Looking for ideas on what to do in Milwaukee? You will be hard-pressed to find a weekend in Milwaukee when there is nothing to do. Professional sports teams play year-round. Theater, dance and opera companies keep the stages filled with action. And there are dozens of small clubs offering a variety of music, including blues, jazz, swing and rock 'n' roll. If your musical tastes are more classical, you might enjoy a night with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra or an afternoon of chamber music.
Perhaps you're just hungry. If so, you will be amazed at the variety of excellent ethnic restaurants in the metropolitan area. The Bartolotta Restaurants, a family-owned developer of Milwaukee's top restaurants, offers some of the cities most beautiful and unique sites. Whatever your tastes, you will quickly discover there is no shortage of things to do in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee area is blessed with a variety of cultural attractions:
- The recently expanded Milwaukee Art Museum is home to more than 30,000 works of art, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Durer, Picasso and Warhol. The museum's stunning Calatrava-designed addition has added a dramatic architectural signature to the lakefront.
- A tradition of excellence in exhibits, education, collections and research has been the hallmark of the Milwaukee Public Museum since it was established in 1882. Permanent exhibits include multi-level displays of dinosaurs, North American Indians, a tropical rain forest, 19th Century Milwaukee neighborhoods and an environmentally controlled butterfly pavilion.
- The Betty Brinn Children's Museum features hand-on exhibits for children ages 1 through 10.
- The Charles Allis Art Museum, housed in the lavish 1911 home of Charles and Sarah Allis, contains original furnishings and a world class art collection spanning more than 2,000 years.
- Discovery World is a lakefront science and technology museum designed for young adults and children.
- The Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the top zoological parks in the country. The 200-acre park is known for its open concept, which simulates the animals' natural environments by using moats to separate predators from their prey. Its Aquatic & Reptile Center includes sharks and alligators, as well as more than 200 fish that are native to Wisconsin lakes.
- Those who want to test their luck will want to head to Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Located just south of downtown Milwaukee in the Menomonee Valley, it attracts more than 6 million visitors every year and offers 24/7 action with nearly 100 table games, 3,000 slot machines, a bingo hall, poker room, off-track betting, 500-seat theater and seven different restaurants.
- Plant enthusiasts will want to explore the recently renovated Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. Known locally as “The Domes,” the facility consists of three 85-foot domes. One contains a desert environment, another houses tropical plants and the third features changing displays.
The area also offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Sparkling lakes, quiet woodland areas and prairie vistas can be found throughout Waukesha, Ozaukee, Racine and Washington counties.
All told, the greater Milwaukee area features 17,700 acres of county parkland, more than 60 public and private golf courses and more than 240 miles of bikeways and hiking paths. Boating and fishing are major activities on both Lake Michigan and the many beautiful inland lakes. Charter boat captains are always eager to take people out onto the "local ocean" to land perch, steelhead, coho or chinook salmon.
Sailing is also very popular. The South Shore Yacht Club's annual Queen's Cup Race attracts more than 240 yachts per year for the Wisconsin-to-Michigan race. For more casual sailors, sailboats and windsurfing equipment can be rented at McKinley Park Marina just east of downtown Milwaukee.
Wisconsin has become a golfing destination sensation thanks to superbly designed courses. According to Golf Digest, seven of the nation's top 100 golf courses are located in the state, including three in the Milwaukee area: Washington County's Erin Hills, which hosted the 2017 U.S. Open; the Milwaukee Country Club in River Hills; and the Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in Wauwatosa. Whistling Straits in nearby Kohler, has hosted the PGA Championships three times and will host the 2020 Ryder Cup. But you don't have to be a pro to play golf. There are dozens of affordable public courses in the area as well. For more information, visit: golfwisconsin.com.
The Milwaukee area is home to a variety of farmers markets that offer everything from fresh, locally grown produce to arts and crafts. They are great places to savor fresh produce, see people and enjoy the outdoors. One of the oldest and most popular is the award-winning West Allis Farmers Market (westalliswi.gov/201/Farmers-Market), which is held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from May through November. Milwaukee neighborhood markets include Cathedral Square Park (easttown.com); East Side Green (theeastside.org); Westown Summer Farmers' Market (westown.org); NEWaukee Night Market (newaukee.com/night-market); and Fondy Market at Schlitz Park (fondymarket.org).
Suburban markets worth exploring include the South Shore Farmers Market in Bay View (southshorefarmersmarket.com); Wauwatosa (tosafarmersmarket.com); Port Washington (visitportwashington.com/events/); Greenfield (greenfieldwifarmersmarket.com); Cedarburg (cedarburg.org);Holy Hill Art & Farm Market in Hubertus (holyhillartfarm.com); Elm Grove (elmgrovevillagemarket.com); Brookfield (brookfieldfarmersmarket.com) and Waukesha (waukeshafarmersmarket.com).
A winter market at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (the Domes), which is open from November through April (mcwfm.org), and the year-round Great Lakes Farmers Market in Racine (milaegers.com/Farmers%20Market.htm) offer a plethora of fresh produce and hand-crafted edibles.
For more details about area farmers markets go to: wifarmersmarkets.org.
Fun for Foodies
And then there is the food! From tapas to farm-to-table comfort food, if it's trending in the culinary world, foodies will find an abundant selection in the Milwaukee area. The city and environs have become a destination not only for foodies, but also for inspired chefs seeking the best in locally sourced opportunities. We are home to several James Beard Award winners and nominees. From a virtual smorgasbord of global cuisine to fine continental dishes to iconic Friday fish fries, creamy frozen custard and signature cocktails, Milwaukee sports a full spectrum of dining possibilities in a wide variety of settings. Be sure to explore the many artisan specialty shops featuring everything from local cheeses and chocolates to coffee and tea.
Events celebrating the area's rich epicurean heritage, such as Downtown Dining Week (May 30 - June 6, 2019; milwaukeedowntown.com) or Zoo a la Carte (August 15 - 18, 2019 at the Milwaukee County Zoo; milwaukeezoo.org/events) offer an adventure for your taste buds.
Pick up a copy of Milwaukee Magazine, which lists restaurants by cuisine and location, check out the Brunch Guide at onmilwaukee.com, or visit ediblemilwaukee.ediblecommunities.com and MilwaukeeFood.com to discover why Milwaukee is a delight for food lovers.
Milwaukee Public Market
The Milwaukee Public Market is a unique downtown food, shopping and social nexus. Filled with unique selections of artisan and ethnic products, freshly made foods and eating areas, it is one of Milwaukee's premier destinations, attracting more than 1.7 million visitors per year. The market also showcases a variety of cooking classes in The Madame Kuony Demonstration Kitchen. Instructors include Public Market vendors, local chefs and nationally known cookbook authors.
Located in the Historic Third Ward, just south of downtown, the market is easily accessible by car (parking lot available), walking, biking and Milwaukee's street car, The Hop, which has a stop just outside the entrance. Open seven days a week (10 am to 8 pm weekdays, 8 am to 8 pm Saturdays, and 9 am to 6 pm Sundays; some stores have extended hours). milwaukeepublicmarket.org
The Milwaukee Center Theater District is home to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, which operates three venues: the Quadracci Powerhouse, Steimke Theater and the Stackner Cabaret. The district also includes the Pabst Theater, a national historic landmark that provides musical and theatrical entertainment in an elegant setting; the Riverside Theater, a popular music venue; and the Miller High Life Theater. The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts offers several venues for performing artists, including the 2,300-seat Uihlein Hall. Large shows are held at the outdoor American Family Insurance Amphitheater or BMO Harris Pavilion which are located at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park. The Broadway Theatre Center, located in Milwaukee's trendy Third Ward, is the home of The Skylight Opera and the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
For Fans of the Silver Screen
Celebrating a decade of bringing the best in independent and international film to Milwaukee audiences, the annual Milwaukee Film Festival will run from October 17 through October 31. Feature films, shorts, screenings, post-film conversations, panels, and parties round out the 15-day festival. More than 300 films will be shown at multiple venues. mkefilm.org
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also hosts several film festivals throughout the year, including the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, and its Experimental Tuesdays series, which features a variety of films. uwm.edu/ arts/events/category/film
The #DearMKE Project (dearmke.com) started as an online collection of unscripted documentaries filmed and produced by local creatives and is now touted as a "love letter to Milwaukee from Milwaukeeans." It is continually evolving, incorporating reactions to the films, as well as social media posts highlighting residents' experiences of Milwaukee. It is curated by VISIT Milwaukee to help showcase the city.