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
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
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
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
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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.
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
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
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.
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’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
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
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
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
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.
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