Milwaukee, WI

Destination Location

  • 43.038902, -87.906474:primary
  • 42.9469307, -87.8970684:secondary

Overview

With descriptors like "perched majestically along a great lake" and featuring "the sexiest building on the planet," the Milwaukee visitor's bureau knows how to catch people's attention. For one city, Milwaukee really does have a bit of everything.

If you want to hit the classics Milwaukee is known for, jet to the city that was the setting for 70s sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and head out on the world's only brewery tour by boat. Looking for more outdoor fun? Lincoln Memorial Drive is a great spot for walking, running or inline skating. Or you could visit the city's scenic Riverwalk and get your picture taken with the "Bronz Fonz."

In Milwaukee, you can pack your days with so many different activities you'll never be bored. Hit the zoo in the morning and take in a museum in the afternoon. Spend time at one of the city's many festivals and then get your cheer on at a baseball or basketball game. Risk takers can try their luck at the casino while the more artistically-minded take in an opera, ballet, symphony or theatre performance. How about shopping? Milwaukee has that too – everything from boutiques and specialty shops to malls and outlet stores.

During your tour, you can see where Harley-Davidson got its start and then choose from one of Milwaukee's diverse dining options. There are lots of ethnic choices, but if you want to get down to basics you can visit one of many restaurants offering a Friday night fish fry, featuring beer-battered fish, coleslaw, potato pancakes and a cold beer.

Visitors to Milwaukee have described the city as offering "big-city fun with a small town feeling" and having a "nice, unpretentious feel to it." Even the reviews cover all the bases: "Easy to get to, easy to park, clean, relaxed atmosphere, fun and centrally located." Or, as the locals like to say, Milwaukee knows how to have a good time.

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Destination basics

There's a reason there are so many bars, bowling alleys and indoor attractions in Milwaukee. The weather isn't known for being fantastic, with cold, wet winters that are long enough to keep people indoors. Spring isn't a whole lot better, so be sure to bring an umbrella. If you want to catch the best of the city, come in the summer or early fall when the weather is good and people come outside to experience all the city has to offer.

Juneautown

As Milwaukee's downtown area, Juneautown is packed full of restaurants, bars and nightclubs ranging from expensive gourmet establishments to Irish pubs to laid back coffee shops. Karl Ratzsch's is one of the city's most beloved restaurants. This German-American eatery, in existence since 1904, serves hearty favorites that keep locals and visitors coming back for more. If you're exhausted after a day of sightseeing and just need a quick coffee to recharge, stop in Fuel Café. This hip little coffee shop serves various coffees and teas as well as sandwiches and salads. For a night out on the town, this neighborhood also offers a bevy of laid back Irish pubs as well as trendy cocktail lounges. Mo's Irish Pub definitely falls into the laid back category. It broadcasts sporting events, offers drink specials and serves some of the city's best bar food. A snazzier option is Kil@wat, an elegant restaurant and bar located in the InterContinental hotel.

Kilbountown

Much like neighboring Juneautown, Kilbourntown offers a diverse selection of restaurants, cafés and bars. Kilbourntown is home to none other than Turner historic restaurant, the best place for a Friday night fish fry. A trip to Milwaukee wouldn't be complete without a visit to a brewery. Stop by Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery for a bite and a beer. The menu features American staples, but it's the beer that's worth bragging about. For a juicy steak reserve a table at the Milwaukee Chophouse, and to wind down the day with friends and a beer in hand, stop by the Miller Time Pub located in the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, which offers a generous happy hour during weekdays.

Avenues West

Avenues West, the area west of downtown, offers almost as many dining options as downtown itself, most at fairly reasonable prices. One such example is Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. These deli sandwiches are piled high with any sort of meat imaginable. Miss Katie’s Diner is another low cost option serving great home-style meals. This 1950s-style diner has a surprisingly extensive menu that goes beyond standard diner fare.Envoy is a slightly more upscale establishment located in the Ambassador hotel. This bar/restaurant serves sophisticated American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the Envoy Lounge mixes up tasty cocktails from their extensive drink list while Cafe Deco offers slightly more casual fare.

Yankee Hill

The Knick, located inside the Knickerbocker Hotel, is an excellent dining option in Yankee Hill. The menu is a mixture of Mediterranean and American with a few oddball items. Whether you're looking for seafood, poultry or burgers, The Knick has the knack for all of it. The County Clare Irish Inn and Pub is equally lovely as a dining option serving up hearty Irish staples.

Walker's Point

In keeping with its artsy, bohemian feel, Walker’s Point offers an array of trendy dining options that are considerably reasonably priced. Botanas, is a popular destination for Mexican cuisine. If you've spent some time in Milwaukee, but you still haven't had your fill of beer bars and pubs, check out Steny's Tavern & Grill serving the best in bar food and of course, lots of beer. For a more lively nightlife experience, check out Fluid, one of the city's most popular gay bars. The list of signature drinks and martinis is extensive.

East Side/North Point

Due to such close proximity, the East Side and North Point neighborhoods are usually lumped together. Both offer numerous drinking and dining options. Japanese restaurant Ichiban is one of Milwaukee's top restaurants. It claims to have the "largest sushi selection in Milwaukee," so there should be something on the menu for everyone. Located in the same neighborhood is its competitor, Izumi's, which has been voted "Best Sushi in Milwaukee." For a high-end dining option, North Point is proud to offer Sanford, one of Milwaukee's most distinguished high-end restaurants. The cuisine is a mix of French, Mediterranean and continental, and the seven course chef's surprise tasting menu with wine pairing is divine. If you're just looking for a light lunch or a coffee break, Alterra Coffee Roasters will hit the spot as will Breadsmith, located inside the Milwaukee Public Market. This popular bakery has several locations nationwide. The Original Pancake House is the perfect place for a hearty breakfast before a day of sightseeing or before heading out of town. Who doesn't love pancakes? Moving closer to the East Side lies an impressive array of multicultural cuisines. The East Garden Chinese Restaurant, Maharaja Indian Restaurant, and the Apollo Greek Café are all located within close proximity and all offer solid cuisine at affordable prices.

Located on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, known as "A Genuine American City," is rich in history and culture. Milwaukee attracts visitors year-round thanks to the popularity of local breweries such as MillerCoors and Sprecher, and thanks to Summerfest, a hugely popular annual music festival. Milwaukee also boasts several museums and numerous outdoor activities offered by the beautiful Lake Michigan. A great way to get to know the city is to take a look at a few of its neighborhoods.

Juneautown

Juneautown, the city's downtown area, is named after Solomon Juneau, the city's founder. Water Street and Wisconsin Street, both located in the heart of Juneautown, are considered two of the city's liveliest streets. This area is also home to many historical buildings including City Hall, the Pabst Theater, the Iron Block Building, and the Mitchell Building as well as many other historic sites. St. Mary’s Church, located on North Broadway Street is the city's oldest Catholic church. This church boasts a beautiful Annunciation painting located above the altar. The painting was actually a gift from King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Another church of interest is the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is important to note that depending on whom or what you consult, sometimes both Juneautown and Kilbourntown, a neighboring district, are actually considered smaller areas within a larger district known as the East Town.

Kilbourntown

Kilbourntown, separated from Juneautown by the Milwaukee River, was founded by Bryon Kilbourn, Solomon Juneau's rival. As the two men were rivals, so were the neighborhoods they established. Kilbourn refused to align his bridges with those of Juneautown, a decision that anyone who visits the city can see today. Kilbourntown is home to many large architectural projects. Today one will find the Riverside Theater (designed in Mediterranean Revival style), the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee Public Library and the Grand Avenue Mall

Yankee Hill

Yankee Hill exudes old-fashioned, high-end charm. This neighborhood was once owned by Solomon Juneau, the city's first mayor. It was therefore a hub for the city's government and business. Today visitors will find several beautiful churches as well as many lovely row houses designed in various styles including Victorian and Gothic. Two of the city's most beloved hotels, the Astor and the County Clare Irish Inn and Pub are located in Yankee Hill, and the neighborhood also hosts the annual summer jazz celebration in Cathedral Square Park, which lies between Yankee Hill and Juneautown. Yankee Hill is also home to Shank Hall, a small but popular local concert venue.

Brady Street

Brady Street, a bustling area near the Yankee Hill neighborhood, had already become a commercial district by the 1880s. Once considered the city's version of Little Italy, Brady Street then became an example of New Urbanism thus attracting those whom some refer to as hipsters and bohemians. Following an effort to gentrify the area, Brady Street is now filled with cafés and boutiques, but it has still managed to maintain some of its eclectic, avant-garde flair. Aside from shopping and dining, notably Dragonfly Vintage Goods and Gifts and Apollo Café, St. Hedwig's Roman Catholic Church, a well-known Polish church built in 1871, is also located on Brady Street.

Lakefront

The Lakefront is the beautiful area along Lake Michigan. Aside from all of the outdoor activities the lake has to offer, this area is also home to Discovery World, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Betty Brinn Children's Museum, the Milwaukee Country War Memorial, and the Henry Maier Festival Park, and outdoor entertainment venue where many concerts take place. Each June locals and visitors alike can take part in the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.

Walker's Point

Walker's Point has a slightly industrial yet hip feel as it encompasses many trendy warehouse-turned-lofts, art galleries, restaurants (notably Steny's Tavern & Grill), and nightclubs including several gay bars such as Fluid. Thanks to its rising popularity, real estate in the area has become increasingly expensive.

Avenues West

Avenues West, boasting such notable establishments as Marquette University, the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, the Haggerty Museum of Art, the Tripoli Shrine Temple, and the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion refers to the area west of downtown. Once known for drug dealing and prostitution, the entire area has undergone some serious revamping. One of the city's most popular hotels, the Ambassador, is located in this neighborhood, and it, like the surrounding area, has regained its upscale reputation. In 1996 some human remains were unearthed leading the city to believe that this was the site of Milwaukee's first cemetery potentially dating back to Native American tribes.

Brewer's Hill
Brewer's Hill, named for its proximity to the former Schlitz Brewing Company and the Lakefront Brewery is one of the city’s highest points of altitude. Considered a very family-friendly neighborhood, Brewer’s Hill features a variety of architectural styles including Greek Revival and Queen Anne homes. While the neighborhood fell into a slump in the 1960s and 70s, it has subsequently been revitalized causing real estate prices to rise drastically.

Menomonee River Valley
 
Much like Walker's Point, the Menomonee River Valley is a trendy neighborhood filled with hip lofts and funky establishments, most of which are former warehouses. It is not surprising that this neighborhood has attracted an increasing number of real estate developers. The area is frequented by a very bohemian, artsy crowd. The Menomonee River Valley's pride-and-joy is the Iron Horse Hotel, a state of the art boutique hotel that opened its doors in 2008. It boasts the chic Branded bar/lounge and the trendy Smyth restaurant. The Menomonee River Valley's other famous resident is the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Museums & Historical Buildings
Milwaukee is home to an impressive number of museums and historic buildings. The Milwaukee Art Museum, the Harley Davidson Museum, and the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion draw impressive crowds year-round. Art lovers will also appreciate the Haggerty Museum of Art, The Mitchell Gallery of Flight, an aviation museum located inside the Mitchell International Airport, the Milwaukee Public Museum, which also houses an IMAX Theater and Planetarium and the Discovery World located at Pier Wisconsin are perfect for those with an interest in science or for the curious child in your family. Other destinations geared towards children include the Betty Brinn Children's Museum and the International Clown Hall of Fame. Also worth visiting, especially for the history buff in your family, are both the America's Black Holocaust Museum and the Milwaukee Jewish Museum.

Shopping
Avid shoppers will not be disappointed; Milwaukee is home to a bevy of shopping malls and specialty stores selling everything from souvenirs to fashion to spirits. Grand Avenue Mall is the city's premiere shopping center with over 50 stores and more than a dozen restaurants. The Bayshore Town Center is another upscale mall offering various shopping and dining options. There are bookstores, toy stores, and countless apparel stores.Brady Street in another excellent option for shopping. Lined with countless boutiques and specialty shops, visitors and locals alike are bound to find that perfect item. Shopping can be exhausting, so it's important to note that Brady Street also offers a variety of restaurants and cafes. And last but certainly not least is the Milwaukee Public Market located right off the Milwaukee River. The public market houses various specialty food shops, delis, cafes, and the famous Spice House

Performing Arts
If you're hoping to catch a concert or a stand-up comedy act while you're in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Theater is the place. Another popular theater is the Northern Lights Theater located inside the Potawatomi Bingo Casino. The casino is a popular destination in and of itself. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, known by locals at the Rep, is considered one of the best regional theaters in the U.S. featuring comedies, classics, contemporary drama, and cabaret. The beautiful Pabst Theater and the Milwaukee Theatre also host concerts, and theatrical productions. For a unique experience, don't miss out on the Fireside Dinner Theater located in neighboring Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The Fireside Theater presents family-friendly performances such as the Sound of Music and High School Musical. The cuisine is exceptional as are the performances, and the venue even throws a traditional Milwaukee fish fry on Fridays. For a hilarious comedy show, Comedy Sportz is the place. This "interactive improv experience" has been hailed as one of the best comedy clubs around.

Festivals
Milwaukee's most popular festival is Summerfest. This musical extravaganza is held every summer from late June to early July. Summerfest draws thousands of concert-goers as well as popular musical acts. It takes place over the course of 11 days on 11 stages and features 700 bands. Another popular festival is Irish Fest. Held every August, this festival aims to promote Irish culture. Held in September on Milwaukee’s Lakefront, Indian Summer Festival draws large crowds as well as talented musicians and artists. Thanks to great food, fireworks, and lots of family fun, Festa Italiana has continued to grow in popularity. It is the self-proclaimed premiere Italian cultural event in America. And, it is no surprise considering the city's large Polish community, that the Polish Fest, one of the city’s many summer festivals, is in fact the country's largest Polish festival. Last but certainly not least is the Lakefront Festival on the Arts. This three-day festival is held every June along the shores of Lake Michigan. Many artists, both local and national, displays their works. Whether you're looking to buy that perfect piece of art or simply to browse, this is an enjoyable festival for the entire family. 

Nightlife
Whether you're looking for a friendly pub, a sleek lounge, or a pumping nightclub, Milwaukee has what you need. Popular pubs and taverns include Steny's Tavern & Grill, Café Hollander, and Mo's Irish Pub. All three offer a full menu as well as excellent brews. Some broadcast sporting events and host trivia nights as well as generous happy hours.Fluid is one of the city's most popular gay bars thanks to its inviting ambiance and its elaborate drink menu. For those who enjoy dressing to the nines and sipping snazzy martinis a la "Sex and the City" Swig, combining haute cuisine with mellow grooves, and Cush, combining sleek design with diverse musical selections, are hot spots on the lounge scene. Kil@wat is another popular choice. Located inside the InterContinental Hotel, Kil@wat boasts an impressive drink list and a creative design. If you're simply looking to cut a rug on the dance floor, tried-and-true nightclubs like Texture, Three and Rain won't disappoint.

Outdoors
Aside from numerous summer festivals, notably Summerfest, Milwaukee offers a wide range of outdoor activities. The Milwaukee Zoo is an excellent activity for the whole family. One of the premier zoos in the country, the Milwaukee Zoo sits on 200 acres and is home to 2500 animals of 300 different species. While Lake Michigan may be the city's first love when it comes to the outdoors, the city also boasts several lovely parks. Milwaukee County actually has 136 parks, the most notable being Lake Park. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York's Central Park, Lake Park offers various sporting facilities, playgrounds and green space. Also worth noting is the Lakeshore State Park. This state park is small but picturesque as it runs along the shores of Lake Michigan. In the summer months it is the ideal spot for picnicking or sunbathing. 

Milwaukee

State: Wisconsin

Country: United States of America

Milwaukee by the Numbers
Population: 600,155 (city); 1,572,245 (metropolitan area)
Average Annual Precipitation: 35 inches / 89 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 47 inches / 119 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 22.5°F / -5.3°C
Average July Temperature: 72°F / 22.2°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110 volts AC, 60Hz, standard two and three pin plugs

Time Zone: Central Time Zone, GMT-6

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 414

Did You Know?
Milwaukee's Marquette University is home to the St. Joan of Arc Chapel. This 15th-century chapel was transported all the way from Chasse, France, to New York, eventually making its way to Milwaukee.

The first typewriter was invented in Milwaukee in 1867.

Orientation
Milwaukee is located in the southeast of the state on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The city is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Madison and about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Chicago, Illinois.

Milwaukee, the capital of Wisconsin, is a large city located in the eastern part of the state. Today Milwaukee is famous for its popular breweries and is also home to the Harley Davidson Motor Company, a motorcycle manufacturer that has become a household name. While it's difficult to look beyond the appeal of beers and bikes, Milwaukee has a deep history, which, like many American cities, began with Native American tribes followed by European settlements

The Algonkian Indians are credited with the first form of the name Milkwaukee. They used the word Millioki which meant "gathering place by the waters." The first written mention of the name dates back to 1761 when British officer James Gorrell transcribed the name "Milwacky." Other variations of the name Milwaukee have also been documented.

The area's first settlers were primarily French missionaries and fur traders. In fact, one of the city's most lively neighborhoods, Juneautown, is named after French-Canadian explorer Solomon Juneau who settled in the area in 1818. Solomon Juneau went on to be elected the city's first major in 1846. While Juneau is considered the city's founding father, two other settlers, Byron Kilbourn and George H. Walker, are also credited with establishing communities in the surrounding areas, Kilbourntown and Walker's Point, respectively. Following a number of French settlers, the city witnessed an influx of German immigrants in the 1840s. In an effort to escape the Revolution of 1848, a revolution during which German citizens fought against the traditional political structure, many Germans flocked to the area thanks to inexpensive land and the hope of freedom. In fact, at a certain time, the number of German speakers and German-language newspapers actually exceeded that of English speakers and English-language newspapers. The Germans were eventually followed by a large wave of Polish immigrants. Like the Germans, most of these immigrants were hoping to escape the oppression of their homeland. Today Milwaukee is home to the nation's third largest Polish community.

It is also worth noting that in the city's history, it fell victim to several vicious fires, one which particularly affected City Hall requiring the upper tower to be rebuilt. City Hall, as it is known today, was completed in 1895. The building, which was designed in Flemish Renaissance style, is considered a landmark not only thanks to its history but also thanks to its large clock with numerals of opaque glass located in its bell tower. In fact, at the time of its completion, the bell tower was the third tallest structure in the country.

Today Milwaukee has grown to be the country's 22rd largest city. Its various neighborhoods are rich with culture and diversity. The Milwaukee metropolitan area is home to several Fortune 500 companies and also boasts a booming tourism industry thanks to many brewing companies, the activities available on Lake Michigan, and many cultural events, notably, Summerfest, a musical festival that attracts thousands of people each year.

Points of interest in Milwaukee, WI

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