The 30-acre Deer District debuted in 2018 on the north side of downtown Milwaukee when the $524 million Fiserv Forum arena opened, which is home to the Milwaukee Bucks (Milwaukee’s NBA team), concerts, and the upcoming 2020 Democratic National Convention.
But this is more than just a sports district. You can also view art, sip craft beers, take an outdoor-yoga class, and play vintage arcade games all within a few blocks. For intel on what events are taking place in the Deer District, check out this events link on the Deer District’s website.
Relax at a Beer Garden
Milwaukee was founded by beer barons more than a century ago, but beer gardens only reappeared within the last decade. One of the newest is at The MECCA Sports Bar and Grill, snug in the Deer District and right across from Fiserv Forum. At The Beer Garden, 20 beers are on tap, and as a proper ode to summer, the MKEat Food Truck serves up street fries, Asian sticky ribs, Milwaukee dogs, “backyard chips” and cheddar burgers.
Eat at Good City Brewing Company
A sibling to its original East Side location (since 2016), Good City Brewing Company’s Deer District restaurant and tap room is adjacent to its brewery. If you can, snag a seat for lunch or dinner in the 200-seat, first-floor taproom near the open kitchen where a stone hearth oven is used to prepare much of the menu. Its burger is repeatedly named one of the best in town and stone-fire pizzas are topped with an aged white-cheddar sauce. Twenty-four Good City beers are always on tap, from the Risk IPA to BFG (Barleywine, with 11.5 percent alcohol), and several picks highlighting what makes Milwaukee so great, including a special MKE Film Oktoberfest beer. While tours are not available at this location, you can tour the East Side sister brewery for $10.
Sleep Inside a Former Brewery
The Brewhouse Inn & Suites, connected to Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub (you need to try their fish fry!), opened on the grounds of the former Pabst brewery in 2013. Rooms feature high ceilings, exposed Cream City brick walls, and steampunk accents. Within the 90-room hotel are the original copper vats used to brew beer as well as a complimentary breakfast each morning serving fresh fruit, Grebe’s Bakery pastries as well as coffee and tea stemming from Valentine Coffee and Rishi Tea (both are based in Milwaukee). If it’s nice out, snag a seat in the outdoor beer garden at Jackson’s.
Check Out the New Pabst Beers
Shuttered since the mid-1990s, Pabst Milwaukee Brewery and Tap Room reopened two years ago with not only an edgy, modern look in its taproom (gone are the Germanic beer steins and carved-wood interiors) but also a nod to its heritage, which began in 1844 in Milwaukee. Diners sit at communal tables and order authentically local eats like a cod fish fry, Bavarian pretzel, or fried cheese curds paired with pints of Pabst beer, including Old Tankard Ale (popular during the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s and based on the original 1937 recipe). Take a 25-minute tour ($10, includes beer in a keepsake pint) and deepen your knowledge of the Pabst brand and its bright future.
Shop at the Bucks Pro Shop
Maybe you want to go home with a little bit of Milwaukee pride. The brick-and-mortar Bucks Pro Shop inside Fiserv Forum (there’s also an online shop) is a great place to find options, whether it’s a Kelly-green pullover with the outline of Wisconsin on the left breast or a growler depicting the Milwaukee Bucks logo. Located on the arena’s ground floor, just look for the words Bucks Pro Shop. Even if you don’t have time to see a game while in town, the pro shop awaits.
Admire Local Art
You don’t normally equate a sports arena with fine art, but that’s just one of the many reasons Fiserv Forum is different. Around 80 original pieces of art are in the Milwaukee Bucks Art Collection, plus 43 photographs, representing 32 artists as well as dozens of talented students. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a portrait of the Greek Freak! Nearly all link back to either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Milwaukee cityscape. Many of the artists are local, including Margaret Muza ("Wetplate Milwaukee” is her piece in the Bucks’ collection) who works with tintype photography. A sculpture of a buck by San Jose, California, artist Blake McFarland is appropriately included, too.
Because this is Brew City, of course there is more than one spot in a neighborhood—Deer District included—to sip beer. MKE Brewing Company’s new taproom (the original location is at Milwaukee Ale House in the Third Ward, open since 1997) includes a huge patio out front as well as Glass + Griddle, a restaurant serving everything from a Cuban sandwich to Korean fried-chicken wings. If it’s chilly out but you still want some sun, check out the restaurant’s glass-ceilinged Beer Hall with a living-green wall inside. Otherwise, the rooftop bar beckons, flaunting Milwaukee-skyline views.
Sing Your Heart Out at Karaoke
Punch Bowl Social is one of those “all under one roof” entertainment concepts. (There are 19 locations across the U.S.) Yes, you can belt out your favorite Lady Gaga or Madonna, hit but you can also round up a group to play table games like foosball and ping pong. Bowling and a vintage arcade are also at Punch Bowl Social. Hungry? The food menu spans many culinary influences, resulting in tacos, entrée-sized salads, shareable small plates and snacks (such as sriracha peanut fries), and comfort foods like chicken ‘n' waffles.
Step Into a Mini Bavaria
Celebrating its second season in 2019, a German-style Christmas Market (Christkindlmarket Milwaukee) makes the plaza area very festive come late November. Mulled wine, holiday-tree ornaments imported from Germany, and grilled sausages are just some of the fun, with merchants selling exquisite wares (including alpaca shawls and newsboy hats) to help you cross off items on your gift-giving list. Two areas of the market are indoors, to stave off the chill, while a handful of merchants and food and beverage vendors operate outdoor stands.
Take a Fitness Class
It’s not uncommon to see a bunch of people moving into downward dog during a yoga session on the outdoor plaza. The best part is that these 60-minute classes—between May and September—are free, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays. More than yoga, class offerings (from YogaSix and Boot Camp by Ambrose) also include boot camp-level fitness instruction.