50 Free Things to Do in Milwaukee

Reflection Of Buildings In Calm Water
Barbara Hughes / EyeEm / Getty Images

Having fun in our fair city doesn't need to cost a dime. Here are 50 ways to enjoy yourself in Milwaukee without hitting the ATM.

  1. Start the year off by jumping into frigid Lake Michigan at the Polar Bear Plunge on January 1.
  2. Tour the Basilica of St. Josephat, a beautiful building commissioned by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
  3. Get cultured during UWM's French Film Festival in early February.
  4. Stroll through the botanical wonder that is the Mitchell Park Domes, free for County residents from 9 a.m.-noon on Mondays.
  5. Wear green and watch Milwaukee's great St. Patrick's parade in March.
  6. Get your photo taken with the Bronze Fonz, on Milwaukee's Riverwalk.
  1. Take in the amazing rotunda of the Milwaukee Central Library. While you're there, treat the little ones to free story time. There's also a used bookstore to browse, too.
  2. Visit your favorite animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo, free for all visitors specific dates each year. Remaining free dates for 2017 include October 7, November 4, and December 2. For updates in future years, please check this website. Milwaukee County residents with I.D. also receive free admission on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
  1. Join in on some Earth Day activities, such as clean-ups with Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful or a festival at your local Urban Ecology Center.
  2. Visit the Joan of Arc Chapel, a 15th-century French chapel located on the Marquette University campus.
  3. Take part in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources free fishing clinics for kids in mid-April
  4. Stroll through one of the city's great farmers markets.
  5. Check out the Family Kite Festival at Veteran's Park on Memorial Day Weekend.
  6. Have some fun at a local parish church festival. These fun block-party type events often feature games, rides, music and more.
  1. Celebrate veterans history at Reclaiming our Heritage, always the weekend after Memorial Day.
  2. Traverse the Oak Leaf Trail by bike, skates or feet. This extensive trail winds its way throughout the city, and is a great way to experience some greenery without leaving town.
  3. Enjoy some Jazz in the Park from June through September at Cathedral Square Park.
  4. Kiss the sun at Bradford Beach.
  5. Attend the Urban Island Beach Party at Lakeshore State Park in early August.
  6. The first Thursday of every month is free admission at the Milwaukee Public Museum
  1. Take in some Shakespeare in the Park at Alverno College in June.
  2. Enjoy some free music in the park during the summer months: Chill on the Hill in Bay View on Tuesdays, River Rhythms at Pere Marquette Park on Wednesdays, and Jazz in the Park at Cathedral Square on Thursdays.
  3. Celebrate the solstice at the Summer Soulstice North Avenue block party in mid-June.
  4. Walk the length of the Milwaukee RiverWalk to enjoy the shops, restaurants and bars lining downtown's waterway--and don't forget to take a selfie with the Bronx Fonz!
  1. Witness the spectacle of July Fourth fireworks at any of the many events that take place throughout the city.
  2. Enjoy one of the nation's largest French-themed celebrations during Bastille Days at Cathedral Square Park in early July.
  3. Escape from the office for some mid-day fun during Downtown Employee Appreciation Week in late July.
  4. Walk the Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park.
  5. Don your craziest get-up and join the pedaling throng in the annual Tour de Fat. Start at Humboldt Park and wind your way through Bay View. Late July.
  1. Enjoy the wonders of the Milwaukee Art Museum, free for all on the first Thursday of each month, and on other days free to kids 12 and under, members, and Wisconsin K-12 teachers with valid school ID or a pay stub.
  2. Party on one of the city's best entertainment streets during the Brady Street Festival in late July.
  3. Watch an outdoor movie at Discovery World while enjoying a frosty beverage and dinner at Fish Fry & A Flick, on select Fridays in August and September.
  4. Check out a Night Market in downtown Milwaukee during the summer months. 
  1. Explore the Oak Leaf Trail, more than 100 miles of green connecting all parts of our city and beyond.
  2. See the works of more the 140 fabulous artists at the Morning Glory Fine Craft Fair on the Marcus Center grounds in early August.
  3. Enjoy the rumble as thousands of Harley riders descend upon Brew City for the Milwaukee Rally in early September.
  4. Celebrate in the city's favorite workin' class turned cutting-edge cool neighborhood during the Bay View Bash in mid-September.
  5. Visit City Hall, which at the time of its construction was the tallest habitable building in the U.S.
  1. Watch hundreds of caged combatants hurl rotten tomatoes at one another during Tomato Romp, a North Avenue street festival held in mid-September.
  2. Head to the beach! There is a string of great Milwaukee beaches stretching to the north and south of our city.
  3. Watch the Milwaukee River Challenge, a regatta through the heart of the city on our namesake river in mid-September.
  4. Visit the tiny free library in Kletzch Park to find a new novel. Take one and leave one!
  5. Head north to the enjoy the fruits of the vine at the Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival. Mid-September.
  1. Explore your favorite buildings public and private as Doors Open Milwaukee gives a weekend of access to our city's greatest architectural treasures in late September.
  2. Attend a quarterly gallery night to see art throughout the city -- winter, spring, summer or fall.
  3. See the thousands of lights of the season adorning three downtown parks during the Holiday Lights Festival from mid-November through New Year's.
  4. Take a spin down Candy Cane Lane from Thanksgiving through the end of the year to celebrate the season.
  1. Skate free at Red Arrow Park's Slice of Ice skating rink if you bring your own skates. Weather permitting!
  2. Meet live reindeer, sit on Santa's lap, and enjoy the holiday cheer of Christmas in the Ward in early December.
  3. Grab your saucer or your toboggan and hit one of our great sledding hills.