For those of us who did not grow up in Milwaukee and happen to be of a certain age, the foremost city in Wisconsin is indelibly etched in our collective consciousness as a result of two very famous television programs: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. The Garry Marshall sitcoms were set in Milwaukee and the cultural fabric of the blue-collar, brewery town had a major role in the identity of both.
Of course, Milwaukee is at the heart of perhaps the most memorable scene in the cult comedy Wayne’s World. The film adaptation of the classic Saturday Night Live sketch about two Aurora, Illinois slackers with a late-night cable access program features a brilliant Milwaukee-centric scene with protagonists Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) and hard-rock icon Alice Cooper and his band.
If these indelible pop culture references embody your entire breadth of knowledge about Milwaukee, perhaps you should consult our handy list of ten must-see attractions in the city.
10. Milwaukee County Zoo
At over 800,000 m2, Milwaukee County Zoo is a massive facility. From cheetahs and polar bears, to Humboldt penguins and bonobos, the zoo has a vast, notable collection of exotic animals and is one of the most popular in North America.
9. Lincoln Village
What makes Milwaukee so special is the character and charm inherent in the city’s myriad heritage neighborhoods. Lincoln Village, home of the phenomenal St. Josaphat Basilica and superb Kosciuszko Park, is full of historic architecture and wonderful points of interest. A great area to explore on foot on a nice summer afternoon.
8. Milwaukee City Hall
Built in the late 19th century, the prominent bell tower of Milwaukee City Hall was for a brief time, the tallest structure in the United States. The German Renaissance Revival edifice is one of the premier symbols and landmarks in the city.
7. Charles Allis Art Museum
One of many points of interest on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in Milwaukee, the former Charles Allis House is now the excellent Charles Allis Art Museum. A prominent Milwaukee businessman and philanthropist, Allis built a Tudor-style mansion in the city in 1911 to in effect, house his art collection.
6. Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum
The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is also part of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Corporation and like the Charles Allis Art Museum, is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. A product of eminent architect David Adler, the landmark is as much a masterpiece as the colorful objects inside. The picturesque gardens make a lovely and popular nuptial site.
5. Grohmann Museum
The Grohmann Museum, a Milwaukee School of Engineering gem, is new on the scene but already has a reputation as one of the best points of interest in Milwaukee. The evolution and development of “Man at Work” is the theme here but for many, the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden is the key attraction.
4. Milwaukee Riverwalk
Milwaukee’s famous pedestrian walkway hugs the Milwaukee River and provides access to some of the most popular areas of the city. For cafés, restaurants and pubs, not to mention links to Henry Aaron State Trail and Lakeshore State Park, Riverwalk rules. A great place to be come festival time in Milwaukee (the city has a preponderance of incredible annual events).
3. Miller Park
One of the best ballparks in Major League Baseball, Miller Park is the home field of the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Historic Third Ward
The warehouse district, or Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, is a gentrification model in the city. Former industrial redbrick facades now house chic lofts, design firms, art and design studios, theaters and restaurants.
1. Milwaukee Art Museum
Santiago Calatrava Valls, a bold, iconoclast architect from Valencia who will probably win the Pritzker one day, had yet to make his mark in the United States. That is until the completion of his remarkable Quadracci Pavilion on May 4, 2001. The Milwaukee Art Museum wing is now the international symbol of the Wisconsin city. Thankfully for visitors, the museum itself is wonderful as well.
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