One of the biggest cities in the Midwest, Milwaukee is a gateway to Wisconsin and this entire region of the United States. Milwaukee isn't generally mentioned as a bucket list destination in the same breath as cities like New York. But those who come to Cream City often find more to do than they expected.
Milwaukee has always been a hard-working industrial town. Initially shaped by waves of German and Polish immigration, Milwaukee became famous for brewing beer, earning it another nickname as Brew City. Modern Milwaukee is home to the headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, and it retains a robust economy. But in recent years, the city has also become something of a cultural hub. Home to Summerfest, one of the world's largest music festivals, the city has embraced its tourist potential and redeveloped many of its historic districts.
A weekend in Milwaukee
A weekend in Milwaukee will give you enough time to get a good grip on the city. Drop off your unneeded bags at a Milwaukee bag storage and head downtown to see some of the city's main attractions.
- Gearheads shouldn't miss the Harley-Davidson Museum. This unique museum contains the first Harley ever made and dozens of other examples of these iconic bikes. The museum is a celebration of a classic American brand that anyone interested in industrial history can’t miss.
- See what brewing beer can get you at the Pabst mansion. The Pabst family moved from Germany to America in the mid-19th century and established Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, a brand that remains popular to this day. The family mansion is now a monument to the importance of brewing in Milwaukee history.
- Get out on the water with a boat tour. Milwaukee is one of the largest cities on the Great Lakes, along with Chicago and Toronto. Seeing the city from the water gives you a unique perspective and allows you to see many of the most striking buildings in town.
Many of Milwaukee's main attractions are quite far from each other. Luckily, the city has an excellent public transit network, including The Hop streetcar. You'll have a much easier time getting around town if you drop off your heavy bags at a Milwaukee luggage storage service. Traveling light means you can cover more ground and see more of the city without having to worry about your belongings.
Off the beaten path in Milwaukee
Once you've seen the lake and the breweries and the city's museums, you may feel you've exhausted Milwaukee's sightseeing potential. But that isn't the case. Away from the crowds, you'll find some more unusual attractions that are well worth exploring.
- Get your photo taken at the Bronze Fonz. This life-size statue of Fonzie, the popular character from the 1970s sitcom happy days, remains a popular place for tourists to visit. Drop off your bags at a Milwaukee luggage locker and throw an iconic thumbs up at this kitschy attraction.
- See one of America's most haunted bars at Shakers Cigar Bar. Once frequented by Al Capone, this bar is still in business and is a great place to get a drink or a bite to eat. However, it also offers daily ghost tours that explain the long history of this institution.
- Recapture some childhood joy at Milwaukee Swing Park. Located underneath the Holton Street bridge, the park contains several different swings big enough for adults to play like kids. It's a truly unique and fun place to visit in Milwaukee.
What to do alone in Milwaukee
Milwaukee is a great city to see by yourself. Safe and easy to get around, you’ll find lots to do whatever you’re into. Whether you’re on a solo vacation or have come to this Wisconsin city for business, drop off your bags at a Milwaukee suitcase storage service and start exploring.
- See one of the best markets in the United States at Milwaukee Public Market. This huge market sells a variety of produce, prepared foods, and gift items. There's also a garden area on the second floor where you can enjoy your meal in the sunshine.
- If you visit Milwaukee in the summer, you have to visit Summerfest. This enormous music festival attracts some of the biggest names in music along with local talent. Get a ticket and lose yourself in the crowd at this iconic and fun-filled Festival.
- See the cutting edge of Milwaukee art at Black Cat Alley. Founded in 2015, the walls of this alley serve as an open-air art gallery showcasing murals by some of the world's best street artists.
The best souvenirs in Milwaukee
For items that celebrate Milwaukee's brewing heritage, you can't miss the Pabst Brewery Vintage Gift Shop for items bearing the iconic brand. Milwaukee is known for beer, but that's not the only alcohol worth bringing back from the city. Great Lakes Distillery is a craft distillery that uses Wisconsin ingredients to craft award-winning gin and unique liquors. Of course, Wisconsin is known for its cheese, and at Wisconsin Cheese Mart in Milwaukee, you can pick up some of the best cheeses the state has to offer. If you're more interested in unique gifts, visit Sparrow Collective to find the work of local independent craftspeople such as hand-printed T-shirts, art, and accessories.