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What To Do In Milwaukee & Madison, Wisconsin

Hello from the land of cheese! I recently visited Wisconsin during a Midwest road trip and was able to spend time in both Milwaukee and Madison. As most of you probably know by now, I’m on a journey to all 50 states! Wisconsin was my 31st state, and it did not disappoint. I’m thrilled to share that I worked with VISIT Milwaukee during my stay here and that they are the sponsor of today’s post. After spending the night in Milwaukee, I drove 1.5 hours to Madison to explore for a few hours before continuing on through Iowa to my final Midwestern destination of Minneapolis – St. Paul. This post is going to cover what to do in Milwaukee and Madison!

Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by VISIT Milwaukee. VISIT Milwaukee hosted me during my stay in the city in exchange for sponsored content. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with tourism boards and am thrilled to share more about the city of Milwaukee later on in this post. As always, all opinions written below are my own.

Exploring the city of Milwaukee

How To Get To Milwaukee And Madison

Before I jump into what to do in Milwaukee and Madison, I want to cover some basic information. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and is located pretty centrally in the state. Madison, although the capital city, is essentially one big college town as it’s home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has over 30,000 students. Milwaukee is the other large, well-known city in Wisconsin, known for its breweries, sports team, and cheese. Milwaukee sits on Lake Michigan on the eastern side of the state. It’s actually only 1.5 hours north of Chicago and can be easily accessed by both train or car. I opted to take the Hiawatha Amtrak (for $25) directly from Union Station in Chicago to the Intermodal Station in Milwaukee. From Milwaukee, Madison is an hour drive directly west. It’s super easy to access via bus from Milwaukee to Madison.

Where To Stay In Wisconsin

For this portion of the post, I feel like I can only provide a recommendation for Milwaukee since I didn’t spend the night in Madison. However, since there’s a university here, there are PLENTY of hotel options in the area. As for Milwaukee, I highly recommend staying at the Hotel Metro. This hotel has the most perfect location right downtown and is only one block away from a Hop station. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Hop, it’s Milwaukee’s brand new street car. It makes frequent stops throughout the city on a timely schedule and connects the neighborhoods in Milwaukee by making destinations just a quick ~hop~ away. The best part? It’s completely free!!! For everyone!

The Hop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Back to Hotel Metro…

This place is a part of the Marriott Collection and is a luxury, boutique hotel. It has modern amenities for guests and on-site dining. I had the opportunity to stay in one of the executive suites here and was blown away! The decor is very chic and my bed was extremely comfortable. The hotel was kind enough to give me some local beer and cheese to sample as well! I couldn’t recommend this place to my readers more.

Where to stay in Milwaukee

Where to stay in Milwaukee

What To Do In Milwaukee

Visit A Brewery

The average person may not consider Milwaukee to be a tourist destination, but let me change your mind. First, Milwaukee is home to some of the best breweries in the world. There’s one on every corner here and you truly can’t go wrong. Most make their beer right in-house and allow you to taste multiple by trying a flight! Some of them make sour beers and ciders as well. Most of the breweries double as restaurants with industrial interiors or trendy rooftops. The one I went to, Good City Brewing, offered everything from burgers to flights to cheese curds – a Wisconsin classic!

Good City Brewing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Pro-tip: In the East Side neighborhood and still hungry? Try Ian’s pizza! It may not be Chicago deep dish, but it’s a Wisconsin classic.

Ian's pizza in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Check Out The Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is the most visited attraction in the city. It’s located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee and is home to over 25,000 works of art, making it one of the largest museums in the world. The exterior of the museum is just as impressive as the art inside – it’s known as an architectural landmark. It consists of three buildings, designed by architects Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava.

The Quadracci Pavilion has a moveable sunscreen with wings that fold and unfold twice a day. There’s also a pedestrian bridge here that connects the museum to the city.

Pro-tip: Entry tickets cost $19 for adults and are timed. They must be purchased ahead of time.

Eat At The Crossroads Collective Food Hall

Known as Milwaukee’s “foodiest food hall”, the Crossroads Collective is a food hall in Milwaukee consisting of eight, locally-owned operators who make from-scratch meals. Each vendor is a local, chef-owned business and most ingredients are sourced from Wisconsin farms!

Crossroads Collective Food Hall in Milwaukee

Visit The Historic Third Ward & Milwaukee Public Market

The Historic Third Ward neighborhood in Milwaukee can’t be missed! It’s where you’ll find Milwaukee’s oldest warehouses and factory buildings, most of which have been converted into shops, restaurants, art studios, and loft-style apartments. There’s also cobblestone streets, street lamps, and a Hop stop – making this charming, artsy area convenient to explore.

What to do in Milwaukee The Historic Third Ward

What to do in Milwaukee The Historic Third Ward

The crown jewel of Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward is the Milwaukee Public Market, another food hall consisting of dozens of local vendors selling everything from açaí bowls to wine to cheese. Definitely stop in here for breakfast or lunch while exploring the area. They open at 10 am daily.

Milwaukee Public Market

What To Do In Madison

Explore State Street

State Street is the main street in the city of Madison and is where you’ll find most of the city’s shops, restaurants, and bars. As mentioned above, Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison which is apparent by the hundreds of students walking around. State Street is awesome because it connects the Capitol building, which sits on a hill in the center of Madison, to the university which sits on the opposite end. I recommend walking up and down the entire street – it’s only one mile one way.

Visit The Wisconsin Capitol

I didn’t go inside of the Wisconsin Capitol, but it’s a super pretty building! There’s several garden beds out front to see. If you climb up the stairs to the building, you’ll get a great view of downtown since the Capitol sits up on a hill.

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

Walk Around The University Of Wisconsin-Madison Campus

The last thing I did in Madison was walk around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Here you’ll find several grassy quads to hang out on, a school store to shop in, plus great views of Lake Mendota and Monona – the two lakes that intersect the city of Madison.

University of Wisconsin-Madison campus

I only spent an hour or two here, but felt like I got a good taste of the city. I hope you visit from Milwaukee if you have the chance, since they’re only an hour from each other. Hopefully this post gives you some tips about what to do in Milwaukee! Thank you again to VISIT Milwaukee for hosting me during my stay!

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What to do in Milwaukee and Madison


  1. August 7, 2021 / 4:05 PM

    Milwaukee and Madison look so beautiful! I love the pretty architecture! I’d love to visit the Milwaukee Public Market. I’d also love to try a slice of that pizza, it looks delicious! Thanks for the great guide!

  2. August 7, 2021 / 4:34 PM

    That pizza and pasta combination is such a great idea – two of my favourite foods! I think I’d really enjoy walking around the historic district.

  3. Sue
    August 7, 2021 / 11:20 PM

    I’m heading to Milwaukee for labor day weekend, so was happy to read this post. I’ll have to check out some of the places you mentioned.

  4. Vanessa Shields
    August 8, 2021 / 1:32 AM

    I never realized how close Milwaukee and Madison were. They both look like fun places to visit especially the brewery, the Wisconsin capital and the Public Market! I was supposed to visit Milwaukee last year so I’ll need to reschedule soon!

  5. August 23, 2021 / 3:09 PM

    Ian’s is the BEST for pizza in the midwest! I hope you make it here so you can give it a try!

  6. August 23, 2021 / 3:09 PM

    I bet you would! The perfect mix of history and charm!

  7. August 23, 2021 / 3:09 PM

    Thanks for reading, Sue! I hope you enjoy your trip in September!

  8. August 23, 2021 / 3:10 PM

    Yes, they’re super close! I definitely recommend trying to visit both in the same trip.

  9. December 24, 2021 / 10:10 AM

    Great Post!!! I truly believe that there is much more to explore new places. The world has incredible beauty which makes us visit new places for sure.

  10. December 26, 2021 / 2:02 AM

    Totally agree! This is why I continue to travel as much as I do – I love it!

  11. February 28, 2024 / 8:43 AM

    Excited to explore Madison and Milwaukee with The Abroad Blog’s insights. Are you prepared to discover the top attractions, cuisine, and experiences in these vibrant Wisconsin cities.

  12. March 20, 2024 / 5:43 AM

    It sounds like you had an incredible time exploring Wisconsin, from the bustling city of Milwaukee to the charming college town of Madison! Your detailed account of your journey, sponsored by VISIT Milwaukee, provides a fantastic guide for anyone planning a visit to the state.

    Milwaukee and Madison both seem like vibrant cities with unique offerings. Milwaukee’s reputation for breweries and cheese certainly shines through in your descriptions, and I love that you highlighted the convenience of the Hop streetcar system, making it easy for visitors to navigate the city.

    Your recommendation of Hotel Metro in Milwaukee sounds fantastic, especially with its central location and modern amenities. It’s great to hear about your luxurious experience there, complete with local beer and cheese samples – what a delightful touch!

    Exploring the breweries in Milwaukee sounds like a must-do activity, and your visit to Good City Brewing sounds like a fantastic experience. And who can resist a slice of Ian’s pizza, a true Wisconsin classic?

    Visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum seems like a highlight of your trip, with its impressive architecture and extensive collection of art. Thanks for the pro-tip about purchasing entry tickets ahead of time!

    Overall, your journey through Wisconsin sounds like a delightful mix of culture, cuisine, and exploration. Thanks for sharing your experiences and recommendations – I’m sure they’ll inspire many to plan their own adventures in the land of cheese!

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