Your Best of Milwaukee 2022 Recreation & City Life Winners List

From beaches to fall colors, here are 15 reasons to explore Milwaukee.


Readers’ Choice


Holy Hill

Well named, this spot about a 40-minute drive northwest of Downtown inspires a sense of reverence and awe. The site of the Holy Hill Basilica, the secluded area is the highest elevation in southeastern Wisconsin. The breathtaking view is at its peak in mid-October, when the surrounding woodlands are full of bright foliage. 1525 Carmel Rd., Hubertus;

Holy Hill; Photo by Visit Milwaukee


Devil’s Lake

This popular state park has earned its foot traffic. The big draw is East Bluff Trail, with a quick 500-feet elevation gain that might be Wisconsin’s best attempt at making you feel like you’re in the mountains. After, you can take a dip in the park’s namesake lake. Baraboo;

Photo by Derrick A. Mayoleth


Seven Bridges Trail

Beaches, bluffs and beautiful forestry – this treasure’s seven bridges take you on a tour of what our area’s great outdoors have to offer. What this trail also has is options: Keep it short and take it straight to the shore, or break a sweat by making your way up the bluff for stunning views of Lake Michigan. Grant Park, South Milwaukee;

“It’s beautiful and unspoiled.” – Marcie Hoffman

Seven Bridges Trail; Photo by Isabel Ditchev


Pewaukee Public Beach

This strip of sand on Pewaukee Lake is favored for its easy access and clean water, but what really sets it apart is the strip of restaurants and shops across the street. What goes better with a day in the sun and water than a cone from The Chocolate Factory?



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.


Lapham Peak (Kettle Moraine)

Love cross country skiing? This is the place to go. Even when winter doesn’t bring snowflakes, the 17 miles of trails for beginners and enthusiasts will usually be in business, thanks to the snow machines and grooming. It’s a good reminder that Wisconsin winters aren’t always so bad. 1 mile south of Delafield;

Photo courtesy of Dave Frazer


Adventure Rock

With two locations in Milwaukee and one in Brookfield, these gyms have formed quite the climbing community. Head to the East Side if you want to be hooked in and up high. The Walker’s Point gym is for the brave boulderers, who prefer to climb without a harness. Plus, the facilities offer yoga classes, a workout room and tons of darn cool events.

“It’s not only fun, it also helps develop great skills.” – Ellen Trytek

Photo courtesy of Adventure Rock

Editors’ Picks


Cruise Ships

It would have been a cruel punchline 15 years ago: a luxury cruise to … Milwaukee. But we got the last laugh with the arrival of Viking Cruises’ Octantis in May – squeezing just a few feet under the Hoan Bridge. Cruise ships have come to Milwaukee before, but 33 port calls scheduled for the 2022 season was a new high. And Cream City had never seen a ship like the brand new Octantis, a 665-foot, gleaming white liner that disembarks up to 378 passengers here every two weeks on its cruises through the Great Lakes. Visit Milwaukee estimates cruise passengers will spend up to $4 million in the city this year.

Viking Octantis; Photo by Rich Rovito


McKinley Beach Rebuild

We were thrilled to see the county open its wallet to address the dangerous conditions at McKinley Beach that we highlighted in our May 2021 issue. In June, with the beach closed for the second straight summer after rip currents contributed to the drowning of four swimmers in 2020, the County Board approved more than $700,000 to rebuild the beach. Even with the beach fenced off, tragedy struck, with a 16-year-old girl drowning at the beach just weeks before the County Board’s vote. Improvements should be finished and McKinley reopened sometime next summer.


The Entertainment Gold Rush

There are a lot of approvals needed and plans to execute, but it’s hard not to be excited about the Kacmarcik Enterprises/Bear Development proposal to build an 8,000-seat soccer stadium and 3,500-seat concert hall in Westown, nestled against Downtown’s freeways. Milwaukee deserves big-time outdoor soccer, and this plan appears to deliver that and more to a neglected corner. Not to be outdone, the Bucks are planning a $50 million development just blocks away in the Deer District that includes two music venues, capacity 4,000 and 800. 

An architect’s rendering of the soccer stadium proposed for Downtown Milwaukee near the Marquette Interchange. Courtesy Kahler Slater


JLH Social Impact Fund 

Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday dishes dimes on the court and off. For three years, Holiday and his two-time Olympic soccer medalist wife, Lauren, have been distributing grants to Milwaukee community nonprofits and businesses led by Black people. This year’s grantees included Jet Constellations, a software company that provides programming to Black youth, and Re-Imagine Education, which seeks to grow the community’s base of teachers of color. The Holidays’ fund makes grants totaling $1 million a year, with a focus on Milwaukee and other cities their sports careers have taken them: Indianapolis, Los Angeles and New Orleans.


Dafoe and Dwyane

Milwaukee universities came through with a one-two punch this commencement season. First, UW-Milwaukee brought screen legend and alum Willem Dafoe back to the city, and then Marquette delivered 13-time NBA all-star Dwyane Wade. This is the coolest commencement duo to hit Milwaukee in years (ever?), and if you don’t believe us, go watch The Lighthouse right now.


The Recombobulation Area

Independent journalist (and former MilMag editor) Dan Shafer has been bringing a sharp urbanist bent to his one-man Substack outlet since 2019, but The Recombobulation Area really hit its stride this year, winning a Milwaukee Press Club gold award for his needle-moving coverage of the state’s boon-doggle plan to expand I-94 and joining forces with the great digital magazine Milwaukee Record.

Titans of Milwaukee Lost

This year saw the passing of several monumental Milwaukeeans.

Mary John

Born in Green Bay, John spent years producing plays in New York before returning to Milwaukee and founding Drama Inc., now the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, in 1954. “Her vision and fortitude to create a professional theater in Milwaukee has changed the scope of the city and given so many an artistic home,” Mark Clements, the Rep’s artistic director, said of John. 

Mary John, 1950s; Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Rep

Michael Cudahy

John Gurda, in his obituary of arguably the city’s most prominent philanthropist, wrote: “Cudahy viewed the world as an endless procession of problems to be solved, of opportunities to be seized, and he was happiest when he was in the absolute thick of solving and seizing them.” Over his career, the health electronics magnate donated millions to nonprofits and cultural institutions, and was responsible for the creation of the lakefront museum Discovery World. 

Lester Carter

For nearly 50 years, the welcoming and wise pharmacist “Dr. Carter” was a community leader and beloved figure in the Amani neighborhood. He was a pioneer in Milwaukee’s Black business community, opening Carter Drug Store at a time when there were few pharmacists of color. 

Lester Carter Jr. behind the counter at Milwaukee Pharmacy in 2014; Photo by Barbara J. Miner


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s September issue.

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