Nothing beats exploring a city on foot—but hectic sidewalks, crazy drivers, and disconnected neighborhoods can make a casual walk go from leisurely to stressful in no time. Luckily, if you’re touring Milwaukee, you can enjoy your stroll through the city without having to worry about those obstacles, thanks to the Milwaukee Riverwalk.
The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a 20-block pedestrian walkway that runs through the city, linking together three riverfront neighborhoods: the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B. Are you taking a trip to Milwaukee? Add the Milwaukee Riverwalk to your list of things to do, and keep reading for an extensive guide to the Riverwalk, including . . .
The Riverwalk isn’t just a convenient way to see the city—it’s also an outdoor art gallery (called RiverSculpture!) that features sculptures from local, regional, and national artists. There are both permanent and temporary installations lining the Riverwalk. In this section, we’ll break down the five popular pieces that you’ll feel obligated to stop and pose with.
In 1945, a bridge operator noticed that a mallard duck had chosen the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge as the home for her nest. A country in the midst of war, America soon became captivated by the duck, who was dubbed “Gertie,” and the story eventually made international headlines. The four-foot statue was created by artist Gwendolyn Gillen and made its debut in 1997.
“The Riverwalk is a lovely way to explore Milwaukee on foot while sightseeing. Find great restaurants, brewpubs, shops, and even nightlife to enjoy. There is artwork along the way, such as Gertie, the famous duck.” -Lisa S. on TripAdvisor.
Snap a selfie with the beloved sitcom character when you visit The Bronze Fonz on North Riverwalk Way, just south of Wells Street. Built in 2008 by Gerald P. Sawyer, this statue is a tourist hotspot that you can’t miss during your tour of the Riverwalk. Winkler himself even stopped by to see his bronze counterpart in 2016.
“I had been to Milwaukee before but never did the Riverwalk. Wow, was I impressed! What a great setting and interesting art and architecture. Take your picture with the Bronze Fonz!” -David E. J. on TripAdvisor.
This mural-like work will go swimmingly with your evening walk through Downtown Milwaukee. Located on the exterior of Riverside Theatre between Wells Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Dream with the Fishes for Aurora is a sight to behold at night. An imaginative piece that was updated in 2015, Cork Marcheschi’s addition to the Riverwalk is a can’t-miss stop along the river.
“It's best to get some kind of map that marks the attractions along the way, or it's easy to miss some. This is a wonderful activity for a warm day—you walk along the river, watch the people kayaking and paddleboarding, see many public works of art (the fish on the side of the building that light up were my favorite), and wave at the boats going by.” -Pdxgirl2015 on TripAdvisor.
Acqua Grylli sits on the West Riverbank between Wells Street and Kilbourn Avenue. The elaborate statue is made of bronze, stainless steel, and stone and depicts a mythical female warrior. A great place to stop for a photo, the arch symbolizes the river’s power and reminds viewers to respect the prominent natural resource.
“We enjoyed the brisk weather and temperate sunshine as we walked along the Riverwalk. The sculptures are fun to view, and it's a great way to see downtown from a different perspective. We didn't have much traffic, and we didn't fight the crowds, so it was fun to meander around without dealing with crowds. Everyone we did meet, though, greeted us with a smile. That's the cool thing about Downtown Milwaukee.” -Callie C. on TripAdvisor.
A testament to reuse, Robert W. Smart’s “S.S. Core” is made from end caps taken from old propane tanks. Sitting on the riverside edge of Pere Marquette Park, the giant sphere will add some character to the backdrop of any photo.
“The Riverwalk is a gem in Milwaukee. It's fun to see the city from the riverfront and there are lots of fun sights along the way. The city did it right when it built this, allowing visitors and locals alike to have a fun, safe place downtown.” -Ricktewks on TripAdvisor.
The Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B are some of Milwaukee’s most vibrant neighborhoods, and the Riverwalk runs through all three. And from sights and attractions to shopping and food, these areas of the city are brimming with some of Milwaukee’s most happening places.
The Historic Third Ward is what Visit Milwaukee calls “Milwaukee’s answer to SoHo.” Once a commerce and warehousing district, the Historic Third Ward is now the home of Milwaukee’s rapidly growing cultural scene. You can find galleries, boutique shops, craft breweries, and more in this landmark neighborhood.
400 N. Water St. | www.milwaukeepublicmarket.org
You can find all types of foods at the Milwaukee Public Market—from Middle Eastern fare to gourmet coffee. Open every day of the week, the Market also offers cooking classes that you can sign up for online. Whether you eat your purchases on the second floor Palm Garden or take them home, you’re sure to want to come back to this delightful food menagerie again.
“Great cheeses, sausages, and beers. Fresh seafood is there to order cooked or for you to leave with. Smoothies and juices can be ordered and enjoyed with a sitting area upstairs overlooking the market . . . Worth the visit folks!” -Jonathan O. on TripAdvisor.
158 N. Broadway | www.skylightmusictheatre.org
This mammoth theater produces a wide range of musical theater performances. From broadway shows to European operetta, the Skylight hosts over 90 performances each season. You can buy tickets to a show online, over the phone, or in-person at the box office.
“This is a nice theatre located in the Third Ward. We went to the pre-show in the bar and listened to the writers talk about their play. The theatre seats are very comfortable, the theatre is small and ornate and just right to enjoy a show. The orchestra is located in the lower front section and sounds great. We really enjoyed the shows here.” -Betty C. on TripAdvisor.
211 N. Broadway | www.modgenmke.com
If you’re looking for an unconventional, fun place to go souvenir shopping, consider dropping by MOD GEN on North Broadway. The colorful shop describes itself as a “modern take on the classic general stores once seen in our communities.” It’s the perfect shop to go to when you’re not sure what you’re looking for—because you’re bound to find it (whatever it is) here.
“This is absolutely my favorite local store in Milwaukee. I probably own around ten plants now from here . . . Not only do they have a great selection of house plants, but they also have cards, candles, kitchen utensils, mugs, kids toys, pet toys, coffee table books, soups, ornaments, and stickers.” -Julia L. on Yelp.
Downtown Milwaukee holds the city’s largest theater district, as well as three blocks of Milwaukee’s German heritage, preserved in the form of Old Third World Street. Of course, Downtown is also packed with attractions, activities, restaurants, and more.
1030 N. Old Third World Street | www.usinger.com
Located in the same place at the company’s original factory, Usinger’s Famous Sausages is, as its name suggests, quite famous. Nationally recognized for its sausages, Usinger’s is known for its traditional style and meat-filled gift baskets.
“If you’re downtown, you have to stop in: Excellent meats to buy, excellent service, excellent prices. Walked out with a great big bag of food (meats and bread) for $25.” -Timothy M. on TripAdvisor.
900 Plankinton Avenue | www.parkmilwaukee.com
Named for the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, Pere Marquette Park is a great place to stop for a break during your journey on the Riverwalk. With its laid-back atmosphere and spacious lawn area, you might end up staying in this little park longer than planned.
“This is a wonderful green oasis right on the left bank of the Milwaukee River in downtown. The center of the park is a wide lawn that gets plenty of sun, and trees shade the paths that run along the edges . . . And to top it all off, you can take beautiful photos of the city skyline from here!” -AlexB10499 on TripAdvisor.
144 E. Wells Street | www.pabsttheater.org
This decadent performing arts and concert venue was originally built in 1895, making it one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the country. Named a National Historic Landmark in 1991, the Pabst is hailed as the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s theater district.
“This is our third or fourth concert at the Pabst now and we really look forward to it. You get nice and close to the performers, feels more intimate than the Riverside. And the sound is really great—they don't have to overpower you with volume—just good, rich balance (much, much better acoustics than Mke Theater, of course).” -Tom Z. on TripAdvisor.
This former industrial corridor can be found at the northernmost portion of the Riverwalk. See why Milwaukee is called Brew City by tasting some local craft beer, and enjoy the lively spirit that this up-and-coming neighborhood has to offer—along with some great food and views.
2076 N. Commerce Street | www.beerlinecafe.com
Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it holds back on taste! From loaded nachos and Mexican breakfast crepes to cinnamon roll pancakes and mushroom burgers, Beerline Cafe has a menu that even meat-eaters will love. Plus, the cafe is green-certified and affordably priced.
“The menu focuses on excellent vegetarian options—the crepes are particularly tasty. This is a no-frills, wait-your-turn-for-a-special-treat type of place. Put in your order, get a numbered placard, and relax (enjoy the excellent Wi-Fi). Your well-cooked meal will then be served to you. When busy, wait times can extend to over 30 minutes, but the food is worth the wait. Based on multiple visits, the Beerline Cafe consistently remains a top choice for breakfast-brunch.” -Doc A. on TripAdvisor.
1737 N. Water Street | www.facebook.com/swingparkmke
This secluded park might be small, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a Milwaukee favorite. Swing away your worries with the Holden Street Bridge overhead. You might not spend more than 15 minutes at the unexpected playground, yet it’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time.
““Whether you're 2 or 92, you'll love this hidden gem on the Oak Leaf Trail hiding just below the Holton St. Bridge. Here, you'll find a collection of swings just waiting to be swung on Milwaukee's Lower East Side. There are several traditional swings made of tires including baby swings and a swing for handicap folks. A unique and unforgettable place to recapture your childhood.” -Mlrickey on TripAdvisor.
1872 N. Commerce Street | www.lakefrontbrewery.com
Founded by two brothers in 1987, Lakefront Brewery has become a classic Milwaukee attraction and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. You can take a tour of the brewery, drink craft beer, and grab a bite to eat—all at the same place.
“Most fun brewery tour ever! Their beer is great with many options for all different tastes, but if you want a good recommendation, don’t ask for ‘light’ or ‘dark.’ Instead, describe the flavors you like. I highly recommend the Eastside Lager . . . Yum!!” -Theresa W. on TripAdvisor.
A trip to Milwaukee is one to remember, especially if you include the Milwaukee Riverwalk in your itinerary. Enjoy the fresh Wisconsin air and the riverside breeze as you walk, talk, laugh, and eat your way through Cream City. This engaging walkway is filled with so much excitement that you might even forget you’re getting a decent workout—it’s all part of that Milwaukee magic.