Milwaukee beside the Kinnickinnic River

Milwaukee Mitchell Airport (MKE)

Originally founded as a modest French trading post in 1785, Milwaukee has a superb natural harbor which fueled its explosive growth over the next two centuries. Between 1910 and 1960 — the year its population peaked — this city on the Western edge of Lake Michigan doubled in size. Today, Milwaukee is home to several Fortune 1000 companies, including Harley-Davidson, Kohl's and Northwestern Mutual.

Brew Town

Beer. It's what's essentially defined this town since the mid-19th century. The influx of German immigrants built the industry from scratch here, and at one time four of the world's premiere breweries were based in Milwaukee — Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz and Miller. Take a tour of the MillerCoors Brewery, founded in 1855, and experience firsthand "The High Life."

Few cities in America top Brew Town's status as a melting pot. In addition to the sizable German immigration the city experienced, Poles, Russians, French, Irish and Italians all settled here during the last century—and there's still plenty of great ethnic food around as a result. For good old-school Italian, try Tenuta's, located in the heart of one of Milwaukee's oldest Italian neighborhoods.

There are two museums in Milwaukee that the first time visitor should consider. The Milwaukee Art Museum's dazzling architecture (from a distance, it reminds one of Sydney's famous Opera House) is reason enough to visit. But the collection itself is also impressive, featuring works by Pissarro, Monet and O'Keefe. And for something a little faster paced, tour the Harley-Davidson Museum, a 130,000 square-foot monument to one of the most beloved brands in the world.