Wisconsin's largest city, Milwaukee originated as a Native American settlement and later grew into an outpost for French fur traders and missionaries. But the city's real boom took place in the 1800s, when waves of German immigrants settled here, bringing with them, among a profusion of other cultural traits, the art of beer brewing.
Milwaukee went on to become known as the beer capital of the world as well as a major commercial and manufacturing area. Although a few major breweries have relocated, Milwaukee's brewpub culture remains strong, as does its German heritage.
Milwaukee is situated on Lake Michigan. One of the Great Lakes, it's so vast that it appears no different from the ocean when walking along the shore. While surfing is not an option, almost all other water activities are, including sailing, powerboating, jet skiing, cocktail cruises, as well as some of the best shipwreck diving in the area. If lounging in the sun sounds more appealing, visitors can head to Bradford Beach, a long strip along the lake packed with swimmers and sunbathers in the summer.
For the less adventurous, more inclined to shop and dine than jump on a jet ski, the other waterfront is the place to be. The RiverWalk system of promenades and bridges meanders along the Milwaukee River, linking the central downtown area, including the financial and Westown districts, and the Historic Third Ward.
Westown is a hot spot for entertainment, with a variety of upscale restaurants, clubs and hotels, as well as an upmarket shopping mall, convention centre and various performing-arts venues.
The Historic Third Ward, a rehabilitated warehouse district with trendy lofts and stylish boutiques, is perfect for an afternoon stroll, as is the nearby Brady Street neighbourhood, which offers a more eclectic experience. Its tattoo parlours and alternative clothing shops, vestiges of the 1960s when the area was a counter-culture haven, are now mixed with galleries, diverse nightlife spots, cafés and exciting eateries.
After touring the city, thirsty visitors in need of a respite ought to try one of the three favourite local indulgences: beer, bratwurst, and frozen custard. Without these, a trip to Milwaukee would simply be incomplete.