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Top 10 Free Things to do in Milwaukee

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Exploring "Brew City" on a Budget

helicopter-view of the city of Milwaukee

Milwaukee, fondly known as "Brew City," is a vibrant destination filled with culture, flavor, and stunning vistas. Despite its reputation for craft beer and delicious cheese curds, you can explore the best this Midwestern gem has to offer without breaking the bank. From scenic parks to world-class art, Milwaukee boasts numerous free attractions. Whether you're a local or a visitor, these budget-friendly options will let you experience Milwaukee's unique charm. Here's a list of the top 10 free things to do in Milwaukee.


1) Milwaukee Art Museum

beautiful architecture of Milwaukee art museum

While there's an admission fee to enter the museum, the iconic Quadracci Pavilion designed by Santiago Calatrava is a must-see architectural masterpiece. You can enjoy the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan from the museum's front entrance for free. Inside, it houses an extensive collection of art spanning from ancient to contemporary, featuring works from renowned artists across the globe. The museum's breathtaking architecture, with its signature "wings" that open and close, is a must-see attraction in Milwaukee. Whether you're an art enthusiast or simply seeking a stunning backdrop for a lakeside stroll, the Milwaukee Art Museum offers a captivating blend of art, architecture, and natural beauty.

2) Lakefront Promenade

pretty view of a lake

The Lakefront Promenade in Milwaukee is a picturesque pathway along the stunning shores of Lake Michigan. This scenic destination offers visitors a leisurely stroll or bike ride with breathtaking views of the vast lake, the city's skyline, and the iconic Milwaukee Art Museum. Lined with green spaces, parks, and recreational areas, it's a perfect spot for relaxation, outdoor activities, or simply soaking in the natural beauty of the lakefront. The Lakefront Promenade is where locals and tourists alike come to unwind, exercise, and connect with the serene and refreshing essence of Milwaukee's lakeshore.

3) Hank Aaron State Trail

a hiking trail with a bridge

The Hank Aaron State Trail is a beloved urban escape in Milwaukee that pays tribute to baseball legend Hank Aaron. This scenic trail spans over 12 miles, winding through the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. As you walk, bike, or jog along this historic route, you'll enjoy lush greenery, picturesque river views, and access to various parks and attractions, including the historic Valley Passage. The Hank Aaron State Trail is more than just a pathway; it's a celebration of nature, history, and the enduring legacy of one of baseball's greatest players. It invites you to explore Milwaukee's outdoors while honoring a true American icon.

4) Milwaukee County Parks

Milwaukee boasts a network of fantastic parks, many of which offer free activities like hiking, picnicking, and enjoying the great outdoors.

a forest park with a wooden bridge

Grant Park: Grant Park, nestled on Lake Michigan's shores just south of Milwaukee, offers a tranquil blend of nature and recreation. Explore wooded trails, relax on sandy beaches, and enjoy lake views. It's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a peaceful escape from city life.

Washington Park: Washington Park, in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood, is a 135-acre urban oasis with a lagoon, walking paths, and gardens. Ideal for family outings, it features playgrounds, sports courts, and hosts community events.

Riverside Park: Riverside Park, along the Milwaukee River in the East Side neighborhood, offers a mix of nature and amenities. Enjoy walking trails, picnics, and river views, and visit the Urban Ecology Center for environmental learning opportunities. It's a serene urban escape.

5) Historic Third Ward

a street sign that says "Historic Third Ward"

Historic Third Ward is Milwaukee's vibrant and historic arts and fashion district. This lively neighborhood is a captivating blend of the past and present, featuring beautifully preserved historic buildings housing a diverse array of boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and creative spaces. Stroll along its cobblestone streets, immerse yourself in art and culture, savor culinary delights, and discover a unique shopping experience. With its charming ambiance and dynamic atmosphere, the Historic Third Ward is a must-visit destination for those seeking to explore Milwaukee's rich history and contemporary culture.

6) Milwaukee Public Market

a building sign that says "Milwaukee Public Market"

The Milwaukee Public Market is a bustling culinary hub in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. This vibrant marketplace brings together local artisans, food vendors, and culinary creators under one roof. Even if you're not planning to buy anything, wandering through this bustling market is a sensory experience in itself. Sample local food, enjoy the aromas, and take in the lively atmosphere.

7) Bronze Fonz

a bronze human statue

The Bronze Fonz, a beloved Milwaukee icon, is a life-sized bronze statue of the legendary TV character, Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, from the classic show "Happy Days." Located along the Milwaukee Riverwalk, this bronze tribute captures the cool and timeless spirit of the Fonz, forever giving thumbs-up to passersby. It's not just a statue; it's a piece of pop culture history that invites fans to connect with the nostalgia and charm of the beloved 1950s sitcom while celebrating Milwaukee's cultural heritage. Taking s photo with The Bronze Fonz is one of the best free things to do in Milwaukee.

8) Beer Gardens

a beer garden

Milwaukee's beer gardens offer a delightful taste of the city's rich brewing heritage and vibrant social scene. These open-air establishments are where locals and visitors gather to enjoy refreshing brews, delectable food, and a convivial atmosphere in beautiful outdoor settings. From classic German-style beer gardens to trendy modern versions, Milwaukee's beer gardens are perfect for savoring a cold beer, savoring local cuisine, and basking in the camaraderie of this beer-loving city. Raise a glass and experience the welcoming spirit of Milwaukee in its charming beer gardens.

9) Street Festivals and Events

Milwaukee offers a variety of free street festivals and events throughout the year that are perfect for those looking to enjoy the city without spending money. Here are some notable free street festivals and events in Milwaukee.

a summer festival

Summerfest Grounds Events: While Summerfest itself requires admission, the grounds host various free events throughout the year, including ethnic festivals, cultural celebrations, and concerts.

River Rhythms: This free summer concert series takes place at Pere Marquette Park and features a mix of live music genres, from rock and blues to jazz and folk.

Jazz in the Park: Held in Cathedral Square Park during the summer months, this free concert series features jazz and other musical genres, making it a perfect way to enjoy an evening outdoors.

Gallery Night and Day: Explore Milwaukee's vibrant arts scene during this quarterly event, where galleries and art spaces open their doors for free art exhibitions and special events.

African World Festival: Celebrate African and African American culture with music, dance, art, and food at the Wisconsin African American Women's Center.

Remember to check the schedules and availability of these events before planning your visit, as some events and hours of operation may change seasonally.

10) Harley-Davidson Museum

a motorcycle museum

While the museum itself isn't free, you can explore the grounds and visit the gift shop without paying an admission fee. The museum often hosts free outdoor events and bike nights. This museum offers an immersive journey through the history, culture, and artistry of one of the world's most iconic motorcycle brands. Featuring a remarkable collection of vintage and rare motorcycles, interactive exhibits, and a deep dive into the brand's legendary legacy, the museum celebrates the spirit of freedom and adventure that defines the Harley-Davidson experience.

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