Milwaukee, Wisconsin Weekend Getaway

Food, drinks, art, and more fun things to do in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a great place on a great lake and there are great reasons to visit in any season. And I’m not completely biased even though I was living in Milwaukee when I met Mr. TWS, a Wisconsin native. Here are some suggestions for things to do in Milwaukee, a city about 90 miles north of Chicago.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at Cathedral Square Park

When in Milwaukee …

Embrace winter (or whatever the season when you visit)

Catherine Sweeney walking along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during winter

Embracing winter along Lake Michigan

I actually like spending time in winter climates and have many fond memories that go back to my youth in the Chicago area. Does Mr. TWS enjoy winter? Not so much, but he loves Milwaukee and braced himself for walks down memory lane in the city where we met.

Walk along the lakefront at Veterans Park and McKinley Marina

Start at the McKinley Marina for a nice walk along Lake Michigan.

City view from the lakefront walk at Veterans Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

City view from the lakefront

It’s a very different scene in the summer when you’ll see boats of all kinds sailing out on Lake Michigan, but the exercise in the brisk winter air and views of the city — downtown (shown above) and East Side (shown below) — make a walk on the lakefront a fun activity.

East Side of Milwaukee seen from a walkway (Oak Leaf Trail) in Veteran's Park at McKinley Marina in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee’s East Side seen from path in Veteran’s Park at McKinley Marina

Walk in Lake Park

On a bluff above the lake is Lake Park (see map here) with paved winding paths perfect for strolls or jogging. Enjoy the day with locals walking their dogs or enjoying vistas of the lake from benches along the way. Look for the North Point Lighthouse (shown in the photo below).

Walking in Lake Park near the Light Station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A walk in Lake Park

Admire Milwaukee art

Milwaukee At Museum designed by architect Santiago Calatrava

Milwaukee Art Museum

There are many diverse art museums and galleries in Milwaukee. I’ll refer you to a previous post about Milwaukee art for information about a few must-see places. There are also public art paintings and sculptures to keep an eye open for as you go around the city.

Public art

This colorful and striking mural by ​renowned artist Shepard Fairey — “Voting Rights are Human Rights” — is located at 759 N. Milwaukee St.

"Voting Rights are Human Rights" mural in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Voting Rights are Human Rights” mural on downtown building

Art on the Riverwalk 

The "Bronze Fonz" on the Milwaukee Riverwalk

The “Bronze Fonz” on the Milwaukee Riverwalk

The Milwaukee Riverwalk that runs 20 blocks from north to south passing by numerous restaurants, bars, and shops also features permanent and temporary sculptures on both sides of the river. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the “Bronze Fonz” (shown above) depicting Henry Winkler as The Fonz of the Happy Days television series. Here’s a map to follow for the sculptures.

Cathedral Square Park

Cathedral Square park is one of my favorite areas of downtown Milwaukee. It is a lovely urban park with a small playground and art installations, surrounded by restaurants, offices, shops and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at night

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at Cathedral Square Park at night

St. John the Evangelist Cathedral

For many years, we’ve stepped into St. John the Evangelist Cathedral for a few minutes (usually when there were not services) to reflect and enjoy the peacefulness. On this visit, we happened to arrive just as a school choir was getting ready to sing before the mass began. We stayed a bit to hear the lovely voices.

Joshua Glover historical marker

Don’t miss the Wisconsin State Historical Marker at the corner of E. Kilbourn Ave. and N. Jackson St. commemorating Joshua Glover, a runaway slave from Missouri who sought freedom in Wisconsin in 1852. His apprehension (due to the Fugitive Slave Act), imprisonment in Milwaukee, and ultimate release by supporters aided abolitionist sentiment in the state and lead to the state supreme court saying that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional.

Joshua Glover memorial plaque in Cathedral Square Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Joshua Glover historical plaque at Cathedral Square Park

Hang out in the Third Ward

The Third Ward, a booming district south of downtown, has really become the place to be since our early days in Milwaukee. Redevelopment has transformed neglected buildings and warehouses along the Milwaukee River into upscale condos, an array of shops, galleries, restaurants, and a large public market.

Eat, drink, and be merry

It’s not just about brats and beer in Milwaukee. So mix up some classic fare with fine dining when you’re here. A few years ago, I took a Milwaukee food walking tour in the Brady Street area that will give you some ideas, too.

Where we wined and dined:

Oggie’s at Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St. —  We really enjoyed our meal at this restaurant in our hotel that features international chef-inspired takes on Midwestern dishes. Start with the garlic bread!

Dinner at Oggie's at Hotel Metro, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Mr. TWS with a nice wine at Oggie’s, Pan Roasted Walleye, Pork Schnitzel

Saint Kate, 139 East Kilbourn — This is an arts hotel with a bustling bar and restaurant with live music. We ordered Sweet Potato Pierogi and Caesar Salad from the bar menu while enjoying entertainment and the cool weekend scene.

Live entertainment at Saint Kate Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Live entertainment at Saint Kate

Saz’s State House, 5539 W State St. on the city’s west side — BBQ Baby Back Ribs and other hearty meat dishes are specialties. For our lunch, we kept it simpler with salads and their very popular mozzarella sticks (prepared in wonton wraps).

Elsa’s on the Park, 833 N Jefferson St — Elsa’s is a sentimental favorite of ours for drinks and delicious casual food options. My favorites are the All-American Grilled Cheese and the burgers. Mr. TWS likes the Ahi tuna salad. There are plenty of other choices, too. It’s a stylish place and art is a key element. On this visit shortly after Valentine’s Day, hearts were the art on the walls (as shown reflected below in geometric mirrors behind the bar).

Art hearts reflected in back bar mirror at Elsa's in the Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Art hearts reflected in back bar mirror at Elsa’s

The Harp Irish Pub, 113 E Juneau Ave. — In an area that is known for bars, it’s a great choice for Guinness and its location on the Milwaukee River. It’s especially a treat to sit outside in nice weather. It draws a younger crowd, but I think that everyone can feel comfortable here.

Catherine Sweeney drinking a Guinness at The Harp Irish pub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Enjoying a pint of Guinness at The Harp

Ma Fischer’s, 2214 N Farwell Ave. — Come here for a good, hearty, breakfast. It’s an old-time favorite of ours with a lively atmosphere and lots of locals.

The Brewery, 1101 N Water St. — Beer fans will love this place (wine choices aren’t the best), but their tasty food is also a draw. Mr. TWS was really impressed with his fish fry and I had a delicious burger on a perfectly-toasted bun. We were there on a quiet mid-afternoon, but there’s plenty of action here on game days and at night.

Fish fry at The Brewery on Water Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fish fry at the Brewery

Where we stayed:

Hotel Metro, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, 411 E. Mason St. — We both loved this hotel for the central location downtown, great service, spacious room, and onsite Oggie’s Restaurant.

More about Milwaukee:

I think that Milwaukee is a city for all seasons. There are many art, music, and theater venues such as the Performing Arts Center, Pabst Theater, and more; annual events like Summerfest and ethnic heritage festivals; restaurants and bars for everyone; major sports arenas; and plentiful outdoor recreation locations in the city and the environs for all types of weather activities.

PIN for later!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin weekend getaway activities

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2 thoughts on “Milwaukee, Wisconsin Weekend Getaway

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      It really is a great city. There’s something for everyone. The Milwaukee Art Museum you mention is an architectural gem by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.

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