The best Milwaukee visits start at its heart, downtown along the Milwaukee River. Steps away from the city’s best museums, breweries, and sights, downtown Milwaukee is the perfect location to base yourself to maximize your explorations, especially if you only have a day in the city. After a day indulging in hearty Midwestern fare and experiencing its world-class museums and events, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to extend your visit a little longer.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so prioritize accordingly with a fully loaded Bloody Mary at East Town Kitchen & Bar. This breakfast cocktail is a Wisconsin staple, especially when served with cheese curds, a beef stick, pickles, and heaps of horseradish.
Walk down by the lakefront and visit a museum
Just a 15-minute walk from the Milwaukee River will bring you to the shores of Lake Michigan. Visit one of Milwaukee’s excellent museums, like the Milwaukee Art Museum or Discovery World science museum. Even if you don’t visit the full museum, be sure to check out the exterior of the Milwaukee Art Museum and its main entrance interior, which are guaranteed to amaze visitors with its unique architecture and lake views. Outside of neighboring Discovery World, visitors can enjoy a small sculpture garden and musical benches that can be played like a xylophone.
Lunch at Milwaukee Public Market
Walk west along East Clybourn Street and then cut south before you get to the Milwaukee River for a bite to eat at the Milwaukee Public Market in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood. Choose from any of the wide array of vendors and stalls in this indoor food court and marketplace, or sample bites from several. Alternatively, if it’s a Milwaukee Brewers gameday, head to Major Goolsby’s for fried pub fare, Wisconsin beers on draft, and a glimpse into Wisconsin sports fandom.
Take a tour of a local brewery
Once you have a good base in your stomach, it’s time to embrace Brew City’s tipsy side. Visit Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery for a tour of the original headquarters of what was once the world’s largest brewery. Sample a rotating list of brews at the Captain Pabst Pilot House. A pint is included in the $10 tours, and you can keep the glass as a souvenir. Afterward, stop at Milwaukee Brewing Company for a beer-in-hand tour of its modern facility, all within the grounds of the original Pabst empire.
Indulge in local dishes for a hearty dinner
At this point you’ll need to refuel, so stop for dinner at Glass + Griddle, which shares space with Milwaukee Brewing Company. Don’t miss the pretzel or cheese curds for an appetizer. Alternatively, walk the beer off with a short stroll back toward the Milwaukee River and enjoy a truly Wisconsin meal at the Milwaukee Brat House. If you want to go all-in on Milwaukee’s German heritage, don’t miss the Old German Beer Hall, where lederhosen-clad waiters serve hearty Old World fare.
Enjoy a bar crawl
Start your nighttime adventure at the spy-themed Safe House, where you can drink, dance, and play in a pseudo-Soviet-Era speakeasy. Afterward, make your way to Water Street for Milwaukee’s most popular nightlife destinations. For dancing and live music, Trinity Three Irish Pubs and Red Rock Saloon are both great options.