As a culturally rich, midsized city (pop. 500,000), Milwaukee is a great place to soak up some culture and kick back with your favorite gals. Hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline means convenient hikes and bicycle rides and the city's interesting neighborhoods are brimming with fun bars, delicious restaurants, indulgent spas, and live-music venues. Whether it’s a bachelorette-party weekend or a new setting for your next girlfriends’ getaway, here’s what to do—just for the ladies.
Friday: Arrival and Early Afternoon
Check into the city’s hottest new hotel: Kimpton’s Journeyman Hotel, in the Third Ward, a neighborhood often likened to New York City’s SoHo for its warehouses transformed into apartments, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. Lucky enough to be in town during Gallery Night (the third Friday night of the month in January, April, July, and October)? Then put on your heels and take in the neighborhood’s art (many galleries feature live music, and wine and cheese samples). Any time of the year, it’s worth ducking into Shoo for shoes, or boutiques like Free Bird Style and Lela for stylish clothes you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. Broadway Paper stocks adorable greeting cards with witty, heartfelt sayings—great for giving to your guys and kids at home.
Friday: Late Afternoon and Evening
After folding your girlfriends into hugs and commenting on how cute you all look—over drinks at the hotel’s rooftop bar—kick off your weekend in Wisconsin’s largest city by sticking a fork into the most popular culinary tradition: a fish fry. But don’t go where the guys go. Instead, check out somewhere with a more elevated twist. One of the city’s main bar districts is a few blocks north, on East North Avenue on the East Side. For some vintage fun, drop by Vitucci’s Corner Lounge, which dates back to the 1930s and then tune in for live jazz at The Jazz Estate, which reopened last year and makes some of the best classic cocktails in town.
Saturday: Morning and Afternoon
You don’t want to leave Milwaukee without seeing the lakefront and the best place to do it—with a cappuccino or latte in hand—is at Colectivo Coffee’s Lakefront café on Lincoln Memorial Drive. The coffee is roasted right in Milwaukee and pastries (like mini chocolate-espresso bundt cakes) are the bomb here, as are the breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Next, either take a walk on the shoreline or rent shared bikes from a Bublr station to further explore the lakefront. If it's a warm day during late spring through early fall, the Tiki-hut bar is open at Bradford Beach, as is Northpoint Custard Stand (you weren't going to leave Milwaukee without trying custard, were you?).
Saturday: Late Afternoon and Evening
Milwaukee’s craft-beer scene is exploding and, given its beer-baron roots, it's about time. Check out some of the newest tasting rooms and taprooms, including City Lights Brewing Co., in a gorgeous 1903 Milwaukee Gas Light Company building with hand-glazed Tiffany bricks; and Good City Brewing on the East Side, which will add a rooftop patio in July.
Last night’s dinner was casual. Now you can up your game at Tre Rivali, inside the Journeyman Hotel, and run by “Top Chef” contestant Heather Terhune. She borrows her inspiration from the Mediterranean, which results in dishes like charred octopus and wood-fired pizzas, plus shareable eats like a Wisconsin artisan-cheese board or paella. Before retiring for the night, drop by Cuvee nearby for a glass, or what else, Champagne.
Sunday: Morning and Early Afternoon
Walk over to the Milwaukee Public Market from your hotel, which is like a mini version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, with fishmongers, a fromagerie, chocolatier, spice shop, and wine bar. Everyone can eat something they like by bringing food from a vendor to Thief Wine, which boasts a nice by-the-glass wine menu. Or, grab a table on the second-floor mezzanine level, which has a great view of the entire market. Fun Milwaukee-themed souvenirs like tube socks, hoodies, T-shirts and beer-bottle cozies are sold at Brew City Brand Apparel, whose products have made their way into national retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom.
Before you hit the road, check into Well Spa at The Pfister Hotel for your spa treatments. This is downtown Milwaukee’s most posh spa and boasts a hammam Turkish spa with a steam shower and mud-clay application.