While you can’t go wrong hopping in the car and tracing Lake Michigan north or south, there are plenty of places near Milwaukee to score fantastic views of the Great Lake. From volleyball courts to plein-air painters — and of course joggers, dog-walkers, roller-bladers and bicyclists — there is a lot of activity along the shoreline. Here are a few of our favorites.
This five-acre public park and beach in the near-north suburb of Shorewood is marked by an art sculpture just off Lake Drive: “Spillover II” by Jaume Plensa, which is filled with open spaces in its design that reveal the blue lake beyond. Kids can enjoy the playground equipment in the park and there are gorgeous views of the beach from the top of a staircase descending down to the sand. Although the park is small, and can be crowded, the beach is typically less populated.
Discovery World's Rooftop
Right off the downtown corridor, next to the Milwaukee Art Museum and Lakeshore State Park, is Discovery World, a science and technology center with unbeatable views. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to an event here, make sure you don’t leave without visiting the rooftop patio. The 180-degree views of Lake Michigan from this cylinder-shaped building are rare and will take your breath away.
Milwaukee Art Museum
Considered the crown jewel of Milwaukee’s lakefront, this world-class art museum sits on prime real estate just east of downtown Milwaukee. From behind the museum you can take stunning shots of Santiago Calatrava’s first North American design (the Quadracci Pavilion, marked by soaring white wings), with a ribbon of blue, too. Or simply marvel at how much this modern design blends into its natural setting. A paved path winds behind the museum, hugging the lakeshore.
This busy marina is wedged between Bradford Beach and Veterans Park, just beyond Milwaukee's East Side. Spend some time admiring the pontoons and sailboats docked here — and you can bet on a sunny, warm day that the lake's horizon is dotted with white sails!
If you crave a quieter, less-crowded beach, head north to Whitefish Bay and Klode Park (about 15 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee, via a beautiful drive up North Lake Drive). To reach the beach, and view the lakefront, park in the parking lot just east of the green lawn, and take the paved path down or the staircase. Bring comfortable walking shoes as the walk down is a bit of a hike.
South Shore Yacht Club
Take in views of Milwaukee’s skyline from this yacht club, just a 10 minute drive south of downtown Milwaukee. It’s a great place to watch the moon glow at night or the sun rise in the morning. If you're interested in a long walk, a paved path winds behind South Shore Park and all the way to the communities of St. Francis and South Milwaukee. During the summer and fall months, you can pick up snacks at the morning farmers market in South Shore Park.
Grant Park Beach
It's easy to forget you're anywhere near a city at Grant Park Beach, a wooded 380-acre park that is easily one of the best places to hike in town. The park's pine trees and open air fields attract all sorts of wildlife — keep your eyes peeled, and you might spot deer, herons, and long-eared owls. Hiking the Seven Bridges Trail is a must and a popular spot for engagement photos. On the eastern edge of Grant Park is a beach area that’s a delightful alternative to busy Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, or even some of the North Shore beaches.