Including some peace and quiet time during a Chicago vacation can seem challenging. With so many bars, boutiques and busy streets, you may want to schedule a day away from the Windy City. Fortunately, there's a chance to enjoy a city on a much smaller scale just 90 minutes north along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.
Downtown Milwaukee — Photo courtesy of Steve Paluch
You can easily drive, but Chicago's Union Station offers even easier access via train. You can bypass the expressway traffic for a smooth 90-minute ride on Amtrak's Hiawatha line that drops you off just a few blocks from Milwaukee's downtown. If you're traveling with kids, be sure to search for savings opportunities. Amtrak occasionally offers a "Kids Ride Free" discount on weekends.
Hiawatha departing Chicago — Photo courtesy of vxla
While the city may be smaller than Chicago, there's no shortage of attractions and activities. Start your visit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, a sky-high display of contemporary design on the outside and classic paintings and sculptures on the inside. The museum includes more than 30,000 pieces of art and rotating exhibitions throughout the year.
Inside the Milwaukee Art Museum — Photo courtesy of Kent Wang
Discover Discovery World
Once you've become an art history master, walk a few blocks south to Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin. The museum includes interactive looks at science, technology and a wide range of water species.
If you're heading to Milwaukee minus the children, the city welcomes you with open arms and tall beer mugs. Milwaukee is steeped in a deep love for all things beer - - the city's baseball team is even named after the industry. You can check out a variety of brewery and distillery tours, including the MillerCoors Brewery, which is free. The legendary Lakefront Brewery charges $7 for a tour, but that admission price comes with some extra value: a souvenir pint glass and 24 ounces of freshly brewed beer.
If you're visiting the Midwest during the summer, Milwaukee is home to the World's Largest Music Festival. While Chicago hosts Lollapalooza for three days, Summerfest offers more than a week of bands along the waterfront. Tickets are cheap, too. You can pick up a full day pass for less than $15. The festival typically occurs during the week before and after the Fourth of July.
Coming Back to Chicago
Be sure to check train departure times from Milwaukee long before you're ready to wrap up your day trip. The last train back to Chicago typically departs around 8 pm, which will put you back just in time for a late dinner. Your return to Union Station puts you within a short cab ride of some of the best restaurants in the city on Randolph Street.