From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin, which is perched on Lake Michigan's western shore. With well over half a million residents calling it home, the city is a main cultural and economic center within the region. Milwaukee is perhaps most famous for its numerous breweries and rich brewing past, as well as for hosting Summerfest, the largest music festival in the world, prompting Vogue Magazine to name it "The Coolest City in the Midwest". High praise indeed!
The name "Milwaukee" comes from an Algonquian word meaning "good", "beautiful" and "pleasant land", and it ain’t wrong! This city is filled with picturesque parks, award-winning restaurants, a thriving arts and cultural scene, and intriguing attractions the whole family will love.
Ready to discover the best of Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Milwaukee experiences cold and snowy winters, and warm, humid summers, making it the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors. Thankfully, there are numerous state parks on your doorstep to do just that. Here are our favorites!
It’s not often that you find a state park near the heart of the city, but this is exactly where Lakeshore State Park lies. With its 360 degrees of water views and island feel, Lakeshore State Park is popular among locals and travelers alike. It’s an urban oasis offering a small beach and accessible paved trails, as well as great views of the city and Lake Michigan.
A 40-minute drive south-west of the city center will bring you to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. Once designated to be a jet fighter base, the area has now been protected for generations to enjoy. Here, you can partake in recreational activities such as biking, boating, paddling, camping, fishing, hiking, winter activities, and more.
Further west of the Richard Bong State Recreation Area is Big Foot Beach State Park. It’s situated on the scenic Lake Geneva, providing plenty of water activities such as boating, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Additional recreational activities here include hiking, biking, bird watching, and winter activities.
Less than a 40-minute drive north of Milwaukee is the Harrington Beach State Park, which features more than a mile of beach along Lake Michigan. Along with sunbathing and swimming, you can also enjoy activities here such as camping, picnicking, hiking, bird watching, or fishing.
A little further west and more inland from Harrington Beach is Kettle Moraine State Forest, a large state park featuring over 125 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and snowshoeing. You can also swim at three beaches, camp at one of the 350 campsites, or visit the Ice Age Visitor Center, which is open all year.
If you’re still looking to explore more of Milwaukee by foot, then perhaps a hike in or outside of the city is in order? These trails don’t just offer magnificent views and natural scenery, but are also the most popular walks within the area.
Located right near the city is the Oak Leaf River Trail, a popular 30.7 kilometer out and back trail that’s great for all skill levels. It passes by multiple lakes and is partially paved, making it great for biking too. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must have a leash.
Another trail located right near Milwaukee is the Hank Aaron State Trail, a 10.8 kilometer moderately trafficked point-to-point trail that is paved and follows an old railway grade. While its popular for walking and biking in the warmer months, the trail is also widely used in winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Milwaukee is home to a vibrant and thriving dining scene, offering exquisitely prepared meals and award-winning service. Here are just some of our favorite picks!
What could be nicer than sitting by the shore of Lake Michigan and enjoying a delicious seafood lunch or dinner? Harbor House is a bright, spacious New England-style seafood restaurant specializing in fresh oysters, selling more than 10,000 each month. On Sundays, you can enjoy a buffet-style brunch, which is also popular among locals.
Rodizio Grill is a Brazilian Steakhouse, serving mouth-watering meat dishes, as well as other traditional favorites. With a festive atmosphere, regular events, and revolving specials, the restaurant is a go-to for those wanting to enjoy a hearty, delicious, and casual meal with their friends or family.
Fancy enjoying a night out at this local saloon and eatery? Swinging Door Exchange features old world charm and focuses on made-to-order, fresh cuisine. Their menu offers everything you could want, whether it’s seafood, salads, soups, or sandwiches, as well as meat, share plates, and ever-changing specials.
Located in East Side, Ardent offers a unique and intimate dining experience for all, blending the earthy with the contemporary. Its dishes use simple ingredients done exceptionally well, with each plate celebrating the natural beauty of the food it heroes. Don’t just take our word for it though! It was ranked the number one Best Restaurant in Milwaukee by Journal Sentinel.
The well-knownFive O’Clock Steakhouse has been a family-owned and independently operated Milwaukee supper club since 1946. It specializes in serving the finest steaks and seafood, along with fine wines and delectable cocktails. Plus, they are home to the Alley Cat Lounge, offering the best free live music, classic cocktails, and a 1940’s retro-lounge ambiance.
After a hike around the area and a stomach full of delicious food, there’s no doubt you’re wondering: what should we do now? Don’t fret, as there are plenty of fun things to do in Milwaukee to suit any occasion.
Looking for some fun things to do within the city that will keep the kids or teenagers entertained? You’ve come to the right place!
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is the perfect place to take younger children for a day of educational play. It features interactive exhibits and engaging educational programs that promote the development of early literacy, beginning math and science concepts, and problem-solving, physical and social skills.
No visit to Milwaukee is complete without a trip to the popular Milwaukee Public Museum. Here, you’ll find exhibitions, educational programs, collections, and research celebrating our world's natural and cultural diversity. Both kids and adults will love it!
What should you do in Milwaukee once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
The Potawatomi Hotel and Casino is the Midwest’s number one entertainment destination. Along with being a popular casino, this place also has seven unique dining options to choose from, including authentic sushi, casual American fare, Italian, steak, and so much more.
In Downtown Milwaukee, you’ll find the beautiful RiverWalk, which is a 20-block pedestrian promenade along the Milwaukee River. While a stroll along here at night offers the beautiful sights of twinkling city lights, the place also features many events, festivals, and other entertainment throughout the year.
Want to hit the town without it costing you a small fortune? Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Milwaukee “on the cheap”.
Milwaukee is known as being home to the Harley Davidson Museum, so whether you live in the area or are passing through, it’s a must-see. At the museum, you will find motorcycles and artifacts that tell the story of the Motor Company’s rich history and heritage, plus be able to partake in tours, enjoy great food and drink, and treat yourself to something unique in the gift shop.
Often, a day out at the zoo with your family can turn into a costly experience, but not at the Milwaukee County Zoo, where non-residents can purchase a ticket for just $16.75 or less. There are more than 2,100 animals representing 354 species here, so trust us, there’s plenty to keep you entertained!
If you’re hoping to not even spend a dime while exploring the city, then you’re in luck. There are plenty of fun, family-friendly, and fantastic things to do in Milwaukee – all of which are completely free.
The Milwaukee Art Museum was Milwaukee’s first art gallery back in 1888. Today, it serves as one of the most popular art museums in the whole state and is home to over 30,000 works of art. The Museum also includes the War Memorial Center, the Kahler Building, and the Quadracci Pavilion, offering a full day of fantastic attractions.
At the time it was completed, the Basilica of St. Josephat was just the third basilica in the United States. This impressive basilica is known for its incredible architecture, as well as its stunning stained-glass windows. You can take a free tour of the basilica, as well as visit the visitor center, which is open Monday through Saturday, 9:00am to 4:00pm.
If this long list of activities within Milwaukee has tired you out, then perhaps a visit to a local spa is in order? Enjoy a facial, massage, or just some seriously good relaxation at these amazing spas in the city.
If you fancy treating yourself to a massage, Neroli Salon and Spa is a local favorite. They have a long list of massages available to choose from, and each service combines specific techniques and aromas to assure tension release, circulation enhancement, relaxation, and overall wellness.
Urbaine Oasis was born from a desire to provide a one-stop-shop for clients, allowing them to have all of their health and beauty needs taken care of under the one roof. This popular spa boutique offers relaxing and rejuvenating services such as facials, body wraps, body scrubs, and more.
Looking to hit the gym in Milwaukee, or perhaps a relaxing yoga session is more your thing? It doesn’t matter what your mind and body is craving, this spectacular city has the perfect place on offer.
The Wisconsin Athletic Club is the largest privately-owned athletic club in Wisconsin, offering personal training and nutrition programs to 750+ complimentary group fitness classes every week. Thanks to their on-site pools, there’s also a wide variety of water classes, providing a low-impact yet high-intensity workout for the entire body.
Milwaukee Power Yoga is Milwaukee's first yoga studio dedicated to Hot Vinyasa Flow. Their classes combine heat, music, breath, and movement for a challenging and invigorating experience. It’s the perfect way to end your Milwaukee adventure, or even just a day exploring the city.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Milwaukee without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Under an hour’s drive from the city is Old World Wisconsin, an open-air, 576-acre museum set in the 19th century. This is a great place for both children and adults, as it features 65 historic pioneer-era buildings to mimic the homelands of the first settlers to set foot in the area. Staff walk around in historical clothing and re-enact the early lives of settlers from Germany, Norway, Finland, and Denmark.
The huge city of Chicago is just an hour-and-a-half-drive from Milwaukee, making it the perfect day trip for those wishing to cross the border into Illinois. Check out Chicago’s iconic lakefront, Navy Pier, visit Millennium Park, or conquer your fear of heights at the Skydeck, among so much more.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Milwaukee that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Milwaukee? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.