20 Cool Things To Do in Milwaukee in Winter
A guide to attractions in Milwaukee during winter
Wisconsin might not top the charts as a cold season destination, yet Milwaukee is a true hot spot for winter fun. Between various sports and outdoor activities, including the traditional Polar Bear Plunge into frigid lake Michigan, cross-country skiing, art, and good food, there are plenty of things to do in Milwaukee in winter.
Undoubtedly, Milwaukee winter can spoil you with choices. But what is there to do in Milwaukee during the coldest season of the year? Here are some of the most popular things for your bucket list.
Useful Travel Information for Milwaukee
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Where To Stay in Milwaukee
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Things To Do in Milwaukee in Winter for adults
1. Take a brewery tour
Milwaukee and beer share common history, and what better way to warm up during the cold Wisconsin winter than with a pint or two?
From the myriad of brewery tours, one you shouldn’t miss is the Miller Brewery tour in Miller Valley.
This guided outdoor and indoor tour will take you to the discovery of over 160 years of brewing history and show you the evolution of brewing from rudimentary methods to the modern high-speed production lines used today.
The famous underground caves and historic Miller Inn will be the highlights of this tour, while three samples of Miller’s finest brews will refresh you at different stops along the route. Whether you’re alone or in good company, this tour tops the list of fun stuff to do in Milwaukee as an adult.
2. (Christmas) Shopping in Milwaukee
Wondering what to see in Milwaukee if you’re a fashionista? Whether you’re after the latest high-street fashion or unique Christmas gifts, know that shopping is one of the best things to do in Milwaukee.
The Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa could be defined as a shopaholic’s heaven; 166 stores propose everything from high-end fashion to home and houseware items. Plenty of restaurants including the iconic Maggiano’s Little Italy, or places where you can try different flavors and exciting dishes like at The Cheesecake Factory.
Alternatively, The Mayfair Collection at West Burleigh Street is another shopping paradise.
Stroll through stores like Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, J. Crew Mercantile, or the Nordstrom Rack. Have a coffee break and a bite at Café Grace, and enjoy lunch or dinner at the Smoke Shack for a dining experience like no other.
3. Chill Out at the Historic Third Ward
Located in downtown Milwaukee, the Historic Third Ward is one of the most iconic warehouse districts in the county and the city’s creative hub.
Whether you’re into art galleries or want to chill at performing art venues like the Broadway Theater Center, this artsy neighborhood has a lot to offer.
Besides loads of culture, you can also enjoy a fine dining experience in one of the upscale restaurants scattered throughout the area or shop fashion and bohemian homeware in the many indie boutiques.
Not to mention that wandering through this neighborhood is one of the best things to do in Milwaukee for free.
4. Warm-up in Milwaukee’s Museums
Milwaukee in winter can sometimes get very cold and uninviting. Luckily though, the city has plenty to offer even when the temperatures drop way below zero.
Some of the best places to visit in Milwaukee are its museums. The Milwaukee Art Museum is perhaps the most renowned, and impressing with its futuristic architecture and jaw-dropping artworks inside.
The Milwaukee Public Museum attracts hoards with interest in nature and human history. Conveniently located in downtown Milwaukee, it’s easily accessible from the Historic Third Ward.
If you like history, include the Jewish Museum Milwaukee on your bucket list too. Located on Prospect Avenue, the museum’s purpose is to celebrate the city’s Jewish heritage by preserving and presenting the history of the Jews in southeastern Wisconsin.
The Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear is another hot spot for history lovers, while bikers and motorcycle fans shouldn’t miss the Harley-Davidson Museum, another gem to discover if you’re wondering what to do in downtown Milwaukee.
5. Visit Milwaukee Winter Farmer’s Market
A visit to Milwaukee’s Winter Farmer’s Market is a must for any avid food lovers who are looking for fun things in Milwaukee.
Operated by the Fondy Food Center, the market’s mission is to connect citizens with fresh local food and gathers dozens of agricultural vendors in the Greenhouse Annex at the Mitchell Park Domes.
This weekly market is where you can find just about anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, freshly baked goods, homemade jams, and sauces, as well as delicious global cuisine.
6. Explore Milwaukee Domes
Among the top-rated Milwaukee tourist attractions that you shouldn’t miss in winter are also the Milwaukee Domes. A unique destination you wouldn’t expect to find in such a wintery territory.
The Mitchell Park Domes house Milwaukee’s horticultural conservatory is a true tropical jungle hidden in the heart of the city.
Exploring this mesmerizing place in winter is amazing, as you’ll walk among 1,200 species of rainforest plants and floral gardens. Open every day of the year; the Domes also host an array of cultural events, exhibitions, and educational programs.
Things To Do in Milwaukee in Winter for couples
7. Get warm at the Milwaukee Public Market
Milwaukee in winter can be one of the most romantic destinations for couples around the world. Whether you want to enjoy winter sports together or just chill out in unique places, there are plenty of things to see and do in this amazing city.
From all, one of the best places to go in Milwaukee when the temperatures drop and you need to get warm is the Milwaukee Public Market.
This unique attraction in Milwaukee downtown tops the charts as the favorite destination for foodies. It bursts freshly-made foods and artisan products prepared by independent merchants. A colorful place that can surely warm your heart and satisfy your taste buds.
8. Cheer the Milwaukee sports teams
Lovebirds visiting Milwaukee can have loads of fun and spend quality time while cheering for one of the local sports teams.
In such an icy destination, it only makes sense to watch an ice hockey match from the Milwaukee Admirals’ tribune. Or you could warm up while cheering the Milwaukee Waves, their professional indoor soccer team.
Milwaukee also has a stronghold of the American Wrestling Association. Or you could discover the city’s most recent addition to the sports team, the women’s Roller Derby.
9. Snowy walks along the lakeside
Wondering if there are other fun things to do in Milwaukee for couples? Well, you could surprise your significant other with a snowy walk along the lakeside. Undeniably one of the most romantic things to do in Milwaukee.
This frozen scenery offers a different perspective and lets you enjoy the tranquil side of this vibrant destination. Have a snowball fight or just enjoy each other’s company while admiring the frozen shores of Lake Michigan.
Winter activities, such as ice skating at Lake Park, are another great way to spend quality time with your significant other.
For a sophisticated getaway, the Knickerbocker on the Lake is one of the best Milwaukee lakefront hotels. From rooms with a view to refined suits, a spa, and high-class dining, this is undoubtedly a great place for two.
Things To Do Milwaukee in Winter for outdoor lovers
10. Skiing at Wilmot Mountain
Milwaukee is not only for casual travelers and lovebirds. Outdoor lovers can enjoy lots of winter activities in Milwaukee and the surroundings as well. Such as skiing at Wilmot Mountain.
Situated at a stone throw’s away from the city (aka a 45-minutes’ drive), Wilmot Mountain presents itself as an outdoor lover’s paradise.
From downhill skiing to snowboarding, snow tubing, and other entertaining activities, this place is ideal for singles, couples, groups of friends, or families who want to have their fair share of winter fun.
11. Hiking in the surroundings of Milwaukee
If you’re craving for a different experience, a winter hike is one of the most surprising winter activities in Wisconsin.
From all possible routes, the Milwaukee River Trails are perhaps the most suggestive. They start where the Milwaukee Riverwalk ends and stretch along both sides of the Milwaukee River.
While the trails aren’t official, they’re well maintained by the Milwaukee Green River Coalition and are a true gem to discover without leaving the city.
If you don’t mind going a bit further, the Emma Carlin trail in Palmyra is well-worth exploring. The three-loop trail ranges from 3.5 to 8 miles and is ideal for the more experienced hikers and bikers.
12. Snow walks in Milwaukee’s parks
Hiking might not be for everyone, but you can still enjoy the outdoors while in Milwaukee by simply taking a snow walk in one of the many parks.
Lake Park is undeniably the most suggestive, but there are many other options to choose from.
For instance, the Veteran´s Park is a great choice for history lovers and impresses visitors with a memorial and a walking path.
The Cambridge Woods, situated in the East Side neighborhood, also awaits you to explore its 20.9 acres stretching along the Milwaukee River.
13. Dare the Polar Bear Plunge
While this one’s not for the faint-hearted, a Polar Bear Plunge in frigid Michigan lake is dubbed as one of the coolest winter activities in Milwaukee.
The annual event held at noon on each New Year’s Day gathers hundreds of enthusiasts ready to plunge in the freezing water despite the unwelcoming temperatures.
The event is free to the public and equally exciting for both spectators and participants.
Things To Do in Milwaukee in Winter for kids
14. Go ice skating
The city is a great family destination in all seasons, but it becomes magic in winter. Among the top-rated family things to do in Milwaukee, there is ice skating.
Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park is an inspired choice for some outdoor fun and is conveniently located in the midst of downtown. A warming house offers skate rentals and a café to grab, a hot drink or a bite, and loads of other kid-friendly activities are located at just a stone throw’s away.
On those truly cold days, head to the Pettit National Ice Center, an indoor ice skating rink that not only comes as a great alternative to the Slice of Ice, but that lets you enjoy some winter sports even in summer, as it’s opened all year round.
15. Visit Milwaukee Winter Festivals
Among the fun things to do in Wisconsin in the winter, there are the countless winter festivals that can keep both kids and adults entertained.
One of the most popular is the Lake Geneva Winterfest; a true winter carnival spanning over nine days. Kid-friendly activities include a fun snow race and attending the U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship.
The Fish Creek Winter Festival is another fun one for the whole family. Kids can enjoy a dog sled ride and partake in other outdoor activities. Watching an ice kickball match or warming up in a heated tent overlooking Green Bay are other highlights of the festival.
And if you or the children miss those fun summer backyard games, know that at the Fish Creek festival, they do it even better. Or at least, I don’t know many other places where you can play a round of toilet seat toss instead of the classic corn hole.
16. Go Snowshoeing
There are many unique things to do in Milwaukee in winter, but few can beat snowshoeing if you’re visiting with kids.
An easy trail where to shake off those winter blues is the Havenwoods State Fores, Milwaukee’s amazing urban forest. There are various loops for a total of 6 miles winding across 200 acres of mixed woods, grasslands, and wetlands.
The Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville is another of the fantastic places to see in the Milwaukee area. This beautiful 380-acre property stretching along Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County passes through a mesmerizing mix of forests, wetlands, and prairies, and awaits with surprising events.
Undoubtedly, the best time to go is on a Friday night in either January or February, when you can join a weekly candlelight snowshoe hike from 4.30 to 8 pm.
17. Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere and Ballet Shows
Nothing says fun things to do with kids in Milwaukee more than enjoying the Christmas atmosphere.
Start with Christmas in the Ward on the first Friday of December. The iconic district is where you can visit Santa and his live reindeer and enjoy splendid fireworks at the beginning of the festive season.
Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker performance is an unmissable event to attend with the kids. Or you could go to one of the many theaters and venues throughout the city for other beautiful holiday shows.
For bigger kids and parents alike, the Wizards of Winters show comes as an unexpected alternative to a traditional Christmas carols concert and as one of the most surprising indoor activities in Milwaukee. This show of progressive rock holiday tunes is anything but typical.
18. Sledding at Lafayette Hill and Humboldt Hill
Another of those fun activities in Milwaukee to do with kids is sledding at the Lafayette or Humboldt hill.
Perfect for kids of all ages as well as for adults, these events bring unrivaled fun to people of all ages. The youngsters can enjoy safe rides on sleds with runners, while the bigger kids can pick from snow disks or toboggans.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Milwaukee at night, sledding in the evening is also possible. Furthermore, both hills are conveniently located in well-served areas where you can enjoy hearty meals or warm up with a cup of mulled wine or spiced tea in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
19. Enjoy Cedarburg Winter Festival
Did you think the magic of winter ends when Christmas is over? Think again. The Wisconsin’s Cedarburg Winter Festival shows the entire world that winter means much more than candy canes and holiday carols.
Undoubtedly one of the best things to do near Milwaukee with kids, this annual event is held each February.
Super-entertaining, it attends visitors with dozens of food stalls, ice carving competitions, and a myriad of kid-friendly activities. As for the grown-ups, they can indulge in delicious local wine.
20. Enjoy a carriage ride in Milwaukee downtown
The many Milwaukee winter events can easily drain your energy. So if you’re wondering what to do in downtown Milwaukee that’s both exciting and relaxing, try a carriage ride.
Many companies provide carriage or horse-drawn sleigh tours in Milwaukee that will make you feel like the main character of a fairytale.
One of the companies offering affordable carriage tours is the Milwaukee Coach & Carriage. They offer solutions for groups of all sizes, and you can admire some of the top-rated landmarks from the comfort of your ride. No doubt, one of the best things for kids to do in Milwaukee.
Whether you’re looking for fun places to go in Milwaukee to enjoy with your family, things to do on a date in Milwaukee or cheap things to do in Milwaukee on your solo winter trip, I hope this list inspired you.
So, what do you say? Do you now know what to do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Which of the things above would you do?
Tell me in a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. If you liked this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends. They might find the best things to do around Milwaukee on this list too.
Read more about Wisconsin:
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15 Cool Weekend Trips in Wisconsin
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Where to Stay in Milwaukee