Milwaukee skyline and Lake Michigan

Milwaukee’s skyline is perched on Lake Michigan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Long Weekend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Chances are you’ve had (or have heard of) a beer brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One of the most prolific beer cities in the Midwest, there is no shortage of hops…and brewery tours. But the city is steeped in history, from the centuries-old warehouses of the Historic Third Ward neighborhood to Burnham Block, which is home to a collection of American System-Built Homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Get ready! A trip to Milwaukee comes with its own soundtrack, Midwestern flavors and Lake Michigan views.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore the Historic Third Ward

Milwaukee river walk
Stroll along the river in downtown. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your day on the outskirts of the Historic Third Ward neighborhood with brunch at Café Benelux — the menu is crammed with fare inspired by the dishes of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and they have an impressive array of Bloody Marys.

You’re staying in the area for the day, so if you have a car, find a good parking spot and leave it be: This neighborhood is incredibly walkable. In fact, you’re walking over to Broadway Street first, which is home to many of the area’s shops. If you’re looking for suggestions, try Sneex, Lela, Mod Gen and Gallery MKE.

The Milwaukee Public Market is on the docket for your afternoon. The best part? You can get a real taste of the Midwest at this food hall, which features a slew of vendors selling their goods.

Don’t leave without buying some sea salt caramels from Kehr’s Candies, tasting a “Honey Bee Latte” from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. or, if you’ve worked up an appetite, ordering a spicy Italian sandwich from On the Bus. There are plenty of spots to load up on souvenirs in this space, so stay awhile.

Wisconsin is no stranger to niche museums, and when in the Historic Third Ward, you’re close to one of the quirkiest: the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame & Museum. Here, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of bobbleheads and learn loads about these bouncy toys’ impact on American history.

For dinner, seek out a table at the Wicked Hop, a restaurant known for its fish fry and live music acts most nights of the week. They’ve also got some great beer options, but that’s a given when in Milwaukee. Finish your night at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, the city’s oldest cocktail bar (it opened its doors in 1938).

Saturday: Stroll the Botanical Garden With a Side Order of Frank Lloyd Wright

Since you’ve spent the past two days in the heart of Milwaukee’s creative and nightlife communities, you’re going to get a quieter vibe for the morning and afternoon of your second day in town.

Start with breakfast at Sweetdiner, a morning favorite in the Historic Third Ward. Try the Wisconsin omelet for a bit of regional flavor (pork sausage, cheddar-breaded cheese curds, onions and green peppers).

From here, you’re heading out of the downtown limits for the morning — specifically to the Boerner Botanical Gardens, a respite from the big-city sounds. There are 12 formal gardens to explore, and you can even book a guided tour if you’re visiting between May and September.

Your afternoon kicks off in the Harbor View neighborhood of Milwaukee at Don’s, a speakeasy-style restaurant and bar located behind a TV repair shop storefront that serves up brunch fare until 2 p.m. You can’t go wrong with a smash burger and a boozy milkshake.

Walk off lunch and surround yourself with work by Wisconsin’s favorite architect: Frank Lloyd Wright. Burnham Block is a part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, which weaves through nine counties in southern Wisconsin.

Here, you can book a guided tour — only available on Saturdays, so get a ticket early, because they fill up! — and step inside two homes designed by the architect: a Model B1 and a Two-Family, Flat “C”.

Variety of cheeses on a board
Sample some delectable cheeses. (Photo: Getty Images)

After your trip back in time, hop in the car and find your way to the hip Bay View neighborhood. Settle into the cozy vibes at Odd Duck, a restaurant focused on shareable small plates and locally sourced ingredients. The cheese and charcuterie boards are extensive, so kick off your meal with a selection and go from there.

If you’re in the mood for a movie, check out the Avalon Atmospheric Theater, a cinema housed in a restored Mediterranean Revival building. (It was also the first theater in Wisconsin built to play movies with sound!) Next, shuffle into At Random, a Tiki bar that’s also known for its throwback ice-cream drinks.

Sunday: Get Lost in Art (and Milwaukee’s Brewing Scene)

Milwaukee Art Museum during a sunny day
Stop by the Milwaukee Art Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Breakfast is waiting for you at Stella Van Buren, a restaurant nestled into the Westin Milwaukee in the East Town neighborhood. The upscale Italian eatery has all of the morning essentials, but the lemon ricotta pancakes come highly recommended.

From here, you’re heading downtown to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a stunning building designed by Santiago Calatrava to look like a bird expanding its wings.

The exterior is only the beginning — the interior atrium offers panoramic views of the city and water, setting the tone for the art to come. Inside, explore 32,000 works spanning regional talents and greats like Kara Walker, Kandinsky, Picasso and Degas.

Once you’ve seen your fill, grab a seat at the nearby Harbor House for lunch and a post-museum drink. The restaurant is located on a piece of land that juts into Lake Michigan, with great views of the water and surrounding city. This upscale spot specializes in seafood, so don’t sleep on the roasted oysters or shrimp cocktail.

If you’re up for more museum time after lunch, check out the Harley-Davidson Museum, which brings to life the manufacturer’s 100-year history.

Don’t worry: You don’t need to be a brand loyalist to appreciate the memorabilia. The museum walks through the company’s lifespan, starting with its humble beginnings as a dream between its founders. Plus, it’s the only place you can check out a very special rhinestone-covered bike from 1973.

If another museum doesn’t sound like the afternoon activity you’re after, set off for the Walker’s Point neighborhood, a quick drive south from Harbor House. Here you’ll find some great breweries (and beer flights).

Check out MobCraft Beer Brewery & Taproom. This brewery pulls its unique flavor combinations (think: “Blue Stone Crush,” with blueberry, vanilla and mango) from crowdsourcing, and the labels are wonderfully illustrative. It’s a wild card, but a really good one.

Your search for the best beer continues at the Best Place, a bar within the Historic Pabst Brewery. When you need a break from drinking, you can sign up for a tour of the place, where you can learn just how much this brewery helped shape the community and culture of the city.

Tonight’s dinner is at Company Brewing — which is not just another spot for more beer. This bar/restaurant also features a live music space, the ideal place to kick off your night of barhopping.

On that note, head to the Riverwest neighborhood for your (potential) final stop of the night: Bremen Café. Chances are, you’ll find more live music at this local favorite. Another thing you’ll see? Pinball machines.

If you’re looking for another stop, check out Art Bar. There’s a lot of art on the walls to browse while you sip — and close down your weekend in Milwaukee.