“What are things to do in Milwaukee?” is a popular question I get asked as a Milwaukee native. Though Wisconsin is known for its winters, beer, and baseball, many assume we are always freezing or that we live on farms. For Milwaukeeans in the city, and the surrounding areas, we enjoy summers around the city.
But even as someone born and raised on the north side, I had little knowledge of what tourists do in Milwaukee. After summer adventures from the south side to downtown and back, I have a better idea. Let me show why Milwaukee should be on your summer U.S. city list.
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Festivals on festivals
Henry Maier Festival Park holds bigger events such as Summerfest, PrideFest, Black Arts Fest, German Fest, Festa Italiana, Mexican Fiesta, Indian Summer, and other culture-based festivals. These can cost anywhere from $12 to $21 to enter. Yet, they are sure to be a fun time full of food, drinks, performances, and culture!
Additionally, Milwaukee street festivals are found all over the city, all summer long. They celebrate various pockets of the communities you can see across the city. Some of them include Juneteenth, Bastille Days, Summer Soulstice, Center Street Daze Festival, Brady Street Fest, Bronzeville Cultural & Arts Festival, and Locust Street Festival. From May to September, there are festivals almost every weekend. This makes festivals a must-do on your list of things to do in Milwaukee.
A tasting at Central Standard Craft Distillery
Website: The Central Standard
For those who enjoy alcohol tastings such as beer and wine tours, a distillery tasting may be the experience for you. Central Standard Craft Distillery is a newish distillery that got me, a die-hard wine-lover, to consider trying bourbon! Founded by three individuals from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska, this relaxed tasting is an outing to be done with friends or solo (just no kids ok?). You try about 5 or 6 alcohol beverages, including gin, bourbon, vodka, and whiskey. You also receive a drinking glass with the company’s name at the end of the tour! Enjoy it, document it for the memories, and bring snacks to eat in between.
Go shopping at the local farmers markets
Like summer festivals, farmer’s markets are popular things to do in Milwaukee. This is a great way for tourists to support local growers, makers, and businesses all in one space. Notable markets to visit are Shorewood Farmers Market on Sundays, Alice’s Garden Artisan Market (with free yoga) on Tuesday nights, Westtown Farmers Market on Wednesdays, and Fondy’s Farmers Market on Saturdays. At any of these, you can find prepared food or fresh food to eat. You can also find herbal body products, jewelry, popsicles, and more. There are so many around the Milwaukee area that you are bound to find what you need!
Ride with the MKE Boat Line
Website: MKE Boat
One of the highlights of this summer was my experience with MKE Boat Line! A good friend and I went to their Happy Hour Sight-Seeing Tour and loved it. It’s about $25 with two drinks included. I don’t think this is a bad deal at all, especially since the tour is 1.5 hours. You get to ride through Lake Michigan and pass some of Milwaukee’s best attractions such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, the lakefront, and downtown restaurants. As a local, I’m personally upset with myself for not knowing about this sooner…
Joke around (with a beer) at a Lakefront Brewery Tour
Website: Lakefront Brewery
Located along the Milwaukee River, Lakefront Brewery Tour is one of the most recommended things to do in Milwaukee. A combination of Lakefront Brewery overview, and a bunch of corny yet funny humor from a tour guide, Lakefront is a fun little time. Using your 4 tokens, you can try 4 beers that are included in the $12 price tag. The tour lasts 45 minutes with a free beer glass at the end. Lakefront Brewery also has full meals you can pick from too! After the tour, you can buy and enjoy a meal off their menu to eat along the river. You can further find them at Summerfest and other festivals in the city too!
A night out at the NEWaukee Night Market
Another thing to do in Milwaukee is the NEWaukee Night Market. Farmers markets in general are some of my favorite places to hang out in the summer, but this one is unique because it takes place at night from 5 to 10pm. It is also one Wednesday per month from June to September! With music DJ’d by True Skool Inc., food trucks from all over the city, local vendors selling their handmade products, and a cool summer breeze drifting in as the sun goes down, NEWaukee is a staple for things to do in Milwaukee. Grab your friends and go downtown to explore some of the liveliest nights in the city. I highly recommend the lobster macaroni and cheese from The Capital Grille for one of your meals at the market.
Become a beer historian with the Best Place Historic Pabst Brewery
Website: Best Place Milwaukee
There are many options for Milwaukee brewery tours, but this one is a little different. Pabst, more commonly known for their beer name PBR, is one of the oldest beer companies in the city. Unlike a general tour of their facility, Pabst is a historic tour and walks you through the creation of the company to what it is today. You can enjoy the 45-minute tour and two tall glasses of beer or cider on a Sunday afternoon during their happy hour tour. These beers are tall and can be very filling if you are not a beer drinker! The other tours throughout the week include one drink token, but guarantee lots of history and laughs.
Hop on a bus for Milwaukee Food & City Tours: Tacos and Tequila Tour
Website: Milwaukee Food & City Tours
The name enticed me, the food kept me engaged, and the tour did not disappoint. Unbeknownst to people outside of Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, we have a very large Spanish-speaking and Mexican population on our south side. Thus, what I loved most about this tour, was the emphasis on knowing some of history and culture in the area. For the price you ride the bus (no drinking and driving), go to three restaurants and try a dish and margarita, and a dessert at the end. I also loved how the tour included all locally-owned and family-owned Mexican restaurants. I was even introduced to restaurants I had never been to before, but will be going back when I can.
Check out more food experiences I’ve had on my travels!
Summers in Milwaukee are underrated and I only touched the surface. What I’ve learned is that travel is relative. You don’t need to go across the ocean to go anywhere exotic to travel. You don’t need to book a cheap flight abroad for an adventure, but if you do I’ve got you covered. Living a city, that is also your hometown, can mean exploring around your own backyard. Head to Wisconsin and explore these fun things to do in Milwaukee on your own to find out more!
Thanks for reading! Pin to remember it for more things to do in Milwaukee!