Five months ago, I stopped drinking. Coincidentally, my social life also got a lot tamer/lamer around the same time. Living in a city known for beer, I find myself staying in almost every night and not having a lot of options for things to do on the weekends. I know I could go out, but I’m socially awkward without alcohol, I’m not into hanging with drunk people while I’m sober, and the temptation to drink is still pretty daunting. I find that most events that happen around Milwaukee, even during the day, cater to drinkers (why is beer yoga a thing?). I could do a number of family-friendly activities in the area, but they tend to be a bit on the family-friendly/touristy side. I’m still a 20-something year old weirdo who wants to have fun, just without the liquid courage. The following list is not only a guide to non-alcoholic, non-touristy things to do in the city, but also a personal checklist.
1. Take a Class at Waxwing
Waxwing, located on the corner of North and Oakland, is known for its offerings of art, knick knacks, and other fun goods made by local vendors, but the store also hosts an eclectic variety of classes. You can learn the ins and outs of numerology, how to read tarot cards, the best way to solve a Rubik’s cube, and more.
2. Catch one of the Colectivo Back Room Shows
Finding live music (especially in winter) at a venue that doesn’t smell like stale beer can be a bit of a struggle. Luckily for those who prefer to not be around alcohol, Colectivo and the Pabst Theater Group have developed a glorious partnership. Maintaining a busy booking schedule, Colectivo’s Prospect Avenue location hosts nationally touring musicians (frequently with a local opener) for an affordable price.
3. Celebrate Taco Tuesday
If your idea of Taco Tuesday is waiting for a table for over an hour so you can get Americanized Mexican food, try changing it up. There are a multitude of taco-serving restaurants in the city, and you owe it to yourself to try more of them. How about La Casa De Alberto, on National and 6th-ish? The restaurant happens to be closed on Tuesdays, but on any other day of the week you can get four tacos for $7. Even if you’re bad at math, that’s a good deal. (Also: When you aren’t ordering margaritas, these outings get a bit cheaper.)
4. Meet your favorite author at Boswell Books
East Side mainstay Boswell Book Company has been bringing in-demand and up-and-coming authors to the city with great frequency. Often these events are free of charge, although some bigger names do require an entrance fee. Past Boswell speakers include Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman, Garrison Keillor, Alison Bechdel, and, uh, Lauren Conrad.
5. Embrace your inner cheesehead at the Clock Shadow Creamery
For only $3, you can take a tour of the Clock Shadow Creamery and sample some of its cheeses. Since opening in 2012, Clock Shadow has expanded to offer its cheeses not only at its factory—the only one of its kind within the city—but at an abundance of area grocery stores. Producing cheddar, quark, chevre, ricotta, and more, the creamery is sure to satisfy your cheese needs.
6. Float at Float Milwaukee
If you’re mentally stable enough to handle 60 minutes of sensory deprivation, take a trip over to the float tanks in the Third Ward. Float Milwaukee offers a variety of session options for an affordable price (plus a discount if it’s your first time). Proven to help with pain relief, and sure to be a nice refresh in a world of constant connectedness, floating is a much healthier and more productive alternative to drinking.
7. Try chocolate and cheese pairings at Indulgence Chocolatiers
While Indulgence Chocolatiers offer chocolate and wine/beer pairings, they also combines delectable treats with cheeses. With four different pairing flights at the Walker’s Point location, customers can enjoy tastings in-store and purchase truffles, bars, and more to take home.
8. Take the Stone Creek Coffee tour
Everyone loves brewery tours, but when you don’t drink they can be a bit of a downer. Stone Creek Coffee offers free tours of its factory downtown, something no other coffee roasters in the area do. Stone Creek also offers monthly classes on home brewing methods and espresso, so you can finally understand why your barista friends rave about pour overs. If you can’t be a beer snob, be a coffee snob.
9. Check out a movie at the Oriental or the Avalon
Going to a movie sans alcohol sounds like a lame activity; anyone can sit in a dark room at home and mindlessly stare at a screen at no additional cost. What this doesn’t take into account are the numerous beautiful and unique movie theaters in Milwaukee. The Oriental’s interior is gorgeously ornate, and it’s possible to see something new every time you’re there. If you’re on the south side of the city, the Avalon may be closer to you. Recently renovated, you can enjoy comfy seats, in-movie food service, and a twinkling starlit ceiling (bonus points if you see a shooting star).
10. Pretend it isn’t winter at the Mitchell Park Domes
While the Domes fall under the category of being fairly touristy, they can offer permanent Milwaukee residents something enjoyable not found anywhere else. If you suffer from seasonal depression, or just get really fucking bummed out by our shitty weather, get a little slice of desert, garden, and/or rainforest. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself that there are plants that grow on our planet, which can be easy to forget in our grayscale winters.
11. Learn how to fix bikes at Vulture Space
Why pay someone to fix your bike when you can learn to do it yourself? Vulture Space, located in the Shops of Grand Avenue, lets you use its collection of tools to make adjustments to your own bike, free of charge. Open to individuals of all levels of bike knowledge, Vulture Space has helpful volunteers willing to share their expertise. It also has bikes to rent if you’re not quite ready to purchase one yourself but still want to ride.
12. Volunteer at WMSE
Whatever style of music you’re into, 91.7 plays it. Having just celebrated its 35th birthday, WMSE has been bringing independently funded tunes to the Milwaukee area since the early ’80s. This means it’s sustained itself off of donations of not only money, but time. You can fill out a volunteer application on the WMSE website for recurring day-to-day operational help as well as special events, like the Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser on March 5.