Doors Open Milwaukee to showcase over 170 sites with free entry, guided tours

Eighth annual event takes place Sept. 22 and 23

Grain Exchange building; photo credit Gary D. Koch

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:22 pm

Grain Exchange building; photo credit Gary D. Koch

Doors Open Milwaukee returns this weekend for its eighth year, featuring 171 buildings and landmarks throughout the city that are free to enter and open to the public.

The two-day event, taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 and 23, is put on annually by local nonprofit Historic Milwaukee Inc. It allows the public to explore the city’s various historic landmarks, religious spaces, art galleries, entertainment venues, museums and prominent buildings.

This year, 38 new attractions have been added to the list. Among them are the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee Inc., a 102-year-old Harbor View building formerly used as a railroad station; Carma Laboratories Inc., the distribution center of Carmex; and the historic Tower Theater & Mobile Design Box in Avenues West.

Last year’s event attracted 26,000 visitors, and numbers this year are expected to be greater than that, said Grace Fuhr, director of special events at Historic Milwaukee.

“We hope that through Doors Open, we are educating people about Milwaukee and encouraging people to visit neighborhoods that they may not otherwise would have gone to,” said Grace Fuhr, director of special events at Historic Milwaukee.

Some locations offer free guided tours, while others let visitors explore for themselves. Annual crowd favorites include the 41st floor observation deck of the U.S. Bank building and the U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building.

Returning for its second year is the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons, with access to its top floor. Last year, only its lobby was open for the event.

Fuhr said Doors Open this year will “spotlight” Historic Mitchell Street, featuring new art gallery Real Tinsel and the revitalized Mitchell Street Library. It will also spotlight Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, with tours of the Historic Garfield Apartments and a look inside the new America’s Black Holocaust Museum, set to reopen this fall.

Doors Open will also highlight various sites in Oak Creek as part of the town’s Sneak Peak Oak Creek event on Saturday. One of them is the PPG paint manufacturing plant.

For those looking for a more in-depth experience, Historic Milwaukee offers guided tours led by local experts and leaders. For up to $10, you could go behind the scenes at Miller Brewing Co., bike your way through the Riverworks district, tour the Harley-Davidson Museum, or walk the halls of the Knickerbocker on the Lake hotel with actor John McGivern, among other excursions.

Based on 2017 survey results, Fuhr said, 89 percent of attendees who took the survey agreed that Doors Open makes them feel proud to be a Milwaukeean.

Last year, Doors Open Milwaukee was ranked number four on the list of highest attended open house-style events in the world. Chicago, London and Toronto were the top three.

Find more event information and a complete list of Doors Open Milwaukee sites at

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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