Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee

Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee ~ What to Know


I was visiting my daughter at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. It was a quick visit, and after lunch, I suggested we visit the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee. Just weeks earlier, my elementary-aged children were asking how big a “mansion” is. This was a great chance to show them and learn some history too.

Can you bring kids to the Pabst Museum?

Should you bring children to the Pabst Museum? That depends on your kids. No one is allowed to touch anything (except the stair railing as we went up and down). Can your child remain quiet while the tour guide is speaking? Counting us, there were a total of 13 people in our group, eager to listen. Can your child go that long without snacking, drinking, or chewing gum? None of these are allowed.

I’m sure when the group saw my two boys, (ages 8 and 9) they were wondering how things would go. I was happy to disprove any of their negative thoughts as my guys were superbly behaved and even received compliments at the end.

My kids would have preferred to be able to look at everything and talk about it, which we really couldn’t do as we had to remain quiet and stay with the group.

They were excited to be able to see the mansion and to see how things were so different then. They were interested in the kitchen and how different kitchens are today. They enjoyed being in “a rich person’s house.”

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Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee
Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee

Pabst Mansion gift shop

My kids also liked the small gift shop at the end. They each bought a 51 cent flat penny and some Pabst Mansion wrapped candy. It was interesting to learn the gift shop building was at the Chicago World’s Fair and one of a handful of building left from that era.

What to know about the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee

If you are looking for a unique day out, the Pabst Mansion is a perfect option. It is not often that you get the chance to have a look around such a spectacular building and soak up the atmosphere of a bygone era.

Tours and address of Pabst Mansion

Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee is conveniently located in downtown Milwaukee at 2000 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI. It is just west of the Marquette University campus. There is limited street parking but we easily found a spot as we went in the summer when classes weren’t in session. There are different types of tours available. We didn’t reserve in advance as it was a last-minute decision to go, so we took the General Admission tour.

It was lucky when we were there that they had recently opened the third floor for viewing.

General Admission tour

It was 75 minutes long.  Our tour operator was polite, responsive to questions, and passionate about the Pabst Mansion. The tour moved along at just the right pace. If my kids wanted to stay and look at something afterward, we usually had the opportunity to do so.

The Grand Tour

A big favorite is the behind the scenes tour, which is affectionately known as The Grand Tour. This tour allows you to see the whole house from the basement to the rafters rather than just the areas the public normally sees.

It seems like it would be worth returning to the house to experience this tour. If you want to go on this tour, you need to check the dates on the website and book and pay for your tickets at least three days in advance. I wouldn’t bring my children on this one being they already went on the General Admission Tour but I would have had we not seen it. It’s not recommended for children under 6.

History of Pabst Mansion

Travel back in time to the Gilded Age. The famous architect, George Bowman Ferry, built Pabst Mansion. In 1890, he was commissioned to build the house by Captain Frederick Pabst.

Captain Pabst was the person behind the Pabst Brewing Company, which was founded in 1844. As a leading light of Milwaukee society, he wanted a grand home that reflected his success and would be big enough to house the family’s growing art collection.

Pabst Mansion took two years to build. It was a grand, elegant house set in stunning gardens. The family lived in the home between 1892 and 1908.

Pabst Mansion was then the home of no less than five archbishops. Unfortunately, the building proved expensive to maintain. In 1975, the Archdiocese put the building up for sale. It was sold in 1978 to Wisconsin Heritages Inc. narrowly missing being demolished and replaced by a car park.

Almost immediately, the society began to restore the building and opened it to the public. Through the years, the mansion has been slowly returning to its former glory. Now the house is mainly a tourist attraction with the availability to rent portions of it out for special occasions.

When the house first opened the only room that was fully restored was the main dining room. Today, three floors are open to the public. There are numerous ways to tour these parts of the house, including regular guided tours.

Fine arts at Pabst Museum

The family was a big collector of art. Visitors are always impressed by the huge oil painting by Louis Rach’s called Columbus in Chains. There are also paintings and works of art by Alfred von Wierusz Kowalski, Charles Sprague Pearce and Conrad Kiesel. There is a lot to see, in just one year the Pabst family once bought twenty-two paintings, so amassed a huge collection in a short amount of time.

Beautiful and unique décor

Much of the original décor was painted over and a lot of the furniture was taken by the family or sold. However, over the years, pieces have been returned and people have very generously donated some spectacular pieces of 19th century furniture as well as beautiful glassware, ornaments and books.

If you like wood and wood carving you enjoy what you see at the Pabst Mansion. The artistry is breathtaking.

Layers of paint have been stripped back to reveal the original color pallet and photographs have allowed artists to faithfully recreate the beautiful late 18th century décor. Recently ceiling murals have been uncovered and are in the process of being restored. The ongoing restoration process means that there is always something new to see.

Tips for touring Pabst Mansion

Bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes. You will be glad you did because it is a big house. You will be standing the entire time and won’t be able to lean to rest. Other things to know are there is no photography allowed. There is no touching anything except you are allow to use the handrail when going up and down the staircase. And again, as expected, there are no food or drinks allowed either.

Special events at Pabst Mansion

Throughout much of the year, special events are held at the mansion. Here is just a taste of what is on offer:

Retro beer nights at Pabst Mansion

The mansion’s annual retro beer night is extremely popular. You get the chance to sample all of Pabst’s regular beers and some special ones along with a feast of grilled brats. There is also a beer memorabilia auction. It is a very popular evening, so if you are planning to go you will need to book in advance.

Christmas gala, twilight tours and Grand Avenue events at Pabst Mansion

Christmas is a magical time. The majestic house provides a perfect background for a Christmas scene.

This is the busiest time of the year for the house with hundreds flocking there to experience the richly decorated holiday rooms during twilight tours. Many also attend parties held at the house over the festive season.

A beautiful backdrop

As well as being open for the public to stroll around the building and grounds can be leased. The house and grounds make an impressive backdrop for special family celebrations, corporate events or wedding receptions.

The Pabst Mansion is a beautiful place that you can enjoy again and again. If you live close enough, it may well become a favorite destination. Somewhere that lets you truly get away from the frenetic pace of modern life and enjoy the tranquility of this beautiful, majestic house.

What to do near the Pabst Mansion

Uniquely situated in close proximity to two universities, there is lots to choose from. Enjoy walking the campuses at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Enjoy lunch or dinner among the college students, faculty and locals. It’s also close to Lake Michigan. There is a great playground for the kids. We wish we brought gloves and garbage bags as there was a stunning amount of litter on the beach but it was beautiful nonetheless.
If you are staying in the area for a few days, Port Washington which was about 28 miles away, is worth the trip. We walked on the boardwalk and enjoyed seeing the fish in the water. It was beautiful. We also enjoyed the quaint downtown area and looking in the shops. After awhile we had lunch in a cute restaurant and took my daughter back to her dorm. We continued back on to Chicago.

Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee

Remember the only way to see the Pabst Mansion is with a tour. They generally run on the hour with less tours on Sunday. One can admire the outside and the grounds and enter the gift shop without going on the tour. Things to do in Milwaukee with Kids