There’s an endless list of things to do in Milwaukee, but trying to do them all at once can get expensive. Luckily, some of the best spots in town don’t cost a dime! These thirteen places in Milwaukee prove that you don’t need to break the bank to have an amazing experience in this city.
1. Step back in time at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
This awesome natural history has quite an impressive history of its own - it was founded in 1884! Step inside and you can see the incredible Milwaukee Public Museum's collection of more than four million artifacts from around the world, many of which date back thousands of years. Normal admission prices start at $13 (and there's a $2 discount for Milwaukee County residents), but on the first Thursday of every month, admission is free for all! The Milwaukee Public Museum is open Monday- Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but operates for extended hours (9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) for the first Thursday event!
The Milwaukee Public Museum is located at 800 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI.
2. Hit First Thursday for free admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Like the Milwaukee Public Museum, The Milwaukee Art Museum also celebrates the first Thursday of each month by offering free admission to the public! There are over 25,000 individual works to see and rotating exhibits make every experience here unique. Even if you miss the free monthly event, a walk along the water to see the graceful bird-like wings of the building unfurl is awe-inspiring (and also free!)
Milwaukee Art Museum is located at 700 N Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee, WI.
3. Discover the Haggerty Museum of Art.
While the Milwaukee Art Museum is an icon, the Haggerty Museum of Art is absolutely a hidden gem. The museum is located on the campus of Marquette University and is used for both educational and display purposes. The Haggerty's collection includes more than 4,500 individual works from some of the most famous artists in history, including Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. The Museum is open to the public and free to visit on Monday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with extended hours on Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Haggerty Museum of Art is located at 530 N 13th St, Milwaukee, WI.
4. Tour the beautiful Basilica of St. Josaphat.
This stunning architectural landmark really has to be seen up close to appreciate how amazing it really is. The Basilica of St. Josaphat was constructed in 1901 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. You don't need to be a church member to see the beauty held inside this amazing cathedral (though visitors are welcome to attend Mass if interested) and there are guided tours offered through the Visitor's Center every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. following Mass. The Visitor's Center is open Monday - Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and has an incredible collection of historical photos and amazing stories to share. You are also welcome to tour the Basilica on your own during normal open hours.
The Basilica of St. Josaphat is located at 2333 S 6th St, Milwaukee, WI.
5. Enjoy the oasis at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory.
If you want to go a trip to a tropical paradise, but don't want to pay for a hefty airplane ticket, head straight for The Domes. Admission to this awesome spot is free on Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and noon! From the outside, they may look like they belong on Mars instead, but inside these beautiful biomes is an incredible botanical oasis that will transport you to a faraway island... without even leaving the city!
Even if you miss the free admission hours on Monday mornings, general admission is still a pretty awesome deal; it's only $7 for adults and $5 for kids and students with a school ID. Regular operating hours are Monday - Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is located at 524 S Layton Blvd, Milwaukee, WI.
6. Enjoy the view from the Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park.
The easy one-mile Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park is a great way to get out and enjoy some of the best views of Lake Michigan in the entire city!
Grant Park is located at 100 Hawthorn Ave., Milwaukee, WI. Check out this
for more info!
7. Visit the stunning St. Joan of Arc Chapel at Marquette University.
Did you know that there's a real 15th century French chapel right here in Milwaukee? It's true; Marquette University has all kinds of cool places to explore! The St. Joan of Arc Chapel was originally the Chapelle de St. Martin de Seyssuel and was built in a French village along the Rhone River. After WWI, the whole thing was picked up and moved to New York in 1927. It finally ended up at Marquette in 1964, and you can come visit it for yourself Mondays - Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
St. Joan of Arc Chapel is located on the south side of the Marquette University campus and parking is available at the 16th Street Parking Structure.
8. Explore the Oak Leaf Trail.
Grab a bike (or your hiking shoes) and hit the Oak Leaf Trail. This awesome 115-mile paved multi-use path wraps around the city and offers tons of awesome spots to explore! If you make it around the whole loop (in multiple segments, unless you are super tough!), you'll get an amazing glimpse of several different types of natural terrain, from city streets to prairie land, but our favorite spot is the segment the runs along the coastline of Lake Michigan. There are some drop-dead gorgeous views up here that definitely shouldn't be missed!
9. Soak up the sun at Bradford Beach.
Sure, it might be the middle of winter... but we're already dreaming of sunny summer days on Bradford Beach! This beautiful sandy shore along Lake Michigan is a fantastic place to spend a day swimming, playing sand volleyball, or just hanging out with friends (and maybe building a sand castle or two). It's hard to believe that this awesome spot ISN'T on a tropical island!
Bradford Beach in located at 2400 N Lincoln Memorial Dr, Milwaukee, WI.
10. Grab your dancing shoes for a free summer concert.
Summerfest might be the largest musical festival in the world, but there are TONS of awesome concerts that take place in Milwaukee... and many of them are free! Humboldt Park's Chill on the Hill takes place every Tuesday from June through August and features amazing local musicians. Live @ The Lakefront puts on a free acoustic shows at sunset on Wednesdays throughout the summer at the Rotary Amphitheater. Jazz in the Park attracts performers from around the country and takes place on Thursdays at Cathedral Square park. River Rhythms also takes place on Wednesdays at Pere Marquette Park.
There is no excuse not to enjoy fantastic, free music in this city! Now that we think about it... it might actually be harder to AVOID free music in Milwaukee than it is to find it!
11. Go fly a kite!
It can get pretty windy around here, but don't let a blustery day hold you back... it's the perfect weather to go fly kites! Veteran's Park is a particularly excellent spot to take flight (or just watch other kite-pilots do tricks!) and you definitely don't want to miss the annual Family Kite Festival! It takes place on Memorial Day Weekend and brings out hundreds of bright, colorful kites. You will be stunned to see the aerial acrobatics!
Veteran's Park is located at 1010 N Lincoln Memorial Dr, Milwaukee, WI.
12. Snap some silly photos with The Fonz.
Having fun doesn't have to be an elaborate event... some of our favorite days are spent just goofing around with friends. Head down to hang out with the coolest bronze dude in town, show off your best poses, and snap a few selfies with The Fonz!
13. Take a stroll down the Riverwalk at night.
While a walk through downtown is always great for people-watching and window shopping, the Riverwalk is especially beautiful at night. Sometimes the best activities are the simple ones, and this one offers a great way to get out and about to appreciate how special our city really is!
There’s no reason to let a tight budget stop you from having fun, especially when there are so many amazing free activities in town! We’re undoubtedly lucky to have access to places and events like these, but this list only features a small slice of everything that Milwaukee has to offer. Where’s your favorite spot to spend a day of free fun?