Planning the ultimate journey state of Wisconsin? Don’t skip adding all the best things to do in Milwaukee, WI, to your travel plans. As the state’s biggest city and most exciting urban destination, visiting Milwaukee is one of the must-visit cities 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 & drink, from top-notch restaurants to trendy craft breweries. Exploring the top tourist attractions in Milwaukee, you’ll duck into world-class museums like the Harley-Davidson Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Or, to relax on your Wisconsin holiday, roam around beautiful parks and gardens, including the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and Lakeshore State Park.
Not sure what to do on your Milwaukee vacation? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
Must-see places to visit in Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee County Zoo
Seeking out 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, this family-friendly destination is the ideal place to spend a whole day on your Brew City vacation.
Within the zoo’s 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
Get your fill of nature in the center of the city with a visit to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. Located within the heart of Mitchell Park, this landmark is locally referred to as The Domes. The array of plant life here is staggering, spread among a variety of biomes, from desert to tropical. For nature lovers, it’s the perfect spot to add a little color and natural beauty to your journey through one of the coolest cities in the Midwest.
The three huge mesh structures at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory are home to thousands of plants, shrubs, and other greenery. Pop into the Floral Show Dome to catch its unique rotating themed shows featuring over 4,000 plants and flowers. Take a journey around the world in the Desert Dome, with hundreds of succulents from around the globe—and Steve, the garden’s resident bearded dragon. Step away from the streets of Milwaukee in the Tropical Dome. In this stunning rainforest, 1,200 plant species await as colorful birds chirp above.
The Domes are open and closed 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. Dig deep into the city’s brewing heritage with a visit to The Pabst Mansion. Whether you love beer or history—or both!—a stop at this historic house is a must for any traveler sneaking through Wisconsin’s biggest city.
Located in the Avenues West neighborhood, The Pabst Mansion is the former home of Pabst Brewing Company founder Frederick Pabst.
Today, this local landmark isn’t just one of the top Milwaukee tourist attractions but one of the most well-preserved mansions from the Gilded Age in the Midwest. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the home offers visitors an interesting peek into this exciting time in America’s history and into the life of this 19th-century entrepreneur and beer baron.
Start your tour by admiring the Pabst Mansion from the exterior. The facade of the home, built in 1892, is a stunning example of Flemish Renaissance Revival-style architecture. Note the intricate details in the parapets and the symmetry of the elements common to the architectural style.
In the interior, marvel at the ornate wood finishes and ironwork and elegant period furnishings and decor, spanning a variety of styles from neo-Renaissance to neo-Rococo. The Pabst Mansion also houses a superb fine art collection, with displays set throughout the property.
Entry to the Pabst Mansion is in timed slots. Although admission is possible on-site, it’s recommended that you book your tickets in advance.
For the ultimate experience, hop onto one of the mansion’s guided tours. Besides a classic docent-led tour, you can partake in a variety of cool specialty tours, including Sunday Mimosa Tours, Fine Art Tours, and Blue Ribbon Happy Hour Tours. (See a complete list of all the tour offerings here.)
Milwaukee Public Museum
Visiting Milwaukee with kids in tow? Everyone in your travel group will find something to love at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Located in the Westown area of Downtown Milwaukee, this popular museum gives visitors the opportunity to learn more about natural history and human history. It’s an ideal spot to spend a day in Milwaukee with the family—especially if the weather isn’t co-operating for outdoor activities.
Opened in 1884, the Milwaukee Public Museum has dazzled visitors for over a century. This popular natural history museum offers intriguing exhibits, special events for the community, and enlightening insight from the many experts and staff that work there.
Explore ancient and modern civilizations on the museum’s three-and-a-half floors of displays. Kids will delight in getting dwarfed by a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex replica and peering at the world’s largest dinosaur skull. Venture up to the first floor to walk through the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit, watch tropical butterflies fluttering in the Puelicher Butterfly Garden, or wander through the canopy in the Costa Rican Rainforest. Other gems in the Milwaukee Public Museum include Native American cultural artifacts, luminous fish displays, and a European village.
Ticket prices for museum admission are $24 for adults and teens, $20 for seniors, and $18 for youth under 13. Children under three can visit for free. Don’t forget to check out the museum’s website and socials for any upcoming temporary exhibits or events happening during your trip to Milwaukee.
North Point Lighthouse
Seeking out the perfect vantage point to take in Lake Park? The North Point Lighthouse will tick all of your boxes as you figure out what to do in Milwaukee. This lighthouse was built in 1888 to replace an older structure on a bluff closer to the shores of Lake Michigan. For its historical significance, North Point Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Dig into the fascinating maritime history of the Great Lakes at the lighthouse’s museum. This unique 74-foot-tall museum shows just how pivotal the North Point Lighthouse was in the trading industry of the lakes and features numerous artifacts that bring history to life.
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 a fan of the legendary hog? Either way, the Harley-Davidson Museum on Canal Street tops the list of the top points of interest in Milwaukee for motorcycle enthusiasts.
The 20-acre grounds have everything a Harley-Davidson fan could ever want, from vintage bikes on display to exhibitions to expert engineers and guides who can answer all your burning questions about its motorcycles. Outside of the two floors worth of collections, you can find some amazing shops and restaurants to break up a day of hopping around Milwaukee’s coolest museums.
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.
After learning about all things Harley Davidson, stroll south to explore the diverse Walker’s Point neighborhood. Start by ducking into the popular Great Lakes Distillery & Tasting Room for a couple of drinks with friends before letting your tastebuds explore the area’s dining scene.
Other food & drink options around Walker’s Point include chomping down Mexican favorites at Taqueria El Cabrito, devouring trendy American fare at Camino, or sinking street food and craft cocktails at Zócalo Food Park.
Historic Third Ward
Hunting for a cool, indie place to hang out, grab some delicious food and 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 & culture, the Historic Third Ward is one of the city’s must-visit neighborhoods. The district’s historic buildings hide plenty of boutique studios, art galleries, shopping boutiques, and theaters like the Broadway Theater Center.
After a long day of sightseeing experiences, hit up one of the many restaurants, brewpubs, or bars. Find a spot on a patio and relax over a couple of beers and enjoy the district’s unique flavors.
In the Historic Third Ward, you’ll also find Henry W. Maier Festival Park and the Milwaukee Public Market; if you’re seeking out fresh, delicious, local ingredients—or you’re looking for a green space to have a picnic in—you’ll find it all on the streets of this historic district!
Milwaukee Art Museum
Art buffs should carve out time on their Wisconsin vacation to browse the venerable artwork at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Located in East Town, the state’s largest art museum features an extensive artwork collection, including Haitian exhibits, German Expressionism, and American decorative art.
As the Milwaukee Art Museum houses over 25,000 works of art, it’s easy to spend entire days getting lost among the masterpieces. The museum is also home to one of the largest collections of works by Georgia O’Keeffe, who grew up in Wisconsin.
Visiting towards the beginning of the month? Good news: The Milwaukee Art Museum is free on the first Thursday of every month. Get yourself a bargain day out that’ll stay with you long after your trip ends.
Traveling with kiddos in tow and want a family-friendly attraction that’ll entertain and inspire? 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, experiences, and activities to get their minds and curiosity going.
Music fans can explore musical treasures at Les Paul’s House of Sound, paying tribute to the unique guitar innovations of one of Wisconsin’s most famous historical residents. Adults and kids alike will love scoping out sea creatures from around the globe at the Reiman Aquarium. Or explore the fascinating world of automation and AI at the Automation Everywhere exhibit.
Discovery World is open from Wednesday to Sunday inclusive. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $18 for children. (Kids under 3 are free.) The science museum also runs summer camps for the little ones if you’re looking for a break from your holiday buzz.
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, skyline vistas, 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 trails and cycle paths. If you’re looking to hit the water, Lake Michigan is ideal for sailing; the only state park within Milwaukee city limits has plenty of floating docks and slips.
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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 snap some photos at Black Cat Alley, an open-air art 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. Plenty of artists are 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. Grab a quick breakfast or brunch and coffee at the hip Colectivo Coffee on Prospect. Or taste flavors and dishes from around the globe at the Crossroads Collective. The food hall is one of the city’s top destinations for foodies.
American Family Field
Are you a fan of America’s favorite pastime? No trip to Milwaukee is complete without taking in a baseball game at American Family Field, home of the city’s beloved Major League Baseball team: Milwaukee Brewers.
The stadium was 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 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 special events, including international music concerts; check the events calendar to see if your favorite stars are there while you’re on vacation.
Henry Maier Festival Park
Looking for a good old-fashioned time for the whole family? Pencil in a visit to Henry Maier Festival Park, one of the coolest places to go in Milwaukee for live events and festivals.
Situated on the shorefront of Lake Michigan, this 75-acre festival park has something on tap for everyone. The events hub is famous for holding the annual Summerfest. Dubbed the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest brings fairground rides, musical and cultural acts, as well as local food & drink vendors, selling everything from pizza and wings to pretzels and beer-battered cheese curds.
Many of the major events at Henry Maier Festival Park take place in the huge open-air amphitheater, fitting whopping 23,000 people. Talk about a festive atmosphere!
Want to take in all that Milwaukee has to offer by foot? With the Milwaukee Riverwalk, now you can—and it’s pretty spectacular!
The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a waterfront promenade that runs 3.1 miles along both banks of the Milwaukee River. The Riverwalk 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, the Milwaukee Riverwalk is 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.
On your adventures along the Riverwalk, keep on the lookout for the Bronze Fonz. Located south of East Wells Street near the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Pabst Theater, the statue by Gerald P. Sawyer immortalizes Henry Winkler’s famous character from the classic sitcom Happy Days. Don’t forget your camera—this is one of the city’s most famous spots for a selfie!
Tackle your thirst in the northern Riverwalk with a stop at the Lakefront Brewery. Located beside the Holton Street Bridge, the brewery offers a wide variety of interesting craft brews paired with classic pub dishes in a spacious industrial space.
For the full Lakefront Brewery experience, book yourself on one of their famous daily brewery tours. (You can check the schedule and buy tickets on their official site.)
Visiting on game night? Just steps from the Milwaukee Riverwalk is the Deer District, the city’s top entertainment destination for sports fans. Set your sights on catching a basketball game at Fiserv Forum, home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. After cheering on the Bucks to victory, experience the Deer District’s nightlife at one of its many restaurants and bars.
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 toward families with children aged ten and under, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is designed to help them learn and expand their horizons through interactive play. Even more notable is that the museum was 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 which foods 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
Whether you have a green thumb yourself or just love nature, 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.
Stroll through the more than 1,000-acre arboretum to seek shade under native shrubs and trees like oak, magnolia, maple, and beech. Smell the roses (literally!) with a walk through the rose garden planted in the 1930s. And wander around, snapping photos of irises and peonies in the Perennial Garden and over 10,000 colorful flowers in the Annual Garden at the entrance to the Formal Garden.
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.
Recommended 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 Westown. 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.