Save money and spend time enjoying free things in Milwaukee
Often referred to as one of the most underrated cities in the Midwest, Milwaukee is full of farmer’s markets, festivals, beer gardens, and over 150 spacious parks to visit. The best part? Many of these activities are free.
Here’s our guide to the best free things to do in Milwaukee.
Black Cat Alley
Black Cat Alley is one of the city’s few outdoor street art galleries, and visitors can view works by designers and muralists from Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Berlin, and more. Black Cat Alley is a great photo stop, and you can take a selfie with one of the many beautiful backgrounds. The art turns, so check out the website to see which artists are featured and when you can see the artistic switches in action.
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Alice’s Garden Urban Farm
Alice’s Garden Urban Farm is a locally run community space for people to connect and bond outdoors. This two-acre farm on the north side of Milwaukee hosts events such as contemporary dance with local company Danceworks, guided and self-guided meditative walks in a herbal maze, arts activities for children and live music. during a fried fish party.
Free pre-scheduled tours or a self-guided tour are available if you want to learn more about the garden’s Black history and its stopping role on the Underground Railroad. While most events at Alice’s Garden are free, a few special events require a small fee. From June to September, you can also visit its craft market on Tuesdays and Thursdays to browse products from local vendors, including jewelry and herbal body products.
Hank Aaron State Trail
The 14-mile Hank Aaron State Trail, named after the Milwaukee baseball legend, also serves as a walking tour through the city. Stroll through the greenery and along the shores of Lake Michigan past Lakeshore State Park. On the trails of the Milwaukee metro area, visitors can make stops at the Urban Ecology Center for more wildlife and nature activities, admire the white wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum pavilion designed by Santiago Calatrava and relax at Bradford Beach. The Hank Aaron Trail also connects to other trails in the city, including the Beerline and Oak Leaf.
As you make your way to the lakefront from downtown, you’ll notice large, spacious grassy areas with a lagoon filled with swan paddle boats at Veterans Park. Bring some snacks and sit at one of the picnic tables facing the lake. On a busy summer day, you’ll see people riding rental bikes and flying kites as high as the surrounding trees. In the spring and summer, the park has outdoor events like the free Gift of Wings Kite Store movies in the park that are kid-friendly. The park also hosts an annual free kite festival where enthusiasts showcase their best and largest kites of whales, yellow butterflies, orange jellyfish, red bears, and other designs.
Milwaukee has no shortage of parks to explore, but Swing Park is one of the most charming – and most under the radar. It’s the only park in Milwaukee with adult swings, but kids enjoy it too. To find it, look for the Marsupial Bridge Media Garden and the Holton Street Bridge. Below you’ll find a mix of swing styles if you need a break from the busy, eatery-packed Brady Street nearby.
Pack some snacks and a beach towel and head to the lakeside to bask in the sun at Bradford Beach. Catch a free sand volleyball match hosted by a local league, participate in a game of Frisbee, jump in the freshwater lake, or just lie on the sand all day. You’ll also see people rollerblading and cycling along the sidewalk in the indoor areas surrounding the beach.
Bradford Beach is the must-see summer spot where you can see Milwaukee in action, especially on a hot day. Get ready to hear music, smell delicious food, and see people of all ages running and playing around Lake Michigan and on the beach.
Milwaukee Farmers Markets
Farmers’ market season coincides with the hottest months of the year and tourist season in Milwaukee, and he’s free to peruse them and peruse all the local delicacies. Many farmers’ markets also have live entertainment, including contemporary and Irish music and dance. The Shorewood Farmers Market has a mix of fresh local produce and food trucks that serve up treats ranging from empanadas and waffles to spring rolls and homemade donuts. The South Shore Farmers’ Market is near Lake Michigan and is home to farmer’s stalls as well as pop-ups from local coffee roasters, ice cream parlors, and barbecue restaurants. Most markets operate from June to October.
Basilica of Saint-Josaphat
Everyone is invited to stop at the Basilica of Saint-Josaphat. This large granite structure with Italian-style domes and decorative plaster was built for the Polish immigrant community that thrived on the south side of Milwaukee. Austria’s red, blue, yellow and orange stained glass designs and European-style murals inside helped St. Josaphat to be named the third basilica in the United States in 1929. You can plan a visit free online or take a self-guided tour. Both options include a free exhibit detailing the history of the basilica.
Milwaukee Public Library
Established in 1878, the Milwaukee Public Library System is Wisconsin’s largest public library system, and the downtown branch is the most extravagant. Visitors can admire the mosaic floors, marble columns and grand staircases reminiscent of the French and Italian Renaissance. The downtown branch also offers free activities and storytelling hours for families.
Jazz in the park
For lovers of jazz, blues and funk, Jazz in the Park is a free and unmissable event. Jazz in the Park has been a staple for almost 30 years and takes place at Cathedral Square Park. It’s Milwaukee’s largest weekly musical series with over 5,000 people in attendance every week. Families, couples and friends all come to relax and enjoy the music every Thursday from May to September.
The Outdoor Sculpture Milwaukee exhibit lights up tall buildings and downtown parking lots. More than 20 sculptures are scattered over two miles, from Sixth Street to O’Donnell Park. Along the way, you’ll spot abstract sculptures including larger-than-life blue collecting sticks, a bronze statue of a black sportsman, and a colorful monster. Each piece showcases the style and identity of local artists and artists from around the world. The facilities change every year and the exhibition is only open in summer.
North Point Lighthouse
Originally built in 1891, the restored North Point Lighthouse is a scenic landmark that sits in Lake Park. The lighthouse is free to view from the outside and is reminiscent of an old postcard, but it costs $ 8 for adults and $ 5 for students to enter the museum and climb to the top, where you will have a panoramic view of the downtown Milwaukee and the lake.
Walk on the Milwaukee River
The three-mile Milwaukee RiverWalk runs through the downtown core and has multiple access points. Stroll through the historic Third Ward Arts District and European-style Old Third World Street that pays homage to Milwaukee’s German roots. If you need to rest, there are also breweries along the way. Be sure to find art from the RiverSculpture outdoor art gallery and stop to learn more about the artists.
South Shore Beach
A visit to the South Side of Milwaukee should include a relaxing day at South Shore Beach. Wind down in the green space and enjoy views of Lake Michigan away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and Bradford Beach. The South Shore also has a space to play in the sand or participate in a game of volleyball. Climb the rocks by the water’s edge to get beautiful photos of the lake at sunset.