Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has had many nicknames through the years: Brew City, thanks to the many breweries that got their start here; Cream City, for the yellow bricks used in much of the local home construction; and City of Festivals, due to the weekly ethnic festivals on the lakefront in the summer. But perhaps none sums it up better than “A Great Place on a Great Lake.”
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and the 31st largest city in the nation, with nearly 600,000 residents. The four-county metro area includes nearly 1.6 million people. Seven Fortune 500 companies call Milwaukee home: Northwestern Mutual, Kohl’s, Manpower, Harley-Davidson, Rockwell Automation, Fiserv and WEC Energy Group. It was named one of Forbes’ Top 10 Up-and-Coming Tech Cities in 2008.
An important business center with a vibrant performing arts scene, Milwaukee has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a French fur trading post in the early 1800s. What hasn’t changed are the lovely natural resources that provide Milwaukee’s exquisite backdrop: the breathtaking bluffs along Lake Michigan, the serene rivers meandering through the city and the many green spaces that give residents an opportunity to appreciate nature each day.
Homes and Neighborhoods
Milwaukee is known as the “Big City of Little Neighborhoods,” offering an extraordinary selection of charming homes for every taste: a converted loft in the trendy Third Ward or Walker’s Point, to a bungalow filled with Old World craftsmanship in Bay View, Sherman Park or Story Hill, to a stately classic on the lakeshore bluff or in Washington Heights. Homes in Milwaukee have one thing in common: they are among the best values for a homebuyer’s dollar in the metro area. “More house for less money” is how many Milwaukee residents describe their homes.
Milwaukee’s neighborhoods are as diverse as the people who have settled here from all over the world over the last 170 years. Check out the colorful names on the map created by the Milwaukee Neighborhood Identification Project. No matter where you look for a home, you’re sure to find fast access to downtown’s cultural amenities and a strong sense of community pride. Many neighborhoods and business districts have community associations to share information on events and developments in their respective areas.
The other thing you’ll notice about Milwaukee neighborhoods is a concept that’s been adopted by New Urbanists all over the world. Each neighborhood offers an opportunity for you to live, work, shop and dine out within a mile or two of your home. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Milwaukee is frequently named to lists of most walkable cities.
And if affordable housing and great city amenities aren’t enough to let you breathe easy, consider this: According to Forbes, Milwaukee ranked as the second safest city in the U.S., buoyed by its low natural disaster risk.
Shopping and Dining
Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind boutiques or something-for-everyone malls, Milwaukee doesn’t disappoint. You don’t have to drive far to hit a major mall, including Bayshore Town Center, Mayfair Mall, Brookfield Square and Southridge Mall. trendy shopping districts in the city proper include the Historic Third Ward, Brady Street, the East Side and Bay View. The Milwaukee Public Market, at the north end of the Third Ward, is an indoor market that offers produce, meats, seafood and artisan foods to eat there or supplement your weekly grocery shopping.
Dining out in Milwaukee is a dream come true for gourmets and gourmands alike. Ethnic restaurants include German, Italian, French, Mexican, Indian, Polish, Serbian, Syrian, Russian, Middle Eastern, Turkish, Ethiopian, Hmong, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
For a unique summer dining experience, take one of Milwaukee’s dinner cruises that follow the river out to the beautiful Milwaukee Harbor. Downtown Milwaukee has several dining and entertainment hubs, the newest of which is the Deer District, right outside the FiServ Forum. No matter where you eat, you’ll want to end the evening with one of the 450 specialty and classic cocktails at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge.
Points of Interest and Recreation
For a mid-sized city, Milwaukee offers more than its share of world-class amenities. Arguably the most famous landmark in the city is the Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, it includes a brise soleil or moving sunscreen that unfolds like a bird’s wings.
Other art museums include the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum and the William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design. Both science and history buffs will enjoy the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Discovery World allows hands-on exploration on the shores of Lake Michigan. Children of all ages flock to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, which is ranked among the nation’s top children’s museums, and the new Harley-Davidson Museum.
The arts are flourishing in Milwaukee, with a world-class ballet, symphony orchestra and opera; the renowned Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and more than 10 other theater and dance troupes performing in both historic and modern venues. There are options for all tastes, and children can even get involved with First Stage Children’s Theater, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. Since 2009, the Milwaukee Film Festival has been building a reputation as a world-class film festival, highlighting films as powerful vehicles for social change.
Sports fans will never want for exciting year-round professional action with Milwaukee Brewers Baseball, Bucks Basketball, Admirals Hockey, and Wave Indoor Soccer. College sports can fans enjoy NCAA D1 basketball with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers and Marquette Golden Eagles men’s and women’s teams.
Milwaukee has a lively music scene, and no place is livelier than Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival. For three long weekends in late June and early July, the festival grounds on Milwaukee’s lakefront come alive with the top hit-makers of today and yesterday. The rest of the summer, the grounds are used for popular ethnic festivals celebrating the tastes and sounds of Poland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, in addition to one of the country’s biggest LGBTQ festivals, PrideFest.
Other don’t-miss events include the Lakefront Festival of Art in late June, Bastille Days in mid-July at Cathedral Square Park and the surrounding streets, African Cultural Festival in mid-July in Brown Deer Park, Wisconsin State Fair in early August, and Zoo à la Carte in mid-August.
Regularly occurring events include Jazz in the Park in Cathedral Park every Thursday from May through August, NEWaukee Night Market and street festival on Wisconsin Avenue, and Chill on the Hill, every Tuesday from June through August in Humboldt Park.
North and south of the festival grounds you’ll find miles of shoreline beaches and parks that attract bikers, hikers, sunbathers and adventurers who rent kites and paddleboats. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the lakefront year ‘round to enjoy Independence Day fireworks, the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, charity walk/runs and even the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge.
Other interesting sights include the RiverWalk along the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee; the Basilica of St. Josaphat, which was designed after St. Peter’s in Rome; and the St. Joan of Arc Chapel, which was built in the early 15th century and meticulously rebuilt on the Marquette University campus. Nature lovers will appreciate numerous nature centers, as well as the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (the Domes), which include indoor displays of desert, tropical and seasonal flora. Don’t forget a tour of one of Milwaukee’s famous large-scale or craft breweries.
Milwaukee’s extensive system of 140 public parks and scenic drives is unparalleled. Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed New York’s Central Park among many others, designed a Grand Necklace of Parks in Milwaukee, including Lake Park, Riverside Park and Washington Park. With many amenities and an extensive bike trail circling the city, Milwaukee’s parks offer something for every nature lover. In 2009 the Milwaukee County Parks Department won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in the Park and Recreation Management Program.
Schools, Health, Transportation
Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) educates nearly 75,000 students at 159 schools, including a mix of traditional, charter, alternative and partnership schools, as well as Early Childhood programs and Head Start. Popular options at several schools include the Gifted & Talented Program for Academically Talented, Bilingual Education, Creative Arts, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, year-round school and immersion in German, French and Spanish. MPS is home to three of the state and nation’s top high schools, according to U.S. News and World Report. There is a competitive High School for the Arts, and Rufus King High School offers an International Baccalaureate diploma. There are also a high number of private and parochial schools at the elementary and secondary level.
Milwaukee is also home to UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Alverno College, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mt. Mary University and Marquette University, which is highly rated in publications measuring academics, value, community service and job placement.
Metro Milwaukee’s outstanding medical community includes five integrated health care systems: Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Health, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin, ProHealth Care and Children’s Health System. The area has been a leader in developing managed care programs to control health care costs.
Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport serves about 7 million passengers annually, traveling nonstop to 34 markets nonstop through several regional and international airlines. Milwaukee also offers excellent Amtrak service and an outstanding highway system. The city is 93 miles from Chicago, 80 miles from Madison, 227 miles from Indianapolis and 326 miles from the Twin Cities.