10 Best Things To Do For Free In Milwaukee, Wisconsin

things to do in milwaukee for free

Nestled on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin, well known for its famous breweries, where visitors can take tours to learn all about the beer-making industry. The city is also known for the Harley-Davidson Museum, which overlooks the Menomonee River and exhibits the classic motorcycles, one of which belonged to the late Elvis Presley. Another museum of interest is the Milwaukee Public Museum, which hosts a recreation of the old town of Milwaukee, as well as a European village. Those who appreciate art should head to the Milwaukee Art Museum, which exhibits almost 25,000 artworks, while lovers of plants can head to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, a beautiful botanic garden. While some of these options do charge an entrance fee, those on a budget should check out the best things to do for free in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by scrolling below.

1. Explore the Basilica of Saint Josaphat

Basilica of St. Josaphat
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sulfur used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in the historic Lincoln Village on the south side of Milwaukee, the Basilica of Saint Josaphat is a beautiful building and Franciscan center of spirituality and prayer. The Basilica houses the Roman Catholic parish and was created by Polish immigrants. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a tour of the basilica or to take part in prayer and daily mass or to simply enjoy the basilica’s beautiful interior.

Basilica of Saint Josaphat

Address: South 6th St. & West Lincoln Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Basilica of Saint Josaphat

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 4pm; Sun: 10am - 4pm

2. Take a tour of the Milwaukee Central Library

Milwaukee Central Library Mar10
Source: Photo by user Freekee used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Milwaukee Central Library is housed in a classic building in central Milwaukee. Many visitors browse the library’s shelves for everything from classic novels to bestsellers or use the library’s computers to find information. An impressive around 2.7 million books are housed here, along with newspapers, magazines, records, CDs, and cassettes to browse. This is the perfect escape on a rainy day in Milwaukee, especially for bookworms!

Milwaukee Central Library

Address: 814 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Milwaukee Central Library

Opening hours: Mon: 12pm - 8pm; Tue: 9am - 8pm; Wed - Fri: 9am - 6pm; Sat: 9am - 5pm; Sun: 1pm - 5pm (closed from May -September)

3. Visit the St. Joan of Arc Chapel

Joan of Arch Chapel
Source: Photo by user Joseph Kranak used under CC BY 2.0

The gothic St. Joan of Arc Chapel was initially built in France during the early 15th century. It now sits at the heart of the Marquette University campus and is also a major part of the Catholic, Jesuit university’s community. The chapel was originally built in Chasse in the Rhone Valley of France but eventually fell into disrepair. In the 1920s, Jacques Couelle found the chapel, made sketches of it and numbered and photographed the chapel’s stones. Gertrude Hill Gavin, a devotee of St. Joan of Arc heard about the ruined chapel and arranged to have it dismantled and rebuilt in USA.

St. Joan of Arc Chapel

Address: St. Joan of Arc Chapel, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: St. Joan of Arc Chapel

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 4pm; Sun: 12pm - 4pm

4. Have fun in the sun at Bradford Beach

Bradford Beach is one of the top urban beaches in the country. There are designated swimming areas and clean sand to enjoy, as well as regular Volleyball matches to watch. Visitors should note that no glassware is allowed on the beach and no carry-in alcoholic beverages. Also, no bonfires are allowed on the beach, for the safety of all. Lifeguards patrol the beach every day from mid-June to mid-August. Take a picnic, or enjoy some of the fast food options available on the beach.

Bradford Beach

Address: Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Bradford Beach

Opening hours: 4:30am – 10pm (daily)

5. Walk, run or cycle along the Oak Leaf Trail

Oak Leaf Trail
Source: Photo by user Sulfur used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Oak Leaf Trail consists of more than 125 mi (201 km) of cycling, walking, running and rollerblading trail around Milwaukee County. Most of the trail is paved and almost 25 percent runs along the shores of Lake Michigan itself. This is the perfect way to exercise at your own pace in the fresh air, surrounded by greenery while traveling from one area of the city to the next. The city of Milwaukee is constantly working to extend the trail and update its signage system along the way.

Oak Leaf Trail

Address: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Oak Leaf Trail

Opening hours: 24/7

6. Explore the Milwaukee RiverWalk

Source: Photo by user Susan Ruggles used under CC BY 2.0

Another fresh-air exercise option is the Milwaukee RiverWalk District, which runs along downtown Milwaukee River, and has spread to other new areas of the city over the last 19 years. Watch the boats going by, experience a river tour boat, or generally explore everything there is to see along the RiverWalk. Regular events and festivals are held here throughout the year, including free concerts, like the River Rhythms Summer Music Series, and boat races, like the Milwaukee River Challenge.

Milwaukee RiverWalk

Address: Wilwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Milwaukee RiverWalk

Opening hours: 24/7

7. Admire the architecture of Milwaukee City Hall or take a free tour

Milwaukee City Hall 2010 (cropped)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user James Steakley used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Milwaukee’s City Hall was completed in 1895 and was originally the tallest building in the city, prior to the First Wisconsin Center opening in 1973. The impressive architecture can obviously be observed from outside the building, but there are special tours available at noon on each second and fourth Wednesday of the month between June and September, on a first-come-first-served basis. This includes a climb up to the bell tower, offering panoramic views over the city.

Milwaukee City Hall

Address: City Hall, 200 E. Wells Street, Room 205, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Milwaukee City Hall

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8:15am - 4:30pm (closed on Sat & Sun)

8. Experience Gallery Night and Day in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Art Museum-03
Source: Photo by user ThreeIfByBike used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Gallery Night and Day is a two-day, premier art event in Milwaukee being held for more than 30 years, attracting both the experienced art connoisseur and those exploring the world of art for the first time. During the period, visitors can explore art galleries, museums, and art shops. Upcoming events for 2019 include April 26 and 27, July 19 and 20, and October 18 and 19. Opening hours are set by the individual venue. Check out the website below for more details.

Gallery Night and Day

Address: Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Gallery Night and Day

9. Watch the Milwaukee River Challenge

Milwaukee River Challenge
Source: Photo by Flickr user Michael Pereckas used under CC BY 2.0

The Milwaukee River Challenge has been held every year for almost 20 years. The event is held each year in September and sees entrants racing along the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers. In 2018, there were more than 900 participants in the three-mile challenge, as they sped along the Menomonee River, around a 90-degree angle towards the finishing line in Schlitz Park. There is always great excitement to be had while watching the boats go by from the Milwaukee RiverWalk mentioned above.

Milwaukee River Challenge

Address: Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Milwaukee River Challenge

10. Visit The Domes at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Mitchell Park, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA - panoramio (2)
Source: Photo by user Doug Olson used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Known as The Domes, the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is set in Mitchell Park and operated by the country park system. Here you can experience a tropical jungle, desert oasis or beautiful floral gardens, all in one go. To give an idea of what is available to view, the Tropical Dome alone houses 1,200 species of rainforest plants. While The Domes are free to Milwaukee residents on Monday mornings, visitors do have to pay a small fee to enter. However, the colorful experience is well worth it!

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Address: 524 S Layton Blvd, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Website: Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 4pm

Price: 5.50 USD - 8 USD

Make the best budget-conscious visit to Milwaukee

After viewing many of the free and reasonably priced attractions of this fascinating American city, while exploring the rivers, the parks, and Lake Michigan, visitors are sure to return to find more of the best things to do for free in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Anne Sewell was born in England, but has spent most of her life in Africa - Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa - and now resides on the beautiful Costa del Sol in southern Spain. She loves writing...Read more

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