Stretching from the Harley-Davidson Museum to Miller Park, the Menomonee Valley is home to some of Wisconsin’s most popular and prided entertainment experiences – and lots of local favorites too! This map shows it all, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Snowshoe, cross country ski, sled, fish, garden, or stroll through the award-winning Three Bridges Park
- Tours of Milwaukee’s two newest breweries – Third Space Brewing and City Lights Brewing
- See how thousands of pizzas are made per hour at the Palermo Pizza Factory Tour
- A behind-the-scenes tour of the Harley-Davidson legend
- A Photo Scavenger Hunt or MVP Tour of Miller Park
- 14 miles of trails ideal for a bike ride, walk, or jog
- A bloody beast at Sobelman’s or a lazy beach day at Twisted Fisherman
- Kayak from the Urban Ecology Center to the Third Ward and downtown
Not too long ago, people wouldn’t have believed all of this would one day be possible in the Valley.
A Fascinating History
For thousands of years, the 1200-acre Menomonee Valley was a wild rice marsh and home to Native Americans. “Menomonee” does mean wild rice after all. By the mid-1800s, so many people were settling in Milwaukee that they filled the Valley with soil and anything they could find to create dry land for development. Settlers dug canals and freight floated in on liquid highways. Byron Kilbourn started Wisconsin’s first railroad here, which became one of Milwaukee’s largest employers.
By the early 1900s, Milwaukee was the “Machine Shop of the World” and the Menomonee Valley was its engine. Farm machinery, rail cars, electric motors, and cranes were made in the Valley. Clay became cream city bricks. Wheat was turned into flour, hogs became ham, and barley became beer.
By the late 1900s, as manufacturing changed and shipping switched from ship and rail to truck, the Valley was left with abandoned, contaminated land and vacant industrial buildings. The Valley was a place to pass over on the viaducts but not a place to go. The neighborhoods adjacent to the Valley strongly felt the impacts of the Valley’s decline; residents suffered from limited access to jobs and recreation opportunities, high levels of asthma and obesity, and poor air quality.
With its vacant buildings and empty lots lining the river, the Valley was Wisconsin’s most visible eyesore and an embarrassment to the City until the community came together and propelled massive cleanup efforts in the early 2000s. Milwaukee worked toward a bold vision to clean up 300 acres of dirty soil, build 14+ miles of the Hank Aaron State Trail, improve the water quality of the river, plant 45 acres of native plants, and recruit companies with good paying jobs and careers down to the Valley.
Menomonee Valley Partners
Menomonee Valley Partners (MVP) was formed in 1999 to spearhead the revitalization of the Menomonee Valley as a thriving, sustainable, urban district with a focus on job creation and restoring nature. MVP brings volunteer experts and other community members together to work toward the Valley’s ambitious future.
- 41 companies have moved to the Menomonee Valley,
- more than 5,000 family-supporting jobs have been created ,
- 1,000,000 square feet of green buildings have been constructed (~17 football fields!),
- more than 60 acres of new trails and park space with 45 acres of native plants installed have led to improved wildlife habitat and water quality, and
- the Hank Aaron State Trail now travels from Discovery World, through the Valley, to Miller Park, and west through State Fair Park, and will soon reach the county line.