Experience Downtown Blog

8 Ways to Explore Downtown Milwaukee This Summer

July 9, 2024 /   milwaukee kayakers

Summer is always a busy season in Downtown Milwaukee – so much so that Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 has produced a handy online events guide that captures the abundance of activities all in one place. Their goal is to make it easy to plan a summer Downtown adventure.

Now, Milwaukee Downtown wants to make visiting even easier with these eight savvy transportation tips for traveling to and around Downtown this summer – both by land and by sea:


1. CONNECT 1 provides a speedy route from Wauwatosa to the Lakefront
Milwaukee County Transit System’s CONNECT 1 BRT bus line is an excellent transportation option for anyone visiting Downtown Milwaukee from west of the city. The service, which began in 2023, offers reliable, high-frequency transportation using fuel-efficient electric buses. What’s more, the nine-mile BRT route incorporates dedicated bus lanes that avoid traffic, so CONNECT 1 promises shorter travel times than cars and traditional buses.

Beginning at the Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, it includes 18 stops and runs right through the heart of Downtown along Wisconsin Avenue. It terminates at the Couture transit concourse, which is just steps from the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World and Henry Maier Festival Park.

2. The Hop’s extended L-line offers an easy ride to the Lakefront
One of Milwaukee’s most convenient ways to get around Downtown is The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Casino Hotel, a clean, modern streetcar system that is totally free to ride. With its L-line recently completed, riders can now hop on and enjoy smooth travel to Milwaukee’s Lakefront and countless other Downtown destinations.

The L-line has a nearly two-mile route that includes stops at five existing streetcar stations along the Milwaukee/Broadway corridor, as well as three new stops near the Lakefront. It provides a connection between the original M-line and many of Milwaukee’s popular summer destinations like Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World and Veterans Park. 

3. Bublr Bikes combine exercise with convenient transportation, Downtown and beyond
Milwaukee’s Bublr Bikes are an ideal transportation option for Downtown’s more active visitors and residents. The system spans Downtown, as well as neighboring communities such as Bay View, Riverwest and Wauwatosa. Bublr rents both traditional and e-bikes at a cost of just twenty-five cents per minute. Riders can also purchase 24-hour and weekender passes.

Bikes can be rented at one of the many Bublr kiosks along Wisconsin Avenue and throughout Downtown. What’s more, the Bublr website features a real-time map that lists the nearest stations and the types of bikes that are available. 

4. Lime and Spin e-scooters let travelers zip all around town
Following three pilot studies, Milwaukee has launched a new dockless scooter program that offers a convenient way to travel the city. Both Lime and Spin scooters are now available to rent via their respective apps, with rules in place to protect both riders and drivers.

They’re an affordable mode of transportation for short trips, like riding from the Lakefront to the Third Ward or Downtown. Plus, they’re fun, easy to use, and conveniently located around the city.

5. A variety of walking paths reveal scenic views to explorers on foot
The award-winning Milwaukee RiverWalk ties three downtown neighborhoods together. It extends 3.1 miles along both sides of the river, from the former North Avenue Dam to Henry Maier Festival Park. Plus, the Milwaukee Theater District is enlivening the path this summer with “It’s Alive! on the Riverwalk,” a music series featuring concerts from 4 to 6 p.m. on select Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Strolls in Lakeshore State Park, just south of Discovery World, are a must. The only urban state park in Wisconsin, it features 22 acres of gorgeous prairies and 1.7 miles of paved trails that link to other Lakefront parks and the Hank Aaron State Trail. A small beach and a reservable, overnight boat slip are also available in the park.

The Milwaukee Skywalk system is another impressive way to explore the city. Walkers are protected from the elements and enjoy a bird’s eye view while exploring the 1.75-mile system. Entry points can be found on the Milwaukee Downtown skywalk map


6. Pontoon boats, public cruises and private charters ply the river and lake
Riverwalk Boat Tours & Rentals offers tours and self-captained rentals throughout the summer, along both the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. BoatMKE also offers rentals of several types, including donut boats and classic cruisers. Plus, there's the Kanaloa Tiki Lounge boat for anyone who’s into the classic island vibe.

Those who prefer to have a captain at the helm can tour Milwaukee’s rivers, harbors and lake aboard one of Milwaukee Boat Line’s two double-decker vessels, the Vista King or the Voyageur. Edelweiss Cruises & Boat Tours also offers public and private cruises along the Lakefront, often with a DJ and a full bar. Plus, the company has a fleet of pontoon boats available for private rental.

7. Paddle boats provide people-powered propulsion
A fun family activity, pedal boats and hydrobikes are available to cruise the water basins between Lakeshore State Park and Henry Maier Festival Park. They can be rented from Lakeshore Paddle Sport Rentals near Discovery World all summer long. Plus, Wheel Fun Rentals offers iconic swan boat rentals in Veterans Park Lagoon.

Visitors can also pedal themselves down the Milwaukee River aboard the Milwaukee Paddle Tavern’s 14-person party boat, which is available for both public and private charters. Milwaukee Paddle Tavern also offers Duffy Boats for a more luxurious experience, as well as bike versions of the paddle tavern on land.

8. Kayaks are a sporty alternative to other sea vessels
Single, tandem and family kayaks offer an up-close and active method for exploring Milwaukee’s many scenic waterways. They’re available to rent from the Milwaukee Kayak Company, along with canoes and stand-up paddleboards.

More information on how to get around and things to do is available at MilwaukeeDowntown.com. Curious visitors are also encouraged to flag down one of Milwaukee Downtown’s friendly Public Service Ambassadors for information or visit The MOTOR (Milwaukee’s Own Traveling Outdoor Resource) at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue, next to Museum Center Park.

Photo courtesy of VISIT Milwaukee

Posted in:  Summer in the City