You want to show your out-of-town guests what makes this place so special. Help them learn more about our city by suggesting some neighborhoods and spots to explore, either as a group or on their own before they head back home. For instance, a walk through Bronzeville or Historic Mitchell Street will uncover many hidden gems.
Stroll Bradford Beach or take in the breathtaking view from Atwater Park in Shorewood. Given our wealth of distinctive, independently owned restaurants, you could also arrange an indulgent culinary adventure.
Start with a little nosh at Allie Boy’s Bagelry & Luncheonette in Walker’s Point, grab a midday meal from the taqueria inside an El Rey market, transition to the night with a drink at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, then dinner at Old World-style Three Brothers followed by a frozen custard dessert at Leon’s.
Here are some more ideas for showing off our city.
If your guests have never been to the 414 before, there are some essential MKE activities to check off.
100 E. WELLS ST.
Let’s start with a bang. Milwaukee, if you didn’t know, has a life-size bronze statue of Henry Winkler as his classic “Happy Days” character, Fonzie. It’s strange, a little kitsch, and also the best thing ever. It’s a popular selfie destination, plus its right in the heart of Downtown, so you’re a short walk from plenty of restaurants, museums and other attractions.
If you’re at the Bronze Fonz, you’re right on top of this next attraction. The RiverWalk winds through three of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods – the Third Ward, Downtown and Beerline B, alongside the Milwaukee River. The 3.7-mile walk passes shops, galleries and restaurants, and you’ll get a good feel for the historic and revitalized neighborhoods.
700 N. ART MUSEUM DR.
This winged wonder is arguably the coolest building in the city. Built in 1997 and designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the lakeside museum is itself a work of art, and inside you can easily spend an afternoon wandering the galleries. But currently, it’s only open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursday).
524 S. LAYTON BLVD.
Another one of the city’s architectural high points, the Mitchell Park Domes are three conoidal glass domes protecting gardens. There’s the Show dome, the Tropical Dome and the Jungle Dome, each one maintaining the climate of the plants it houses. They are open to visitors every week from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
3536 W. FOND DU LAC AVE.
This hall in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, which was built in 2016, is home to 27 small businesses. There’s Lush Popcorn, offering delicious handcrafted popcorn (there are also liquor-infused options, FYI), plus delicious treats at Purple Door Ice Cream, and more savory options at Buffalo Boss, home to organic buffalo wings. There’s also a lineup of shops and boutiques in the space as well.
2230 N. FARWELL AVE.
This East Side theatre opened in 1927 and its ornate interior is fascinatingly unique. There’s even a pipe organ. Plus, the theatre just spent over a million dollars on a restoration that added new seats, lighting, a better sound system and more. It was impressive to begin with, but now it’s even better.
400 W. CANAL ST.
Milwaukee is the birthplace of the original gangster of motorcycles. Stop by the Harley-Davidson Museum to see how the iconic brand got its start. This week, you can check out two special exhibits – “Off-Road Harley-Davidson” and Building a Milwaukee Icon.” “Off-Road” explores the motorcycle company’s century-long history of gritty bikes that take on wild terrain, and “Building a Milwaukee Icon” explores a newly discovered trove of plans for the company’s original Juneau Avenue factory. That’s not to mention all the permanent exhibits like “The Harley-Davidson Journey,” which takes you through the company’s history, the “Build-a-Bike” interactive station, the motorcycle galleries, and the experience gallery, which lets you sit on and touch different bikes.
400 N. WATER ST.
Our city has many phenomenal dining options that this magazine has covered extensively. Check out the best burgers, pizza, brunch spots, food trucks and more. But if you’re looking for one stop with plenty of options (plus Milwaukee souvenirs and T-shirts), head to the Public Market, where multiple local vendors sell their wares at the border of the Third Ward and Downtown. Not to be too stereotypical, but if you’re looking for some Wisconsin cheese, there’s no better stop than the West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe.
1111 VEL R. PHILLIPS AVE.
Our championship-winning Bucks are at it again, and the new Deer District is still awesome. Even if you don’t want to stop for a game, you should still check out the neighborhood surrounding Fiserv Forum. It’s packed with places to eat and drink. There’s public art and murals all over the place, and the Forum itself is quite the sight.
Lake Michigan is one of Milwaukee’s greatest assets, and the city has plenty of beaches where you can enjoy it. Bradford Beach is one of the biggest and is often crowded. It has the best outdoor volleyball setups in town, plus space to lounge. South Shore Beach is in the trendy Bay View neighborhood south of Downtown. From here, you can get a great look at the city skyline, plus afterward you can explore Bay View’s hipster collection of quirky shops. And Grant Park Beach is the spot to choose for top-notch views, plus miles of woodland trails if you head inland.
10001 W. BLUEMOUND RD.
The County Zoo is a tried-and-true source of enjoyment. For guests young and old, the tigers, monkeys, creepy-crawlies and more at this local institution are captivating. The sprawling Adventure Africa area added a couple years ago, including more room for the elephants, makes for impressive viewing.
Impress your guests with some of our city’s best cuisine.
2650 N. DOWNER AVE.
Snag a liege-style waffle or egg sandwich along with your latte or cold brew.
2352 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE.
Seeing the Duck back to offering its creative, thoughtful menu is a cause for celebration – small-plate celebration. Indian-style beef shortrib stew and spring duck cassoulet are a few examples of what you can order. Dining is currently by reservation only.
735 E. CENTER ST.
Pair your foamy drink with a burger or fried chicken sandwich and a big chocolate chip cookie for dessert. And wear your stretchy pants.
1547 N. JACKSON ST.
This spot is unsurpassed when it comes to impeccable food. The global cuisine incorporates products from a long list of Wisconsin farms. The chefs prepare everything in-house, including butchering, preserving and canning. Elk, duck, fresh fish are all good choices. Dessert is compulsory.
2569 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE.
Get yourself some of this joint’s Friday breaded haddock with hand-cut fries, slaw, cornbread and tartar.
139 E. KILBOURN AVE.
For the record, broasted chicken, that quintessential Wisco creation, is fried inside a pressure cooker so it’s not only crispy, but super succulent. Aria’s rendition is one example from a menu of homey Midwestern-inspired dishes, including grilled Heritage Reserve flat-iron steak, seared Maple Leaf duck breast and others.
1751 N. FARWELL AVE.
Housed in an unlikely underground space, this little East Side venue turns simple Wisconsin farm ingredients into remarkable dishes.
6030 W. NORTH AVE., WAUWATOSA
Zak Baker’s handmade pastas are absolutely delicious. Stop by the pasta bar where diners can watch the kitchen staff roll and shape the pasta. Beyond table and banquette dining, the wine bar offers an extra handful of seats to enjoy various snacks and antipasti, skillfully prepared pastas and homemade dolci.
7484 W. STATE ST., WAUWATOSA
The spicy tuna here rarely disappoints, or you can go with something more elaborate like the shrimp tempura with avocado, spicy crab stick and spicy mayo (the Clumsy Bueno). This menu has so many good things, you have to take your time perusing it.
400 N. Water St.
Want to build a rad cheese and charcuterie plate? Try some of the state’s best foodstuffs? Make it happen at this Milwaukee Public Market outpost, where you can also get scrumptious fried cheese curds and made-to-order sandwiches.
839 S. SECOND ST.
Peggy Magister transformed her former Crazy Water into a modern tribute to the cuisines of Oaxaca, Puebla and Mexico City. The plates – created by head chef Emanuel Corona – are beautifully prepared, with dishes not easily found elsewhere (i.e., tacos with huitlacoche purée). They’re pushing the regional Mexican envelope here and maintaining sleeper status – but maybe not for long.
Milwaukee has a reputation for beer – and it’s well-earned – but Milwaukee also has a lively lineup of cocktails for connoisseurs to enjoy.
2599 S. LOGAN AVE.
There’s cool, and then there’s effortless cool. Burnhearts is the latter – not to mention cozy and intimate. The killer and curated tap list goes without saying. This essential Milwaukee bar is everything you want a bar to be.
Milwaukee has a robust and varied scene of craft breweries, with few duds among the bunch, though we do have some favorites. Third Space Brewing has one of the city’s best top-to-bottom beer lineups, a cool but no-frills taproom and great outdoor patio. Vennture Brew‘s model of being a neighborhood brewery and coffee shop allows you to grab a beer at any time of day, in a swell taproom on bustling North Avenue, burgeoning with shops and restaurants. And for the hopheads, a visit to Eagle Park Brewing (with locations on the East Side and in suburban Muskego) is a must. Their embrace of hype styles like hazy and milkshake IPAs, smoothie beers and overfruited sours coexists with a solid lineup of more traditional beers and even house-made spirits.
1579 S. NINTH ST.
The storied lounge – MKE’s oldest, an octogenarian – where the menu is all in the bartenders’ heads. If the drink exists, they can make it. The cozy booths and vintage McIntosh audio system help conjure up the olden-days feel. Truly bucket list-worthy.
1800 N. ARLINGTON PL.
Perfect light – in volume, color and distribution – can make a bar great. Jamo’s photic equivalent of a Sinatra croon is created by strings of jumbo Christmas-style bulbs, bright enough to barely illuminate a compact scene of retro decor and art, bar dice and rail cocktails.
615 E. BRADY ST.
This awesome arcade bar has tons of classic and contemporary video games, a dozen pinball machines and even console games like N64 Mario Kart. And while you won’t miss a Bucks game, Up-Down uses some of its screens to show classic ’80s and ’90s movies, too. Add in great beer selection and what’s not to like? We like going on Thursdays, when all games are just one thin dime to play. Now that’s #value!
If your guests are looking to take a souvenir home with them, stop by one of these local stores.
MARANTA PLANT SHOP, 1739 N. DOCTOR M.L.K. JR. DR.
Pick one up a brightly colored, tropical beauty from the newish Maranta, which stocks houseplants in a variety of shapes and sizes. The knowledgeable sales staff can help you find one you won’t immediately kill.
ALIVE AND FINE, 2652 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE.
You’ll find a great variety of vintage dresses and concert tees at this Bay View boutique.
FINE ARTS BY NICOLE
Really wow someone by surprising them with a custom portrait, courtesy of a local painter who accepts commissions, like Nicole Bobholz.
SHOO, 241 N. BROADWAY
Goodbye slippers. Hello impractical but beautiful going-out shoes! The Third Ward stalwart Shoo carries fun and funky heels by designers like John Fluevog and United Nude, plus slightly more staid but no less stylish oxfords by Naot.
Milwaukee is home to many awesome vintage boutiques. After doing pop-ups across the Midwest for years, Bandit opened a brick-and-mortar shop last June. Founders Elizabeth Kiesling, Michelle Eigenberger and Nichole Larson stock the shelves with clothes, eyewear and accessories from the mid-20th century up to the early 2000s. Dupree’s opening was a welcome bit of good news during the awful early pandemic months. Owners Natalie Gajewski and Jo Donner’s lineup of affordable threads pop with colorful options evoking the unmistakable styles of decades past. And Serpentine Salvage, a new addition to Bay View’s lineup of quirky stores, sells clothes, accessories and unique homeware like ceramic cats, and Hawaiian tiki glasses dating to the 1930s.