5 fun things to do in Milwaukee in the winter

A couple months ago, a good friend and I were talking about fancy hotels (I lubba-lubb a good hotel, fancy or not). “Have you been to The Pfister in Milwaukee? It’s haunted,” she said, a wee bit too much certainty in her voice.

Naturally, I googled the daylights out of The Pfister and decided an in-person visit was necessary to assess. I’d never been to Milwaukee, and since this whole Midwest thing is still sort of new to me, I’ll take any opportunity to get out and explore. Besides, from the North Shore, Milwaukee is a cool hour-and-some-change away, making it the perfect weekend road trip that doesn’t require a day off work.

The first thing I’ll say is that Milwaukee is neat, especially downtown. Restaurants to shops to museums, there’s a lot going on. Some people might disagree, but to me, Milwaukee feels like one of those cities on the brink of becoming the next hipster boomtown (Portland and Austin, I’m looking at you).

The second thing I’ll say is that it seems Milwaukee would be even neater in the summer. I suspect that much like Chicago, the city comes alive when the weather warms up. Music festivals, outdoor cafes, bike paths, beer gardens … I have a feeling summer looks good on Milwaukee.

That said (and also similar to Chicago), there’s lots to do with kids in the winter. You just have to know where to look.

Discovery World

Children’s museums are a magical resource, and Discovery World ranks near the top of my list. Physics, sportsology, music, sailing, energy consumption and much more—this place would easily occupy a curious child for hours. Saturdays feature special events (several included with general admission) such as making color-changing slime and creating clouds of cotton candy. Spending a day here is affordable, too: $19 for adults, $16 for kids ages 3-17 and free for children 2 and younger.

500 N. Harbor Dr.


Milwaukee Public Museum

The Milwaukee Public Museum is home to the Daniel M. Soref National Geographic Dome Theater and Planetarium, which is a formal way of saying a “six-story-tall screen and wraparound digital surround sound.” Swim underseas, climb Mt. Everest or experience a fully immersive view of the Milky Way. Of course, the museum also offers an array of special and permanent exhibits, including the world’s largest-known dinosaur skull. Like Discovery World, admission is easy on the wallet: $18 for adults, $12 for kids ages 5-13, and free for children 4 and younger.

800 W. Wells St.


Purple Door

OMG. This place. I don’t care how cold it is outside. Creative ice cream calls, from “beer and pretzel” flavor to lemon cardamom to whiskey. The usual (and kid-approved) suspects show up too, like malted chocolate chunk, salted caramel and mint chip. Can’t decide? I know. Try the flight.

205 S. 2nd St.



Love the North Shore though I do, I can’t say it has its fair share of Cuban restaurants, so Cubanitas was a must. The bright orange exterior enticed me, the mojito wooed me, but it was the ham croquettes and Cuban sandwich that sealed the deal. My 7-year-old son gobbled down the Cuban equivalent of a grilled cheese plus an interesting “batido de mamey,” or fruit shake with milk.

728 N. Milwaukee St.


The Pfister Hotel

We did indeed stay at The Pfister, a grand structure built in 1893 by German immigrant Guido Pfister and his son Charles. Designed in a Romanesque Revival architectural style, it features an indoor swimming pool on the 23rd floor, a full-service spa and salon and a stunning tromp l’oeil ceiling in the lobby. If you like fancy hotels, I’m telling you, this one’s a gem.

Oh, and by the way. Final verdict? Yes.

424 E. Wisconsin Ave.


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