Wisconsin's largest city, Milwaukee is a city of subtle charms - offering a constant stream of festivals, museums that can compete with anywhere else in America and some of the finest beer in the world.
Find out how Coors is produced at the Miller Brewery or take organized tours of local craft breweries like Lakefront, Brenner and Sprecher and, if you're in town in July, don't miss the Brewfest in McKinley Park.
If you want to avoid a hangover, Milwaukee is just as appealing. Downtown Milwaukee is home to cultural institutions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Brewers always welcome baseball fans to Miller Park, and the city has an exciting range of restaurants. Dine on the best bratwurst outside Germany at Usinger's or anything from gourmet pizza to tacos throughout the rest of the city - it's all there in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is America's capital of beer, being the birthplace of Pabst and Miller. Visitors can tour Miller's modern facilities, but it's much more fun to tour the city's craft breweries and taprooms, discovering what the most recent generation of producers is creating.
Milwaukee is a city of festivals. For a city of 600,000 people, it hosts a remarkable variety of events, from the massive Summerfest indie music festival to brewing events, the raucous German Fest, a lively Mexican Fiesta and the Arab World Fest. There's always something going on.
Milwaukee's lakefront location is another major plus. Not only is the lakefront district home to Lakefront Brewery, it also includes Veteran's Park, where you can rent boats, fly kites and take advantage of bicycle rental schemes.
Milwaukee is home to a dazzling array of museums and galleries, punching well above its weight i the culture stakes. The Betty Brinn Children's Museum is a must-see for families, the Milwaukee Art Museum has an eye-catching design and houses a great collection of masterpieces, while the Harley-Davidson Museum is dedicated to an American icon.
If you love German sausages, Milwaukee is the place to go. The bratwurst at Usinger's are out of this world, but there's more available than German fare. Try out great pizza restaurants like Zaffiro's or luxury options like Sanford, one of the most highly rated eateries in the country.
Marvel at 125 years of breathtaking global antiquities housed in three contemporary structures. The Milwaukee Art Museum's collections include the archives of Milwaukee's first art gallery in 1888. Wander the museum floors and gaze at the plethora of antiquities to contemporary art in over 40 galleries. Peruse the breathtaking European 15th-20th-century paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, photographs, and folk art on display. If you are a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe, you'll appreciate the massive collection housed in the museum. Amongst the museum's acquisition are Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Winslow Homer, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. Visit the War Memorial Center, a cruciform structure floating on a pedestal. Inside, stroll the halls of the art museums and visit the memorial court designed with an indoor pool. Walk over to the Quadracci Pavilion, and marvel at the Brise Soleil, a wind-shaped sunscreen with two ultrasonic wind sensors that maintain the wings spinning when winds are below 23 mph. At the Cudahy Gardens, revel at the series of ten hedgerows and a streamed water fountain that allocate the garden into ten askew lawns.
Designed by Donald L. Grieb, a Milwaukee architect, the horticultural conservatory houses five, 140-foot conoidal glass domes supported by a concrete frame and aluminum guttering. Five times a year, the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory's Show Dome modifies its display to focus on new historical, cultural, or fantasy themes. Each Fall, the conservatory offers two tours that vary in subject. During the month of August, attend Art in the Green and appreciate the local art showcased for sale inside the Conservatory Annex. The celebration includes food and a night of entertainment.
For an amazing and exhilarating adventure, take the H-D Museum Dream Experiences tour for a three-night deluxe stay at the Iron Horse Hotel and a behind-the-scenes VIP package that includes access to the museum archives, the motorcycle storage area, a trip to Harley-Davidson Motor Company's headquarters, and lunch at the Motor Bar & Restaurant with Bill Davidson, the museum's VP. If you are a Harley Davidson enthusiast, you'll love the Custom Culture exhibit showcasing the Elvis Bike, Rhinestone Harley, and the famous King Kong.
Nicknamed, "Grande Olde Lady", the Pabst Theater is Milwaukee's oldest playhouse, and the fourth-oldest in the United States that's still in operation. Built in 1895, its European design was inspired by Germany's grand theaters. Throughout the year, the Pabst houses live performances with amazing sound. Enjoy a live concert amidst the marvelous historic architecture.
Milwaukeeans love their baseball almost as much as they love their beer, so be sure to check out this ballpark for the best of both these worlds. Take the 90-105 minute MVP Tour for an exclusive view of the Milwaukee Brewer's historic ballpark, named after its sponsor, Miller Brewing Company. Stroll the Media Interview Room and Batting Cages. Visit the dugout, clubhouse, press box and Bob Uecker's famous broadcast booth.
Summer is a great time to visit Milwaukee. The lakefront is at its most inviting, temperatures soar into the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit and major events like Summerfest take place. A trip in June or July would be ideal, but spring and fall are almost as appealing. For most people, the bitter winters won't be as attractive. Then again, winter brings some unique attractions, like the chance to ride dog sleds at McKinley Marina and wooden toboggan runs at Lowell Park.
Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport is around 9 miles south of the city center, and there are a number of ways to get into town. Milwaukee County Transit System buses run almost 24 hours a day (with a short break in the middle of the night) and cost just $2.25. Alternatively, Go Airport Shuttles cost $12 to reach Downtown, while taxis cost around $30.
Milwaukee's Downtown Amtrak station is served by two Amtrak services - the Hiawatha to Chicago and the Empire Builder, which travels from Seattle to Chicago.
If you are coming from Chicago, I-94 is the road to take, which also connects Milwaukee with the rest of the eastern USA. I-43 is handy for those coming from Green Bay or Canada, while those coming from the Pacific Northwest can reach Milwaukee via I-80.
Milwaukee has superb bus connections to other parts of Wisconsin and the USA. Most buses stop at the Intermodal Station, which is served by companies like Greyhound, Jefferson Lines and Badger Coaches. Both Greyhound and Megabus offer cheap intercity connections to cities like Chicago, St Louis, and New York.
Downtown is the best place to look for accommodation in Milwaukee, and there's no shortage of luxury options, including the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Hotel Metro. The Hampton Inn is a good mid-range option, while Manderley is an affordable bed and breakfast close to the center of town. But if you really want to splash out, go for the Pfister Hotel, a regular place to spot VIPs and an architectural landmark in its own right.
The Historic Third Ward – Also known as SoHo, this central neighborhood is one of Milwaukee's most creative districts. The Milwaukee Public Market is in the area, which is a great place to shop for groceries and souvenirs while Gallery Night and Day takes place four times a year and sees the area turned into an artistic festival.
East Town – Milwaukee's business center, East Town still manages to retain an intimate, welcoming atmosphere and it's an excellent place to stay. One of the best things about the area are the many festivals that it hosts, from Jazz in the Park to the Parisian-themed Bastille Days held every summer.
East Side – Located north of East Town, the East Side is very different but no less appealing. Home to thousands of students, this lakefront neighborhood has some great bars and clubs, including the Eastsider and Points East, excellent restaurants like Tess as well as the Milwaukee Museum Mile - a collection of five different museums dealing with subjects as diverse as Jewish life, lighthouses and modern art.
Milwaukee's public transit is provided by the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), which charges a basic fare of $2.25 and $4 for day passes. If you just want to get around the Downtown area and the East Side, you don't need to look any further. In the summer, there's also a free "Tourist Trolley", so look out to see whether it is running during your visit. Bublr also runs a bike rental scheme from several Downtown locations, and charges $3 for half an hour.
Taxis in Milwaukee tend to cost $2.75 for the basic charge, then $2.50 every mile after that. You can save money by traveling with Uber, which costs $1.25 for the meter drop, then $1.10 for every subsequent mile.
Getting around Milwaukee by car is relatively simple. Streets cut through the city from north to south and increase in number westwards as you move away from the lake. The majority of parking in Downtown Milwaukee is metered, and costs vary considerably from as little as $0.25 per hour to $1.50. Drivers also need to request parking permission from the City for overnight stays, but most hotels should offer on-site parking.
The biggest city center mall in Milwaukee is Grand Avenue Mall, where you'll find everything from T.J. Maxx outlet stores to men's apparel stores like Nova and J Bees and jewelry vendors like Precision Jewelry. If you need a book, head to Renaissance Books on Plankinton Street, which has over 1 million titles in stock. Sky High is the city's best skate shop while if you want to purchase a locally made Harley Davidson motorbike, the dealership on W Silver Spring Road is the place to go.
If you want to stock up on Wisconsin cheddar or other cheese from the area, get down to the Milwaukee Public Market - the best place to buy upmarket and locally made food products. For general grocery shopping, check out supermarkets like Sendik's (a locally owned chain) or major names like Aldi, Walmart or Publix. Food prices tend to be quite cheap in the city, with a gallon of milk costing $3 and a pound of apples around $2.30.
Milwaukee has a diverse dining scene, with a particularly large number of German-influenced eateries. Try out the bratwurst at the Vanguard or Usinger's, and check out cheeses from the Public Market as well. There are excellent Mexican restaurants like Conejito's Place, reliable and great value pizza joints like Zaffiro's and upmarket eateries like the pasta specialists Mimma's Cafe and Sanford - the city's highest rated restaurant in the Zagat dining guide. Expect to pay $15-20 for a good medium-range meal and more than $30 at high-end places.