Milwaukee is famous for many things, but above anything else, the city is probably best known for beer making. The city’s rich German heritage and major beer brands have resulted in the city garnering a reputation for all things drink-related. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the city has lots of bars and the Milwaukee nightlife scene is a lot of fun. Milwaukee can party with just about any major city.
While the city no longer boasts a tavern on every corner, there is an abundance of areas that have been designated for nightlife, each with its own unique character and a high density of bar options. Each area provides enough options for an entire night, or given their close proximity to one another, with a short taxi ride you can try at least two or three in the same evening, so long as you pace yourself with the drinks.
Here’s a quick rundown of all the best Milwaukee nightlife spots in the brew city!
Water Street remains one of the most popular areas for nightlife. The bar options are plentiful and are varied in terms of the crowds they draw. A few of the options cater to a college crowd, while others draw a diverse audience looking for live music or a great place to relax outdoors.
The Red Rock Saloon offers a country-rock vibe with live music and even a mechanical bull, while Bar Louise caters to young professionals looking for tasty appetizers, well-made martinis, and a fantastic outdoor seating area. Dukes on Water is Water Street’s resident dive bar, with great drink specials and a lively crowd, while Water Street Brewery excels at providing tasty micro-brews and excellent bar fare.
Any visit to Water Street is not complete without checking out the bars slightly adjacent on Juneau Ave. Especially if you are headed over to Old World 3rd Street, another nightlife destination, you can stop along the way at one of the many bars on Juneau Ave., including Trinity Three Irish Pub, Rogues Gallery, or The Harp with one of the greatest patios in the city.
Wherever you choose to party on Water Street, the proximity between bars makes bar crawling easy and safe and ensures you can find the right place for you without spending much on taxis or having to walk far between establishments.
Related Post: Best bars on Water Street
Old World 3rd Street
Old World 3rd Street is just a few minutes’ walk away from Water Street by crossing the river at one of several bridges. The nightlife options on Old World 3rd Street are even more varied than they are on Water Street.
For club goers, you can choose between Red White & Blue, a popular spot for DJ-style country music and dancing, or The Pub Club, another popular spot for dancing. Further north on Old World 3rd Street is another collection of bars.
Make sure to check out Ugly’s for its popular rooftop bar, or the Loaded Slate for a college student destination. Ale Asylum Riverhouse has a great selection of tap beers, while Buck Bradley’s slings up a variety of drinks at one of the longest wooden bars in the country.
No stop on Old World 3rd Street is complete without checking out the Old German Beer Hall for a liter of beer and all things Munich themed. With numerous and diverse options, Old World 3rd Street is a nightlife destination with lots of character and given its locations to various stadiums and live music venues, makes for the perfect spot to either start your night or for drinks following a concert or sporting event.
North Avenue used to be a popular spot for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students, but in recent years has begun to cater to a young professional crowd as well since the area is undergoing a slight transition.
While quite a few of the dive bars no longer exist, you can still find a great collection of bars guaranteed to offer a good time. Hooligan’s Super Bar has been a staple on North Avenue for years and makes for a great spot to start the night with pub dishes and a quality happy hour.
Be sure to also check out Izzy Hops Swig & Nosh for a great beer selection before heading over to Vitucci’s, an 80-year-old cocktail spot. If looking for more drinking options, be sure to check out either Von Trier, an excellent German bar with an even better beer garden, or Paddy’s Pub, a cozy Irish pub that feels like stepping into someone’s living room.
There are also numerous food options on North Avenue whether you need a bite before or after hitting the area bars.
Brady Street has for decades been a prime destination for quality food and nighttime fun. Over the past several years the nightlife scene on Brady Street has further grown into one of the city’s most popular destinations.
There are numerous dining options to start your night, from artfully presented small plates and glasses of wine at Balzac, to some of the best Greek food in the city in a casual environment at Apollo Café.
There are equally diverse options for where to grab drinks. You may choose one of the street’s casual and cheap options such as the Up & Under Pub or Hosed on Brady, or one of the more upscale joints such as Hi-Hat Lounge or The Garage.
The Nomad World Pub is a popular destination for nightlife or to watch a soccer match at an unusual hour of the day. To end your night, be sure to stop into one of the college student hangouts such as Jo-Cat’s Pub or Jack’s American Pub.
If the crowds of Brady Street are more of a deterrent than an attraction, there are also numerous “off-Brady” options within just a couple of blocks. Jamo’s is only a couple of blocks away and offers a quieter yet still lively environment, while The Standard boasts one of the best beer menus in the city.
Consider closing down Wolski’s Tavern, only a few blocks from Brady Street, in order to receive one of their world-famous “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper stickers.
Cathedral Square, right in the center of East Town, is another popular area for nightlife. During summer you might check out the park on Thursday nights for live jazz music. Once the music ends, there are numerous bar options to choose from.
Whiskey Bar has drawn in attractive crowds of young professionals for nearly a decade by offering trendy music and fantastic cocktail selections. Taylor’s offers a similar crowd and appeal, while nearby Flannery’s MKE transitions from a laid-back Irish bar in the afternoon and early evening to a lively party spot filled with college students later in the night.
For popular music, check out the Belmont Tavern on the weekends for swanky martinis paired with live DJs, or head down to Dick’s, a popular spot for DJ music and dancing.
If dancing and high-end cocktails aren’t appealing on a given night, head over to one of the most popular dive bars in the city, My Office. With cheap drinks, an eclectic rotation of music, and quality bartenders, My Office will certainly leave you with a memorable evening.
Historic Third Ward
The Historic Third Ward is filled with high-end clothing stores, great dining destinations, and trendy loft apartments. However, this popular neighborhood also offers a robust nighttime scene as long as you know where to look.
No night out in the Historic Third Ward is complete without stepping into the Milwaukee Public Market. Plan on grabbing some food and possibly even a drink at one of the many stalls inside of the market.
If you are ready for more nighttime fun, step across the street to either Café Benelux or The Wicked Hop. At Café Benelux take advantage of their extensive beer menu and rooftop bar, or for a different vibe, try The Wicked Hop, which has premium bar food, craft cocktails, and at least in summer, extensive outdoor seating options.
For live music and craft beers, next head down to the Milwaukee Ale House. They also have a casual menu with great burgers if you plan to start your night here. For something a little swankier, try either Vino Third Ward, which offers wine tastings, a wine store, and an upscale environment, or head down to Swig, which also has great food and an enjoyable cocktail menu.
For a local-only sort of environment, try Club Charlies or Camp Bar. Both have great daily specials, happy hours to help you save a few bucks, and friendly bartenders guaranteed to help get the night started on the right foot.
No drinking tour of the Historic Third Ward is complete without stopping into The Outsider, located on top of the Journeyman hotel. With both indoor and outdoor sections, flavorful small plates, and a gourmet cocktail menu, The Outsider has quickly become a prime destination for nighttime fun.
Bay View has garnered a somewhat eccentric reputation for hipster bars, and avant-garde restaurants, all while somehow maintaining a blue-collar Milwaukee charm. If starting with dinner, be sure to check out The Vanguard (they area also one of the best restaurants in Milwaukee) for creative spins on sausage classics or check out Palomino Bar for southern food with a twist.
Next up be sure to stop over to Sugar Maple, one of the first bars in the city to take its beer offerings seriously and continues to please guests with an array of hard-to-find microbrews both local and from throughout the country.
Burnhearts offers more of a neighborhood feel where locals bump elbows or compete with one another on the pool or shuffleboard tables. For live music, step over to the Cactus Club, a famous corner bar that has managed to draw major indie acts for decades.
Another option is to step into the past by checking out At Random, a cocktail bar reminiscent of the 1950s. With dim lighting and Frank Sinatra playing in the background, you can try one of the numerous Tiki-inspired or coffee-based drinks on the cocktail menu.
To finish your night, check out Lee’s Luxury Lounge, which draws together an eclectic mix of young professionals, bikers, and hipsters in a bar that draws everyone in for cheap drinks, comfortable lounge-style seating, and a range of bar games.
Riverwest is one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets when it comes to nightlife, except for locals and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students who already frequent the area’s many establishments.
Beyond a host of affordable and quality food options in the area, such as Nessun Dorma, there are also a host of neighborhood corner bars that coalesce into a few blocks of nighttime options. For truly destination bars, check out Foundation, one of the best Tiki bars in the city, or Art Bar, which draws a trendy bohemian crowd.
Black Huskey Brewing is a newcomer to the Milwaukee microbrew scene but has quickly gained a reputation for having excellent craft beers in a fun environment.
Falcon Bowl, also called The Polish Falcon, features a five-lane bowling alley, while Mad Planet is a great choice for cheap drinks and live music, or try one of the many casual corner bars that locals and visitors alike seem to call home on Friday and Saturday nights.
Try the Riverwest Tavern, the Riverwest Public House Cooperative, or Tracks Tavern & Grill – each of these has a way of making you feel like a local after your first round of drinks.