45 Milwaukee

PopulationMetro: 1,576,236
Milwaukee has become a destination city, one in which tourists outnumber residents 10 to one during peak times throughout the year. Really.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, some 23 million tourists visited the Milwaukee area in 2016, which resulted in an an economic impact of more than $5 billion and accounted for about a quarter of total tourism revenues for the state of Wisconsin.

So what’s luring these millions of tourists to this urban center in the American Heartland? On America’s third coast, Wisconsin’s largest city combines cherished traditions and modern attitude. It celebrates its beer brewing heritage and offers a vibrant farm-to-table culinary scene—an obvious asset to a city with a century of feeding and brewing for a continent.

Place 37
Product 13
Programming 8
People 37
Prosperity 31
Promotion 7

Unsurprisingly, it has garnered a few monikers. The Bloody Mary Metropolis. Home Base of Harley-Davidson. The Birthplace of the Typewriter. The Frozen Custard Capital of the World. The City That Beer Built. America’s Brandy Belt. Hometown of Happy Days. The Lucha Libre Capital of the Midwest. When Marco Bloemendaal, senior vice president of sales at Visit Milwaukee, says that there is something for everyone in Milwaukee, he might be onto something. “That sounds like a cliché, but not every city has that,” he says.

Through the early 20th century, Milwaukee mayors had the foresight to protect the lakefront and today the city offers eco-friendly and LEED Gold-certified hotels, 1,400 acres of beachfront access, and character-rich neighborhoods where festivals draw residents and visitors alike. Milwaukeeans have an appreciation and respect for both the natural and built environment. The city scores well in our Outdoor Attractions, Neighborhoods & Landmarks, Commute Time, and Crime Rate subcategories that all compose our diverse Place category, in which the city finished at #28 among America’s large cities.