Milwaukee — the largest city in the state of Wisconsin — is loaded with activities to keep anyone busy, from families to college students and young professionals. But every night or day out takes a few more dollars from your bank account, until you can hardly afford to pay the rent for your one-bedroom in Milwaukee — that city you chose to live in because it’s so full of opportunity. It’s a vicious cycle, right? Well, to make sure you have plenty to do while still enjoying your apartment, we’ve scouted out the best ways to spend time in the city without spending any money.
Milwaukee Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)
If you have a flexible schedule, make your trip to the Domes on a Monday morning — admission is free every Monday (holidays excluded) from 9 am to noon. And the experience is multifaceted. Before you even enter one of the three themed, 85-foot-tall domes, enjoy the gift shop and a miniature train display. The first dome is desert-themed, with cactuses, lots of sand, and other plants you aren’t likely to find on the Wisconsin landscape. The next is tropical: Think banana trees, mangos, mahogany, and 1,200 species of tropical plants. The last dome — each of which spans 15,000 square feet — is a floral show that changes throughout the year.
Both the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum — that enormous architectural marvel watching over Lake Michigan — are free to Milwaukee residents on the first Thursday of every month. The regular timing means you’ll be able to enjoy whatever exhibits tour the area: natural history, artistic marvels, and more.
These types of excursions — which usually come with a tasting or two — typically cost you $8 or more. But there are a few exceptions to that rule in Milwaukee. MillerCoors offers free tours that include a look at Milwaukee’s rich brewing history, including a look inside the Miller Caves, where the company previously stored and fermented its beer. Like Minds Brewing, which has locations in Milwaukee and Chicago, also offers free tours on weekdays.
Jazz in the Park
Every Thursday in June, July, and August, block off your evenings and head down to Cathedral Square, near the city’s Lower East Side. Free live jazz — and other lively genres — is made even more enjoyable by the community atmosphere and rows of food and beverage carts waiting to serve you. Show up early, and claim your spot.
Milwaukee County Zoo
Typically, you’d be paying $11.75 to $14.25, plus parking, to walk through the gates and enjoy the more than 2,000 animals that call the zoo home. But on a select handful of days — January 7, February 4, March 4, October 7, November 4, and December 2, 2017 — admission is free. Naturally, the park fills up on these free days, so try to plan your schedule around the rush.
Aside from these regular activities, keep an eye on the calendar for some of the city’s great, free events as well. Bastille Days in July, for example, transforms Cathedral Square into a French party. Doors Open Milwaukee, for two days in September, gets you inside some of downtown’s historic buildings, and Fish Fry and a Flick takes you lakeside, down near Discovery World, to enjoy a movie on a floating screen while, you guessed it, enjoying a fish fry. There’s lots of free fun to look for, so start planning your calendar.