With its vibrant food scene and envious location on the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee has the charm that some other larger cities are lacking. We’ve partnered with family and lifestyle blogger Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip, who lives in Chicago and is a frequent visitor to Milwaukee. Here she shares 7 unique things you didn’t know you could do in Milwaukee for your next trip.
If Milwaukee is not already on your radar, it should be! This city is constantly evolving, so there’s no time like the present for a visit. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Milwaukee that are perfect for newcomers and locals alike.
1. Kayak through downtown
Milwaukee is a wonderful destination to see on foot, but why not head to one of the local kayak outfitters and see the city from the water? Milwaukee Kayak Company provides kayaks, canoes, or paddle boards and sends you on your way. There are several rivers to choose from, the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic. Each one provides a different look at life in the city.
A ride along the Milwaukee will cruise past apartment buildings, store fronts, re-purposed factories, restaurants, and bars. It’s no easy task to maneuver the length of the river nor exit a kayak, but there are several opportunities along the way to tie up and have a bite to eat or enjoy a drink. So spend a few hours or the entire day seeing Milwaukee from this unique perspective.
2. Have a gourmet chocolates and beer tasting
Indulgence Chocolatiers not only makes beautiful chocolates, they know how to pair them with alcoholic beverages, cheese, and ice cream. There are three different locations and each one offers a different experience. At the main location in Walker’s Point, a chocolatier walks guests through chocolates paired with wine, craft beer, cheese, or whiskey. They also offer classes and themed nights, such as “Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter”. The hand crafted chocolates use locally sourced ingredients and of course, taste absolutely incredible. I guarantee you won’t want the tasting to end!
3. Attend a festival every weekend during the summer
Milwaukee is known as the “City of Festivals” and for good reason. Every weekend during the summer, a different cultural celebration is held at Henry W. Maier Festival Park along Lake Michigan. The biggest celebration of the summer is Summerfest at the end of June, an 11 day musical event. Bands from around the world gather to perform at the ten permanent stages at Festival Park. The rest of the summer features a different cultural festival each weekend. There’s Festa Italiana, Irish Fest, Bastille Days, Polish Fest, you name it. The people of Milwaukee love any excuse to celebrate with a festival!
4. Enjoy a cup of coffee while listening to a live band
88Nine Radio Milwaukee might be the coolest public radio station in the country. Not only do they focus on featuring local artists and new talent, they have a weekly community piece called MKE Stories. They broadcast interviews with community members who are making a difference in Milwaukee and inspiring listeners at the same time.
Located in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, 88Nine has paired with Stone Creek Coffee to open the collaborative space, Radio Milwaukee Cafe. The two co-share the space. Stone Creek operates a café and patio on the ground floor, serving coffee house fare during the day with wine/beer available in the afternoon. Adjacent to the food area is a garage space with roll up doors and performance space. 88Nine will have their guests perform on this stage, as well as conduct band interviews. The office space above is just as cool with a co-working floor plan and rooftop garden with city views. Such a great place to work and play!
5. Learn about the history of beer and partake in the booming brewery/distillery scene
Maybe this is expected since it is Milwaukee, but know that beer continues to rule this town. Start with a tour of Pabst Mansion near the Marquette University campus and learn about the Pabst family and the origins of one of the city’s original beer barons. It’s fascinating to see how wealthy the family was (they had an amazing art collection) and how they helped grow they city of Milwaukee with their beer production.
If historic home tours aren’t your speed, head over to Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. Visitors can tour the original 1880 Pabst brewery, learn about the history of the company, and enjoy samples along the way. Best Place is located within The Brewery, the former Pabst headquarters, which is currently being re-purposed as apartments, a hotel, and office space. Milwaukee loves to take old buildings and give them new life and this complex is no exception.
There are many other craft breweries worth a visit in the city. Some favorites include: City Lights Brewing Company, Lakefront Brewery, and Third Space Brewing. If beer isn’t your thing, head over to Great Lakes Distillery, Central Standard, or Twisted Path. You can’t go wrong with any of them!
6. Eat lunch while the butcher is hard at work in front of you
Bavette La Boucherie is a traditional butcher shop, but it is also a restaurant. Chef and owner Karen Bell is a Milwaukee native who wanted to create something for her community and she has done an amazing job. The James Beard nominee has created the perfect setting in the Third Ward. Outside is a beautiful patio space, and inside is more intimate with a handful of tables. There’s a butcher counter for ordering food to go and bar stools where you can watch meat and meals as they are prepared. The kitchen is completely open and in front of guests. The menu featuring salads, sandwiches, and small plates changes daily, but don’t worry, I guarantee you’ll love it all.
7. Do yoga in the Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is hard to miss with its massive Calatrava designed wings. Burke Brise Soleil, as the wings are called, is a moveable sunscreen with a span of 217 feet that opens and closes at various times of the day. It is beautiful to tour the museum and see their collections, but it is just as inspiring to see the wings as they move.
One fun thing to do in Milwaukee is to take a yoga class inside the museum under the wings. This class is offered once a month, but is worth it to see the views of Lake Michigan and the sunrise. Definitely something unique to Milwaukee!
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