Milwaukee, fondly known as Brew City, is a bustling metropolis situated along the shores of Lake Michigan. With its unique blend of Midwestern charm, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene, Milwaukee nightlife offers a dynamic experience for visitors and locals alike. From cozy pubs to upscale lounges, live music venues to pulsating nightclubs, there is something for everyone in this captivating city.
In this comprehensive Milwaukee nightlife and party guide, we will explore the best places to party, provide essential safety tips and advice, discuss the cost of partying, and highlight the top bars and nightclubs in town. Let’s dive in and discover what makes Milwaukee’s nightlife truly unforgettable.
Where to Party in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee nightlife scene is spread out across various neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality and offerings. Here are some of the most popular areas to party in Milwaukee:
- Third Ward: This historic neighborhood is home to some of the city’s most iconic bars and nightclubs. With its beautiful red brick architecture and picturesque streets, the Third Ward is the perfect place to bar-hop and experience Milwaukee’s rich history. Popular spots in the Third Ward include Broadway and Milwaukee Street, which host numerous bars, restaurants, and boutiques.
- East Side: Known for its colorful street art and urban vibe, the East Side is a lively neighborhood that boasts an eclectic mix of art galleries, breweries, and music venues. Don’t miss the vibrant North Avenue and Brady Street, both of which offer a diverse array of nightlife options, from laid-back beer gardens to stylish rooftop bars.
- Walker’s Point: This up-and-coming neighborhood is a mecca for foodies and barflies alike, with an array of unique eateries and watering holes. From cozy dive bars to swanky cocktail lounges, Walker’s Point offers a diverse nightlife experience. The neighborhood is also known for its LGBTQ+ friendly establishments, making it an inclusive destination for all.
- Bay View: This trendy neighborhood south of downtown is home to some of Milwaukee’s most unique bars and live music venues. With its laid-back vibe and diverse selection of nightlife options, Bay View is a popular destination for a night out on the town. Don’t miss the bustling Kinnickinnic Avenue, which hosts an array of bars, restaurants, and shops.
- Downtown: Milwaukee’s downtown area offers a vibrant nightlife scene, with a variety of bars, clubs, and music venues catering to various tastes and preferences. From the lively Old World Third Street to the bustling Water Street, there’s no shortage of places to explore in downtown Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Nightlife Safety Tips and Advice
While Milwaukee is generally considered a safe city, it’s essential to keep some basic safety tips in mind when enjoying its nightlife:
- Stay in groups: Always try to stick together with your friends or travel companions, as there is safety in numbers.
- Keep an eye on your belongings: Be aware of your surroundings and avoid leaving your personal items unattended. Consider using a money belt or hidden pouch to store your valuables while out on the town.
- Use a designated driver or rideshare service: If you plan on consuming alcohol, make sure to arrange for safe transportation home. Milwaukee has a robust public transportation system, including buses and the streetcar, which can be a cost-effective option for getting around the city.
- Stay on well-lit streets: Stick to main streets and avoid dark alleys or poorly lit areas, especially when walking alone or late at night.
- Know the local laws: Familiarize yourself with Milwaukee’s local laws and regulations, such as the legal drinking age (21 years old) and the city’s open container policy, which prohibits consuming alcohol in public spaces.
Cost of Partying in Milwaukee
The cost of partying in Milwaukee can vary greatly depending on the neighborhood, venue, and your personal preferences. On average, here’s what you can expect to spend to enjoy the Milwaukee nightlife:
Beers: $4-$7 per pint at most bars and breweries
Cocktails: $8-$14 at most cocktail lounges and upscale bars
Wine: $6-$10 per glass at most bars and restaurants
Cover charges: $5-$15 for popular nightclubs and live music venues
Rideshare: $5-$15 depending on distance and surge pricing
To save money, consider taking advantage of happy hour deals, which are typically offered between 4 PM and 7 PM at many bars and restaurants. Additionally, some venues may offer discounted or free entry on specific nights or for special events, so be sure to research and plan ahead.
Best Bars in Milwaukee
Milwaukee’s bar scene is as diverse as its neighborhoods. Whether you’re in the mood for a laid-back brewery or a swanky cocktail lounge, the city has you covered. Here are some of the top bars in Milwaukee:
Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge
This historic watering hole, established in 1938, is Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge. Known for its intimate atmosphere, unique cocktails, and vintage décor, Bryant’s is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
This popular Bay View spot is a unique combination of a bar and a restaurant, serving up mouthwatering sausages and a wide selection of craft beers and cocktails. With its laid-back atmosphere and frequent live music performances, The Vanguard is a must-visit.
Nestled in the heart of Milwaukee’s East Side, The Estate is an intimate venue that features live jazz performances and expertly crafted cocktails. With its cozy atmosphere and diverse lineup of local and national acts, The Estate is a favorite among music enthusiasts.
This iconic Milwaukee brewery offers tours, a lively beer hall, and an extensive selection of craft beers, including their famous Riverwest Stein and Eastside Dark. Don’t miss their popular Friday night fish fry, a Milwaukee tradition.
This vintage cocktail lounge in Bay View is known for its mid-century modern décor and unique selection of ice cream drinks and specialty cocktails. With its romantic ambiance and attentive bartenders, At Random is the perfect spot for a memorable night out.
For a chic destination with a breathtaking view, Blu is the place to be. Situated on the 23rd floor, this refined venue features live jazz music and has been voted Milwaukee’s most romantic bar, best martini, best date night, and best hotel bar. Indulge in exquisite drinks at this sophisticated locale!
Best Nightclubs in Milwaukee
When it comes to dancing the night away, Milwaukee’s nightclub scene has something for everyone. From pulsating dance clubs to laid-back live music venues, here are some of the top nightclubs in the city:
This eclectic nightclub, situated in the Riverwest neighborhood, is known for its diverse music lineup, including 80s and 90s nights, and live performances by local and national acts. With its laid-back atmosphere and spacious dance floor, Mad Planet is a popular spot for a night out with friends.
The Rave/Eagles Club
This historic venue, housed in a former Eagles Club building, is a Milwaukee institution, hosting concerts and events from top-tier artists across various genres. With multiple rooms and stages, The Rave/Eagles Club offers an unforgettable night of live music and entertainment.
Lucid Light Lounge
Located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, Lucid Light Lounge offers a chic, upscale nightclub experience with its modern décor, VIP bottle service, and energetic dance floor. Featuring a lineup of top DJs and live performances, Lucid Light Lounge is the perfect spot for an epic Milwaukee nightlife experience.
This popular Riverwest brewery and live music venue offers a relaxed atmosphere during the day and energetic vibes at night, a wide selection of craft beers, and a rotating lineup of local and national musical acts. With its spacious patio and laid-back vibe, Company Brewing is a favorite among locals looking to experience the Milwaukee nightlife
Annual Events and Festivals in Milwaukee
The vibrant Milwaukee nightlife scene is further enhanced by its array of annual events and festivals, which offer unique experiences and opportunities to celebrate the city’s culture and spirit. Some noteworthy events include:
- Summerfest: Held every summer, Summerfest is the world’s largest music festival, featuring over 800 acts across 11 stages and spanning 11 days. With its diverse lineup of artists and genres, Summerfest is a must-visit event for music lovers.
- Milwaukee Brewfest: This annual celebration of craft beer takes place every July along the shores of Lake Michigan. Featuring over 100 breweries, live music, and food vendors, Milwaukee Brewfest is a beer lover’s paradise.
- Bastille Days: Held every July, Bastille Days is a popular street festival that celebrates Milwaukee’s French heritage. With live music, delicious food, and a variety of entertainment, this event is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
- Milwaukee Oktoberfest: Taking place every October, Milwaukee Oktoberfest is a weekend-long celebration of German culture, featuring traditional music, food, and, of course, beer.
- Milwaukee Film Festival: Held every fall, the Milwaukee Film Festival showcases over 300 films from local, national, and international filmmakers. With screenings, panel discussions, and parties, this event is a must for film enthusiasts.
LGBTQ+ Nightlife in Milwaukee
Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene is vibrant and welcoming, with a variety of bars and clubs catering to diverse interests and preferences. Some popular LGBTQ+ friendly establishments include:
- Hamburger Mary’s: Part restaurant, part bar, and part nightclub, Hamburger Mary’s is a unique and lively spot located in Walker’s Point. Known for its delicious burgers, drag shows, and upbeat atmosphere, Hamburger Mary’s is a favorite among both LGBTQ+ individuals and allies.
- This Is It!: Established in 1968, This Is It! is Milwaukee’s oldest LGBTQ+ bar. With its relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and diverse lineup of events, including karaoke nights, drag shows, and themed parties, This Is It! is a welcoming spot for all.
- D.I.X.: Also located in Walker’s Point, D.I.X. is a lively gay bar known for its dance floor, themed events, and energetic vibe. With a mix of drag shows, DJ sets, and live performances, D.I.X. is a must-visit destination for those looking to let loose and have fun.
- Kruz: This industrial-chic LGBTQ+ bar, nestled in the heart of Walker’s Point, features an outdoor patio, a rotating selection of craft beers, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. With its laid-back vibe and friendly staff, Kruz is a popular spot for both locals and visitors.
Milwaukee Nightlife Conclusion
With its diverse neighborhoods, world-class bars, unique nightclubs, and vibrant annual events, the Milwaukee nightlife scene offers an unforgettable experience for everyone. Remember to stay safe, budget accordingly, and most importantly, have a great time exploring Brew City’s captivating nightlife. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, there’s always something new and exciting to discover in Milwaukee after the sun goes down.