Maybe you love working from home every day. Maybe you're still an avid office-goer. Maybe you're somewhere in-between. Either way, you gotta shake things up. The sometimes-repetitive nature of office tasks and your brain’s biological desire for change and newness beckon for it. (Gotta keep those neural pathways guessing.)
As big fans of taking things off-campus and working remotely a few hours a week, we’ve compiled eight spots in the Milwaukee area that are ideal for setting up shop and getting down to business.
Milwaukee coffee shops to check out
With its white-teal color palette, potted plants, mason jars, pour-over coffee contraptions, and sleek-but-warm wood furniture, entering Likewise sometimes feels like stepping into the post-makeover kitchen from every HGTV show ever.
The seating area and simple décor have an aggressively modern and refreshingly clean aesthetic that seeps into you. It feels modern. It feels refreshed. It makes you feel ready to gracefully take on whatever comes your way.
The clientele is mostly a mix of MIAD students and creative professionals, so bring an appreciation of peace, quiet, and artfully positioned hats.
If you’re looking for plentiful-yet-spacious seating and an impossibly quiet setting (for a coffee shop), Likewise is an ideal spot for tuning out city sounds and getting some work done.
Stone Creek Coffee - 5th Street Factory
A Stone Creek location was always going to make this list, but—curve ball—it’s the 5th Street Factory cafe. Not the Barclay Street, 88.9 Radio Milwaukee building location, RIP. (Speaking of Radio Milwaukee...we're keeping our eyes peeled for the update on Deadwax, their cafe-to-come.)
Back to Stone Creek. Sure, the Downer cafe is an achingly close second, with its dog-friendly patio seating, full food menu, walk-up order window, and buzzy location near UWM. And yes, the suburban Shorewood spot has a handy little parking lot, but when it comes down to it, nothing’s going to beat a serene urban oasis with gorgeous dark-wood structural accents, industrial-inspired décor, an offensive amount of natural sunlight, and an iron-grate fireplace straight out of a PBS period piece. Plus, for those without a car and within the downtown vicinity, you can take the Hop to practically the front door.
Rochambo, Lower East Side
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Rochambo is on an increasingly college-y Brady Street. But don't dismiss it yet as a "professional."
Its exterior and vestibule area look like you’ve stepped into a coffee shop in Haight-Ashbury in the 1970s. You’re going to feel under-informed about tea. Does it still carry a vague cigarette smell from before the 2009 smoking ban? You tell us after your visit! The experience is worth it and you will get work done there.
The main floor of this Victorian duplex is bustling with people most of the day, but upstairs is where you’ll find a nice daytime hideaway. Once you climb the concert poster-plastered staircase, you’ll find low lighting paired with dark, colorful walls, a mile between each table, and so much peace and quiet you’ll forget you’re a mere floor above a major entertainment block. The second floor of Rochambo might just be one of the most peaceful places on Brady.
Quiet places to work in Milwaukee
Come on. This. One. Isn’t. Even. Fair.
Not even Wisconsin’s sweetheart Frank Lloyd Wright could come up with a design better than the one that stands on Wisconsin & 8th.
The Central library’s stunning architecture is worth packing up your laptop and camping out at a big wood table alone, but this paired with the countless books lining the walls, the several floors to spread out on, the towering archways, the marble columns, the quietly echoing voices in the distance, and the location in the heart of downtown, this one’s a runaway winner in the “public libraries we've confirmed have free Wi-Fi” category.
Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel, is one of the Milwaukee area’s most impressive exports (come at us, Mark Ruffalo). She’s the namesake of UW-Milwaukee’s library.
The building was constructed in 1967, just two years before Meir took leadership, and like many Brutalist buildings of this period, it looks like a stately, impenetrable fortress on the outside. It really does feel like you’re walking into a serious place where serious work gets done, but once you get inside, the building’s pleasant utilitarianism becomes comforting.
The ambiance manages to be both buzzy and quiet, the layout both maze-like and logical, the atmosphere both creative and intellectual, and the décor stodgy yet pleasantly familiar. There’s dozens of different work areas and stations to choose from, but try traveling to the second or third floor, making your way through the labyrinthe stacks, and finding the most far-flung corner you can. (Our vote is for the second-floor nook that overlooks Hartford Avenue, across from Enderis Hall. Race ya there.)
Here, surrounded, by scores of books loaded with all the world’s knowledge and the aging-paper smell of all the world’s knowledge, there’s no way you won’t get work done.
Unique places to work from in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Public Market, Third Ward
It’s loud. It’s busy. You may be swallowed up in the crowds and adopted by an out-of-state family. But you can definitely get down to work in the Milwaukee Public Market’s (MPM) second-floor seating area.
If you hit up MPM after the lunch rush, grab a coffee or a juice and head upstairs. You should be able to score a table along the walkway on the north side of the building, but the seating in the main area is great, too. MPM offers free Wi-Fi, access to cuisines of the world, and endless people-watching. But it also offers that “lost in a crowd” sensation, where although you’re surrounded by people and conversations, you can easily tune out all the busy sounds and stay focused on your work.
On a nice day, work outside in the seating along E St. Paul Ave. You'll get the same kind of "lost in the crowd," hustle and bustle environment.
Iron Horse Hotel Lobby
The Iron Horse Hotel just oozes upscale motorcycle-warehouse realness. Beam ceilings, exposed pipes, steel accents, cream-colored brick, deep reds, dark woods, and Edison bulbs abound. More importantly, free Wi-Fi, comfy leather couches, and hospitality professionals too polite to ask if you’re a guest abound.
Hunker down in the relative quiet of the lobby with your computer and act like you belong—you’ll be heads-down all afternoon.
Bet you didn’t know there was a name for the cafe in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion. It's near that contemporary white-pillared corridor where all Milwaukeeans are required, by Internet law, to pose pensively for their first Instagram post.
The coffee shop that’s located within the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) is a lesser-known spot that’s perfect for getting work done. It’s peaceful, it’s serene, it’s clean and minimally designed, it has spectacular views of Lake Michigan, and and it boasts proximity to thousands of beautiful and inspiring works of art. And if being within several hundred feet of an original Hans Baluschek—that’s right, a Baluschek—doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, what will?
(Pro tip: try the Nutter-Butter knockoff cookie. Just do it.)
Gettin’ Honorably Mentioned
- Sidewalk outside the empty shell of a former Radio Shack
- Next to a Wi-Fi enabled potato
- Lightburn’s lobby (purchase required)
- Pick a bar, any bar! *It's Wisconsin
- In the alley, behind the Apple store, after hours
- Long-term parking lot at General Mitchell
- Your usual desk, rotated 45º to the left
- Work from General Mitchell Airport while you're waiting for your flight to anywhere. Enjoy your vacation! Or, work from that place, too. Why not!
- Turn your phone into a hotspot and work from literally any park in your area on that one random Tuesday that is the perfect Wisconsin summer day.
Regardless of your job title in the digital space, there's always a place you can find in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas to switch things up. Fortunately, many of us here at Lightburn can give recommendations for days. (And, we will.)
Got a question about where the heck to post up for the day? Or, more likely, got a question about our digital services and how we can work together? Drop us a line or give us a call at (414) 347-1866 to talk to a digital marketing expert.
This article was initially published on November 15, 2018 and updated June 23, 2022.