The Milwaukee region sets itself apart with one-of-a-kind museums, off-site outlets and entertainment offerings. And for business meeting and corporate event groups, the only thing better than experiencing these venues during the day is to do so after the sun goes down.
“I often hear from planners that they are pleasantly surprised by the vibe of the city,” said Marco Bloemendaal, senior vice president of sales, Visit Milwaukee. “Especially with the number of activities for them to do and the variety of things to do.”
From iconic buildings, to the city’s most well-known export—beer—meeting and event meeting planners have options for nightlife corporate entertainment.
Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee
In 2008, the Harley-Davidson Museum opened to showcase artifacts and motorcycles as well as share the company’s history. It is comprised of three buildings and sits on 20 acres along the Menomonee River.
“This is probably the city’s most well-known venue,” Bloemendaal said. “Harley-Davidson was founded here; the headquarters is here and it’s less than one mile from the convention center.”
Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee
The museum has multiple indoor and outdoor venues that can accommodate up to 10,000 guests. According to Bloemendaal, many groups use the outdoor space, like the 41,400-square-foot Founder’s Terrace or the nearly 10,000-square-foot Motor’s Patio for evening events in the warmer months. The venue can accommodate teambuilding events and groups can dine in the on-site Motor Bar & restaurant.
In addition to using the venue for nighttime events, special programing is available almost year-round.
“From May through September, the museum’s Bike Night Concert Series features live music, drink specials and tons of motorcycle eye-candy,” said Lindsey McKee, communications manager for Visit Milwaukee. “From November through early January, the museum has BBQ & Blues nights on Saturdays with live entertainment.”
Meeting and event planners can get group tickets and tours, giving attendees an up-close look at the history of the Harley-Davidson company and the more than 450 motorcycles.
Milwaukee Art Museum
“Our second-most famous venue is the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM),” Bloemendaal noted. “The MAM is located on the waterfront, just eight blocks from the convention center.”
Milwaukee Art Museum
The museum is home to 30,000 works of art and includes the War Memorial Center, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, whose other work includes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Washington Dulles International Airport.
“Fridays from late summer through late spring is the art museum’s MAM After Dark themed parties, which include all-night access to the galleries, music, food and activities for guests to make their own art,” McKee said.
Groups can use the spaces in the Quadracci Pavilion for evening receptions, banquets and galas. There are also opportunities for private group tours.
JB’s on 41, Milwaukee
Bowling is a time-honored tradition in Milwaukee. JB’s on 41 first opened in the 1950s. Today, the venue offers bowling and games across 39,000 square feet of space.
Groups can choose from 10 cherrywood luxury lanes, 25 traditional lanes as well 40 redemption, racing and classic arcade-like games. There are also four sand volleyball courts for after-hours entertainment.
The Junction Bar & Grill serves up gourmet pub food and local draughts.
JB’s on 41 can help with teambuilding activities, lane rental and catering. Meeting planners can host private functions of up to 180 people in The Bowlevard Lanes, up to 75 guests in the Suite 41 or 50 in one of the two dining areas. Groups can also access the Speed Zone Arcade and the Volleyball pavilion for organized games.
Edelweiss Boat Tours, Milwaukee
A private charter aboard one of the Edelweiss Boat Tours double-decker boats is a great way for groups to have evening or late-night events with views of the Milwaukee city skyline from the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan.
“Companies offer sunset sails, happy hour cruises, dinner cruises, on-board concerts and late-night party sails along the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan,” McKee said.
Edelweiss vessels feature outdoor viewing decks, interior bars and enclosed cabins allowing for cruising despite the weather conditions. The private charter cruises, which can accommodate 50 to 145 people depending on the vessel, can also include custom menus, bar options and live entertainment.
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Milwaukee
The hotel/casino property is gearing up to debut a new hotel tower with 119 guest rooms, 59 suites, a spa and additional meeting space. The existing hotel offers 381 guest rooms, and overall the property boasts 60,000 square feet of meeting space.
“Gaming, live entertainment and a plethora of dining options make Potawatomi Hotel & Casino a fun evening activity as well as a versatile event venue,” McKee said.
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Lobby, Milwaukee
The hotel and casino have multiple restaurants and bars that are open late and can accommodate groups. Dream Dance Steak, recognized as a Milwaukee Top 30 fine-dining restaurant, has private dining space. The restaurant’s Vinter Room provides boardroom-style private dining along with full audiovisual capabilities.
In addition to ballrooms, an event center and hotel meeting rooms that are available for evening events, the hotel’s nightlife entertainment options make this property so versatile. The Northern Lights Theater is an intimate venue that often hosts musicians, comedians and entertainers.
The Event Center can accommodate larger crowds and has also been used for concerts and comedy shows, and even Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) cage fights have taken place in the venue.
Gothic Milwaukee Walking Tour
Groups can see the city at night on a guided tour from Gothic Milwaukee. The Ghost Tour takes guests through the streets of downtown and tells the tales of the city’s ghosts and haunted buildings.
“Private tours can happen anytime, and we consider a full walking tour group to be 20 walkers, and for guest happiness, we keep walks under 35 participants,” explained Anna Lardinois, owner of Gothic Milwaukee.
There is also the Ghosts of Yankee Hill Tour, ideal for those who have taken the Classic Tour and are eager for more stories. This off-the-beaten-path tour explores the history, scandal, gossip and, of course, ghosts of the city’s Yankee Hill neighborhood.
“My most popular tour is my haunted, historical walking tour," Lardinois added. "This 90-minute outdoor walking tour explores the history, architecture and spooky tales that are part of Milwaukee’s past. Walkers visit landmarks including Marcus Milwaukee’s The Pfister Hotel, City Hall and the very ‘unspooky’ Bronze Fonz."
Raised Grain Brewing Company, Waukesha
Raised Grain Brewing Company opened in 2015 after Dr. Scott Kelley and Dr. Jimmy Gosset, both University of Wisconsin graduates, turned their homebrewing passion into a full-fledged brewery.
The brewery is set to open its new taproom, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a dedicated event space about two miles from the original brewery and taproom. The new space will have seating for up to 200 people and chef Mark Jasso, who runs the food truck at the current taproom, will be moving into the new space, but with a full indoor kitchen. Tours at the new location will begin in early 2019.
“Our taproom will be more spacious, have additional seating at both tables and the bar, and will have a cool event space that we look forward to using,” said Nick Reistad, one of the brewery’s owners.
Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Brookfield
Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, a nonprofit cultural arts facility in Mitchell Park, opened in 2002. Around 45,000 people visit each year for education, to experience live performances and to take in visual art.
“We have our own series of performances where we bring performers to The Harris Theater, a 603-seat house,” explained Brandon Herr, special events senior manager for the Center. “We also have the smaller Dawes Studio Theater that can accommodate 125 to 130 people. Meanwhile, the Gerlach/Haack Outdoor Theater is a great option for outdoor shows and we host the Starry Nights free outdoor concert series each summer.”
Planners can rent spaces for performances, arts education classes, meetings, fundraisers and private parties. “We have a number of spaces where groups can partake in classes,” Herr said. “Planners can bring in or create their own programs or can choose to be a part of our existing series.”
The Harris Theater’s stage is large enough to support a full-size professional symphony orchestra yet intimate enough for chamber music or theater. The 2,000-square-foot Dawes Studio Theater is a great space for smaller recitals, receptions and meetings.
Additional indoor options include the Kuttemperoor Grand Hall, a two-story space with exposed wood beans and artist Susan Falkman’s floor-to-ceiling hand-carved limestone fireplace titled Streaming, and the Ploch Art Gallery, which provides 200-foot ceilings and space for visual art exhibits and smaller receptions.
Adjacent to the gallery, a balcony overlooks the Grand Hall, and the exhibitions from Wisconsin artists rotate every six to eight weeks.
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