Smiling multi-ethnic friends talking while walking on sidewalk. Man and women are spending leisure time in city. They are wearing casuals.

A Generation Z Guide to Milwaukee

If you were born after 1995, you’re going to want to read this.

As a metropolitan hub, Milwaukee has no choice but to accept that one day very soon, Generation Z (those born since 1996) will rise up like the undead and overtake those goshdarn Millennials with their avocado participation trophy Snapchats. What does Generation Z want, and how can Milwaukee give it to them? As one among the first wave of those undead monsters here to sow disrespect and ruin, I feel uniquely qualified to present this guide to Milwaukee, tailor-made for my fellow Generation Z hooligans.

Walk It Out

photo via Visit Milwaukee

Survey data shows that in the late 70s, about 90 percent of teenagers had their driver license by 12th grade. By 2014 that was down to 73 percent and dropping. Kerouac and the baby boomers can keep the open road, thank you very much.

Thankfully, Milwaukee has pretty top-notch walkability (number 24 in the country according to and plenty of activities for the licenseless. First off, the Third Ward packs tons of scenic shops and restaurants into a couple of blocks. The Public Market — with food, drinks, merch and more — is easily in walking distance, as are several urban parks.

Head slightly east from there, and you’ll arrive at the lakefront, where you can go to the Summerfest grounds for countless walkable events, head north to Discovery World or up to Veterans Park, and that’s practically a full day of car-free enjoyment. Our readers have plenty of other suggestions for enjoyable walks to take Downtown.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Mocktails; photo courtesy of Finks

A 2017 psychology study hilariously titled “The Decline in Adult Activities Among U.S. Adolescents, 1976–2016” found that Generation Z doesn’t drink nearly as much as those lushes who came before. So for maximum enjoyment, this city needs to provide some quality, responsible, vaguely sad non-alcoholic beverages for the Z-meisters (copyright still pending on that term).

For the morning hours, Gen Z has tons of coffee options to choose from, but Fuel Cafe on 5th Street is particularly cozy. If you need a little somethin’ somethin’ during the day, consider a smoothie. The Juice Kitchen offers tons of healthy non-inebriating options.

And for those nights when a young Z-fella wants to hit the town without later hitting the sidewalk, The Outsider offers the fancy cocktail experience minus the hooch. Ask for non-alcoholic options at the bar, and they provide plenty of mocktails.

Spots for the ‘Gram

Milwaukee Art Museum
Photo by Meghan Quadracci

That study about “Adult Activities” in Generation Z also added that one of the reasons they aren’t as drunk n’ wild as previous generations is because they prefer to spend time at home and use social media. So obviously Milwaukee needs to absolutely bring its Instagram game if it wants to win these kids over.

(Related: Ranking Wisconsin’s Reality Stars by Instagram Followers and 5 Instagram Tips from the Milwaukee Art Museum Curator)

The Boerner Botanical Gardens offer that curated natural look, without actually forcing you to go out in the woods or anything. The old Pabst Brewing Complex offers super-artsy industrial decay that really drives up the likes. And the Art Museum has plenty of picture opportunities inside but, above all, offers the classic Winged Bridge Gram that satisfies all the aesthetic needs of a social media all-star.

Financial Responsibility and Entrepreneurial Spirit

Generation Z came of age during the 2008 market crash and subsequent recession, so the dangers of financial foolery are fresh in our still-developing minds. We’re proving to be a mindful, diligent generation wary of the dangers of the future. Access to an obscene amount of information and technology is also allowing this generation to pursue entrepreneurship at an earlier age.

For all these socially-conscious Gordon Gekkos, Milwaukee has a burgeoning startup scene. In 2017, Inc. named Milwaukee an underrated city for startups looking to save money. Tons of venture capital funds have flooded into the city, and organizations like Startup Milwaukee are dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and helping build new businesses. We offer low overhead and plenty of opportunity for the burgeoning Z-capitalist.

That Constant Sense of Impending Doom

photo via Visit Milwaukee

You know what I’m talking about right? In 2016, 62 percent of undergraduates reported “overwhelming anxiety” compared to 50 percent in 2011, according to The American College Health Association. Clearly this problem is bigger than a simple generation-based city guide, but I can offer one minuscule pleasant diversion: The Oak Leaf Trail snakes around all of metro Milwaukee and gives you the chance to enjoy a therapeutic walk through wooded and lakefront areas of the city for a brief, scenic escape from your premature nihilism.



Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.