Things to Do in Waukesha
So you are thinking of moving to Waukesha, or as some of the local lifers call it, “the sha”. We kid you not, “the sha” is a real term and is even defined in the Urban Dictionary as a reference to Waukesha. (Don’t believe me? Check it out!)
You are probably wondering what kind of things there are to do in town?
Believe it or not, Waukesha is home to some pretty unique pieces of culture, and many people who have lived here come back time and time again to experience these unique things that cannot be found anywhere else.
In order to make this an easy article to reference and come back to, we have divided this list into several categories: Food, shopping, outdoor activities (winter/summer), and fun activities.
So if you are looking for something good to eat in Waukesha make sure you keep this list handy and try them all. There are plenty of fun activities in Waukesha, some free and some that will cost you a few dollars, but all great ways to pass the time! So please bookmark this article and comeback anytime when you are looking for something to do.
Waukesha has many fine family or locally owned restaurants where some of the best food can be found. Below are some of the local favorites:
Have a Ponza Rotta– Nothing brings people back to the “sha” more than the famous Ponza Rotta. What is a Ponza Rotta you ask? Well it’s a basically a pizza folded in half and deep-fried to gooey goodness. You can choose what you want it stuffed with and when you open it up you can see the oil from the cheese drip out – delicious! It can be found at Jimmy’s Grotto.
Do a Pub Crawl– Downtown Waukesha is home to many small bars. The best advice is to park downtown, walk around the 5-points and stop in and check them out and order your favorite drink. If you want an authentic Wisconsin drink, order an old fashioned. Very few people outside of Wisconsin know how to make it the correct way.
Fuzz’s Pub– This small pub has great bar food at affordable prices. It is small inside but the food is tasty and they do a large fish fry business.
Taylor’s Peoples Park– This fun downtown restaurant/bar is a great place to have a nice sandwich for lunch and old friends gather here for drinks in the evening and catch up. It’s a clean, hip place to go.
Bernie’s Tap Room– Full of craft beers and flat bread pizza, what’s not to like? This hangout is close to Carroll University.
Have Some Mexican Fare– Downtown Waukesha is home to some great authentic Mexican restaurants. If you want some really good dishes check out some of our favorites:
- La Estacion– Set in an old rail car, this train depot is a great place to have an authentic Mexican meal and a cool margarita.
- Casa Ole– This little restaurant downtown has a good selection of Mexican food and is a great place for a quick meal.
Golden Gate– This family owned Chinese and Cantonese restaurant has some of the best Chinese food in the area. Many of the spices and sauces are brought back right from China and their lunch buffet is always very popular and allows you to sample many different dishes.
John’s Root Beer Stand– This place is an icon from a time long ago when root beer stands were all over the place. Their homemade root beer is sweet and goes down smoothly. Open Spring through Fall, this place is a great stop for a quick snack and a root beer float.
Have Some Custard– Wisconsin is the dairy State right? Well, we don’t just eat ice cream here, we have frozen custard. This smooth, sweet treat can be found throughout Waukesha at several places. Culver`s, Murf’s, and Oscar’s feature unique flavors of the day, and what better to pair your custard with than a nice, freshly cooked burger!
Rochester Deli– Get your fresh made sandwich wrapped in butcher paper and some homemade pasta salad downtown at the Rochester Deli.
Friday Fish Fry– The Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition! Many local restaurants help the Catholic population celebrate lent with a beer battered fish fry. People flock to restaurants to get baked or fried cod severed with cole slaw, rye bread, fries, or if you can find them, potato pancakes. Once you’ve had a Friday Fish Fry, it will be a family tradition.
Now that your appetite is filled you may want to do a little shopping. Although our neighbor to the east, Brookfield, is the big shopping attraction, Waukesha has some good options these days too!
Waukesha Farmer’s Market– Stop by every Saturday from May 6th through October 28th from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at this open air market to buy locally produced items.
Get Some Art– Downtown Waukesha has several art studios that you can find some really nice pieces. Gallery 1 is an art studio featuring local artists and can also help you with framing your pictures. A Stroke of Genius lets you combine your love of wine with painting lessons. There is also Ashton’s Arts Studio and Otto’s Art Academy.
Retail Stores in Waukesha– If you are looking to do some more traditional retail shopping, Waukesha’s Shoppes at Fox River is a great destination with over 370,000 sq. ft. of shopping. This new shopping center continues to thrive and add new stores all the time. Some of the main stores featured here are Super Target, Maurice’s, Hobby Lobby, Pet World, Rue 21, Five Below, GameStop, Verizon, ROSS, GNC, TJ Maxx, and Pick N` Save. There are also many popular chain restaurants there so you can fuel up before you continue to shop.
Have a Smoke– If you have the radio on you may hear silly commercials about a cigar bar called the Nice Ash. This popular place downtown is a good hangout to purchase and tryout a favorite stogie.
Have a Sweet Tooth?– Check out Allo Chocolat. You can stop in to purchase their homemade chocolate, sign up for a class, or bring your kids in to make their own creation.
Sled Down Lowell Hill– Waukesha is know for it’s hilly terrain and there is nothing more epic than coasting down the fresh powder on Lowell Hill, one of the best sledding hills in the area.
Cross Country Ski through Minooka Park– With their extensive trails through the woods Minooka Park is a great place to cross country ski and enjoy nature at the same time.
You can’t beat summer time in Wisconsin and there is a lot to do in Waukesha to take advantage of the great weather:
Friday Night Live– This great event has been growing every year. From June-September local artists and entertainers take up 10 stages to entertain you. They close the streets down and work in conjunction with local businesses, bars and restaurants to hang out and celebrate downtown Waukesha on Friday evenings.
4th of July Parade– Celebrate our Independence Day and take in a long, fun Parade that travels through the heart of downtown Waukesha. This is a big hit with the kids!
Waukesha BluesFest– This event, created by the Waukesha Rotary Club, combines art and culture with live music. The proceeds benefit the Rotary Charity fund and this event is celebrating it’s 11th anniversary on Friday & Saturday, August 11th & 12th, 2017.
Take a Stroll Down the Riverwalk– One popular and free summertime activity is just taking a walk down the Riverwalk along the Fox River. Located on Riverwalk Drive at Bethesda Spring Park and Frame Park, hundreds of people stop by and take a stroll and enjoy the weather daily. If you want to take it to the next level you can rent paddle boats, bikes, and carriages to travel up and down the river.
Badgerland Ski Show– This free waterski show performs for crowds in the summer time in Frame Park on the Fox River – Memorial Day through Labor Day – 7:00 p.m. Wednesday Nights.
Minooka Park– With over 500 acres of scenic terrain, Minooka Park is a great place to enjoy nature in summer. Enjoy swimming, archery, volleyball, a dog exercise area, picnic shelters, and tons of different trails ranging from easy to difficult. They even have a bridal trail for your equestrian friends. This park is located right on the corner of Guthrie Road and Sunset Drive.
Retzer Nature Center– Located off Madison Street in Waukesha, this park has nature trails, a learning center, and a planetarium. Open from 8 – 4:30 p.m.
Good Times– This is a great summer camp for your kids, open 7:30 – 5 p.m. with a wooded setting, recreational swimming pool, volleyball, soccer fields, basketball courts and more.
Waukesha County Fair- This small fair is a lot of fun especially if you have younger kids. There are rides, games, animals, and lots of things to purchase. They also have concerts in the evening, tractor pulls, an old car show, all you can drink milk (this is the dairy state) and a pancake breakfast. Plus it is during a very nice time of the year so the weather is great too!
The Springs Waterpark– If you want to spend a day at a great waterpark without trucking all the way to the Dells the Country Springs is a great place to make a splash! They offer day passes and have tons of slides, play areas, and pools to make the time fly by.
Veloce– New to Waukesha Veloce is an indoor go-cart track that is a great place to get your race on. Featuring two tracks this is a fun place to burn a little rubber race against your friends.
I-Combat– Laser tag all grown up with realistic equipment and sets that make you feel like you are in the heat of battle. There are over 30 rooms and different zones so that each battle feels unique.
Skate Land– Harken back to the late 70’s and early 80’s and head over to Skateland when that was “The” place to hang out in town. Go for the traditional roller skates or get your blades on and roll around to some rocking tunes. Fun for the whole family.
Sky Zone– Get your jump on at an indoor trampoline park. Jump around for a while or play some indoor dodge ball with a group of friends. Or you can turn it up a notch and jump around in the dark with a backlight.
Swing Time– Play some great mini golf and test your skill at the varied obstacles or head over to the batting cages and take chops before your big game.
Bowling– A Milwaukee tradition that is still alive and well, bowling! Traced back to the early 19th century, German immigrants brought this sport to Wisconsin and it quickly became filled with alleys all over with countless leagues. Some of the surviving lanes Sunset Bowl and Fracero’s are popular pin destinations for you and your family and salute Bowling heritage in Wisconsin. Sunset Bowl also offers pool, darts, and a party room.
Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum- Located in the heart of downtown Waukesha in a beautiful 1900’s building the Museum offers exhibits and tributes to one of it’s most famous and iconic residents Les Paul. Learn the history of the City of Waukesha and find more about some of the other historic locations in the city.
This year Waukesha has rebranded itself and focused on some of it’s most popular activities: Rock out, dance off, eat up, buy stuff, get inked, and make art.
I hope this was a helpful guide and please let us know if we missed something great so we can add it to our list! After you try out all these great places and want to live here, please contact us and we can help you with that too! Nobody likes to hang out alone so make sure to share this with your friends in town too!