Cruise down the Milwaukee River on a sightseeing tour


Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the Milwaukee Boatline sightseeing tour in exchange for writing about my experience in Milwaukee. This assistance in no way affects the opinions expressed in my posts about the city. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve got $20 and 90 minutes to spare in Milwaukee, taking a Milwaukee Boatline sightseeing tour is an absolutely worthwhile way to invest that money and time. It’s such a fun way to learn about significant buildings and areas in the city, all while enjoying a cruise down the Milwaukee River.

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Milwaukee isn’t my backyard, but I consider the river one its most beautiful features. So I was surprised to learn from the tour guide that the Milwaukee River used to be considered an eyesore because it was incredibly polluted. It still is pretty dirty, though: I never saw anyone swimming in it and have read that it is unsafe to do so. But a lot of efforts have been made and continue to be made to revitalize it.

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Probably the most significant segment of the boat ride is passing by and learning about the Historic Third Ward, a former industrial neighborhood in the city. In the late 1800s, it endured a huge fire that burned 16 square blocks of the city’s riverfront commerce area. Now, it’s a mixed-use neighborhood with restaurants, businesses, and residential buildings.

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In the Historic Third Ward, there’s one last surviving manufacturer, Hoffco Shoe Polish, which is pointed out during the tour. The factory employs 12 people and the company has been there since 1962.


The 90 minutes of the tour also included structures like Wisconsin’s tallest building – the US Bank Center, First National Bank Building and Milwaukee Theater Building. McKinley Marina (which fits 600 boats), Lakeshore Park, and Discovery World, are also seen along the way.

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While the boat cuts through Milwaukee River waters, other eye-catching sites to observe are the bridges that it passes through – including drawbridges and vertical-lift bridges – to move along.

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The time you get to spend on the boat along with the knowledgeable guide make the Milwaukee Boatline tour a perfect activity where you can lay back and learn about the city and see some of its important buildings, all while looking out at a picturesque scene.

I took the tour on a Sunday afternoon and it was pretty empty then. All of the passengers were able to fit in one section of the boat, but that didn’t negatively affect the experience or anything. In the end, it was actually easier to move around to take photos from different places because there weren’t too many bodies on board. Still, it definitely would have been more fun to have extra people around 🙂


More information about Milwaukee Boatline can be found here.

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