Here’s Your Milwaukee Museum Bucket List

Need a little culture in your life? In Milwaukee, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by world-class museums that captivate and inspire. No matter your tastes, there’s sure to be a flavor for you – whether its perusing paintings, taking a walk through the past and learning about our city’s history – or, maybe motorcycles are your thing (there’s a museum for that).

Milwaukee Art Museum

Come for internationally renowned Santiago Calatrava’s grandiose entryway. Stay for the rich collection of awe-inspiring art. With more than 300,000 works of art in a variety of mediums, prepare to wander through ancient artifacts, thought-provoking installations and sculptures and the soft, buttery colors of impressionism. Milwaukee’s been able to boast of having a museum dedicated to showcasing art since before the 20th century. But the museum we know and love today began to shape in the 1950s, with the construction of the Milwaukee County War Memorial. Over the years, the museum has grown and expanded, as too has its collections.

Milwaukee Public Museum

Like the Milwaukee Art Museum, this Milwaukee staple – with a focus on natural and human history – can also trace its roots back to the 1800s. The public museum is our favorite place to take a walk through Milwaukee’s historic past, with the Streets of Old Milwaukee. We also love this museum’s powerful exhibits on anthropology and animal life over the centuries. And no visit is complete without experiencing the Puelicher Butterfly Wing. This enclosed tropical environment enables visitors to experience the joy of these fluttering creatures up close and personal.

Mitchell Gallery of Flight

Aviation buffs should plan a visit to this little museum, tucked away inside General Mitchell Airport, near Concourse C. Perfect for inquisitive kiddos and grown-ups alike. View displays featuring photos, models and artifacts detailing the incredible history of flight. Learn more about Milwaukee’s airport and the city’s connections (Flights. Connections. Pardon our pun!) to flight.

Harley Davidson Museum

Milwaukee wouldn’t be what it is today without the vibrant history of America’s favorite motorcycle being so intertwined with the city’s own history. This museum isn’t just for HOGs; it’s for anyone who’s ever thought Harleys were cool, even if that means simply admiring them from afar.

Walk through the past with their bike-filled exhibits to learn about two men’s craftsmanship and the surprising ways their bikes were used throughout history. See bikes from every decade, and even hop on a couple for some fab photo ops.

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

For many youngsters, this Milwaukee staple is their introduction to the world of museums. And what a grand introduction it is. Within walking distance of Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum, this space is specifically geared to those 10 and under.

Enjoy exhibits like Word Headquarters, where kiddos can “listen, share, read, write, perform and create in our exhibit where literacy comes to life,” or Home Town, where little ones get to learn let their imaginations run wild in a lifelike setting with a grocery store, bank and more.

MSOE Grohmann Museum

In the Grohmann’s primary exhibit, The Man at Work, find an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures – billed as “the world’s most comprehensive” – showcasing the evolution of human work over time.

If you visit, be sure to check out the rooftop sculpture garden as well. Great for its views of that part of downtown, but even more spectacular for the workmanship atop the roof. Find a dozen bronze men at work, each weighing in at about a thousand pounds.

Jewish Museum of Milwaukee

This museum is dedicated to highlighting the history of the Jewish community in the Milwaukee area. The museum’s roots trace back to the 1980s with the Milwaukee Jewish Archives. See special art exhibits on display, and wander the historic surrounding East Side neighborhood.

Discovery World

Photo courtesy Discovery World

This museum with first-class views of Lake Michigan is perhaps the best local spot for kids – or those who are kids at heart – to learn about science and technology. With hands-on exhibits that pique curiosity and engage imaginations, this museum doesn’t disappoint. Climb aboard the Challenge, a replica Great Lakes schooner, and pretend you’re part of the crew. Visit the Simple Machines Shipyard and learn about wedges, levers and pulleys. Wander the Reiman Aquarium to view a variety of fish, and even jellyfish and seahorses. Take a detour through the Les Paul House of Sound and discover not only a bit of music but some fun facts about Wisconsin’s own guitar extraordinaire.

Lynden Sculpture Garden

Forty acres. Fifty sculptures. And just a few miles north of downtown. Get outside and explore at Lynden Sculpture Garden. What started as a private residence is now a place the public has the distinct privilege to enjoy as well. Take in the beauty of the natural setting – the lake, the grounds, the bridge – while also admiring the unique art dotting the property. Behold the beauty of sculpture married with the beauty of the great outdoors.

Charles Allis Museum

This Milwaukee gem – also on Prospect Avenue like the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee – was designed by renowned architect Alexander Eschweiler for Charles Allis, who held the role of first president of Allis Chalmers. This museum serves dual purposes in that it offers glimpses of special art collections , while simultaneously providing a chance to wander beautiful rooms that evoke a sense of their original grandeur. From bedrooms to a library to a dining room to a posh French parlor — prepare to feel fancy.

Pabst Mansion

This eye-catching beauty of a building on W. Wisconsin Ave. has been a grand, imposing Downtown structure since 1892. It once served as home to one of Milwaukee’s most well known magnates. Wander the halls of the home of Capt. Frederick Pabst., who helped put Milwaukee on the map for brewing beer. Get lost wandering through some of the 20,000+ square feet of space, which boasts 10 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces and hidden compartments in the study. A docent-led tour is the only way to see the facility, and reservations for groups of 15 or more are available.

Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear; Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Also, consider: Take a walk through Milwaukee’s past at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear, pay homage to our veterans at the Milwaukee County War Memorial, stroll through the eclectic Walker’s Point Var Gallery or mingle with students, professors and art-lovers at Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette.