Image: Milwaukee Art Museum
Morry Gash  /  AP file
Since 1998, Milwaukee has invested $1.5 billion to polish its image, including a $100 million addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
updated 4/9/2007 5:31:27 PM ET 2007-04-09T21:31:27

Milwaukee still loves beer. But arts, culture, museums and festivals are on tap, too.

That's the image Milwaukee officials are trying to promote in an effort to attract more tourists.

"In a sense we have it all," said Dave Fantle, spokesman for Visit Milwaukee, which markets the area. "We have it all in a neat package. It's a matter of getting our arms around that package and promoting it and letting the world know about all the attributes that are here in Milwaukee."

New projects in Milwaukee in recent years have included the Midwest Airlines convention center; the new Miller Park baseball stadium; an architecturally significant addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum on the shore of Lake Michigan, designed by the renowned Santiago Calatrava; and the Discovery World science and technology center, also on the lake shore, which opened last fall.

Future projects include a planned expansion of the Potawatomi tribal casino, which is located 10 minutes from downtown Milwaukee and already attracts 4 million visitors a year; and next year's opening of the Harley-Davidson museum. The iconic motorcycle-maker is based in Milwaukee and also offers factory tours at a nearby plant.

Milwaukee is the state's largest city. Often called "Brew City," it was settled largely by Germans, many of whom started breweries — Miller, Blatz, Schlitz and Pabst. The professional baseball team was even named the Brewers.

Although Miller is the only one of the big beer companies still based in Milwaukee, the city has a handful of microbreweries, brew pubs and a variety of tours for beer-lovers.

"We are really the rightful heirs to owning the brewing industry," Fantle said.

Other types of manufacturing were also a big part of Milwaukee's history from its 1846 inception. Many companies, including Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls and Briggs & Stratton still remain. But Milwaukee's focus started to slowly change after the recession of the 1980s, when many factories closed, said Milwaukee historian John Gurda.

In turn there was a renewed interest in culture, with investment in the downtown area, including a mall called The Shops at Grand Avenue, which was a catalyst for other development, Gurda said. Now, people are walking the downtown sidewalks several times a year for gallery nights, there's a vibrant theater scene and new restaurants pop up constantly. There are also cultural festivals along the lakefront, like Summerfest, which bills itself as the world's largest music festival.

"By no means are we doomed to forever be beer and brats," Gurda said. "Books and ballet are part of it. That message will, in incremental steps, get out as well."

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Whether your interest lies in beer or fine art, here are some of the city's top attractions.

Milwaukee has three operating breweries with tours: Miller Brewing Company, 4251 W. State St., 414-931-2337; Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St., 414-372-8800; and Sprecher, 701 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 414-964-2739.

Downtown brew pubs are the Milwaukee Ale House, 233 N. Water St.,; Water Street Brewery, 1101 N. Water St.,  and Rock Bottom Brewery, 740 N. Plankinton Ave.

The Old German Beer Hall offers beer brewed in Munich and German festival food at 1009 N. Old World Third St., 414-226-2728.

A boat called the Brew City Queen takes passengers on a "weekend brewery tour," June-October, $25 (must be 21 or older); 414-283-9999.

Oktoberfest in downtown Milwaukee is Sept. 28-29. Also of interest: The Pabst Mansion, the 1892 home of beer baron Frederick Pabst, 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Milwaukee's cultural transformation got a boost in 2001 when Calatrava, a world-famous architect, created his first North American design in a gleaming white addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Since then, residents and city officials have adopted the movable, winged sunscreen atop the museum as its status symbol. It's shown up as the backdrop in local newscasts, on tourism brochures and commercials. It also was used by several national car companies and tech companies.

On view now at the museum is an exhibit called "Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s." Opening June 9 is "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape"; 700 N. Art Museum Drive, 414-224-3200. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8 p.m.; $14 for feature exhibition.

Summerfest, the music event, June 28-July 8, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is typically attended by 900,000 people.

Discovery World, a science and technology center that has everything from hands-on high-tech displays to a state-of-the-art broadcast studio to an aquarium; 500 N. Harbor Drive, 414-765-9966. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $17; children 3-17, $13.

Harley-Davidson: A museum is scheduled to open by fall 2008. Free factory tours are offered at the nearby Wauwatosa, Wis., plant (11700 W. Capitol Drive), 877-883-1450. Tours are Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; tickets are distributed first come, first served, beginning 9 a.m.

The Potawatomi Bingo Casino: Open 24 hours a day. Shuttle buses from downtown Milwaukee.

Other events
Festa Italiana, July 19-22; African World Festival, Aug. 3-5, Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 2-12, and Irish Fest, Aug. 16-19.

For more information, go to or 800-554-1448.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments