PopulationMetro: 1,405,000
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 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 (Lake Michigan), 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.

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 (and named its baseball team—the Major League Baseball Milwaukee Brewers were a series win from the World Series in 2018). America’s Brandy Belt. Hometown of Happy Days. The Lucha Libre Capital of the Midwest.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 31
Product
Product 8
Programming
Programming 6
People
People 52
Prosperity
Prosperity 47
Promotion
Promotion 5

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.

But, this being the American Midwest, residents work as hard as they play. The city is Top 50 on the planet for Educational Attainment by its citizens. It finished an impressive #38 for global prosperity, including #35 for GDP per capita. As Milwaukeeans know, beer always tastes better after work, anyway.