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7 Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee to Explore the City

There are so many amazing outdoor activities in Milwaukee that are a total blast. Even if you are a local to Milwaukee, you might discover the city from some new perspectives by participating in these fun adventures. I managed to try all of these fun things to do in Milwaukee in one trip to the city, and I was left wanting more.

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While indoor attractions and activities are perfect for cold weather and rainy days, there’s nothing like getting outside. Especially when the weather is warm, it’s a great idea to soak up the sunshine in those beautiful, natural spaces.

Outdoor activities in Milwaukee

As it turns out, Milwaukee has many parks, green spaces, and you can even enjoy cityscape views from the lake. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re exploring a big city. And on other occasions, you’re learning about the vibrant history and architecture of the metropolis. If you’re looking for the best outdoor activities in Milwaukee, I’ve got you covered.

Where to Stay in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Marriott Downtown

There are so many great hotels in Milwaukee as well as charming vacation rentals. When I traveled to Milwaukee, I stayed at the central Milwaukee Marriott Downtown. It is a modern hotel with fantastic amenities and an excellent location. I highly recommend staying there!

Read more reviews of the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown to plan your stay. If you’d rather browse all accommodations in Milwaukee, use this handy map to help compare prices and locations. Here are all hotels and Airbnb properties listed in one place.

Getting Around Milwaukee

While you will be biking, hiking and kayaking in this Milwaukee itinerary, you will still need to get from place to place. It’s possible to take public transportation. Another option is to book a ticket on the Hop On Hop Off Bus because you’ll learn some interesting facts about Milwaukee on the way.

If you want to have more control over your trip and travel where and when you want, it’s a good idea to rent a car. Renting a car in Milwaukee will give you the most freedom with your travel plans. I suggest comparing car rental prices to get the best rate with Discover Cars.

Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee: Cycling with Bublr Bikes

Cycling with Bublr Bikes: Outdoor activities in Milwaukee

Traveling to Milwaukee and you don’t have your bike with you? You don’t even own a bike? No problem! You can quickly and easily rent a bicycle with Bublr Bikes.

Discovery World Milwaukee

Bublr Bikes is a bike sharing program in Milwaukee. There are bicycles and bike stations all over the city. You simply pay for a single ride or buy a bike pass. Hop on the bike and away you go!

Bublr Bikes

When I visited Milwaukee, we borrowed bikes by the waterfront at Discovery World. We cycled along Lake Michigan and through the city. With Bublr Bikes, we rode across bridges, past historic buildings, and caught glimpses of the city skyline from nearby parks. Riding a bike around Milwaukee was a great way to see the city.

The Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee
The Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee
The Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee: Bublr Bikes

Whether you’re a tourist looking to explore Milwaukee, or you live in the city and need a way to get around, Bublr Bikes provides a fantastic service for all.

Milwaukee Activities: Kayak the Milwaukee River

The Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee: Kayaking in Milwaukee

I adore kayaking. If there’s a chance to go kayaking in a place, I’ll always say yes. So, it should come as no surprise that I would list kayaking as one of the best outdoor activities in Milwaukee. Be sure to rent a kayak and paddle down the Milwaukee River.

Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee: Kayaking in Milwaukee

Urban kayaking was an entirely new experience. I’ve never kayaked in a densely populated area before. It was a really cool and unique way to view the city. We rowed up the Milwaukee River, paddling parallel to the city’s Riverwalk. We drifted past interesting architecture beneath bridges, beside a variety of small boats. I enjoyed discovering the city’s landmarks from the middle of the river itself.

Kayaking in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee River connects to the Menomonee River and the Kinnickinnic River, providing multiple routes. You could take a new path each time you go kayaking, exploring new areas of the city every time.

Kayaking in Milwaukee

Renting a kayak in Milwaukee is so much fun, and it’s a great way to see the city from a new perspective.

Go Sailing on Lake Michigan

Sailing on Lake Michigan

Sticking with the water theme, another one of the best outdoor activities in Milwaukee is sailing around Lake Michigan. I spent an incredible afternoon with Sea Dog Sailing, with the breeze in my hair and the sun shining brightly. It really was the perfect way to spend a summer day, catching glimpses of the Milwaukee skyline and the deep blue waves.

Sailing on Lake Michigan

Let Captain Bob take you on a cruise around Lake Michigan aboard the Quinn Marie, a 38-foot yacht. How you spend your day at sea is completely up to you! Catch the fireworks, celebrate a special occasion, have a party, sail by the moonlight, or watch the sunset out on the water.

Sailing on Lake Michigan
Sailing on Lake Michigan

We sailed around the harbor and beyond, admiring the skyline, bridges, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and more. It was easy to feel completely relaxed out on the water, on such a brilliant summer day.

Cool Places in Milwaukee: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Connect with nature at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center when you hiking through protected habitats. There are six miles of trails winding through 185 acres of forests, wetlands, prairies, and bluffs. It’s a great places for kids to learn about wildlife, for people of all ages to hike through the forest, and there are even wheelchair accessible trails and boardwalks.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

There’s an observation tower in the forest, and the view is worth the trek to the top. Who knew that Lake Michigan could look so tropical, turquoise, and absolutely stunning?

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Hiking through the forest is very peaceful and serene. It’s very close to downtown Milwaukee, making this the perfect escape from hectic city life. Be sure to visit the boardwalk around Mystery Lake for some gorgeous scenery.

Fun Activities in Milwaukee: A Beach Day

The Best Outdoor Activities in Milwaukee: The Beach

One of the best outdoor activities in Milwaukee is spending a day at the beach. Yes, Milwaukee has a sandy beach! Though I didn’t get to spend much time here, I think it’s awesome that you don’t have to drive for hours on end to play in the sand or go for a swim.

Bradford Beach is also home to dozens of beach volleyball courts, perfect for joining a league or playing just for fun. During certain hours, there are lifeguards on duty, and here are two concession buildings to grab a snack.

Drink Beer and Bar Hop with the Pedal Tavern

Pedal Tavern Tour in Milwaukee

I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. It’s called the Pedal Tavern, and it’s a bar on wheels. After all, Milwaukee is known for its breweries. It’s a great idea to enjoy a few pints while you’re in town!

Pedal Tavern Tour in Milwaukee

It’s the most unique way I’ve ever gone bar hopping before. And after all the biking, hiking, and kayaking you’re going to do in Milwaukee, why not treat yourself to some refreshments? Of course, you’re going to have to work for it a little bit!

Pedal Tavern Tour in Milwaukee

Here’s how it works: you and your friends sit at the Pedal Tavern. When it’s time to move forward, you all pedal together to ride down the street. You can enjoy a beer on board the Pedal Tavern, too. It’s one of the most fun outdoor activities in Milwaukee.

Pedal Tavern Tour in Milwaukee

We traveled to a few iconic bars in the city, making sure to sample the beer and cocktail of choice, the Wisconsin-style brandy Old Fashioned. Milwaukee is known for its awesome beer, so you’re going to want to check out my post about all the ways to drink beer in Milwaukee.

Best Outdoor Events in Milwaukee: Summerfest


If you’re traveling to Milwaukee during Summerfest, you’re in luck. It’s the largest music festival in the world, spanning eleven days.


With multiple stages, numerous musical performances from popular artists across all genres, and various types of food to sample, Summerfest is the biggest and best event to attend in Milwaukee. To top it all off, there’s a dazzling display of fireworks every night over Lake Michigan. In 2016, there were performances by Selena Gomez, Paul McCartney, Weezer, Sting & Peter Gabriel, and Weird Al, to name a few.

Whether you’re cycling along the waterfront, pedaling on a tavern on wheels, or spending time in nature on land or water, Milwaukee is a fascinating destination to explore. The best outdoor activities in Milwaukee provide a great workout and new ways to see this vibrant city. 

And after participating in these fun activities in Milwaukee, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Check out my list of the top vegan restaurants in Milwaukee where you’ll find delicious eats.

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Which of these outdoor activities would you most like to try in Milwaukee?

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