See This, Skip That: Milwaukee

PHOTO: The city offers a blend of history and a variety of culinary, arts and entertainment options. Henryk Sadura/Getty Images
The city offers a blend of history and a variety of culinary, arts and entertainment options.

For many travelers to the Midwest, Milwaukee is an urban gem. Its location gives this city plenty to brag about; Lake Michigan braces it and rivers converge here.

American legends hail from here, like the Milwaukee Brewing Company and Harley-Davidson Motors. And the traveler experience today is defined by a blend of history and modern-day splash, and a variety of culinary, arts and entertainment options.

Here are a few alternatives to put on your list.

Skip the Mall, Shop Antique You’ll find a neat diversity of shopping options sprinkled throughout Milwaukee. But the antiquing here has put this town on the radar of many a collector. Hoarder’s World, in the Historic Third Ward, gets high marks for its three-story display of vintage fare, from Victorian furniture to records. Tip Top Atomic Shop will dress you up with styles from the 40s, 50s and 60s. And Antiques on Second is a destination all its own, with dozens of dealers spread across 40,000-square feet.

Skip the Museum, Go For a Walk To be clear: we love the museum and art gallery scene in Milwaukee. But any chance to combine culture with an afternoon stroll is a cool experience in our book. When you make your way down the RiverWalk -– a two-mile path that leads you to some of the best eateries and shops in the city – you’re walking through an outdoor art gallery.

RiverSculpture features about 20 sculptures – some are permanent displays while many are periodically changed. Artists include some of Milwaukee’s best along with talent from throughout the country.

After the Brewery Tour, Check Out the Other Brew If you’re a Milwaukee first-timer, brewery tours are a great way to begin to appreciate the brewing prowess that has always thrived in Milwaukee. Consider Milwaukee Brewing Company, Sprecher Brewing Company or Lakefront Brewery, or take the tour-by-boat from RiverWalk Boat Tours & Rentals.

But there’s another local brew worth investigating here. The local coffee scene is well established, with players like Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, a micro roaster with two locations that boasts some pretty snazzy barista equipment and a selection of specialty beans from farms in Ecuador, Ethiopia and Costa Rica. At Stone Creek Coffee Factory guests can tour the factory every Sunday at noon. Also follow your love for caffeine to Colectivo Coffee and Valentine Coffee Roasters.

Skip the Restaurant, Pick up a Paddle No doubt, the food scene is on fire here. But we like Evolution Gastro Pong just because of the chance you get to burn the very calories you consume. Ever since a former ping pong club went independent earlier this year, the new focus at this spacious location is on what’s on the plate; the menu has been revamped and given a more regional slant, like the burger that’s built to order.

Then there’s the ping pong -- more than a dozen state-of-the-art table tennis courts that you can book through their website. Rates start at $8 for a half hour, and price go up a bit after 6pm. Tournaments are held here throughout the year.

Skip the Gym, Pedal Actually, skipping the gym is pretty easy when you’re traveling. But the bike options in Milwaukee make it a lot easier to break a sweat while discovering this city. The Oak Leaf Trail takes you all over Milwaukee County -– more than 100 miles’ worth -– and the scenery can be spectacular.

Bikers have plenty of choices, from off-road trails to paved paths to dedicated lanes in city streets, and from a handful of bike rental kiosks around town. Ask your concierge for a bike map.

After You Bike, Stretch Communal yoga is alive and well in Milwaukee. Yoga Rocks the Park is now in its fourth year – a Sunday morning gathering of like-minded stretchers of all ages who follow the lead of rotating instructors and live musicians; it meets in Lake Park, at the foot of the grand staircase.

The yoga options at Bradford Beach include morning and evening classes on select days of the week. And at Cathedral Square Park, stretch while you shop for fresh local produce at the Saturday farmers’ market; yoga starts at 9 a.m. These plein-air yoga gatherings are mostly seasonal, scheduled from late spring through summer.

Skip the Reservation, Take the Tour A walking tour is a great way to spend the afternoon, and to discover some awesome Milwaukee restaurants. Milwaukee Food & City Tours is a good place to start. Several places, though, offer an extra special peek behind the scenes.

Like Pizzeria 3301 at Villa Palermo (which includes a factory tour with its pizza making lessons) and Clock Shadow Creamery (where you sample plenty as you learn about cheesemaking).

Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features a bevy of Milwaukee travel specials, as well as local deals at