This year Milwaukee, yes Milwaukee, made it to the top of my places to go list! There are many reasons I was interested in visiting Chicago’s cool little sister. Milwaukee has a burgeoning culinary scene, world-class breweries, charming neighborhoods, and an incredible lakefront. Best of all, it’s easy to get to.
I grew up going to Milwaukee for two reasons: field trips to the museum (and yes I did once do “night at the museum”) or shopping at Mayfair mall. As I got older I never really experienced this vibrant Milwaukee’s vibrant scene since Chicago was just as easy to visit. This past weekend I became reacquainted with Milwaukee, and I cannot wait to plan a trip back. Milwaukee is like that friend you had in high school that you lost touch with. When you meet again you question why you haven’t been friends all along. Everything about this weekend was lovely: the friendly down to earth people, the food (at half the price of Chicago), charming neighborhoods, and the unpretentious bar scene.
Now that you're sold, here is what you should consider when planning your trip. The first thing I recommend is to get in the loop with festivals and events in Milwaukee. Milwaukee hosts hundreds of exciting events each year. From world famous Summerfest to the lesser-known Garlic Fest, Milwaukee has something for everyone. To coordinate your visit with your festival of choice check out Visit Milwaukee’s comprehensive calendar of events.
One of the highlights of my trip to Milwaukee was the food. Milwaukee is much more than beer, brats, and cheese. In addition to trying the traditional food, there are so many new and exciting restaurants to check out. For Wisconsin classics I love Kopps for burgers & custard, St. Paul Fish Company for Friday night fish fry, and Old German Beer Hall for German food. If you’re looking to try something exotic & fun eat at Movida for cocktails and tapas (their Paella is to die for), Bavette is great for wine & charcuterie, and Birch + Butcher has a wonderful globally-inspired brunch.
One thing you cannot leave Milwaukee without doing is a brewery tour. There are a ton of great options in the city and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. To pick the tour that’s best suited for you check out this great guide.
When I travel I love to set aside time to get lost and explore new neighborhoods. One of the highlights of my trip was wandering around the Historic Third Ward. The Third Ward is dotted with charming shops, cafes, and great views of the river. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of local and independently owned businesses in Milwaukee. It was a breath of fresh air from the big name and chain stores that occupy many of the Chicago neighborhoods. A couple of favorite shops I had the pleasure of stumbling upon are Cream City Restoration (mid-century furniture) and Mod Gen (aka plant Heaven). The next stops on my Milwaukee neighborhood list are Bay View and Walker’s Point - stay tuned for tips!
Milwaukee is a city that will surprise you. This may be the optimist in me, but I believe that in five years Milwaukee will be one of the top “bucket list” destinations for US travelers. I was blown away by how much the city has changed since I stopped by, and I am anxious to see what new additions it will have on my next visit.