Milwaukee vacation

We are looking at maybe visiting Milwaukee for a few days this summer as a part of our vacation. We will be spending the bulk of our time in Chicago, which we have been to several times, but wanted to see a new city for a few days. Looking for advice on what there is to see while we are there. We wil be a group of 2 adults and 2 pre-teen kids. Trip will be in early August. We would also like to stay downtown so any help with good areas to stay in would be nice.

Thanks for any advice you have.

Two adults and two pre-teens, staying downtown…you should probably hit the Harley-Davidson Museum. I haven’t been there myself but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. You’ll also be near the Milwaukee Public Museum and the IMAX/planetarium, both worth stopping by to kill a few hours.

What are you thinking? You’ll be in my backyard (plus a few other dopers). By the way, don’t bother with The Safehouse.

thanks for the response. We like museums, zoos, amusement parks(been to Six Flags in Gurnee) and boat tours are always fun. Also love to check out local places to eat, especially pizza.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has some very nice special exhibits. Their regular collection isn’t much compared to the Chicago Art Institute, but is still interesting.

The Milwaukee Zoo is top notch. And there are a few wineries and beer-makers that have tours.

Pizza in Milwaukee proper is perhaps reconsidered…

If you want a real Milwaukee/Wisconsin dining experience, seek out a supper club.

Brandy old-fashions
relish trays
shrimp cocktails
Prime rib or steaks off the boiler (secret - the best duck I ever had was in a WI supper club)
fresh fish either broiled or expertly battered and fried
crispy pan fried potatoes

All in a setting that looks like you stepped back into the '60s

Do the Sprecher tour. Even if you don’t care for beer, the tour and sodas are worth it.

Agreed with passing on the Safehouse unless you are really into spy kitsch or want to dress up like your favorite Archer character.


The thing about The Safehouse isn’t even that, and I’ve said this in other threads like this, if you don’t know where it is, you’ll spend a half an hour just looking for it. Due to it’s spy theme it’s purposely very hidden. You go down an alley and into a single boring looking door with a different name on it. You don’t feel like you’re about to walk into a restaurant. I mean, if you really want to go, I can get you there, but plan on wasting a chunk of your visit trying to find it.
I really like the Milwaukee Art Museum but I think two pre-teens would be bored there. The Public museum is much more geared towards them.

We do have a good Zoo, but you’ll have to travel about 20 minutes out of downtown to get to it (I’d give you directions, but there’s a lot of construction right now and entrances are likely to change between now and then). If the weather is nice, it’s something to think about. There’s also a very small Zoo in Racine. Not nearly as nice, you can probably walk the entire thing in 30 minutes (as opposed to spending the day at the Milwaukee zoo). The Racine zoo is about 25 minutes south of Milwaukee. If you wanted to go there I would suggest hitting that on your way into Milwaukee or on your way back to Chicago.

Mitchell Park Conservatory (The Domes):

In early August the Wisconsin State Fair will be in full swing and isn’t far from downtown Milwaukee. If you go, be sure to have one of their popular cream puffs.

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Much appreciated.

If you have any interest in sports, Brewers tickets can usually be had pretty cheap. Very nice stadium. Unless you’ve set on a hotel, there are often Groupon deals for hotels in Milwaukee.

If you’re going down to Racine, I dunno if Johnson Wax still does tours, but their HQ building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is something to see. It’s completely useless as a modern office building (the stairway is only wide enough for one person at a time) but it’s an eye-pleaser. And the whole tower looks like a bottle of Raid.

Hey, also, if you’re driving up from Chicago to Milwaukee (or vice versa), you might stop at the Chicago Botanic Gardens – in Glencoe, actually, at northern edge of Lake County – for wonderful walks and exhibits, espesh in nice weather.

“Milwaukee Vacation” paints a mental image of a hot summer weekend grilling hot dogs, watching the ball game and drinking beer out of a can. :slight_smile:

Which helps the OP not at all… Ain’t never been there, they tell me it’s nice.

Here’s a couple of old threads about what to do in Milwaukee:

Alterra coffee is still around, but now goes by the name Colectivo.

Get some custard.

You gotta stop at The Brat Stop on the way up!

I have to disagree with the others on the Safe House… I had a blast when I went there. Remember, the OP will be a visitor and it is tons of fun the first time or two. If I was a local I’m sure I would be jaded but there is a good reason it has come up so often.

Since you said pre-teens my recommendations really won’t work, but the other thing I enjoyed was the brewery tour. Also, we stumbled upon a kite festival in a park that was lakeside that was amazing, but I have no idea of the timing for that or if it even still goes on. The Domes were also nice.

It has been several years but their used to be a good lakefront restaurant called Pieces of Eight… Google now appears to tell me it is now Harbor House. No idea if it is still good or not, but the view should still be nice.

Plus you can knock on seemingly any door in town and they will be somehow related to my wife and will be happy to give you a beer (at least that is the way it seemed when I was last there).

I’ll second this. Every time I visit my brother in Milwaukee I have to have custard at least once a day.

Not only are they still doing (free) tours, they have just opened the Research Tower to visitors:

Chicago Tribune story on the Research Tower tour:

Not sure what your dates are, but it sounds like you might manage to be there during IrishFest. Absolutely the best vacation I ever had was when my family was the honored clan at Milwaukee Irish Fest. I went up early for the cultural classes at the Universityand met some of the greatest Sean Nos singers in the world.

I’d love to go back. Every year I hope I’ll get to, but there’s always something else I need to do that week.

It’s not the thing to go for in Milwaukee, but I can’t pass through Milwaukee without stopping either at Zaffiro’s or Maria’s for pizza.

Zaffiro’s has been my usual stop for years, with their cracker-thin crust (it literally is pretty much like a cracker–might not even have yeast in it, for all I know), but my favorite over the last couple years has shifted to Maria’s. Look at a picture of their pizza. It’s a bizarre, oblong, sprawling mess of a pie that doesn’t even fit the tray it’s served in, but I’m absolutely addicted to it. Last time I was there, I liked it so much that I put it in my personal top three Midwestern thin crust pizzas (along with Vito & Nicks and Villa Nova here in Chicago and Berwyn, respectively.) The only reason I still end up visiting Zaffiro’s from time to time is they have a bar, while Maria’s has no alcohol on premises (and I don’t believe they allow any.)