If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast or just a spirited newcomer, Milwaukee needs to be your next stop. This is the biker’s guide to Milwaukee.
“Riding a motorcycle is like an art to me, it’s something you do because you feel something inside,” says Valentino Rossi, nine-time Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Champion.
And that is a feeling that is hard to compare to anything else as Tom Cruise, who apparently has a contract stipulating that he must have a scene riding a motorcycle in all of his movies, famously quoted, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is. Riding a motorcycle can mean different things to different people from different walks of life. But the sense of freedom, escape, and joy that comes with it, is truly universal.
And if you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, Milwaukee should be on your bucket list. Known as the birthplace of Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee is a mecca for bikers. It offers a range of riding experiences, cultural attractions, and great places to eat and drink.
You might visit for the biker’s paradise, but you’ll find yourself staying on to enjoy one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the US. Milwaukee offers a unique blend of history, culture, and fun activities that make it a worthwhile destination for any visitor.
The biker’s guide to Milwaukee is to help you plan your next biker’s trip to Milwaukee, the most populated city in Wisconsin:
1. Discover the home of Harley-Davidson
No biker can come to Milwaukee and not know the city’s long-standing connection to Harley-Davidson. For more than a century, Harley-Davidson has called Milwaukee home, and the company’s presence has had a significant impact on the city’s culture and history.
The city served as the company’s headquarters for many years, and its factories and facilities are an integral part of the local economy which you can explore when you arrive. But motorcycle enthusiasts and American history buffs alike will experience biker heaven when visiting the sprawling 20-acre campus of the only Harley-Davidson Museum in the world in downtown Milwaukee. This museum celebrates the company’s history and showcases its iconic motorcycles. With exhibits that highlight Harley-Davidson’s innovations, as well as the bike’s impact on popular culture and the motorcycle industry. Once inside the massive steel doors into this temple of vroom, you get that sense of reverence for the iconic bike.
“A visit to the Harley-Davidson Museum is like taking a journey through time,” said Jay Leno. The legendary comedian, bike lover and host of Jay Leno’s Garage visited the museum when it first opened and was blown away.
Exhibits include the ‘Serial Number One’ exhibit, which showcases the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle ever built.
New interactive display
The most recent ‘My Papi has a motorcycle’ exhibition just can’t be missed either. This interactive display exhibit is a celebration of the bond between fathers and children, as well as the unique culture and history of the motorcycle industry. The exhibition, which is based on a children’s book of the same name by author Isabel Quintero and illustrator Zeke Peña, tells the story of a young girl and her father as they explore their community on his motorcycle. It even has a recreated street scene complete with storefronts and murals! The joy and excitement of motorcycle culture are fully on show here.
And what the visitor takes away is this: The Harley is not just a mode of transportation; it is a symbol of American ingenuity, adventure, and freedom. And the Museum is where you can get your Harley fix.
2. The biker’s guide to Milwaukee – Attend a party
Bikers always know how to have a party, and it is never hard to find one with all the events going on in Milwaukee.
This July, celebrate 120 years of Harley-Davidson! The four-day birthday bash takes place from July 13th-16th at Veterans Park in Milwaukee. The “four-day moto-culture festival” will be a sprawling party across several locations in the city, including the Harley-Davidson Museum and the Menomonee Falls Powertrain Operations plant. Featuring exclusive live performances from the Foo Fighters, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and plenty more, this will be an unforgettable experience.
Event tickets are now on sale at H-D.com/HomecomingTickets.
Along with celebrating the Harley, Milwaukee is also home to ‘the world’s largest music festival’ – Summerfest at Henry Maier Festival Park. Acts including Sheryl Crow and Imagine Dragons will be providing the music of the summer over three consecutive weekends (Thursday-Saturday) from noon to midnight, June 22nd-24th, June 29th-July 1st, and July 6th-8th. Tickets can be purchased at summerfest.com.
And the foodies don’t have to go very far either as the Milwaukee Food Truck Festival takes place every year at the same Henry Maier Festival Park in July. Celebrating the food truck culture, the festival features a wide variety of food trucks from the Milwaukee area and beyond. It offers the opportunity to sample delicious food from different cuisines. Including live music, entertainment, and family-friendly activities, it’s a fun and engaging event for people of all ages – bikes or no bikes!
3. The biker’s guide to Milwaukee – Visit iconic cultural spots
Milwaukee is a city with a rich and diverse culture, influenced by its history and location as a Great Lakes port city. So, it’s easy to ride around and find cultural spots all over the city.
The Grohmann Museum is one such shrine to culture. The museum includes over 1,300 paintings and sculptures that depict the evolution of human work. It is a tribute to the history and culture of the working world. Dr Grohmann (a Milwaukee businessman and avid art collector) donated his vast and diverse collection. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in art, history, or industry.
Afterward, travel on down to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a true gem of the Midwest. The museum features a vast collection of over 30,000 works of art from ancient to contemporary times. One of the museum’s most iconic features is its Quadracci Pavilion, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, which features a moveable wing-like sunscreen that opens and closes daily.
If you want some showier sights, ride up onto the North Point Lighthouse & Museum, a historic lighthouse located in Lake Park. The now-decommissioned lighthouse has been restored and is open to the public as a museum. Visitors can even climb the tower to see stunning views of Lake Michigan, and learn about the history of the lighthouse and the important role it played in maritime history.
Once you’ve seen the sights and you want to relax for the evening, delve into the city’s thriving theater scene at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Commonly referred to as The Rep, this cultural gem is one of the leading regional theaters in the United States, producing a wide range of plays and musicals ranging from classics and contemporary plays to new works and musicals. Theater lovers will be very happy!
4. The biker’s guide to Milwaukee – Take a tour of Milwaukee
When biking through Milwaukee, you might be tempted to cruise through the streets and try to take it all in. But you could be riding around the city for days and not see it all. That’s where a professional tour comes in handy!
The Iconic Milwaukee city tour is a fantastic way to introduce you to the beautiful city. Discover the sites in an open-air, eco-friendly five-seater electric vehicle. You’ll get to see some hidden treasures that many locals don’t even know about.
But if you’re happy to walk, then the Grand Walk is perfect as it is a self-guided audio tour through Milwaukee. Or add some taste to the tour with the Milwaukee Walking and Tasting tour.
As the city is known for its cheese and sausage, as well as its craft breweries and locally sourced ingredients, this walking food tour gives you a taste of the best. Walk through the city’s historic Third Ward. Visit the Milwaukee Public Market, or take a stroll along the RiverWalk, all while enjoying food and drink samples.
For the adventurous
The more adventurous (and as a motorhead, how could you not be?) will definitely love Milwaukee Kayak tours to paddle through the Menomonee River Valley. And even make their way out to Lake Michigan. Or ditch the bike for an hour and climb aboard a Segway to glide through the city’s streets and bike paths. Taking in the sights and sounds of Milwaukee’s vibrant neighborhoods and historic landmarks. The Milwaukee Scavenger Hunt is also a fun and interactive way to explore the city’s landmarks and hidden gems. This scavenger hunt has you working together with other participants to solve clues and complete challenges as you make your way through different locations around Milwaukee.
But if you’re in the mood for a good scare, the Shakers Original Ghost Tour allows you to explore the spooky and supernatural side of Milwaukee. This walking tour takes participants through some of the city’s most haunted locations. And shares stories of ghostly encounters, historical tragedies, and unexplained phenomena.
For true crime buffs, Cream City Cannibal: The Jeffrey Dahmer Walking Tour takes you through cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s hunting grounds in the Milwaukee area. Scary!
Tours can be found either on viator.com or visitmilwaukee.org.
5. Have a taste of the city
To top it all off, why not park up the bike and take a brewery tour? Milwaukee is known for its beer, and is even nicknamed ‘Brew City’. Its Old Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s Best beers are incredibly recognizable as is its biggest brewer, MillerCoors. And there’s no better way to experience it than by touring the brewing industry.
Some of the best breweries to check out include Miller Brewing Company, Lakefront Brewery, and the Milwaukee Brewing Company.
Or how about tackling the beers first-hand on the Milwaukee Bar Crawl and having a taste? Participants visit multiple bars on organized ‘crawls’ to explore the city’s nightlife and socialize with the Milwaukeeans. But remember to drink responsibly and prioritize safety with either a designated driver or ride-sharing service!
Whenever you choose to visit, Milwaukee has something for you to enjoy. Whether it is riding down the winding roads, rolling hills, and picturesque landscapes of the area on your motorbike. Or exploring the sights and sounds of the city on-foot. The city offers a range of experiences that will satisfy any rider’s interests.
So, pack your bags, rev up your engine, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the city of motorcycles.
Anything you are missing or want to add to “The biker’s guide to Milwaukee” article? Please add a comment below.