Having been born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I admit that I may be somewhat biased, but I strongly believe that Milwaukee is one of the most underrated cities in the United States. The city too often gets overshadowed by it’s larger neighbor 90 minutes south, Chicago. But, it shouldn’t. Milwaukee is a historic, fun-filled city (particularly during the warmer months). Never considered a trip to the land of beer and cheese? Well, allow me to convince you.
Here’s 5 Reasons to go to Milwaukee:
1. Beer, Beer, and More Beer.
This one is a no-brainer and is often one of the first things that come to mind when people think of Milwaukee. If you are a beer fan, Brew City does not disappoint. If you’re simply looking for an establishment to enjoy a frosty pint, you won’t have to look far. After all, in Milwaukee, you’re almost three times more likely to come across a bar than a grocery store. (Personally, I think the rest of the USA should catch up – priorities, people). That said, one of the many fantastic reasons you should visit Milwaukee is that you have your pick of a plethora of breweries that you can visit, tour and taste!
You could start with Milwaukee’s flagship, Miller Brewery and move on to Sprecher Brewery, Milwaukee Brewing Company and the newer Brenner Brewery. And then, things start to get weird (in an awesome, delicious kind of way)… My personal favorite is Lakefront Brewery. For this particular tour, bring your sense of humor and singing voice because you’re sure to end up belting out the theme song to Laverne & Shirley at the top of your lungs before the tour’s end. Aside from the witty, super entertaining tour guides, who doesn’t love a brewery tour that comes with a mid-point pint refill?
If you’re still thirsty and feeling adventurous, check out newcomer Tornado Brewery in Cudahy. Tornado’s owner has 31 ever-changing, extremely unique food-inspired brews on tap. How do flavors like pistachio kolsch, turtle sundae ale and mustard seed lager sound? (Well, most of them are pretty delicious). Are you brave enough to try a sauerkraut beer? (Admittedly, this one I could have passed on, but if you can get past the smell, it’s actually a pretty decent tasting beer).
Not a huge beer fan? Don’t worry – Milwaukee embraces all alcoholic beverage preferences. Check out the Great Lakes Distillery where you can sample small batch spirits instead.
2. Indulge in Delightful Ethnic Food.
Milwaukee is a city of immigrants and an immense amount of ethnic pride is reflected in the city’s cuisine choices. Dine on German wiener schnitzel at Mader’s, a Milwaukee institution that has been around over 110 years and has served Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Ford, as well as celebrities like Katy Perry, Kanye West and Tim McGraw. If Polish sausage and pierogis are more your style, you can’t find more authentic cuisine than at Polonez (a restaurant I’ve frequented since I was a child). Another long standing Milwaukee favorite is Old Town Serbian Gourmet House which has been serving up generous portions of cheese burek, cevapcici (Serbian sausage), raznjici (kabobs), and stuffed cabbage for nearly 50 years. Can’t make the trip to Ireland any time soon? Try County Clare Irish Inn and Pub instead. Just like in Ireland, this establishment serves food and drink, but is also an adorable B&B. Or, grab a table at the intimate Tenuta’s or Milwaukee mainstay Ristorante Bartolotta for homemade pasta and authentic Italian fare.
If you’ve gotten your fill of ethnic eats (although, with so many fantastic options, I’m not sure how you could) and want to explore more of Milwaukee’s eclectic and thriving culinary scene, click here for more on where to eat in Milwaukee.
3. Experience Milwaukee’s Waterfronts.
Situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee’s scenic lakefront is bustling during the warmer months. On a sunny day head to Bradford Beach to work on your tan, play beach volleyball, toss a frisbee or fly a kite. Or, head to McKinley Marina where you can rent skates, a bike or a jet ski. If you fancy a day out on the water but all this activeness sounds exhausting to you, fear not, Milwaukee is also home to “booze cruise” operators such as Milwaukee Boat Line.
But, Milwaukee is more than just a great city on a great lake (see, what they did there?). The city is also home to the Milwaukee River and the aptly named Milwaukee Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a two mile pedestrian walkway throughout downtown bordering the river and passing by art installations, restaurants and bars.
You could easily spend a pleasant afternoon walking or jogging the Riverwalk, or strolling from bar to bar (my favorites being The Harp, Milwaukee Ale House and trendy, Water Buffalo) while enjoying the weather and views. The Riverwalk is also home to somewhat controversial “Bronz Fonz” – a bronze statue of Fonzie from the TV show “Happy Days.”
4. Explore the City’s Architecture, History and Culture.
When people think of Milwaukee they don’t typically think of history and culture… but the city offers fantastic cultural attractions. One of the most well-known attractions for tourists and locals alike is the Milwaukee Art Museum. Housing more than 30,000 pieces, the building itself is a work of art, designed by the famed Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. This addition to the MAM has a wing-like sunscreen that opens and closes depending on the wind-speed coming off of Lake Michigan.
Speaking of moving architecture, why not cheer on the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park – a baseball stadium with a retractable roof! (As an added bonus, no one knows how to throw a tailgate better than Wisconsinites). Or, if you’d like to stick with the museum route, the Harley Davidson Museum is a crowd pleaser. Milwaukee also has a vibrant theatre scene – you can catch live shows at the Milwaukee Theatre, The Rep, Next Act or the historic Pabst Theater. Are you a history buff? Jump on the Explore Milwaukee Bus Tour to learn about the city’s colorful past. However, If your ideal Milwaukee history tour includes beer, check out the Historic Bar Tour instead.
5. Celebrate Music, Culture, Beer (or even Pugs) at one of Milwaukee’s Many Festivals.
Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals, and once temperatures start to rise there is ALWAYS something going on. The most famous festival in town is Summerfest, which is touted as the world’s largest music festival. Consider this: 11 days, 11 stages, over 800 acts and 900,000 of your closest friends. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? (And, it is). Not to mention, a general admission ticket to Summerfest won’t even set you back $20. I’ve already mentioned the city’s ethnic pride, but it certainly doesn’t stop with restaurants. Consider checking out Polish Fest, one of America’s largest Polish themed festivals (having been “crowned” first runner-up in the Miss Polish Fest Pageant back in my college days, I can personally vouch for this one), Bastille Days to celebrate French culture and the storming of the Bastille, or don your lederhosen and bring your beer stein to German Fest. It’s also a fair assumption that Milwaukee has beer festivals such as the Firkin Craft Beer Festival.
Looking for something a bit quirkier? How does 1,800+ smushy-faced dogs dressed in costumes and competing in a talent competition sound? Over the past decade, Milwaukee Pug Fest has become the world’s largest festival dedicated to… (you guessed it) pugs. (Now, if Pug Fest doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will).
Related posts: 3 Things to do in Milwaukee When It’s Cold Outside and The Best Restaurants in Milwaukee.
So, are you sold? Would you like to visit Milwaukee?
If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments section or by sharing it with the social media links. You can also follow Flirting with the Globe on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram if you’re not already!
CC image credits from Flickr: Miller Brewery Tour by NekaPearl, Mader’s Floating Room by Richie Diesterheft, Milwaukee Skyline from the Lake Express by Lake Express, untitled by d76, Santiago Calatrava Milwaukee Art Museum by clarkmaxwell, Miller Park Panorama by Bryce Edwards, Summerfest 2007 – From Above by -EMR-, pug photo courtesy of Milwaukee Pug Fest.