When it comes to culture, Milwaukee is often overlooked in favor of much larger cities. The truth is, however, that when it comes to museums, we've got more than our fair share of world class offerings. From a great children's museum (Betty Brinn Children's Museum), to our beautiful lakefront properties, a giant natural-history museum and more, you could spend a week visiting Milwaukee's museums and find a completely new experience each day.
The Betty Brinn Children's Museum is an educational, yet entertaining, destination for families with young kids. Designed especially to promote the healthy development of children in their formative years, from birth through age ten, the museum's exhibits are fully interactive. Chances are your children will never suspect they're at a "museum," as to them it will seem more like a giant fun-zone.
Housed in a beautiful Tudor-style mansion built in 1911, the Charles Allis Art Museum houses a collection of paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics and more. A gift to the people of Milwaukee from Charles Allis, first president of the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, and his wife Sarah, the home is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The museum's collections include Classic antiquities, Renaissance bronzes, Asian ceramics and stunning decorative arts that span more than 2,000 years.
Discovery World is a 120,000-square-foot interactive science and technology museum located on Milwaukee's lakefront. Features include Les Paul's House of Sound -- in which guests can "play" a virtual jam session with Les Paul, the Reiman Aquarium and "touch tank," a video and audio production studio, a Tesla Lives! live theatre show, a full rotation of science and educational films playing in two theaters, and several other fun, interactive exhibits. In summer months, Discovery World is also home port to the S/V Denis Sullivan, a 137-foot replica of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner.
The Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering is one of Milwaukee's newest attractions and home to the world's most comprehensive art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work. This core collection, called "Man at Work" consists of more than 800 beautiful paintings and sculptures that span more than 400 years of history, from the late 1500s to modern day. Also not to be missed is the Grohmann's spectacular rooftop sculpture garden, featuring a dozen larger-than-life bronzes of men in the midst of toil.
Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson Museum opened in 2008 for the 125th anniversary of the famous motorcycle brand. Exhibits chronicle the evolution of the Harley over the decades, and even delve into the inner workings of these bikes -- literally -- in the Design Lab exhibit and Exploded Bike display. Round out your visit with a look at some custom bikes made by true Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.
Located in the Helfaer Community Service Building, a building intended by philantrhopists Marion and Evan Helfaer to “improve and enrich the lives of all members of the Milwaukee community, regardless of race or religion,” the Jewish Museum's mission is to enhance the public’s awareness and appreciation of Jewish life and culture. With a particular focus on preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin, the Jewish Museum has an extensive collection of oral histories, genealogy records and other archives.
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is much more than just a pretty face. This iconic conglomeration of structures situated on the Milwaukee lakefront contains more than 20,000 works of art, collected over a period of 120 years. From its roots in Milwaukee’s first art gallery in 1888, the museum has grown to become a resource for the entire state.
Milwaukee Public Museum
The MPM features three floors of exhibits that include life-size dioramas, walk-through villages, world cultures, dinosaurs, a rain forest and a live butterfly garden. Especially popular with locals are the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit and the "rattlesnake button," a hidden button that when pressed will shake the tail of a rattlesnake strategically placed inside the bison hunt diorama.
Overlooking Lake Michigan, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is a popular Milwaukee arts destination housed in an Italian Renaissance-style villa. Designed and built by architect David Adler in 1923, the villa originally served as the residence of Lloyd Smith of the A.O. Smith Corporation and his family. Today, Villa Terrace features fine and decorative arts dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries, wrought-iron masterpieces by Cyril Colnik, and a formal garden.