Looking for the ultimate Downtown Milwaukee experience? Set aside time in your vacation to explore Westown, Milwaukee. This lively city center district will draw you in with old-world architecture, friendly nightlife, and exciting heritage.
Catch a show at beautiful venues like Turner Hall Ballroom and The Riverside Theater, or learn more about Wisconsin history at Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee County Historical Society.
Dive into the city’s German roots on Old World Third Street. Here you can shop for unique goods and tuck into hearty food and craft ales at one of the many pubs. Sample cheese and brews at Uber Tap Room and Cheese Bar, or sit in the garden with a pint at Milwaukee Brat House.
Ready to see a new side of Wisconsin? Start planning your trip with this guide to Milwaukee’s Westown, including what to see & do, where to stay, and where to eat & drink!
What to see & do in Westown
Milwaukee Public Museum
Delve into the natural world at Milwaukee Public Museum. The museum has been igniting imaginations since it opened in 1884, but its existence traces back to 1852. Today, it has three floors of fascinating exhibits exploring everything from the rainforest to ancient Egypt.
One of the stars of Milwaukee Public Museum is the Hebior Mammoth. This 14,500-year-old skeleton represents some of the oldest evidence of humans living in North America.
For more ancient skeletons and fossils, check out the Third Planet exhibition. Transport yourself back 400 million years with a walk-through glacier and a diorama full of life-sized dinosaur models.
The Streets of Old Milwaukee is another iconic exhibition at Milwaukee Public Museum. It gives you a chance to walk through the Milwaukee that existed at the turn of the 20th century. Wander cobbled streets lit by gas lamps as you explore shops, bars, and family homes.
Nature lovers will have endless options to explore here, too. Marvel at insects in the Butterfly Wing and Bugs Alive! exhibitions. Or travel to Costa Rica in the immersive Rainforest room.
Sports lovers will have a great time at the Fiserv Forum. This multipurpose venue is a 714,000-square-foot arena with state-of-the-art entertainment facilities. It’s the home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA basketball team and hosts different sporting events and concerts throughout the year.
Whether you want to see iconic pop stars perform in the flesh or you want to catch the latest fight, there are tickets on sale for every taste.
For an inside look at the Fiserv Forum, you can also book a guided tour. Learn about how the design of the arena creates a world-class entertainment experience. You’ll also get to learn more about the Milwaukee Bucks and their rise to stardom. Step into their locker room or see where the action unfolds in the press room.
Old World Third Street
Get a sense of the unique Milwaukee atmosphere at Old World Third Street. The cobblestone street, lined with Victorian facades, shows traces of its origins from German settlers. Today, Old World Third Street, now known as N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, is a buzzing nightlife spot and foodie paradise, with lots of shopping boutiques, restaurants, and bars to roam.
Old World Third Street’s ornamental brickwork, converted buildings, and modern city lights give you the perfect blend of the old and the new. Usinger’s Famous Sausage first opened in 1880 and still sells bratwurst from the historic factory to this day. Buy 70 varieties of sausage using their family’s original recipes.
For a food tasting with a difference, check out Uber Tap Room and Cheese Bar. At this popular Downtown Milwaukee hotspot, you can try different pairings of artisan cheese and old-style Wisconsin craft beers.
Continue the German theme with beer cheese soup and jumbo pretzels for lunch at Milwaukee Brat House. Sit inside and enjoy the original 20th-century décor or soak up the sun and old-world charm in the beer garden.
Turner Hall Ballroom
An evening at Turner Hall Ballroom is an iconic way to spend a night out in Westown. Built in 1882, the stunning venue hosts regular events and performances. Over the years, it’s witnessed significant parts of Milwaukee’s history, from immigrant painters to socialist politics.
The 7,000-square-foot space features golden columns, ornate balconies, and twinkling fairy lights, making it a popular spot for weddings and conferences. You’re sure to find an excuse to visit Turner Hall Ballroom, with a wide variety of tickets on sale and a culture of welcoming all ideas and cultures.
Embrace your inner mixologist at a tropical cocktail competition, fill up at tasty food festivals, or find the next Wisconsin star at a music concert.
Pere Marquette Park
Escape to the green space of Pere Marquette Park. The historic park rests on the Milwaukee Riverwalk, a three-mile-long route that takes you through three different Milwaukee neighborhoods: Westown, East Town, and the Historic Third Ward. It’s named after the French Jesuit missionary who discovered Upper Mississippi in 1673.
Pack a picnic and lay out on the green lawn, or rest under the shade of the impressive gazebo. Pere Marquette Park is a wonderful spot to people watch and watch the boats drift down the river. If you want to get out on the water, there are docks nearby where you can take a sightseeing boat.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Milwaukee in the summer, head here on a Wednesday night for an al fresco concert. River Rhythms hosts local talent from a diverse range of genres.
Pere Marquette Park also hosts an Oktoberfest in the fall, complete with street food, live performances, competitions, and of course, free beer. Prost!
Milwaukee County Historical Society
History buffs can learn more about the city at Milwaukee County Historical Society. Near the top of the list for what to do in Milwaukee, the museum was founded in 1935 to inspire people to learn more about Milwaukee’s heritage. The historic bank building houses over one million documents and photographs and 60,000 artifacts.
As you walk among the grand marble columns and shimmering golden decor, you’ll learn what makes Milwaukee special. Delve into a vibrant past with exhibitions exploring significant events in the city’s history.
Paintings, manuscripts, and old uniforms are just some of the artifacts at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, helping to paint a picture of how the city grew into what it is today.
If you consider yourself to be a beer connoisseur, expand your knowledge with the Milwaukee Beer exhibition. A range of media details the history and culture of brewing in Milwaukee County and how it made Milwaukee the Brew City.
The Riverside Theater
The Riverside Theater is a grand venue for an evening show. The opulent theater opened in 1928. With space for 2,450 people, it welcomes a fantastic choice of star-studded acts.
A show at The Riverside Theater offers you a wonderful dose of nostalgia. The stunning interior features high-arched ceilings and golden décor, an atmospheric setting for outstanding performances.
Whether you want an over-the-top musical, a belly ache from laughing at your favorite comedian, or to be moved by the strings of a symphony orchestra, you’ll be able to snag a ticket for an impressive range of artists. The Riverside Theatre has hosted some iconic acts over the years, including Kiss, Weird Al, and Bon Iver.
3rd Street Market Hall
Get a true taste of Milwaukee at 3rd Street Market Hall. It’s on a historic block of Westown, and the original 3rd Street still runs under the building. The market is full of delicious food stalls and fun activities that celebrate the city’s history, culture, and cuisine.
From tacos to ramen, you’ll find dishes from all over the world at the 3rd Street Market Hall. For a sweet treat, grab a dessert made from Wisconsin dairy at Mid-Way Bakery or try an inventive doughnut from Supernova. Refresh with a smoothie from Make Waves, or kickstart your evening with a natural wine from Strangetown.
You can also get involved in some fun activities at 3rd Street Market Hall. Get your vacation shots at the Selfie Museum, then practice your swing on one of the virtual golf simulators. There are also shuffleboard courts, an AstroTurf, and a gaming lounge with retro and modern video games.
Where to eat & drink
If you want a night of casual drinking and good-natured fun, Westown is the place to be in Milwaukee. Fuel up with hearty German and Italian fare, then find friendly pubs and sports bars to unwind after your day exploring the city.
Calderone Club has been iconic in Milwaukee for decades. The authentic Italian restaurant will have you drooling over its thin-crust pizzas and fresh pasta. A welcoming family atmosphere has patrons coming back again and again.
For more Italian flavor, head to San Giorgio Pizzeria Napoletana. This stylish pizzeria serves up classic Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Finished with exposed brick and tile, you can enjoy the smells wafting from the open kitchen while you wait for your food.
Escape to Bavaria at Mader’s Restaurant with medieval décor and staff in traditional German clothes. Choose from classics like schnitzel and strudel alongside a unique selection of German beers.
Milwaukee Brat House is in an impressive 20th-century building and reflects the German immigrants of Old Milwaukee. An inventive menu and the option to customize your own hot dogs and burgers make this a tasty way to experience the city.
Buck Bradley’s Saloon & Eatery is one of the oldest buildings on Old World Third Street. The cozy venue has a long bar serving up great cocktails and craft beers.
Also, on Old World Third Street, you’ll find Oak Barrel Public House. The classic brew pub has an extensive craft beer and whisky list.
For a relaxed environment, head to Third Street Tavern. This corner bar has great happy hours, fun cocktails, and arcade games to get the night started.
If you haven’t got your beer fix yet, check out Milwaukee Brewing Company. Take a tour of the brewery or sample some of their best pours at the bar.
Where to stay
As Westown is the most bustling part of Downtown, it’s one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Milwaukee. Accommodation options are plentiful, with hotels to suit every taste and budget.
This modern hotel uses minimalist design with fun splashes of color. The friendly dining space is perfect for planning your days. Start it with a specialty tea or coffee, or end it with a cocktail and classic Milwaukee cuisine. If you want to maintain your workout routine, there’s a fitness center and a heated indoor pool at your disposal.
This central Westown location is only three blocks from the Fiserv Forum. Roll out of bed and straight into the heart of the action. But not before you’ve chosen from a delicious choice of free breakfast options. After a day on the town, unwind in the gym or in the onsite smokehouse restaurant and bar.
This bright and airy hotel is just a few blocks from the Milwaukee River. Staff will greet you with a warm cookie on arrival before you settle into your cozy room. Enjoy a cocktail surrounded by the Milwaukee skyline on the sun deck or work up a sweat in the on-site gym.
This hotel has a prime riverside location. Wake up to fabulous views of Milwaukee from your stylish suite with floor-to-ceiling windows. Funky social spaces and a great choice of bars and restaurants nearby make this a great base for exploring the city. If you’d rather stay in, there’s an onsite fitness center and flat-screen TVs in every room.
Get a vintage Milwaukee experience at the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. This historic hotel has kept lots of the building’s original features, like copper brewing kettles and stained-glass windows. Modern amenities include a fitness center, an outdoor terrace, and a lively gastropub.