The Thrifty Traveler’s Guide to Milwaukee

Budget-Friendly Attractions, Restaurants, and Nightlife in Milwaukee

Even though Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s biggest city, it might surprise you to learn that a trip to Cream City is fairly affordable, especially if you follow this money-saving itinerary! We break down the city’s best budget-friendly attractions, restaurants, and nightlife so that you can get the most out of your time in Milwaukee while also stretching your dollar. 

Free and Low-Cost Attractions in Milwaukee

Paying for tours and tickets can add up fast. Luckily, Milwaukee has plenty of free and low-cost attractions that offer tons of fun without breaking the bank—these are just a few of our favorites! 

Milwaukee Riverwalk

Outdoor Art, No Admission Required!

Historic Third Ward, Downtown, Beerline B |
The Bronze Fonz is among the most popular places to stop for a selfie on the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Image courtesy of @donnynicholas05 on Instagram

Why pay to see art when you can see statues along the Milwaukee Riverwalk for free? Dotted with a range of sculptures and art installations, the Riverwalk is three miles throughout the city and will lead you through the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and the Beerline B. 

So, grab your camera, and make your way through the city by following the Riverwalk. It’s a great way to see Milwaukee, and with all of the landmarks, restaurants, and shops that you’ll pass, there’s plenty to see and do. Some of the sculpture highlights include The Bronze Fonz, Gertie the Duck, and Dream with the Fishes for Aurora

“This is a pretty awesome continuous pedestrian walkway along the Milwaukee River Downtown . . . One of the more fascinating things I found about traversing the city on this footpath is the magnificent insider views of the iconic landmarks that comprise our fair city. For those interested in the history of Milwaukee, or just an alternate and exciting view of the city, the Riverwalk is most certainly worth your time!” -Carrie G. on Yelp

Lakeshore State Park 

No Better Way to Spend a Nice Day in Milwaukee

500 N. Harbor Drive | Historic Third Ward |
This lakeside park has fishing, walking and running paths, and a marina—providing you with a nature-filled getaway, right in the city.  Image courtesy of @dkortnitz on Instagram

Wander the shores of Lake Michigan when you visit Lakeshore State Park and its twenty-two acres of scenic views, outdoor activities, and fresh-aired enjoyment. The urban state park is open year-round, no-entry-fee required. 

Lakeshore State Park makes for the perfect daycation during a trip to Milwaukee. Walk, run, bike, fish, and take lots of photos when you escape to this local paradise. Plus, because it’s still within the city, you’re still able to get to restaurants, museums, and other points of interest in the Historic Third Ward. 

“Insanely nice park right in the heart of Milwaukee. Beautiful and well-kept grounds. Plenty of paths with views of the water and the city. Easy access to nearby museums . . . We visited on the first warm day of this last spring and it was stunningly picturesque (and, bonus for us, nearly empty!). This should be a model to other cities of what can be done in terms of nice park space right on the waterfront.” -Peter L. on Yelp

Black Cat Alley

One of the Most-Photographed Spots in the City

 E. Ivanhoe Place | East Side |
This outdoor public art gallery is flush with color, creativity, and photo ops—not to mention, totally free! Image courtesy of Black Cat Alley

Since its opening in 2016, Black Cat Alley has won awards and attracted countless visitors, undoubtedly appearing in thousands of Instagram posts in the process. With twenty-one murals by different artists from all over, Black Cat Alley is as diverse as it is beautiful. 

This East Side treasure might be relatively new to the city, but it’s quickly becoming a famed Milwaukee hotspot for visitors as well as locals. Take a stroll through the alley’s eclectic display of street art and murals before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the neighborhood’s many eateries. 

“Black Cat Alley outdoor mural gallery is a must-stop on Milwaukee's East Side . . . From the ubiquitous koi fish of artist Jeremy Novy to cosmic third-eye deer by John Kowalczyk, the gallery is full of inspiring art and photo opportunities. Check out Black Cat Alley, and keep art thriving in Milwaukee.” -Kyle H. on Yelp

Great Food, Even Better Prices

Brew City might be known for its beer, but the food scene certainly won’t fail to impress you. Eat your way through Milwaukee—with no extravagant costs to leave a bad taste in your mouth—when you stop at one of these reasonably-priced restaurants. 

Oscar’s Pub & Grill

Gourmet Burgers and Local Beers

1712 W. Pierce Street | Mitchell Park |
This legendary Milwaukee burger joint has specialty burgers at prices you can’t beat. Image courtesy of @professorhorn on Instagram

There might be a ton of places throughout the city where you can grab a great burger, but only one spot has the best prices in town, and that’s Oscar’s. In addition to burgers, this local favorite also has sandwiches, wings, nachos, fish fry, and, of course, a healthy selection of brews. 

Image courtesy of @sirebro414 on Instagram. 

Image courtesy of @sven_swensenheimer on Instagram

Image courtesy of @ilovemkefoods on Instagram

With its casual, welcoming atmosphere, amazing burgers, and hearty portions, Oscar’s has so much more to bring to the table than just a reputation for being a cheap eat. See for yourself why this Mitchell Park pub has achieved local fame. 

“Oscar’s will forever remain my favorite burger spot. The prices on the burgers are always so cheap and on top of that, the burgers are huge! . . . The parking is always really easy. But if it's a huge game night be prepared to see a packed house. Oscar’s always has the best customer service also, very nice people and make sure you are happy and always check up on you.” -Tony N. on Yelp

Milwaukee Brat House

German Fare, Complete with a Beer Garden 

1013 N. Old World Third Street | Westown |
Take a bite out of Milwaukee’s German heritage when you visit the Milwaukee Brat House on Old World Third Street! Image courtesy of @erin.christina on Instagram

Stop for a brat and a brew at the Milwaukee Brat House as you’re touring Downtown’s historic Old World Third Street. The Brat House celebrates the area’s German roots in the best way possible—with cultural foods at reasonable prices. 

Image courtesy of @kllyrae420 on Instagram

Image courtesy of @mkebrathouse on Instagram

Image courtesy of @mkebrathouse on Instagram

Besides brats, you can also find giant pretzels, cheese curds, wings, and more at the Brat House. If you visit in the summer, make sure you check out the beer garden for outdoor seating and live music! 

“It has a prominent place Downtown, a nice hole in the wall. Priced modestly and has great pub food. A little on the small side, but if you want a place downtown to grab a quick bite and a drink at a reasonable price this is the place for you.” -Tim S. on Yelp

Purple Door Ice Cream

A Sweet Deal in More Ways Than One

205 S. 2nd Street | Walker’s Point |
Put the “cream” in Cream City when you stop by this beloved ice cream shop for a cup or cone. Image courtesy of @igetcheesy on Instagram

What the scoop? Stop by Purple Door for some of the best ice cream in Milwaukee! Choose from classic flavors like mint chip, vanilla beans, chocolate chip cookie dough, or try something new with crazy creations like rhubarb crisp, butternut squash, and even goat cheese. 

Image courtesy of @adventuresofshakandb on Instagram

Image courtesy of @funadventureswithhali on Instagram

Image courtesy of @purple.door on Instagram

Whether you get regular ice cream, a shake, or sundae, you’re sure to fall in love with this Milwaukee dessert destination that has over twenty flavors of ice cream—plus other treats—all available at great prices. 

“If you want great ice cream in Milwaukee, Purple Door is always a fun spot! It's even better on summer nights. The area around it is very cute. You are close to summer fest grounds, downtown, third ward. The space is small, but it works. They do have outdoor seating as well . . . The ice cream is high quality so I always enjoy them! I sample many but I always end with the same flavors, vanilla bean, chocolate or whiskey.” -Ashley F. on Yelp

Nightlife: Invaluable Memories (at a Reasonable Price)

You might think that traveling on a budget means having to sacrifice nightlife—but that doesn’t have to be true. These Milwaukee bars and clubs are affordable, fun, and a great way to take advantage of the city’s thriving nightlife.

Wolski’s Tavern

Over 100 Years of Good Times

1836 N. Pulaski Street | East Side |
Staying until close at Wolski’s is a Milwaukee milestone that locals take very seriously—and often commemorate with bumper stickers and other forms of merch. Image courtesy of @nic_cowles on Instagram

With a history that dates all the way back to 1907, Wolski’s Tavern isn’t just any old bar in Milwaukee—it’s the old bar in Milwaukee. The humble exterior resembles a house, and the interior is equally homey, featuring darts, pool, and popcorn. 

Wolski’s is perfect for a low-key night of getting to know the town and enjoying well-priced drinks in a laid-back environment. And with more than 100 years’ worth of experience, this family-run bar definitely knows how to keep patrons happy (and coming back). 

“If you've never closed Wolski's, you haven't lived! Great bartenders, outstanding popcorn, inexpensive drinks, and steel dart boards. Everyone is friendly, and the atmosphere is unpretentious. Make sure you stay until bar close to get your sticker for the authentic experience.” -Erin Z. on Yelp. 

My Office 

Things Are No Work, All Play at This Downtown Dive 

763 N. Milwaukee Street | Downtown |
Known for casual vibes and its clever name, My Office is a neighborhood water hole that’s been serving up cheap drinks since 1975.  Image courtesy of @MyOfficeMilwaukee on Facebook

Step into My Office for a low-priced menu that has both drinks and food. Far from a trendy nightclub, this small dive bar is about as small-town as they come—which is part of the reason that people love it so much. 

If the weather’s nice, try to snag a seat outside. Otherwise, you can settle down inside for a bite to eat and some pool. With breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks, My Office will make you never want to see your workplace again. 

“The best dive bar in the entire city. For real. It's extremely cheap and definitely a service industry bar. I have been frequenting here for about 3 years, and I recommend it to everyone visiting Milwaukee.” -Adam J. on Yelp

Blackbird Bar

Come for the Drinks—Stay for the Pinball (and More Drinks) 

3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave 5th Yuu`nue | Bay View |

You can’t leave Brew City without sampling some local beer, and Blackbird’s is one of the best places to do it. Image courtesy of @hansthejane on Instagram

With birthday parties, trivia, pinball, and a photo booth, Blackbird might be a place to drink, but it’s also the ideal setting to have fun. Whether you drink your way through the ninety-plus Wisconsin beers on tap or just relax and enjoy a few Happy Hour cocktails, you’ll love this hidden treasure in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. 

Drink deals solidify Blackbird’s widespread appeal, as does its attentive service and idiosyncratic character. Play games, try some new drinks, and feel like a local when you stop by Blackbird during a night out in Milwaukee. 

“Love this place! It's cozy, fun and offers great drink specials. There is a drink special almost every night of the week at different times. They have board games, pinball machines, and great music at the bar. We are always welcomed here with a friendly smile and good service. Bring some friends and have a night out here at Blackbird Bar… or come by yourself and make some new friends!” -Stephanie H. on Yelp

Money-Saving in Milwaukee

Traveling doesn’t have to be synonymous with blowing your budget, and Milwaukee is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a dynamic city that’s brimming with history, culture, and entertainment—not to mention midwestern charm! 

One last tip for saving money in Milwaukee? Don’t let taxis and ride services eat away at your travel funds. Renting a car in Milwaukee is an easy way to get where you need to go without having to wait around for someone to come pick you up. Now, you’re ready to dive deep into Cream City! 

Albion Skeldon

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