Stuff to do in Milwaukee & environs

I’m going to be in Milwaukee for a week very soon for training. I was there for training last year about the same time, and wound up spending my evenings in my hotel room with movies and video games. This time around I might want to explore a bit - maybe see some live music, eat where those in the know eat, etc. I am married and intend to stay that way so I’m not looking for hook-up joints - just wholesome entertainment:cool:. So if any Milwaukee dopers have suggestions for evening activities in the area I’d appreciate it.

(I’ll be arriving on Feb 26th and I’m staying in Brookfield)

I don’t live there but have visited friends that do. We went to the Dells and I enjoyed the place though we had very little time to see much. Seems like it wasn’t too awfully far from town.

First off, there is nothing interesting to do in the suburb of Brookfield, unless you consider going to the Brookfield Square shopping mall interesting. So, go into Milwaukee.

  1. Tour the Miller Brewery. Yes, you get a free sample afterward. However, not as interesting as it used to be. They used to show you a lot of the manufacturing and storage process, but they gradually cut down on that out of fear of the competition. Most of the tour now involves watching a movie.

  2. Milwaukee Public Museum. Combines a natural history museum and a historical museum. Walk the streets of Old Milwaukee, and see dinosaurs on the next floor. There’s an IMAX theater attached that requires a separate admission.

  3. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, i.e., “The Domes”. A desert oasis, a tropical jungle, and special floral gardens, each under its own climate-controlled glass dome.

  4. Milwaukee Art Museum got national attention in 2001 for its new Quadracci Pavilion with its wingspread moving sun screen.

  5. Two of the finest German restaurants in America: Karl Ratzsch’s and Mader’s. Bring an ample appetite, because they honor the Teutonic god of Bulk.

  6. And the rest: Dennis Getto’s Top 30 Milwaukee Restaurants, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  7. Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

  8. The Pabst Theater.

  9. The Potawatomi Casino, an Indian-run casino right in downtown Milwaukee. Blood Sweat & Tears will be playing the Northern Lights Theater’s Mardi Gras show.

  10. Check out the Calendar of Events from the Greater Milwaukee Covention and Visitors Center.

Really, you don’t want to travel two hours each way to see the Wisconsin Dells in February. That’s off season, unless you want to visit indoor water parks.

Dude, you can’t do the Dells in February, can you?

But if you are open to outdoorsy stuff, there are some interesting things in the region. Baraboo is a hotbed of unique day-trip opportunities. The International Crane Foundation is a world famous center for the protection and breeding of giant cranes, like Whooping Cranes and Sandhill Cranes. Fascinating facilities. If you’re there the right time of year, you can help feed baby cranes with a mommy crane puppet!

Baraboo is also the home of the Circus World Museum, located at “the site of the original Ringling Bros. Circus Winter Quarters - a National Historic landmark.”

Most mandatorily important and if you miss don’t please don’t ever speak to me again, is the Dickeyville Grotto. The Dickeyville Grotto is one of those monuments to obsession and madness, like the Watts Towers in LA.

There’s also one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the House on the Rock.

And while you’re in Milwaukee don’t forget the Miller Brewery tour, the French-themed McDonalds, and Gertie the Duck.

Shopping (aside from the aforementioned Brookfield Square mall):

  1. Mayfair Mall, in Wauwatosa, not too far from you in Brookfield. Milwaukee’s best and most popular mall.

  2. The Grand Avenue, downtown Milwaukee, built around the Plankinton Arcade, an enclosed mall from the 1890s.

  3. The Milwaukee Public Market, the newest and perhaps yuppiest place to get foodstuffs. Just south of downtown Milwaukee.

Thanks **Walloon ** - that’s an excellent list with a lot of options. I’m particularly glad you recommended some German eateries too - last time I was there the one that all the hotel brochures was aiming the turistas at was closed for the winter (can’t recall the name, but it was a few miles west of Brookfield, just off the highway). In this case, my class is in Milwaukee, but I’m staying in Brookfield because I really liked the Hampton Inn there last time I was up.

The Dells looks interesting **Nic2004 ** - I was actually considering looking into some of the horseback riding, but if it’s a 2 hour ride it probably won’t be a realistic prospect for me unless my flight out gets cancelled and I’m there for Saturday too. My free time is going to consist of late afternoons and evenings. Which probably also will keep me away from the Gun Show they are advertising for the 2nd :frowning: Mrs. Vet’s probably happy about that though.

I pity the fool who drives 2 and 3/4 hours each way, all the way across the state, just to see the Dickeyville Grotto.

Not to second guess, Walloon, but if you have any taste whatsoever, skip the Miller Brewery tour and instead give yourself a treat and hit the Sprecher Brewery Tour. Although I’m certain it’s changed in the last decade, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, and tons better than the Miller tour. In addition to some of the finest ales and lagers, their root beer is to die for. Prosit!

Oh, and Frank Lloyd Wright had nothing to do with the House on the Rock. It happens to be in the same Wyoming Valley, on the Wisconsin River, where the architect’s home and studio Talieson is.

But Wright would have found the House on the Rock absurd.

That is officially on my to-do list!

This is one of my favorite quirky roadside attractions: The Orange Show

Dare I ask what “Gertie the Duck” is?

Gertie the Duck was a duck that nested on the side of the Wisconsin Avenue bridge in downtown Milwakee in the 1940s. For some reason, she caught on with the public and the press, who reported daily on the status of her eggs.

Why someone would mention that today is beyond me.

What? No love for Miwaukee’s Safe House?

Everyone should go there at least once…

Hamlet is probably right about Sprecher’s tour being more interesting than Miller’s.

Add to the shopping list:

  1. Old World 3rd Street, downtown Milwaukee. Includes the Milwaukee County Historical Society, The Spice House, Third Street Pier Restaurant, Edelweiss River Cruises, Cafe Vecchio Mondo, African Hut Restaurant, Usinger’s Sausage, and Mader’s German Restaurant.

You have any days open? You can see LOTR in Tolkien’s own handwriting.

The coolest thing I saw was the moon phase table on the back of an Oxford menu card.


This is really cool - I’ll bookmark the thread on my laptop and have my own travel guide :smiley:

Thanks for all the good tips.

I grew up in Milwaukee and lived there for 25 years. All my family still lives there.
Brookfield is just a suburb. The only thing there I’d consider a visit to is Kopp’s Frozen Custard for excellent jumbo burgers and the best frozen custard you’ll find in Milwaukee.
I’ve done the Miller Brewery, Sprecher Brewery, and even the Shlitz and Pabst which don’t exsist anymore. While Sprecher does make some great beers and sodas their tour is short and lame in my opinion. Miller actually is a huge factory and put some money and emphasis on a very nice tour.
While your there you can also check out Miller Stadium nearby. Even though there’s no game going on you can go inside to see the field, giftshop, and eat fieldside at a TGI Fridays that stays open year round.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is also really close to Brookfield and a lot of it is indoors (birds, primates, aquarium). An excellent zoo.
If your downtown and want to check out a really cool bar, take usar_jag’s recommendation and seek out The Safe House. It near the Performing Arts Center / City Hall / Pabst Theatre. Make sure you know the password to get in (I’m looking for a safe place) otherwise they’ll make you perform a wacky stunt to get in which bar patrons can watch on monitors. The doorman will be glad to open the secret bookcase for you. And don’t forget to use the phonebooth when leaving for a secret exit.
If you want more Brookfield dining ideas let me know. I used to work out there and went out to lunch often.

Because there’s a monument to her which you must visit.

Absolutely, and the reason I came in here to comment.

Apart from that, if you’re into games and gaming there’s Napoleon’s, one of the best gaming stores in the country.

Finally, if you like Italian food, look up Albanese’s. It’s about $8 for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and it’s some of the best you’ll ever get. I’ve been searching for a place like that anywhere in Mississippi and have yet to manage it.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but “I’m looking for a safe PLACE” will get your ass performing a stunt, won’t it?

-Joe, got to perform a topless hula with three friends one year