Pop Culture Pit Stops

Your Guide to the Milwaukee Riverwalk

With Three Miles of Statues, Views, and Eats, This Could Be the Best Way to See the City.

Nothing beats exploring a city on foot—but hectic sidewalks, crazy drivers, and disconnected neighborhoods can make a casual walk go from leisurely to stressful in no time. Luckily, if you’re touring Milwaukee, you can enjoy your stroll through the city without having to worry about those obstacles, thanks to the Milwaukee Riverwalk. 

The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a 20-block pedestrian walkway that runs through the city, linking together three riverfront neighborhoods: the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B. Are you taking a trip to Milwaukee? Add the Milwaukee Riverwalk to your list of things to do, and keep reading for an extensive guide to the Riverwalk, including . . . 

  • The Riverwalk’s sculptures
  • Where to stop in each neighborhood


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Riverwalk Art:
RiverSculpture! 

A view of Riverwalk showing buildings and art by the water

Source: Milwaukee Riverwalk

The Riverwalk isn’t just a convenient way to see the city—it’s also an outdoor art gallery (called RiverSculpture!) that features sculptures from local, regional, and national artists. There are both permanent and temporary installations lining the Riverwalk. In this section, we’ll break down the five popular pieces that you’ll feel obligated to stop and pose with.

Icon aart of a duckGertie the Duck
Location: Wisconsin Avenue Bridge | Artist: Gwendolyn Gillen

In 1945, a bridge operator noticed that a mallard duck had chosen the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge as the home for her nest. A country in the midst of war, America soon became captivated by the duck, who was dubbed “Gertie,” and the story eventually made international headlines. The four-foot statue was created by artist Gwendolyn Gillen and made its debut in 1997.

The Fonze IconThe Bronze Fonz
Location: N. Riverwalk Way | Artist: Gerald P. Sawyer

Snap a selfie with the beloved sitcom character when you visit The Bronze Fonz on North Riverwalk Way, just south of Wells Street. Built in 2008 by Gerald P. Sawyer, this statue is a tourist hotspot that you can’t miss during your tour of the Riverwalk. Winkler himself even stopped by to see his bronze counterpart in 2016.

 

An icon of a fishDream with the Fishes for Aurora
Location: Riverside Theatre | Artist: Cork Marcheschi

This mural-like work will go swimmingly with your evening walk through Downtown Milwaukee. Located on the exterior of Riverside Theatre between Wells Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Dream with the Fishes for Aurora is a sight to behold at night. An imaginative piece that was updated in 2015, Cork Marcheschi’s addition to the Riverwalk is a can’t-miss stop along the river. 

A statue of the goddess Aurora

Acqua Grylli
Location: West Riverbank  | Artist: Beth Sahagian

Acqua Grylli sits on the West Riverbank between Wells Street and Kilbourn Avenue. The elaborate statue is made of bronze, stainless steel, and stone and depicts a mythical female warrior. A great place to stop for a photo, the arch symbolizes the river’s power and reminds viewers to respect the prominent natural resource.

 

S.S. Core
Location: Kilbourn Street Bridge | Artist: Robert W. Smart

A testament to reuse, Robert W. Smart’s “S.S. Core” is made from end caps taken from old propane tanks. Sitting on the riverside edge of Pere Marquette Park, the giant sphere will add some character to the backdrop of any photo.

 

Places to Stop on the Milwaukee Riverwalk

The Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B are some of Milwaukee’s most vibrant neighborhoods, and the Riverwalk runs through all three. And from sights and attractions to shopping and food, these areas of the city are brimming with some of Milwaukee’s most happening places.

Historic Third Ward

The Historic Third Ward is what Visit Milwaukee calls “Milwaukee’s answer to SoHo.” Once a commerce and warehousing district, the Historic Third Ward is now the home of Milwaukee’s rapidly growing cultural scene. You can find galleries, boutique shops, craft breweries, and more in this landmark neighborhood.

The Milwaukee Public Market 

Source: The Milwaukee Public Market

400 N. Water St. | www.milwaukeepublicmarket.org 

You can find all types of foods at the Milwaukee Public Market—from Middle Eastern fare to gourmet coffee. Open every day of the week, the Market also offers cooking classes that you can sign up for online. Whether you eat your purchases on the second floor Palm Garden or take them home, you’re sure to want to come back to this delightful food menagerie again. 

Skylight Music Theatre 

Source: Skylight Music Theatre

158 N. Broadway | www.skylightmusictheatre.org

This mammoth theater produces a wide range of musical theater performances. From broadway shows to European operetta, the Skylight hosts over 90 performances each season. You can buy tickets to a show online, over the phone, or in-person at the box office.

MOD GEN 

A rustic way yo store your succulents: find an old library drawer set and stuff its small drawers with succulents

Source: Mod Gen

211 N. Broadway | www.modgenmke.com

If you’re looking for an unconventional, fun place to go souvenir shopping, consider dropping by MOD GEN on North Broadway. The colorful shop describes itself as a “modern take on the classic general stores once seen in our communities.” It’s the perfect shop to go to when you’re not sure what you’re looking for—because you’re bound to find it (whatever it is) here.

Downtown Milwaukee

Downtown Milwaukee holds the city’s largest theater district, as well as three blocks of Milwaukee’s German heritage, preserved in the form of  Old Third World Street. Of course, Downtown is also packed with attractions, activities, restaurants, and more.

Usinger’s Famous Sausages 

Source: Usinger’s Famous Sausages

1030 N. Old Third World Street | www.usinger.com

Located in the same place at the company’s original factory, Usinger’s Famous Sausages is, as its name suggests, quite famous. Nationally recognized for its sausages, Usinger’s is known for its traditional style and meat-filled gift baskets.

Pere Marquette Park 

Source: Adobe Stock

900 Plankinton Avenue | www.parkmilwaukee.com

Named for the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, Pere Marquette Park is a great place to stop for a break during your journey on the Riverwalk. With its laid-back atmosphere and spacious lawn area, you might end up staying in this little park longer than planned. 

The Pabst Theater 

A band plays to a large crowd with stylystic lighting and projections on stage

Source: The Pabst Theater

144 E. Wells Street | www.pabsttheater.org

This decadent performing arts and concert venue was originally built in 1895, making it one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the country. Named a National Historic Landmark in 1991, the Pabst is hailed as the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s theater district.

Beerline B 

This former industrial corridor can be found at the northernmost portion of the Riverwalk. See why Milwaukee is called Brew City by tasting some local craft beer, and enjoy the lively spirit that this up-and-coming neighborhood has to offer—along with some great food and views. 

Beerline Cafe 

 Tu-no Melt with vegan cheddar, tomatoes and sprouts on toasted sourdough and the Americana crepe with vegan smoked gouda, cinnamon baked apples, maple pecan granola and bee-free "honey!"

Source: Beerline Cafe

2076 N. Commerce Street | www.beerlinecafe.com

Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it holds back on taste! From loaded nachos and Mexican breakfast crepes to cinnamon roll pancakes and mushroom burgers, Beerline Cafe has a menu that even meat-eaters will love. Plus, the cafe is green-certified and affordably priced.

Swing Park 

A young girl swings on one of the swings at the swingpark

Source: Swing Park

1737 N. Water Street | www.facebook.com/swingparkmke

This secluded park might be small, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a Milwaukee favorite. Swing away your worries with the Holden Street Bridge overhead. You might not spend more than 15 minutes at the unexpected playground, yet it’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time.

Lakefront Brewery

A plank of sausages with sauer krauts and pickled peppers

Source: Lakefront Brewery

1872 N. Commerce Street | www.lakefrontbrewery.com

Founded by two brothers in 1987, Lakefront Brewery has become a classic Milwaukee attraction and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. You can take a tour of the brewery, drink craft beer, and grab a bite to eat—all at the same place.

Get the Most from Milwaukee

A trip to Milwaukee is one to remember, especially if you include the Milwaukee Riverwalk in your itinerary. Enjoy the fresh Wisconsin air and the riverside breeze as you walk, talk, laugh, and eat your way through Cream City. This engaging walkway is filled with so much excitement that you might even forget you’re getting a decent workout—it’s all part of that Milwaukee magic. 

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