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25 Best Things to Do in Milwaukee (WI)

Milwaukee sits along the south-western shore of Lake Michigan and is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin. The city has the nicknames ‘Cream City’ and ‘Brew City’ because of its distinct cream coloured bricks and the long rich brewing history that the city is associated with.

There are plenty of museums within Milwaukee as well as 25 theaters and more than 150 restaurants. There is an active community here who make great use of the 150 parks and 130 miles of bike trails. With so much to do let’s take a look at the top 25 best things to do in Milwaukee.

1. Understand History At Milwaukee Public Museum

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Milwaukee Public Museum was first opened in 1884, the museum has changed locations since then but it still manages to attract half a million visitors each year. There are currently 17 permanent exhibits at the museum including ones that represent each individual continent. One of the most popular attractions is the ‘Streets of Old Milwaukee’ which contains fully furnished models of houses and shops from the city in the late 19th century. In total there are 4.5 million artifacts at the museum spread out over many different subjects.

2. Learn The History Of The Harley-Davidson

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For over 100 years Harley-Davidson have been making world famous motorbikes and all of that history is stored in the Harley-Davidson Museum. The museum is a three building complex that covers more than 130,000 square feet and sits along the banks of the Menomonee River. The museum was opened in July 2008 and there are over 450 motorcycles on display which will keep any bike lover happy. The museum goes through the entire timeline of Harley-Davidson and includes many interactive exhibits that will keep you entertained. There are several unique customized bikes as well as the oldest known Harley-Davidson in existence.

3. Discover More At Discovery World

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Discovery World is a museum that focuses its efforts on science and technology. The museum contains many interactive exhibits as well as two theaters, the Reiman Aquarium and a sailing vessel in full working order called the Denis Sullivan. A trip to the Reiman Aquarium will see the visitor go on a journey from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean. You will notice that there are ten tanks that show the changing waters from Milwaukee to Miami. There is a lot for people of all ages to get involved in when they arrive at the museum so a full day is recommended.

4. Meet The Animals At Milwaukee County Zoo

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Milwaukee County Zoo has to be on your list of things to do when you are in the city. It is one of the biggest attractions and a great day out for everyone. There are 1,800 animals within the zoo and many highlights. As you enter the zoo you will discover a 15,000 gallon tank that is home to several Humboldt penguins, this area is complete with underwater viewing. Another popular attraction is the Sterns Family Apes of Africa which features one of the largest groups of captive bonobos in the world.

5. Cheer On The Milwaukee Brewers

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The Milwaukee Brewers play their home games at Miller Park, Miller Park is a great stadium and the only one in North America that has a roof that can open and close in less than ten minutes. The stadium was built with public money which caused much controversy at the time as it increased sales tax by 0.01% with the county. There is a crowd capacity of 41,900 at baseball games and when the stadium is full the buzz around the grandstands is electric. Throughout the off season the stadium regularly holds concerts to sell out crowds, the likes of Bon Jovi and One Direction have performed over the years.

6. Marvel At The Plant Life At Mitchell Park Conservatory

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Mitchell Park Conservatory is commonly referred to as The Domes. The Domes are an incredible structure in Mitchell Park that show off three different distinct areas. You have the Desert Dome which is home to a stunning collection of Cacti, shrubs and arid-land bulbs, the climate inside this dome is very hot and dry. Next you have the Tropical Dome which has different plants from the rainforests of five continents, there is a beautiful waterfall in this dome as well as several tropical birds. Finally there is the Floral Show Dome which features seasonal displays that change five times a year. The flowers within this dome can be grown at home in your own garden.

7. Enjoy The Basilica Of Saint Josaphat

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The Basilica of Saint Josaphat was finished in 1901 and is a grand addition to the city of Milwaukee. There is a dome that is the main feature of the basilica and at its time of completion it was the second largest in the United States. The costs of constructing this huge building grossly overran so it wasn’t until 1926 that the parish was able to focus on making the inside as magnificent as the outside. Finally in 1929 Pope Pius XI declared the church a basilica.

8. Take A Tour Around Pabst Mansion

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Captain Frederick Pabst was a famous Milwaukee beer baron who began the construction of his family home in 1890. The building work took two years to complete and cost a colossal $254,000 (approx. $32 million in today’s money) to build, the cost also included the furnishings and artwork. Upon the death of Captain Pabst and his wife the property was sold and it became the residence of the archbishop for more than sixty years. Finally the residence was sold again and it nearly became a parking lot before a long standing crusade to save it was successful. Finally the house was spared and it opened to the public in 1978.

9. Watch A Stage Show At Pabst Theater

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The Pabst Theater is a U.S. National Historic Landmark in the theater district of Milwaukee. It is often referred to as the “Grande Olde Lady” due to it being the oldest theater in the City and the fourth oldest continually running theater in the country. About 100 shows are hosted each year which include, comedy, dance, music and theater events. As you walk into the auditorium you cannot help but notice an Austrian crystal chandelier that hangs over the auditorium. Captain Frederick Pabst built the original theater that was destroyed by fire in 1890, as soon as this happened he ordered the rebuilding of the theater you see today.

10. All The Fun Of the Fair

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The Wisconsin State Fair Park is situated in a small suburb just west of Milwaukee. This has been the home of the State Fair since 1892 and hosts the longest continuously operating motor speedway anywhere in the world. The area is also home to a U.S. Olympic training facility and the Pettit National Ice Center. Whilst at the park you should not miss out on SpinCity, an exciting amusement area that houses more than 55 different rides and attractions.

11. Enjoy The Jaw Dropping Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

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In 1924 Lloyd R. Smith returned from a trip he was taking in Italy and decided to build his family home. The home is set in some of the most stunning gardens that you will see in the city and it is worth admiring these before you enter the home. The home is now a museum that features many fine pieces from the 15th – 19th centuries. The museum is also a popular wedding venue due to its beautiful Italian style and the mesmerising views that can be seen of Lake Michigan.

12. Have Fun At The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

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The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is home to nearly 3,000 slot machines, a bingo hall, table games and an off track betting shop. If that was not enough to keep you busy you can enjoy regular live entertainment and various outside events that are held on the premises. Once you have finished playing games there are a choice of restaurants to cater each size of wallet. The rooms at the hotel are stylish and have all mod cons and some even have whirlpool tubs and panoramic views of the city.

13. Watch Some Hoops At The BMO Harris Bradley Center

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The BMO Harris Bradley Center is one of the premier entertainment facilities in Milwaukee. The entire center was built using money that was donated by the late Jane Bradley Petit, this makes it the only public facility in North America that has been built out of the money of one family and their generous donations. Each year 1.2 million people descend on the center to cheer on the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette University Golden Eagles and the AHL Milwaukee Admirals. When not being used for sports the venue doubles as a concert venue which has hosted many top names over the years.

14. See Centuries Of Artwork At The Grohmann Museum

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The Grohmann Museum has been named in honor of Dr. Eckhart Grohmann who donated his ‘Man at Work’ art collection as well as the funds to build this great museum. It houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of art that is dedicated to the evolution of human work in the world. In the museum there are more than 1,000 American and European paintings, works and sculpture that depict various types of work. The museum also has some stunning stained glass windows and a rooftop sculpture garden to look at.

15. Listen To The Sounds Of The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

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The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra have their home at the Marcus Center in the downtown part of the city. There are four major theater venues within the center. The Uihlein Hall which was designed to be used for operas, musicals and film screenings, this holds 2,305 people and is the main theater. There is the Todd Wehr Hall that is used for lectures and small plays. The Wilson Theater is similar and is mainly used for meetings and small plays. Lastly the Peck Pavilion is open air and suitable for concerts, weddings and small time performances.

16. Get Your Skates On At Pettit National Ice Center

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The Pettit National Ice Center has everything you could possibly need when it comes to ice skating. There are two international size ice rinks as well as a 400 meter speed skating oval. The center was opened in 1993 and many of the top speed skaters in the world train in the rinks. There are regular tournaments held at the rink including U.S Olympic Speed Skating Time Trials. Children and adults can book in for classes in various categories including speed skating, ice hockey and figure skating.

17. Take A Look At Haggerty’s Collection

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In downtown Milwaukee is the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art. In the museum you will find more than 4,500 pieces of art that include paintings, photographs, sculptures and many more visual art pieces. A few of the famous pieces include Salvador Dali’s Madonna of Port Lligat and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn. The museum came about after Patrick Haggerty and his wife donated their art collection to the university and then provided the funds for the museum to be built. Haggerty was the co-founder of Texas Instruments Inc.

18. Meet Your Friends In Cathedral Square Park

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In 1836 the co-founder of the city Solomon Juneau donated a piece of land to the city. The land at that time housed a jail and court house. Over time the jail and court house became unnecessary so the land was flattened and in 1939 the area became a park. The park is a popular meeting point for locals and there are regular farmer’s markets as well as the annual Jazz in the Park event. Each year the city of Milwaukee places their Christmas tree in the park and many locals and visitors come to witness the lights being turned on.

19. Remember The Fallen At Milwaukee War Memorial Center

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The Milwaukee War Memorial Center is dedicated to all the men and women who lost their lives whilst serving in the U.S. Armed services. The center was dedicated on Veterens Day in 1957 and later became a Milwaukee Landmark in 1974. Situated in Honor Court on Fitch Plaza you will find an eternal flame that lights up a black granite Honor Roll. This lists the 3,472 Milwaukee lives that were lost during World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The memorial center is a calming and sobering place to visit but one that allows the visitor plenty of time to reflect.

20. See The Beautiful Architecture At The Tripoli Shrine Temple

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The Tripoli Shrine Temple has been built to look similar to the Taj Mahal in India. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it has some of the most beautiful architecture in the state of Wisconsin. The shrine was officially opened in 1928 and it was the first temple to appear in the state. The temple is not used as a religious temple instead visitors can visit and admire the ornate interior which is truly a work of art. There are 45 minute guided tours which finish up with a lunch buffet. The temple is also available for hire if people wish to hold an event or a wedding.

21. Enjoy The Cathedral Of St. John The Evangelist

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In 1844 the Archbishop John Henni purchased some land just to the east of Cathedral Square. Three years later $30,000 had been raised and construction of the cathedral begun, due to the complexity of the building and the delicate art works within it took five years to be completed. There are thirteen stained glass windows that have been hand-cut, a large baptismal pool in the shape of a tomb and a beautiful gated garden. At the alter there is a crown of thorns that measures fourteen feet in diameter and sits over the figure of Christ.

22. Join The Largest Music Festival In The World

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Every year Milwaukee plays host to the largest music festival in the world! Summerfest lasts for eleven days, is split over eleven stages and features over 800 acts. Total attendance at the festival is approximately 900,000 people. The festival attracts the hottest and most current acts from the music industry today. Summerfest is not just about the music, there are over 45 food vendors serving up a delicious array of food that is sure to satisfy your appetite. If that was not enough to convince you then the whole event is sponsored by Miller Lite meaning you will never run out of beer.

23. Ride The KK River Bike Trail

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The Kinnickinnic River Trail stretches out over two miles in southern Milwaukee. It follows the river though a very populated area and links Bay View to Lincoln Village. The trail is split into sections of on-road as well as off-road trail. As you cycle along the trail you will notice that some parts run parallel to an active railroad. At one end of the trail you will find a seating and gathering area to meet up with the people you plan to cycle with.

24. Play A Round At Brown Deer Park Golf Course

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Brown Deer Park Golf Course is situated in the city of Milwaukee instead of in Brown Deer and is a golf course that has seen many famous players over the years. Tiger Woods made his professional debut at the course and even recorded a hole in one. The course was designed in 1929 and since then it has seen a few course changes but remains a challenging course with deep rough. The course is no longer a PGA tour course but it is the premier course in the city and remains an excellent place to hone your golf skills.

25. Go To Mass At Gesu Church

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167 years the Gesu Church was founded and was initially used to serve the English speaking Irish Catholics of Milwaukee. Over the years the parish grew in size and two separate parishes merged to form the one church you see today. The Gesu name was chosen in order to honor the Church of the Gesu in Rome. When the cornerstone of the church was laid in 1893 over 20,000 people turned up to witness it. The church features spires that are of unequal heights and some beautiful stained glass windows.

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