By Kyana Moghadam
To get to the heart of the city, look no farther than the Milwaukee River. A walk along its bank will take you through three historic neighborhoods: the Beerline B, Old World Third, and Third Ward. The Beerline Trail—a route once used to transport beer into the city—winds down the east side of the river and past historic Brewers Hill. Today it is a running and biking trail.
Naturally, there’s no shortage of terrific breweries in this area. For a unique twist on the city’s brew culture, sign up for a bicycle pub crawl with Pedal Tavern.
Many of Milwaukee’s early settlers were German. Venture south through the Old World Third neighborhood for all things German. Here you’ll find the culture alive and well in the form of cheese, beer (try the Old German Beer Hall), and sausage brats. End your walk in the Third Ward. The industrial neighborhood-turned-art-and-cultural-center is the place to check out a gallery, shop your way through charming boutiques and name-brand shops, or simply get lost in the Milwaukee Public Market, a mecca for local produce and comestibles.
Head to Marcus Center for Performing Arts for the symphony, opera, ballet, or a Broadway show. The center houses a number of musical, dance, and theatrical companies, including the Hansberry-Sands Theatre—the oldest African American theater company in Wisconsin. If you visit in the summer, you’ll understand why Milwaukee is dubbed the “City of Festivals.” A typical season includes a celebration of African American, Mexican, Polish, Italian, Irish, and Indian heritages, to name several—plus the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is a must-see. The permanent collection is recognized for its abundance of German Expressionist, Haitian, folk, and post-1960 American art. Among the museum’s 30,000 pieces, you’ll spot work by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe. Perhaps the most popular work of art is the Quadracci Pavilion, opened in 2001. Designed by Spansh architect Santiago Calatrava, the dramatic, soaring, postmodern building is considered a feat of engineering, architecture, and sculpture.
Ready to dine? For a local experience, head to Braise, a farm-to-table restaurant and cooking school. The menu changes daily, and you can count on homemade bread and locally sourced ingredients. Go to Café Hollander, on the city’s upper east side, for regional American food—and order the Sconnie Burger for a true Wisconsin experience: Cheddar, fried pickles, and bacon on a pretzel bun, topped with cheese curds. Other great options are Palomino Bar and Honeypie in the Bay View neighborhood. The sibling restaurants are known for their baked goods and belly-warming brunch menus.
Milwaukee, though famous for its beer, has kept up with the fancy cocktail trend. Check out Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, where you order by flavor, color, strength, and texture, working with a skilled bartender. For old-school traditional, try the signature Bloody Mary at Sobelman’s Pub & Grill. In the mood to dance? Set aside a night to party at Hot Water & Wherehouse in Harbor View. DW