; plan your trip accordingly!
Do you have a need for speed—or are you just a big fan of the legendary hog? Either way, the Harley-Davidson Museum is going to be right up your street. For motorcycle enthusiasts, the museum is easily one of the top points of interest in Milwaukee.
The 20-acre site has everything a Harley-Davidson fan could ever want, from vintage bikes to exhibitions to expert engineers and guides who can answer all your burning biker questions. Outside of the two floors worth of collections, you can find some amazing shops and restaurants to break up your day.
The Harley-Davidson Museum campus has plenty of special events and one-off exhibitions that rotate throughout the year; check online before you travel to see what’s on.
Historic Third Ward
Hunting for a cool and indie place to hang out, grab some delicious food and generally just have a good time? Head to the Historic Third Ward, an old warehouse district that’s been transformed into an independent art and social hub.
If you’re into arts and culture, the Historic Third Ward is a must-visit, with plenty of boutique studios and art galleries, as well as being home to Milwaukee’s theaters. After a long day of perusing, hit up one of the many bars and restaurants, find a spot on the patio, and relax.
In the Historic Third Ward, you’ll also find Henry W. Maier Festival Park and the Milwaukee Public Market; if you’re needing fresh, delicious, local ingredients—or you’re looking for a green space to have a picnic in—this historic district has it all.
Milwaukee Art Museum
Consider yourself a bit of an art buff? Get yourself down to the Milwaukee Art Museum and walk around and marvel at the extensive collection that includes Haitian exhibits, German Expressionism, and American decorative art.
As the museum houses over 25,000 works of art, it’s easy to spend entire days getting lost among the masterpieces. The art museum is also home to one of the largest collections of works by Georgia O’Keefe, who grew up in Wisconsin.
Visiting towards the beginning of the month? Good news: The museum is free on the first Thursday of every month! Get yourself a bargain day out that will stay with you long after your trip ends.
Traveling with kiddos in tow and want an attraction that’s not only going to entertain them, but also inspire them? That’s precisely the aim of Discovery World, looking to create the next generation of STEM majors.
Located on the lakefront, this science and technology museum is geared towards younger travelers with dozens of interactive exhibits and activities to get their minds and curiosity going. Discovery World also runs summer camps for the little ones if you’re looking for a break from your holiday buzz.
Discovery World is open from Wednesday to Sunday inclusive. Just remember not to show up at the start of the week; otherwise, you’ll end up disappointed!
Lakeshore State Park
Looking to get out and about in nature without having to leave the city? Lakeshore State Park covers all bases, with promenades, waterfront views, greenery, and even a marina to enjoy.
Spanning 22 acres, Lakeshore State Park is the perfect spot to kick back and relax or work up a sweat on one of the many jogging and cycle paths. If you’re looking to hit the water, Lake Michigan is ideal for sailing; the state park has plenty of floating docks and slips.
Lakeshore State Park is also one of the few Wisconsin state parks that are completely free and don’t require a vehicle sticker. Grab the whole family and head on down for some fun in the glorious open air.
Black Cat Alley
Want something a bit edgier and more interesting from your trip to Milwaukee? Grab your camera and hit up Black Cat Alley for an open-air gallery like no other.
Black Cat Alley is a street art lover’s paradise, with a mix of permanent installations and allocated walls and spaces that rotate their murals. This means there are plenty of artists being showcased here, both local and those coming from further afield. There’s always something new to enjoy here!
You can find Black Cat Alley behind the Oriental Theater on Milwaukee’s East Side. While you’re there, check out the independent eateries and cafes all around the area.
American Family Field
Are you a fan of America’s favorite pastime? Well, then no trip to Milwaukee would be complete without a trip to the home of the Brewers: American Family Field.
Previously called Miller Park, in honor of the Miller Brewing Company, the naming rights were bought by American Family Insurance in 2019, and in 2021, the name was changed. The name might be different, but the Milwaukee Brewers still strive to hit it out of the park every time!
If baseball is not your thing, American Family Field also hosts a variety of events, including international music concerts; check the events calendar before you book your trip to see if your favorite stars are there.
Henry Maier Festival Park
Looking for a good old-fashioned time for the whole family? Then pencil in a visit to Henry Maier Festival Park, one of the coolest places to go in Milwaukee for live events.
Situated on the shorefront of Lake Michigan, this 75-acre festival park has a little something for everyone. Famous for holding the annual Summerfest festival that brings fairground rides, musical and cultural acts, as well as local food & drink vendors, it’s an events hub with a difference.
Most of the big events at Henry Maier Festival Park take place in the huge open-air amphitheater which can fit a huge 23,000 people in it. Not bad for a park on the river!
Want to take in all that Milwaukee has to offer by foot? With the Milwaukee Riverwalk, now you can—and it’s pretty spectacular!
Running 3.1 miles down either side of the Milwaukee River, the waterfront promenade gives visitors and locals alike the opportunity to explore the Downtown and the Historic Third Ward areas, all the way down to Lake Michigan. As it’s privately owned, it’s well-maintained and clean, which is always a bonus.
Opt to walk the 3.1-mile stretch, or work up a bit of a sweat and grab your running shoes. If you want a longer route, do a loop and cross over the Milwaukee River at either end of the trail.
Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
Looking for a hands-on experience that your little ones are going to love? The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is the special tourist attraction that you’ve been looking for in Milwaukee.
Aimed for children aged ten and under, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is designed to help them learn and expand their horizons through interactive play. The amazing thing about the museum is that it’s created to welcome kids on the autistic spectrum or those with sensory processing disorders.
The third Thursday of every month is free to visit the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Keep in mind, though, that they’re closed every Tuesday; make sure to plan your visit accordingly!
Milwaukee Public Market
Tell us: Who doesn’t love amazing local food right on your doorstep? With the Milwaukee Public Market, deliciousness is all but guaranteed!
Located in an old industrial building in the historic Commission Row, the Milwaukee Public Market is home to 20 vendors featuring a whole host of cuisines. No more arguing about what to eat for dinner: Everyone can order exactly what they want, and you can all still eat together!
Alongside the food vendors at Milwaukee Public Market, you’ll find grocers, gift shops, cooking classes, and cheesemakers—this is Wisconsin, after all!
Whether you’re sitting in and chowing down or looking to pick up a few items for a picnic or to take back home, Milwaukee Public Market is the ideal spot.
Boerner Botanical Gardens
Have an interest in all things botanical, or consider yourself to have a green thumb? The Boerner Botanical Gardens are among the most beautiful places to see in Milwaukee at any time of year.
Located in the village of Hales Corner at Whitnall Park, the Boerner Botanical Gardens will make you feel as if you’re miles and miles away from the city, all while still technically being in Milwaukee. If you want to get out of the city and breathe in the fresh air, it’s a fantastic spot to go and one of the top day trips from Milwaukee.
Named after the designer Alfred Boerner, the botanical gardens are split into five formal gardens, each with its own theme and feel, offering variety and tranquility.
Visiting Milwaukee in summer and want to cool down? Scoot up to the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and sink your feet into the sands of Bradford Beach. Perched on the shores of Lake Michigan, this mile-long stretch of sand is one of the most beautiful beaches in Milwaukee and one of its most accessible.
As the only guarded beach in Milwaukee County, Bradford Beach provides a safe environment for swimming in the waters of Lake Michigan. If you’re visiting during the peak summer months, be sure to get there early to claim your spot along the water.
When you’re done soaking up the rays, venture northward to Lake Park. Stroll through its winding wooded paths and bridges to earn your way to beautiful views over Lake Michigan.
Best places to stay in Milwaukee for sightseeing
For most travelers, the best places to stay in Milwaukee fall within its two downtown areas: East Town and Westtown. If you’re willing to stay a little further from downtown, the Lower East Side, Walker’s Point, and Historic Third Ward are also great alternatives.
With its central location and modern amenities, the Drury Plaza Hotel is the perfect choice for any traveler looking to be close to all the downtown charms. After a long day of sightseeing, cool off in the outdoor pool, work up a sweat in the fitness center, or enjoy a nightcap in the hotel’s on-site bar.
The name says it all: If you love art, book a room at Saint Kate – The Art Hotel. From the rooms to the lounge, you’ll enjoy browsing a rotating collection of fine art, from paintings to sculptures. After checking out the galleries, saddle up for a romantic meal at one of the hotel’s three on-site restaurants.
One of the city’s top luxury hotels, the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown offers spacious rooms with warm colors and dramatic views over the city. After digging into all the downtown delights, grab a bite and a cocktail at the on-site East Town Kitchen & Bar, delivering one of Wisconsin’s most extensive whiskey menus.