Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you.
What Milwaukee, Wisconsin is Known For & Famous For
This midwestern city, located on the shores of Lake Michigan between Green Bay and Chicago, is the 5th largest city in the region. Its size means that it is large enough to have plenty to offer without being a major metropolitan center like its neighbor Chicago. Its friendly residents, unique character, and unforgettable breweries make this city a must-see destination.
Milwaukee is known for its scenic river walk, beautiful lakefront access, historic buildings, nightlife options as well as several professional sports teams. The city is also known for its signature cheese curds as well as its legendary beer brewing culture.
In the rest of this article, we will take a closer look at all of Milwaukee’s iconic attractions. We will see its compelling natural features as well as its entertainment options and see in more detail the signature snacks and brews of the city.
Milwaukee has taken the time to carefully incorporate its natural resources into its vibrant city center. The city’s downtown has been well-developed to highlight and optimize the Milwaukee River that flows through the city center.
The River Walk
The River Walk, or a paved pedestrian area that follows the water, is a popular place to go for a walk, meet with friends or grab a bite to eat. As you stroll along, you can take in the views of the downtown buildings as well as the adorable duck statues that line the River Walk.
For some residents, the river makes a great place for boating, kayaking, and other water activities.
However, there is a bit of a sordid past with this river and industrial pollution, so adventuring out on the water is not for everyone. If staying on land is more your style, you can easily take a seat at a riverside bar or restaurant for a local brew or a bite to eat.
Another feature of the riverfront is the number of functional drawbridges you can catch in action, which lift up to allow larger ships to cruise through the river unobstructed. Sitting by the river and watching boats of all sizes float by is a great way to spend an afternoon in Milwaukee.
After enjoying a stroll along the Milwaukee River, you can head to the city’s lakefront.
The city designed this area with plenty of green space and parks to give residents a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in nature. You can sit in Veteran’s Park and enjoy the green grass, shady trees, and stunning lake views.
There are pedestrian bridges to easily gain access from the city’s downtown directly to the lakefront and its surrounding parks. A wide, paved pedestrian path runs parallel to the lakefront and is situated in lush, green park space.
This path is part of a bigger project known as the Oak Leaf Trail.
The trail, in its entirety, is 108 miles long (173.80 km) that connects many of the major parks in the area. The path is accessible to all, no matter your preferred activity.
Each day, residents can be seen walking, jogging, biking, roller skating, and generally enjoying this beautiful scenic trail.
Milwaukee has three nature domes to explore in Mitchell Park with three different climates.
- Floral Show Dome
- Desert Dome
- Tropical Dome
The park also offers a picnic and beer garden, hiking trails, and a golf course to keep visitors entertained all day.
Nightlife and Entertainment
After a day by the lake, this city is ready to entertain you through the evening. Milwaukee has plenty to offer when it comes to eating, drinking, and enjoyable nightlife. On the Lower East Side, Brady Street is a well-known destination in the city that has something for everyone.
The street itself has been well-preserved, with historic houses and buildings making it a beautiful place for a stroll. You can find many unique, local businesses in these historic buildings, giving the district a distinct style of its own.
The neighborhood itself has an interesting history that serves to make it a unique mix of influences today.
It was originally an immigrant destination in the late 1800s and later became a well-loved spot for hippies in the 1960s. Today, you can find one-of-a-kind restaurants and bars, boutique shops, coffee shops, and other neighborhood essentials, all within close proximity to each other.
Brady Street is located between the river at one end and the lakefront at the other.
No matter which way you wander down Brady Street, you will end up by one of Milwaukee’s signature bodies of water by the end of the day.
Water Street is another well known option when it comes to nightlife and entertainment, which is located right in the city’s downtown and is a lively place both day and night. You can find theaters, performing arts centers, bars, pubs, restaurants, and breweries located along this well-known strip.
If you’re interested in history, Milwaukee has a designated historic area that functions as an open-air museum. The city has placed informational signs in the area for guests to read about the area’s history and understand what they’re looking at as they walk down the street.
Milwaukee underwent a huge transition from an agricultural center to an industrial one in its early days. Signs of this transition can still be seen in the city’s historic district if you know where to look.
The Old Federal Building
On East Wisconsin Avenue, you can see the Old Federal Building. This historic building is an impressive, well-preserved structure that was once the city’s main post office.
You can try wandering in some of the grand hotels in this district as well. Many of these upscale hotels are situated inside stunning, historic buildings that have been carefully maintained and preserved.
Doors Open Milwaukee
For those interested in seeing Milwaukee’s old buildings up close and in more detail, there is the perfect annual event hosted by the Historic Milwaukee, Inc. Once a year, many of the private historic buildings in this area and around Milwaukee open their doors to the public in an effort to celebrate the architecture and history of the region.
This two-day event is called Doors Open Milwaukee and is a fantastic chance to see the interiors of homes, businesses, and other private residences.
For more information on Milwaukee’s history as well as a visual representation of what it used to look like, check out Milwaukee Then and Now here on Amazon.
Known For its German Influence and Culture
Milwaukee has a strong German heritage which can be seen in it’s food and beer options throughout the city.
Food Milwaukee is Known For: Cheese Curds and Frozen Custard
Of course, no discussion of Milwaukee is complete without discussing its famous daily snacks. There are two things that scream Milwaukee: cheese curds and frozen custard. Wisconsin is a dairy state, so it’s no surprise that the most quintessential Milwaukee snacks feature fresh, local dairy at their core.
Fried Cheese Curds Are a Wisconsin Favorite
For those unfamiliar, cheese curds are fresh chunks of curdled milk that are fried and served up hot. The way they are battered and fried depends on the place where you order them, and different spots in the city tend to have their own signature takes on this local favorite.
You can typically find these curds fried with breadcrumbs or beer-battered.
Ranch dressing is classically served on the side, but you can find other sauces that go well with these crispy, salty cheese bites. These signature bar snacks can be found in countless spots all over the city.
Milwaukee residents all have their own preference when it comes to the best in town, so it’s best to ask a local where you should try these little cheesy bites.
However, if you are in need of a solid recommendation, you can’t go wrong at Lakefront Brewery. This brewery has been around for decades and has won awards for the way they serve up this favorite snack.
You can taste these award-winning cheese curds that are lightly battered and fried to perfection in a classic Milwaukee brewery setting. Dip them in the side of the ranch and wash them down with a local Lakefront brew for the perfect Milwaukee culinary experience.
In addition to Milwaukee’s signature cheese curd culture, the city also has a serious frozen custard scene.
There are plenty of places that serve up this unique dessert, and you can custard-hop to try them all on a hot summer Wisconsin day. Frozen custard is similar to soft-serve ice cream, but it is made with eggs while traditional ice cream is not.
This added ingredient gives the custard a unique, different flavor and texture.
If you wander around the city, before long, you’ll come across a custard stand or storefront serving up this frozen treat. However, if you are looking for an experience that won’t disappoint, we have a recommendation just for you.
Leon’s Frozen Custard is one of the most quintessential places in the city to order up a bowl.
This Milwaukee institution has been around since it began as a humble stand in 1942 and still draws crowds today. The exterior of this storefront has retained its 1950s style and is the perfect place if you’re looking for the classic frozen custard experience.
While Culver’s started in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1984, they quickly spread all across Wisconsin and into Minnesota and Illinois. Milwaukee has several of these franchises, which also serve fried cheese curds and frozen custard.
In fact, they are well known for these delicacies and people flock here daily for these treats.
Harley Davidson Museum
This iconic American brand got its start in Milwaukee over a hundred years ago.
Today, the Harley Davidson Museum is an attraction for all kinds of visitors. It is beautifully situated on the Menomonee River and has over 20-acres (8.09 hectares) of land dedicated to celebrating the Harley Davidson brand and culture.
The museum offers a wide range of exhibits that are compelling even for guests who may not be big motorcycle fans (yet).
There is an extensive collection of motorcycles throughout the 20th century, and it is fascinating to see how these bikes have changed and evolved with time. The museum has interactive exhibits that will show you the inner workings of the bike.
These exhibits make engineering come to life for kids and adults alike.
Harley Davidson is more than just a company. It has become an iconic part of an American subculture. The museum also celebrates the culture that has come about through people’s love of their motorbikes.
The museum boasts an active calendar of events for visitors to see the bikes and the people who ride them come to life and put on a show.
Celebrated Brewing Culture
Throughout its history, Milwaukee has been the home to brewery giants like Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz, and Miller. Brewing beer is a huge part of the city’s identity and economy and continues today with large-scale production for MillerCoors as well as plenty of smaller craft breweries.
Ever since these brewing legends left Germany and settled in the United States, Milwaukee has adopted the German brewing and drinking culture and truly made it their own.
If you’re intrigued by the role of breweries in Milwaukee’s history, there are plenty of tours you can join to learn more. There are city-wide tours that will take you to historic beer-related spots throughout the city, as well as individual brewery tours.
All of these tours combine history, trivia, and, of course, some ice-cold samples of the famous brews.
Today, the craft brewery scene in Milwaukee is one of the best in the country. Enjoying a beer with friends is a huge part of the city’s social culture, and as such, there are plenty of places to choose from.
Traceable to its German roots, a classic Milwaukee lager is almost always on tap, no matter which bar you end up choosing for your night out. If you hear the term “lager life” thrown about, it refers to this laid-back, social drinking aspect of the culture in Milwaukee.
Professional Sports Teams
When it comes to sports teams, no other teams are as well-loved in the city as the Brewers and the Bucks.
The Brewers are a major league baseball team and get their name from the rich history of beer brewing in the region. The Bucks are an NBA team that gets their name from an antlered male deer, as can be seen in the team’s logo.
If you head over to the American Family Field, you can catch a Brewers home game, or you can catch the Bucks at the downtown Fiserv Forum.
Milwaukee is just right when it comes to mid-size American cities.
It is a city that is large enough to have its own signature look, history, and culture while still maintaining plenty of green space and accessibility for its residents and visitors. Its friendly people and delicious dairy snacks make it a loveable destination with plenty of unique things to do, no matter what you’re interested in.
If you’re planning a visit to Milwaukee be sure to check out these 111 places not to be missed!