On a warm evening in downtown Milwaukee it’s not uncommon to see river boats float along the Milwaukee River, accompanied by the sounds of laughter and music. On board, cocktails are flowing and the vibe might as well be Key West, Fla., or the Caribbean. Over the past few years, specialty cruises have really taken off, catering to niche audiences in music, food, cocktails or wine. Whether you want to splurge on a brunch cruise over the weekend or celebrate TGIF with a booze cruise, there’s definitely an option just for you almost every night of the week.
This narrated tour from Milwaukee Boat Line—on a 90-minute sail on board "Voyageur," with departures daily at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.—schools you in the various architecture styles that are prevalent in downtown Milwaukee and even points out notable buildings along the river. And if you want to bring your dog, that’s totally okay as the cruise is dog-friendly. Drinks (both sodas and beer/cocktails) served on board and there’s an option to purchase lunch (brats, hot dogs and other snacks), too.
Instead of a pub crawl, this is a 4.5-hour pub sail with Riverwalk Boat Tours on board either the Milwaukee Maiden II or Brew City Queen II with three stops at local watering holes. Drink tickets are included in the price (whew). Saturday stops are MOTOR Bar & Restaurant (at the Harley-Davidson Museum), The Twisted Fisherman and The Hotwater Warehouse.
Can’t get to the tropics? No problem, just hop onto Riverwalk Boats’ “Tiki Tuesdays Cruise” on Tuesday evenings. More than just sipping fruity drinks laced with rum, the cruise price includes light eats like Pacific-inspired salsa. The cruise lasts 1.5 hours—departing at either 5:30 p.m. or 7:15 p.m.—leaving you time to hit up a local spot for dinner after.
Rock out to local bands as they perform a two-hour concert on the top deck of this yacht (powered by Milwaukee Boat Line) select Friday and Saturday evenings. What’s cool about this cruise is that there are a variety of music styles represented each week, from punk rock to r&b. Check out the schedule via this link. Because many of the concerts sell out it’s recommended to buy your tickets in advance (save by purchasing a week in advance for $19.99; or $22.99 the week of the show). The first drink is free.
Surf-and-Turf Dinner Cruise
If you’re one of those people who often can’t decide between steak and fish when ordering dinner, there’s very good news in that you can dine on both during this “surf ‘n turf” dinner cruise. Hosted on Saturday nights by Edelweiss Boats, this cruise often sells out so do book in advance to secure your slot (and dinner). Views of Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee’s skyline from the boat at dusk are stunning (tip: bring your camera).
Bubbles at brunch is practically required and Edelweiss Boats gets that, which is why the company launched its “Champagne Brunch Cruise" offered on Sundays on board the “Harbor Lady.” The two-hour cruise departs at noon. This is actually an incredible deal as the ticket price includes a brunch buffet featuring items like bagels and lox, fresh fruit, egg frittatas, French toast, bacon and dessert. In addition to the Champagne included in the buffet, a cash bar is open during the sail.
Are you a history buff hungering for info on Milwaukee’s architectural history—and its most significant buildings? Then you will want to sign up for Edelweiss Boats’ “Historical Milwaukee Boat Tour." Traveling along the Milwaukee River and into Lake Michigan, this tour departs Sundays at 3 p.m. and returns 80 minutes later, narrating the history about such buildings as yacht clubs, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World, as well as architectural projects on the horizon. This is one of the least expensive river cruises—perfect if you’re short on cash but want to get out on the water.
Reggae music sets the tone for your weekend with a little help from rum punch served on board the 1.5-hour “Thirsty Thursdays Cruise” with Riverwalk Boats. Light appetizers are included in the ticket price. There are three departure times each Thursday evening, at 5:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 9 p.m.