A Perfect One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Milwaukee Itinerary. The most delightful phrase in the English language is Pabst Mansion. Say it loud and there’s music playing. Say it soft, and it’s almost like crushing a PBR can against your forehead while downing a shot of Old Thompson as “Welcome to the Jungle” plays in the background.

But one of the reasons that Milwaukee is a fine city is that you can actually tour the Pabst Mansion there any time you want. After that, you can eat a giant sausage, stalk some creepy doll people, and dance with the Fonz. It all waits for you with a one day in Milwaukee itinerary.

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

Where to Stay?

You’re going to want someplace comfy and conveniently located to rest your head while you’re enjoying your One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary. That’s why I recommend Knickerbocker on the Lake! It’s very affordable, the rooms and clean and comfy, and it’s a convenient walk away from lovely Lake Michigan!

If you want great deals on this hotel just click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on many other hotels in Milwaukee, click here!

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

What to Pack?

A Perfect One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary 2

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

A Perfect One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary 3

If the weather is rainy or snowy, which can happen in Wisconsin, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.

A Perfect One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary 4

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

Pabst Mansion

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

Morning: Pabst Mansion

So in spite all of my joking, there’s nothing actually ironic about the Pabst Mansion. It is a genuine historic home in Milwaukee Wisconsin, not some new-fangled Millennial pop-up “dive bar”. It was once the home of Frederick Pabst, the founder of the Pabst Brewing Company. Fortunately for us, the Pabst Mansion is now open to the public and available for tours. So one your One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary you can learn all about the history of PBR and learn some architectural fun facts at the same time. Why don’t I get you started with…

three fun facts: Pabst Mansion

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary
1) Can You Find Beer at the Pabst Mansion?

The Pabst Mansion dates back to the 1890s, which is pretty old for Milwaukee. Of course the money for the mansion was financed by the legendary Pabst Brewing Company. (I think all cities can be classified by the type of alcohol you are most likely to drink when you are there. Milwaukee is definitely a beer city.)

PBC actually started life as a brewery called Best and Company, but after German immigrant Frederick Pabst took charge of the company, the name eventually changed to Pabst Brewing Company. You can see evidence of Pabst’s gratitude to the booze that made his fortune all over the house. My favorite example is this newel post on the stairs in the Pabst Mansion. It’s shaped like hops!

Pabst mansion bust
2) Who lived in the pabst mansion?

Frederick Pabst immigrated to the United States from Saxony as a child with his parents. Before becoming a beer tycoon, he was the captain of a steamer, so he was in fact known as Captain Von Pabst. (He was never actually called Von Pabst. I just can never resist a good Sound of Music reference.)

Pabst Mansion German

Though Pabst lived almost his entire life in the United States, he was very proud of his German heritage. His family spoke German in the home, and they decorated the Pabst Mansion with German proverbs. You can see one of them in this photo above. I don’t know exactly why there were deer horns in the house. However, I imagine it was part of an ancient Saxon tradition where you’d hoist an honored guest up, hang him on the deer horns by his coat, and force him to chug a lug some Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Pabst Mansion letter
3) What About the Children?

Though Captain Pabst was obviously a very successful businessman, he maintained that his family was the most important thing in his life. He and his wife had five children who survived to adulthood, plus many grandchildren. In fact, when their daughter died young, they raised their granddaughter as their own. My favorite artifact in the Pabst Mansion was the letter that Captain PBR wrote to his children saying how much he loved him and that a good name was more important than riches.

I feel like maybe Captain Pabst could see into the future and realized that annoying hipsters with handlebar mustaches were going to get into his beer, and this is his way of telling them that he’d rather make less money than be associated with hipsters.

Milwaukee public museum

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

Afternoon: Milwaukee Public Museum

When I was doing my research on best things to do in Milwaukee, I was a little confused when I came across the Milwaukee Public Museum. Was it a museum dedicated to being public in Milwaukee? How is that different than being out in public in other cities? But apparently the Milwaukee Public Museum is just another way of saying the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History.

This fascinating museum has everything that the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has. (Dinosaurs! A planetarium!) But it adds some special treasures all of its own. (Creepy doll people! A replica of a vintage candy store! And even more creepy doll people!) After the Pabst Mansion trip, please head straight for this fascinating wonder to find…

approximately top 5: Milwaukee Public Museum

milwaukee public market
1) Lunch at Milwaukee Public Market

Of course, before we head to the Milwaukee Public Museum, we need lunch. And what better place to find it than the Milwaukee Public Market? This market was modeled after the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. Though it’s not as big or impressive, there are still a plethora of excellent snack stops to choose from. It is rarely that hot in Milwaukee, which means it’s usually a great day for soup! I suggest picking up some hearty, German-inspired, chicken and dumpling soup at The Soup and Stock Market. Captain PBR would definitely approve! Perhaps they even served this at the Pabst Mansion!

sausages milwaukee public museum
2) Planetarium Show

One of the best things about visiting the Milwaukee Public Museum is that a free ticket to one of the planetarium shows is included. (You can’t photograph the planetarium show, so I’m including this picture of a reproduction of an old tymey sausage show from the museum instead. The sausage, in my humble opinion, is almost as majestic as the cosmos.) The show I saw was about stargazing in the countryside outside of Milwaukee. For a New Yorker like myself, this was completely fascinating. You’d have to go a long ways from NYC to get such a great view of the stars!

milwaukee public museum dinosaurs
3) Dinosaurs

What natural history museum would be complete without a dinosaur exhibit? My favorite was this reproduction of a T-Rex mauling a triceratops because I secretly have a savage and heartless nature. Although I guess it’s not so secret now because I just told you, Internet Stranger! Unfortunately, there was a little girl visiting the museum with her grandmother who was not so impressed. She was scared to walk by the dinosaur because she thought it was going to eat her. So I took a selfie with the T-Rex to prove it wasn’t dangerous.

dino selfie

My master plan was successful, and the little girl agreed to walk by the dinosaur with her grannie. Although I do realize that this plan could have backfired horribly if the dinosaur had in fact come to life and eaten me.

streets of old milwaukee
4) Streets of Old Milwaukee

My favorite exhibit in the Milwaukee Public Museum is called Streets of Old Milwaukee. It is a replica of what Milwaukee would have looked like around the turn of the 20th century. According to the signs for the exhibit, Milwaukee was founded in 1846. But by 1900, the city was known as “a modern Athens”. I really want to know who called it that and why. Was Milwaukee almost bankrupt and full of ouzo?

milwaukee public museum

There are many delightful attractions in the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. You can read a newspaper, which I guess was like the 1900s version of the internet. You can even watch a silent movie or buy some old-fangled candy at a candy shop. (Just be aware that the candy store closes before the museum itself does.)

European village
5) European Village

The European Village exhibit is even more fascinating and terrifying than the T-Rex that almost came to life and ate me. You can peer into each home and see what life would have been like in traditional peasant homes in countries all over Europe. There aren’t a ton of signs in this exhibit so mostly what I got is that Europe used to be populated by creepy doll people.

European village people

This is terrifying. I think she’s whispering in his ear, “It’s all for you, Damien!”

European village people

This doll woman appears to be drinking heavily. That can’t be good.

European village people

Dear God, now they’re getting cats involved. I think that cat might be still alive.

European village people

The only thing worse than a creepy doll person is a creepy doll person in a kilt, as my grandmother always used to say.

Milwaukee river

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

Late Afternoon: Stroll Along Milwaukee River

The Milwaukee Riverwalk is perhaps not as famous as the riverwalks in other cities like San Antonio. But on a sunny afternoon, it’s the perfect place to unwind after exploring the Pabst Mansion and being chased by creepy doll people and T-Rexes. Plus you never know what public art installations you will find!

milwaukee riverwalk

Here’s one about dreaming fish. It is unclear to me what they are dreaming about, though. Different colors? Water? Having to take a math test onstage while they’re naked? Maybe that wouldn’t be so scary to a fish because I’m pretty sure they’re always naked.

milwaukee riverwalk gertie

Don’t forget this sculpture of Gertie. She was a mallard who was found guarding her eggs under a bridge on the Milwaukee River back in the 1940s. Apparently she became quite the tourist attraction, and people would come from all around to wait for her eggs to hatch. Wow, people really did not have anything to do for fun before Netflix. Also I think Gertie is a fine German name for a mallard. Captain PBR would most definitely approve!

Bronze fonz milwaukee
24 Hour Treasure

The one thing you cannot leave Milwaukee without seeing is this statue, aka The Bronze Fonz. It immortalizes the character of Fonzie, played by Mr. Henry Winkler on the sitcom Happy Days. All day long, you can see people posing with their thumbs out next to the Fonz. I found it hard to take a satisfying selfie with this statue, so instead I just ran by and yelled, “I love your work on Barry!” The Bronze Fonz didn’t answer.

MAder's milwaukee

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

Evening: Dinner at Mader’s

We started the day at the Pabst Mansion, so let’s keep the German theme going with dinner at Mader’s. Mader’s is truly a Milwaukee institution, as it has been around since 1902. It used to be better known for its beer than its food. Of course, when Prohibition took effect, they needed to step up their culinary game to maintain their clientele. Obviously they were doing something right because they’re still around and crazy popular to this day.

pretzel sausage

24 Hour Treat: Pretzel

Being from NYC, I’m used to our terrible, dry as a sawhorse pretzels that have probably been sitting at the bottom of a streetcart since Prohibition. So nothing delights me more than an authentic, salty German pretzel, fresh from the oven. The Siegfried to this pretzel’s Roy is a plump Bavarian weisswurst. (That’s a traditional veal sausage from Southern Germany.)

One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

You need to wash the whole thing down with a beer from Saxony, which is where Captain PBR was from. That’s just science.

That’s a Perfect One Day in Milwaukee Itinerary

What would you do with a one day in Milwaukee itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Milwaukee right now? Did it surprise you to learn that there is a Pabst Mansion? And why is that creepy doll person standing behind you? Please leave your thoughts below.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Milwaukee itinerary. If you have time for another one day in Milwaukee itinerary, try this itinerary.

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