The Best One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary, Featuring Offbeat Museums and Cheese Stores

What do you do when you have one day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? During my years in Chicago, I took several day trips up to Milwaukee to explore the city.

From touristy attractions like the Harley Davidson Museum and Pabst Museum to local hangouts like ice cream shops and dive bars, I’ve put together an itinerary that gives you the best of the city in just 24 hours.

milwaukee skyline

Read on to learn how best to experience Milwaukee during a short visit!

Quick Summary: Top 5 Things To Do in One Day in Milwaukee
1 Milwaukee Art Museum
2 Explore the Riverwalk (rent a kayak, see the Bronze Fonz Statue)
3 Pabst Mansion
4 Harley Davidson Museum
5 Stop into a cheese store and a brewery

One Day in Milwaukee Suggested Itinerary

Milwaukee Art Museum & The Calling Sculpture

Start your day with a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, located right on Lake Michigan.

The exterior is so cool looking. How can you resist going inside such a quirky place?

Milwaukee Art Museum

The museum has the typical collection of paintings, statues, and other artworks, as well as an exhibit explaining how they designed the museum itself.

Outside the museum, it took me awhile to figure out the name of this weird piece of unusual art, because Google searches for “Milwaukee orange spiky art museum thing” didn’t yield satisfactory results.

milwaukee downtown spike

Turns out it’s a sunburst sculpture called ‘The Calling’ by Mark di Suvero, and it was created in 1981.

Riverwalk District, Bronze Fonz, Kayak Rentals

The Riverwalk District is a cool area to check out. It’s a 20-block pedestrian walkway in downtown Milwaukee.

Among the attractions here is the Bronze Fonz, aka a statue of Henry Winkler’s character from the classic ’70s sitcom Happy Days. Get your selfie with Henry!

day trip to milwaukee - fonz statue

The people-watching and scenery on the Riverwalk are excellent. One time I visited during the winter, and the river was frozen!

milwaukee river frozen

There were no kayakers on this day, but you can indeed rent kayaks during the summer and paddle around on the Milwaukee River.

If you’re visiting anytime from spring to fall, I suggest doing a kayak rental for at least an hour to see the city from a different perspective.

Stop in to a Cheese Store!

Any proper Milwaukee visit should include a stop at the silly cliche Wisconsin entity: a cheese store!

The city has several. Two of the best in the general vicinity of downtown are Wisconsin Cheese Mart and West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe.

cheese hat

Take home some fresh cheese or bags of frozen cheese curds. Or, just pose for ridiculous photos in cheese garb.

Harley Davidson Museum

Next, head over to the Harley Davidson Museum. The motorcycle company was founded in Milwaukee way back in 1903, and their headquarters and museum remain right here in the city.

harley 1936

Even though I’m not a big motorcycle guy, I enjoyed seeing the extensive display of Harleys from the past century.

You can even sit on some of the bikes and get some sweet pics.

harley riding

Pabst Mansion

Can you believe the Pabst beer brand is almost 200 years old? The Pabst Mansion, built in 1892, is another of the most popular attractions in Milwaukee.

The mansion was created by German-born Captain Frederick Pabst, who joined his father in law’s brewery after moving to Milwaukee and helped turn it into the world’s largest brewery.

24 hours in milwaukee - pabst mansion

The captain lived in this mansion, which sits just near Marquette University, back in the 1890s. Today, this architectural landmark hosts daily tours that allow guests to explore the ornately-decorated house.

Find a Brewery for Lunch or Dinner

While we’re on the subject of Pabst, Milwaukee has always been known for its breweries. Even if a brewery tour doesn’t fit into your schedule, I suggest visiting a taproom or brewpub for a meal and a drink.

Among the best options: Mobcraft Beer, Lakefront Brewery, Good City Brewing, Third Space Brewing, and 1840 Brewing Company.

Milwaukee Public Museum

public museum skeletons

Families with kids should check out the Milwaukee Public Museum. This facility focuses on natural history, with an emphasis on Wisconsin.

In fact, they have a near-complete skeleton of an extinct mammoth that was found on a farm just 30 miles from the museum.

The Public Museum also has exhibits on zoology, anthropology, botany, and more, including a butterfly room and a re-created Costa Rican rain forest.

Leon’s Frozen Custard

Here’s a local favorite that is not on any tourist itineraries. I’m an ice cream fiend, so I always stop at Leon’s Frozen Custard, an old-time food stand where you order from a window and eat in your car.

leons frozen custard

I ended up getting a caramel flavored milkshake, because I’ve never seen that particular flavor before.

They do have a limited selection of hot foods, with only hamburgers and chili dogs on the menu. But that doesn’t matter, because you’re coming here for the banana splits and root beer floats, right?

Leon’s has been open for more than 80 years, and it’s one of those unique local places that adds to the culture of a city.

More Milwaukee Activities: Markets, Baseball, Dive Bars

Here are a few more attractions that you may want to fit into your one day in Milwaukee, if you have time.

Milwaukee Public Market

This market has lots of food vendors in one place, from delicious Thai food to cupcake bakeries. It’s open from 10 am to 8 pm everyday, except Sunday (closes 6 pm.)

American Family Field (Miller Park)

The Brewers play their baseball game in American Family Field, formerly known as Miller Park. Outside the stadium, see statues of Brewers legends Robin Yount and Hank Aaron.

Blackbird Bar

On my first Milwaukee visit, I wanted to end the evening in a local dive bar, and I was happy to discover Blackbird in the Bayview neighborhood.

blackbird milwaukee best dive bar

It’s a nifty place, with tvs at the bar, vinyl booths throughout, interesting art on the walls, and pinball machines and board games for patrons to play.

And they have trivia on Thursdays at 7 pm. We love a good trivia night!

Marquette University

Finally, Marquette University is not far from the Pabst Mansion, so it’s convenient to make a quick stop to walk around campus and see the school up close.

Overall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin has some of the same charm that my hometown of Pittsburgh does — it’s a city that sort of feels like a small town.

For more Wisconsin fun, see our other articles:
13 Offbeat and Fun Things To Do in Kenosha
Visiting the Bizarre House on the Rock in Wisconsin
Things To Do in Madison, Wisconsin’s Capital
15 Cool Things To Do in the State of Wisconsin

How would you spend 24 one day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin?

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