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Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Shira by Love sign in Milkwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a city in the midwestern United States. With a population of nearly 600,000 Milwaukee is a midsize to large city. Milwaukee is only one hour from Chicago which gives travelers the perfect opportunity to visit the two major cities in one travel trip.

Where to stay: The Marriott Downtown Milwaukee Hotel, 625 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Staying at The Marriott made it really accessible to get around everywhere. I recommend renting a car for ease of travel but a lot of what Milwaukee has to offer is downtown so you can either walk or take a quick car-share ride.

Let’s review food:

3rd Street Market Hall is a food hall that combines dining with social activities. You are able to eat, play games, have a beer and play top golf all in one. There is also a selfie museum if you are interested in photography and colorful backgrounds. 3rd Street is attached to the Marriott so you don’t have to leave the hotel building in order to get there.

The crab-stuffed pierogis and puffs from Hot Dish Pantry were delicious and super affordable. I paid $12 for this meal.

food in takeout containers

Milwaukee Public Market, 400 North Water Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Milwaukee Public Market is a food market in downtown Milwaukee. At the suggestion of my Lyft driver I opted for dinner at St. Paul’s which is a seafood market and restaurant. My waiter chose my meal which included calamari steak (calamari with panko bread crumbs & a lobster boil which included lobster with seasoned butter, corn and red potatoes. This meal was delicious and I would travel back to Milwaukee just for the calamari steak alone.

I would not have found St. Paul’s without the recommendation of my Lyft driver which is why it is so important to meet locals. They know, live and breathe the city.

Shira posing by bay

Harbor House is a seafood restaurant on the Milwaukee bay. The best time to visit would be on a sunny spring day to take in the breathtaking view of the water. I recommend visiting Harbor House on Sunday for brunch. They have a three course brunch for one price.

I ordered lobster bisque, scallops and key lime pie. The scallops were the star of the show because they were not over cooked nor too buttery. They were some of the best scallops I’ve had in the US. If you decide to order the scallops, add a side of rice to complete your meal. Overall, the service was great, the views were breathtaking, and the food was delicious.

Things to Do in Milwaukee:

The museum scene in Milwaukee has clearly taken a stance to center black and brown historians, artists, and cultures and as such, the museum scene is not to be missed. Let’s review:

America’s Black Holocaust Museum, 401 West North Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53212, Adults $7.00, Children (3-17) $5.00, Children under 3 visit free. Be sure to purchase Dr. James Cameron’s memoir A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story while at the museum.

America Black holocaust Museum

No trip to Milwaukee is complete without a visit to America’s Black Holocaust Museum.

Billie Holiday’s song Strange Fruit is a popular song inspired by the lynching of three black teenagers in Marion, Indiana 1930.

Dr. James Cameron was one three men who was lynched but miraculously survived the ordeal. After his near-death experience, Dr. Cameron served five years in prison. Upon his release, he married, attended university and planned to begin his new life in Canada, away from the country that nearly took his life.

On the way to Canada, he stopped in Milwaukee and liked it so much that he and his family decided to stay. Dr. Cameron spent the next several decades recounting the story of his lynching, completing a memoir of his life, and became a self-taught historian and public lecturer. He opened America’s Black Holocaust Museum in 1988. The museum closed during the Great Recession in 2008 but recently reopened in February 2022.

America's Black Holocaust Museum Map

During my April 2022 visit, I was nearly moved to tears. As I walked through the exhibit hall, I thought to myself, “Why wasn’t this taught in our history books?”

The museum is replicated as if James Cameron were still alive. Prior to his death in 2006, Dr. Cameron would normally greet visitors upon entering the museum and tell his story to them in person.

Today, when you walk into the museum you see Dr. Cameron and his story being told from the first-person point of view (see photo below). The museum has done an excellent job of keeping the spirit of Dr. Cameron alive, in addition to highlighting the global black struggle for equity and the destruction of white supremacy.

Dr. James Cameron museum exhibit information

After leaving the museum you may feel upset or saddened that you didn’t know about Dr. Cameron before. He was left out of history books. However, that no longer has to be the case going forward. You will likely leave the museum inspired to make the world more equitable and better than you found it. Dr. Cameron’s legacy lives on. America’s Black Holocaust Museum is not to be missed by any traveler.

Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202, Adults $22, Students, Seniors (65+), Military – $17, Kids below 12 and Wisconsin K-12 Teachers – Free

Love sign outside of the Milwaukee Art Museum

After brunch at Harbor House, walk along the Milwaukee Bay for two to three minutes and arrive at the east entrance of the Milwaukee Art Museum. You’ll know that you have arrived, because you’ll see a LOVE sign statue, similar to the one in Philadelphia.

As of April 2022, the east side entrance exhibit was an installation Derek Adams that focused on the Negro Green Motorist Tour Guide by Víctor Hugo Green.

Negro Green Motorist Tour Guide by Víctor Hugo Green.

The exhibit highlights thriving black businesses and the everyday life of black people in Milwaukee.

As you enter the main hall of the museum, you’ll notice the most important aspect of any museum: artifacts. Much of the museum’s current exhibits are dedicated to mid-century and modern art. The furniture of the early to mid-twentieth century stood out to me not only for their aesthetic but also for their practical value.

Throughout the museum, there were several black exhibits on display including an exhibit that focuses exclusively in Haitian art (not pictured here).

There was also an exhibit about Frederick Douglass and other black visionaries.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley.
Portrait by Kehinde Wiley.

art portrait

A fun addition to the museum is their in-house art studio where visitors can work on an art project and take it home. At the time of my visit the studio was sponsored by Kohl’s.

The take home art-project was based on a fabric exhibit by Christy Mason.

This activity is included in the price of admission to the museum and would be perfect for children.

When planning your visit, reserve the museum as the only activity you do for the day since it will take a few hours to see the entire museum and complete the in-house art project.

The Harley Davidson Museum 400 West Canal Street, WI 53201, Adult – $22, Senior – $16, Student (w/ ID) – $16, Military (w/ ID) – $16, Child (5-17) – $8, Under 5 – Free, Audio Tour – $5.00

Harley Davidson Motorcycle on exhibit

Harley Davidson Museum is a museum that chronicles the history of the Harley-Davidson company and motorcycles. This museum has every motorcycle the company has ever produced and tells the story of how the company was built. The business started with a one-hundred forty dollar loan from one of the original owner’s uncles. What is not known about a Harley-Davidson is that it started out as a motor company but over time became known as a world-class motorcycle company.

What’s amazing about this museum is that almost every artifact, photo, and motorcycle was saved since the company’s inception.

Harley Davidson Motorcycle on exhibit

You may visit the museum thinking that you are going to see motorcycles but you really learn so much history.

During the tour I asked how the company was able to survive economic depressions and downturns and they were always ahead of their time. One example of this is their influencer marketing that they did early on. They set up dealer networks where they taught dealers everything there is to know about the motorcycle models and then the dealers are the ones who make the sales.

The guided tours at this museum are phenomenal. Many of the staff themselves are motorcycle riders and are clearly passionate about the work that they do. As a visitor you feel that energy as you walk through the museum and talk with staff. This museum is another that is a must visit for every traveler.

Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), 800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233, Adults ( 14 & up), Senior, Military, and College Students – $20, Youth (4-13) – $18, Members and children younger than 3 – Free

Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and human history museum in downtown Milwaukee, Upon your entrance you should immediately go to the butterfly exhibit.You will be able to see butterflies in their simulated natural habitat and see different types of butterflies.

Natural exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

The first exhibit that caught my eye were the taxidermy animals. The way the animals were taxidermied is known as the “Milwaukee” way, created by Wendy Christensen. The animals not only look real they look like they are moving in motion.

Taxidermy exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

The museum also has an interesting exhibit that goes in reverse chronological order of what Milwaukee looked like during the colonial error. This exhibit also includes portrayals of Native American communities which they are working to correct (See example below). Photos are not included in this article out of respect for Native American communities. MPM has an active relationship with Native American communities where they work daily to build trust and preserve the history of the first nations people.

Native American exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

In walking through the museum you will realize that the museum is a combination of the history of Milwaukee and the history of the world, two stories not easily told. What the Milwaukee public museum has done is bold. It has cultures throughout the world on display including prized artifacts that many museums would not dare engage in as to not seem offensive. Examples of this are the tribute to Native American & African cultures. The museum is still working on these exhibits and seems to be doing the necessary work to contextualize the exhibits.

People of Central Africa exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Reserve two to three hours to tour the entire museum, but note that you will not be able to see everything. This museum is the tree of knowledge that keeps on giving.

Overall, Milwaukee has one of the most robust museum scenes of anywhere that I have seen in the United States thus far. The city is worth a visit and you’ll be glad that you did.


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