10 Reasons to Smile in Milwaukee

These are just a few of the many ways this city makes us grin ear to ear.

A WORLD SMILE DAY study released on Oct. 7 concluded that Milwaukee frowns a lot more than it grins. We don’t buy it.

The study analyzed 15,000 Instagram posts in the 50 largest American cities, in which Milwaukee ranked No. 8 on the list of cities that smile the least. Only 35% of Instagram posts taken in Milwaukee included smiling subjects, compared to the national average of 43%.  But we know that Milwaukee gives its inhabitants countless reasons to smile every day – maybe they’re just offline smiles, which are better than Instagram smiles anyway, right?

And to prove that, here are ten (of the many) reasons to smile in Milwaukee, in no particular order:

1. Dining Scene 

Milwaukee’s dining scene is unique and nationally renowned. With one of the largest number of independent restaurants in the country, Milwaukee’s dining scene obviously rocks the Wisco classics like cheese curds, custard and fish fries, while also delivering upscale fine dining. So whether you want a giant, buttery burger at Nite Owl or smoked salmon from Sanford, we’ve got you covered. Keep up-to-date on the latest in our dining scene with our dining critic, Ann Christenson.

Photo courtesy of Saffron Modern Indian Dining



Join Milwaukee Magazine and Quad for the third-annual Unity Awards Event on March 8 from 6:30-9 p.m. at GATHER in the Deer District.

2. Festivals 

Milwaukee is nicknamed the “City of Festivals” for a reason. We host more than 200 festivals each year, many of which are the largest of their kind in the country. And of course, we have Henry Maier Festival Park, home to our beloved Summerfest and cultural festivals. And beyond the big fests, there are so many other smaller festivals, fairs and neighborhood parties year round like Mitten Fest, Brady Street Festival, Bronzeville Week and many more. 

Summerfest 2022; Photo by Aaron McLaughlin

3. Sports Teams

Home to the 2021 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers, we host two major league sports teams with passionate fan bases and great stadiums. Athletic pride runs deep in Milwaukee, and our traditions, like tailgating outside American Family Field or chanting “Bucks in six,” are always a reason to smile. 

Photo by Visit Milwaukee

4. Architecture 

Milwaukee is filled with beautiful preserved and repurposed buildings, with the oldest house dating back all the way to 1843 in Estabrook Park. We’re home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s System-Built Homes, and dozens of famed architect Alexander C. Eschweiler’s beautiful early-20th-century buildings. Beyond the historic architecture, Milwaukee boasts the Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which receives international recognition. We’re a city where old and new both thrive. 

Photo by Rich Rovito

5. Museums 

Milwaukee is a place to learn. Our world-class museums educate, inspire and provide an experience for people of all ages. The Public Museum is home to the Puelicher Butterfly Wing, where guests are able to interact with the creatures all year round. We also have the Milwaukee Art Museum, housing works from big names like Monet and Picasso, as well as local artists. And that’s not to mention the Harley-Davidson Museum, Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Discovery World, the Lynden Sculpture Garden and many more. 

Milwaukee Public Museum; photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

6. Cost of Living 

The cost of living in Milwaukee is 13% lower than the national average and 9% lower than the Wisconsin average. And according to move.org, Milwaukee is ranked No. 22 on the most affordable 75 largest cities in America. 

7. The Lakefront

Milwaukee holds a prime location on the shores of Lake Michigan, the largest source of freshwater in the world. Home to over 1,400 acres of waterfront land, we have many spots for beautiful beach days. Although the days are unfortunately getting colder, a fall stroll by the lake is still refreshing. You can check out our beach guide here

Photo by Chris Drosner

8. Local Businesses 

Milwaukee is currently home to over 14,700 small businesses, from bookshops like Rooted MKE and Boswell Book Co., to confectioners like Melt Chocolates and Crème de Liqueur. The local businesses make us smile all the time, and you can make the business-owners smile by checking them out in this shop local directory

Plume Vintage; Photo by Brianna Schubert

9. Beer

Milwaukee is known as the beer capital of the world. Home to major companies, such as Molson Coors and more local brewers than we could name here, it’s our favorite place to grab a beer – whether it’s a specialty craft concoction or just a Miller Lite – and kick back and relax. 

Photo courtesy of Black Husky Brewing

10. The People

Last, but certainly not least, Milwaukeeans make the city so special. Seeing how passionate Milwaukee residents are about their city and all the opportunities it has to offer is certainly a reason to smile.