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Milwaukee Redefined: Embracing Wellness in Brew City

Discover an urban oasis of health and wellbeing in this Midwestern city by the lake.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, once home to Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz breweries, was known as the beer capital of the world. Today, the city, nicknamed “Brew City,” celebrates its rich brewing history with tours, such as City Tours MKE, that explore how the popular malted beverage built the city and its lasting impact. While you may not immediately think of Milwaukee as an obvious wellness destination, I discovered on a recent trip there that beer isn’t the only thing that makes this city an enticing place to visit, although it does often provide an interesting twist. Think: Saturday morning yoga in a brewery.

Accommodations

While there are many options for accommodations in Milwaukee, one that puts you in the center of the Brewery District, the city’s newest downtown neighborhood, is The Brewhouse Inn & Suites, which is set in the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. Highlighting many of the building’s original features, including giant copper brewing kettles, the hotel is the perfect home base to explore the walkable neighborhood, with its historic architecture and unique history.

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The Brewhouse Inn & Suites

I was fortunate to stay at Kinn Guesthouse, a charming design-forward independent hotel with a communal concept that had me rethinking how I want to travel in the future. The downtown guesthouse features 31 guestrooms, a fully furnished chef’s kitchen on each floor along with a comfortable space to work or socialize, a rooftop event space, and a workout room. As someone who often works from the road, I quickly embraced the concept, as it allowed me a comfortable place to catch up on emails while my partner slept in or chatted on the phone in the room.

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Kinn Guesthouse

It felt like having our own New York City penthouse, one that was stocked with coffee and Rishi Tea and a host of healthy snacks, such as yogurt and granola. I especially loved the fact that we could cook healthy meals in the kitchen and then sit down in a beautiful space to enjoy them. Every morning, we’d discover a selection of pastries, and one evening, two bottles of wine—a red and a white—encouraged an impromptu happy hour. Our few interactions with other guests also proved to be an enjoyable experience, lending a more personal touch to our stay.     

According to its website, the hotel’s name couldn’t be more apropos: “When we named our guesthouse, we wanted it to have a connection to family and to the local community where we were starting our new adventure. We also wanted it to tie-in with our vision of providing the ideal mix of hotel and home experiences.” Ultimately, Kinn Guesthouse felt like a more elevated version of home, with a sophisticated yet comfortable aesthetic. There was even a laundry room, which seemed like the ultimate luxury to this New Yorker who doesn’t have a washer or a dryer of her own. Another highlight: it’s just a short walk to the Milwaukee Public Market.

For a more traditional hotel experience, The Pfister Hotel, an iconic Milwaukee hotel located near the historic Third Ward, is rich with history. Built in 1893, the hotel is undergoing a host of renovations that are expected to be completed by spring 2024. Although I didn’t stay there, I did visit the spa, which is conveniently located a few blocks from Kinn Guesthouse.

City Zen

Located within The Pfister Hotel, WELL Spa + Salon is the perfect place to escape for an indulgent afternoon of self-care. Upon arrival, I was greeted with cup of green tea before being escorted to a spa suite for the Hammam Steam Shower Experience. It involved a hot steam with a self-application of Pure Fiji Coconut Lime Crush Scrub followed by a hydrating lotion. After the treatment, I was treated to a glass of Champagne.  

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The spa also offers skincare services, bodywork, and a host of other therapeutic treatments, including Manual Lymphatic Drainage (starting at $100, 45 minutes), Craniosacral Therapy (starting at $100, 45 minutes), Site Specific Cupping (starting at a$30), Reiki (starting at $110, 45 minutes), and Reflexology (starting at $135, 60 minutes). Each treatment room is a two-room suite that includes a private bathroom with heated floors, shower, and more.

Dining

While Milwaukee may be better known for its cheese, brats, and beer, the dining scene has evolved in recent years. Eating well is easier than ever thanks to a growing number of James Beard-recognized restaurants. I happened to visit a 2022 winner, The Diplomat, which specializes in shared plates. The restaurant’s warm ambiance and sophisticated charm creates an inviting setting to indulge in the elevated cuisine.

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The Diplomat

Located off the lobby of Kinn Guesthouse, The Wolf on Broadway opened this past October and is already creating a buzz. Owned by the husband-and-wife duo Wolfgang Schaefer and Whitney McAllister, the restaurant is inspired by their travels and brings together design inspiration from Paris and the West Coast. The menu features an eclectic array of offerings with an Indonesian twist. I especially loved the Garlic Indo-Mie noodle dish.

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The Wolf on Broadway

No visit to Milwaukee would be complete without a visit to Mader’s, a family-owned German restaurant that is practically an institution. Founded in 1902, it originally catered to German immigrants. Since then, it has come to attract a veritable who’s who, from John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to Frank Sinatra and Eddie Van Halen. The sauerkraut alone is worth a trip.

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Mader’s

For a more casual bite to eat, Crossroads Collective is a food hall for aspiring restaurateurs and chefs to test their concepts. With eight vendors, each an independent, local, chef-owned business, the collective celebrates made-from-scratch meals. Kawa Ramen & Sushi was my go-to for a nourishing Japanese lunch.

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Crossroads Collective
Wellness in the City

A highly walkable city, Milwaukee makes it easy to stay fit and work off the calories. While there, I experienced my own version of Friday Night Lights with Twerk Spin at Spinn MKE, a spin studio created for communities who lack access to affordable boutique fitness experiences. The goal behind the studio was to create a holistic wellness space that is inclusive and welcoming to all. The classes, including the one I took part in, celebrate hip-hop music. My instructor, Porchia, brought the energy with a series of twerking moves that left me breathless, all the while furiously pedaling to the beat of the music. Did I mention she was also eight months pregnant?

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The next day, I headed to Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb for Yoga on Tap at Lion’s Tail Brewing Company. There, yogi Caitlin Moyer led me and several others in a 45-minute yoga flow inside the brewery’s new digs. After, we were all given a voucher for a post-yoga beer to enjoy while connecting with our fellow classmates off the mat while savoring the lively spirit of Milwaukee’s craft brew culture.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Short on time, I skipped the brewski and headed to the rink at Pettit National Ice Center, the official training site for U.S. Speedskating. For me, ice skating isn’t just a recreational activity; it’s a wellness ritual that goes beyond mere exercise. It’s also one of my favorite winter activities! As I made my way to the rink, I found myself wandering though the Wauwatosa Holiday Market offering authentic traditional European food. It was just another example of the way community plays a role in shaping Milwaukee’s wellness landscape. Here, the commitment to wellbeing extends beyond individual pursuits, creating a host of experiences that cater to the holistic needs of both body and spirit. In Milwaukee, every corner seems to offer a unique opportunity to nurture wellbeing, making it a destination where the pursuit of health and happiness intertwine seamlessly with the city’s rich cultural offerings.         

About The Author
Heather-Mikesell-author-1

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, jetsetter.com, outside.com, and wellandgood.com, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.