Milwaukee's friendly and unpretentious citizens personify its touted spirit of gemutlichkeit, a German word loosely translated as "enjoying good times with friends." The bonus in Milwaukee is that great food and entertainment vary more—and cost much less—than you might imagine. Whether your idea of a good time is golfing, theatergoing or biking beside lakefront mansions, a day in Cream City will drain your energy long before your bank account.

Thanks to the generosity of residents and businesses, fine arts flourish in Milwaukee. It is home to Skylight Opera Theatre, as well as the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its unusual sunshade. Watching the roof extend and retract is also a fun pastime at the Miller Park baseball stadium, known for comfort and great sightlines.

Or you could spend the morning strolling through the largest stand of crab-apple trees in the U.S. (Boerner Botanical Gardens), lunch on authentic Wiener schnitzel, and then tour the factories that make Harley-Davidson engines and Miller beer. Microbrew fans could round out the afternoon with a cruise that shuttles passengers to tours at three Milwaukee River craft breweries.

Milwaukee's character is strongly linked to its past as a haven for immigrants. Many of the city's pre-eminent restaurants originally catered to diners homesick for the flavors of the old country. And Milwaukee's many summer ethnic festivals celebrate the dozens of cultures that make it such a vibrant melting pot. Rock 'n' roll fans who time their travel for late June or early July get to experience Summerfest, one of America's best music festivals.

NASCAR fans are happy at the Milwaukee Mile speedway, and motorcycle enthusiasts are ecstatic about the huge Harley-Davidson Museum. The fabulous Pier Wisconsin complex, a lakefront education center, serves as the home for Discovery World, the tall-masted schooner S/V Denis Sullivan and an attraction focused on freshwater ecology and maritime history—the Great Lakes Aquatarium.

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