Southeastern Wisconsin has a rich quality of life and many of the same amenities that can be found in larger cities like Chicago. Yes, Milwaukee has a symphony, a ballet, two operas, Major League Baseball and an NBA team. From James Beard-winning chefs to one-of-a-kind museums, the city of festivals is sure to impress.
If you’re seeking award-winning eats, look no further than Milwaukee’s restaurant scene.
There are more than 150 restaurants just in downtown Milwaukee, 75 percent of which are locally-owned. And there are 11 James Beard Award-nominated chefs in town, three of whom have won: Sandy D’Amato and Justin Aprahamian of Sanford on Milwaukee’s East Side, and Adam Siegel of Lake Park Bistro on the Upper East Side.
“Milwaukee is very famous for its restaurant-supported agriculture program; that is due in no small part to Chef Dave Swanson at Braise,” said Kristin Settle, director of communications at VISIT Milwaukee.
The supper club is a proud Wisconsin tradition, and you’ll find several are destination dining. The Hob Nob, located between Racine and Kenosha, a perfect example, has been serving up prime rib, Friday fish fry and brandy Old Fashioned, overlooking Lake Michigan since 1954.
And while you’re tasting around town, you may want to check out Milwaukee’s famed breweries.
Tour the MillerCoors brewery in the Miller Valley, or check out one of many microbreweries, like Lakefront Brewery in Brewers Hill, Milwaukee Brewing Co. in Walker’s Point or Sprecher Brewing Co., which also makes its own sodas, in Glendale.
“Every town in America can say that they have a craft brewing scene and Milwaukee’s is extremely strong, but we’re the only ones who own the history, too,” Settle said.
Milwaukee also makes its own spirits at two distilleries: Central Standard Craft Distillery and Great Lakes Distillery, both in Walker’s Point.
There are 17 museums in Milwaukee County, including the world’s only museum dedicated to Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the only museum on the planet that actually moves three times a day—the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable, wing-like sunscreen that has a wingspan comparable to that of a Boeing 747.
There’s a children’s museum, a natural history museum and a science museum with an aquarium.
“Those are just incredible icons that are recognized the world over and we’re really fortunate to have them here,” Settle said.
Kenosha has a public museum, a Civil War museum and a dinosaur museum. Racine has an art museum.
Milwaukee County also has 25 theaters, which host everything from Broadway smash hit Hamilton (coming next season at the Marcus Center) to original ballets choreographed by Michael Pink at the Milwaukee Ballet. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is currently raising funds to buy and renovate a historic downtown movie theater for its new performance space.
There’s not one, but two operas, as well as several dance companies and theater groups, including a children’s theater.
Take a walk in the desert or the rainforest at the Mitchell Park Domes, or see lions and tigers and bears at the Milwaukee County Zoo
“We’ve got one of the best zoos in the area,” Settle said. “We’re the only zoo in like a four-hour radius to have elephants.”
The Milwaukee Film Festival, celebrating its 10th year, is larger than Chicago’s film festival.
“We are extremely fortunate to have all of those cultural assets for a city of our size,” Settle said.
Milwaukee is known as the city of festivals for a reason. It plays host to Summerfest, the World’s Largest Music Festival, a 10-day music and food extravaganza at Henry Maier Festival Park on the lakefront.
When Summerfest isn’t going on, the festival grounds play host to several ethnic festivals, from Irish Fest to Mexican Fiesta.
The Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis had more than 1 million attendees in 2017.
And there’s plenty of other festivals around the area celebrating everything from strawberries to beer.
“Milwaukee is home to over 30 festivals, and those are not limited to the summer. It’s a year-round thing,” Settle said.
Harley-Davidson Motor Co. is based here, so the company hosts its major anniversary bashes here every five years. See thousands of riders roar through town on hogs made right here in Cream City.
Wisconsin takes its sports seriously, and several professional teams make their home in Milwaukee.
Tailgating at a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park is an experience not to be missed on a sunny summer day.
Both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Marquette men’s basketball team will play in the soon-to-open new downtown arena, which will also soon have a live block full of entertainment destinations around it.
Also playing downtown are the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men’s basketball team, the Milwaukee Wave, part of the Major Arena Soccer League, and the Milwaukee Admirals, an American Hockey League team.
Just two hours north of Milwaukee is the legendary Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Residents are not just fans of the Packers—they own the team. And the new Titletown District surrounding the stadium offers a sledding hill and games for kids, as well as a brewery and hotel.
There are 75 golf courses within a one-hour drive of Milwaukee, some of which host major golf tournaments. Erin Hills recently held the U.S. Open, and Whistling Straits hosted the 2015 PGA Championship. The 2020 Ryder Cup will also be played at Whistling Straits.
In Milwaukee County alone, there are 150 state and county parks and 130 miles of bike trails, many of them sweeping over the hills and valleys formed by glaciers thousands of years ago.
“Whether you’re walking, biking, hiking, Milwaukee has it,” Settle said.
If you’d prefer to take it easier and relax with a drink by the water, Milwaukee County has about 1,400 acres of beachfront access on beautiful Lake Michigan.
“Chicago’s wonderful, but they’ve developed their lakefront and we haven’t. We’ve kept it protected as public space – miles and miles of public beaches. Everybody has access to our lakefront,” Settle said.
If you yearn to get out on the water, there are riverboat tours or kayaking on the Milwaukee River through downtown and pontoon boats can be rented to venture out onto at least nine area lakes, many which are popular fishing destinations. Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Port Washington and Sheboygan all have substantial marinas on Lake Michigan.
Southeastern Wisconsin has many other great qualities to recommend it. We invite you to come see for yourself.
“It’s not a challenge to sell Milwaukee to anybody,” Settle said. “Milwaukee is one of the easiest places, I think, to promote to people because of the quantity and quality of our attractions.”