Not a lot of people know that Grafton, Wisconsin, was once the home of Paramount Records.
But more than that, this village in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, is full of history and unique stories to tell.
Its rural roots and beginnings as a mill town have contributed to its inspiring atmosphere and one-of-a-kind offerings.
Among the highlights of every visitor’s itinerary when in Grafton include the Paramount Plaza, where you can admire concrete piano keys that honor the great ones who made music here.
Nature reserves and parks abound in the village, as well as activities, festivals, and fairs that await everyone.
It also boasts arts and science museums, golf courses, and various types of recreational opportunities.
It’s interesting to note that Grafton was first explored by Father Allouez and Dablon in 1670, but it was inhabited by Potawatomi Indians until the 1820s.
The Milwaukee River beautifully traverses through the village’s downtown, for which the early industry built three dams to power the village’s mechanical hydropower.
Its wildlife is also another fascinating part of Grafton as several large mammals such as red foxes, coyotes, and white-tailed deers can be spotted within village limits.
There is just so much to explore here that you need to come here and personally experience it.
Get ready to plan your excursion by discovering the 15 best things to do in Grafton, Wisconsin.
Be One with Nature at the Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve
Coming to the Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, located on High Bluff Drive, means seeing for yourself one of the last stretches of undeveloped bluff land along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
You won’t regret spending a day here as you’ll get to see exciting views, including over a half-mile of about 100-foot bluffs that look over Lake Michigan.
Notice how abundant the population of migratory birds and wildlife is in the area thanks to the park’s location, which is adjacent to a 44-acre wetland complex.
Make sure to enjoy the stunning views that the park offers by walking across bridges that go over the gorge.
You can also take the gorge stairways to walk along the stunning shoreline of Lake Michigan.
There won’t be any dull moment at all because this 73-acre park provides picnic areas, boardwalks, wetlands, trails, and scenic views that wait for you.
Try Your Swing at the Edgewater Golf Course
If you love playing golf or just enjoy watching it, you should consider going to Grafton because it has not just one but quite a few golf courses.
Edgewater Golf Course, located on Cedar Creek Rd, was built in 1963 by no less than PGA pro-Howard Atten.
What makes this one of a kind is that it understands the complexities of sports and, thus, makes it simple for all levels of players.
Covering 3089 yards, this 9-hole USGA regulation par 36 features tree-lined fairways, two par holes, and mushroom-style greens.
This place is a great challenge for advanced golfers while offering tons of opportunities for improvement for beginners.
Enjoy Hiking at the Kurtz Woods Natural Area
Southeastern Wisconsin’s pre-settlement era was characterized by deep forests, and only a few remnants remain today.
One of them is the Kurtz Woods Natural Area, and it is home to 82 species of trees and spring ephemerals.
American Beech and Maple Trees dominate this 31-acre forest, located on Dahlia Lane.
On the west edge, there was an old granite quarry, while on the southeast boundary, pole-size trees are visible.
From the center of the preserve are white ash, black cherry, and basswood that spread towards the east and west sides of the area.
Because of the preserve’s small size, it is susceptible to the invasion of exotic species, which is why its management is aggressively removing such species and bringing the forest’s southern part back to its pre-settlement state.
Shop Till You Drop at Heim’s Shoes
Make sure to visit Heim’s Shoes during your stay in Grafton because it is not like any other shoe store you’ve been at.
It has recently marked its 75th year of operation in Grafton, specifically on Bridge St.
They have a wide variety of shoes to choose from but remember that these are not fashion shoes but functional shoes, including brands like Hush Puppies, Minnetonka, Spring Step, Red Wing, and more.
Do Exciting Things at the Lime Kiln Park
Lime Kiln Park is Grafton’s community park, which is set along the banks of the Milwaukee River, specifically on Green Bay Rd.
Three iconic kilns characterize the park, serving as a symbol of both the park and Grafton.
History buffs will love to explore the former Bridge Street as well as the Lime Kilns.
Going around, you will notice that the park is actually the site of an old quarry, which was run by the Milwaukee Falls Lime Company.
There used to be five kilns that fired the lime to 2000 degrees.
After the quarry was closed in the 1920s, the government turned it into a town dump before eventually building a park on it to clean up the Milwaukee River.
After seeing the historic side of the park, you can proceed to take advantage of its recreation opportunities, such as the archery range, sledding hill, trout fishing on the Milwaukee, kayaking, canoeing, and horseshoe pits.
Golf enthusiasts will also love to try the 9-hole disc golf course, which is why tourists and visitors come to the Lime Kiln Park.
Play Golf at the Multi-Awarded Fire Ridge Golf Club
You might think that this is a fancy and exclusive golf club, but Fire Ridge Golf Club, located on County HWY, is a public golf course!
However, don’t underestimate it because it has the amenities, conditions, and customer service of a high-end country club.
Its design is intended for all levels of golfers, allowing them to enjoy and challenge themselves at the same time.
From 2000 to 2004, Fire Ridge Golf Club was awarded a 4-star rating by the Golf Digest Places to Play.
It was also the Monday qualifying site for the US Bank Championship of the PGA Tour from 2002 to 2009.
Aside from the golf course, it also has an 8,500 square feet clubhouse on two levels, a bar and restaurant with an outdoor patio, locker rooms for men and women, and more.
Give in to Your Coffee Cravings at Cedarburg Coffee Roasters
Get ready, coffee lovers, to fall in love with Cedarburg Coffee Roasters, located along Washington St.
They believe that the best coffee is always the fresh coffee, which is why they are always roasting theirs because they want to give their customers nothing but the best.
With more than 20 years of roasting experience, they guarantee you the freshest and most aromatic coffee with every cup.
They also offer baked goodies and sweet treats to go with your drink.
So, sit awhile and enjoy your every sip at the Cedarburg Coffee Roasters.
Taste the Beer at Sahale Ale Works
It’s time to have a taste of the local beer of Grafton, the Sahale Ale Works.
The name was taken from the mountain in Washington State, the Sahale Mountain, which the owner climbed.
Located on Wisconsin Avenue, the Sahale Ale Works is a source of pride for Grafton because it features an independent and family-owned brewery and taproom serving high-quality beer.
The brewery has eight beers on tap, available in the taproom just adjacent to the brewery.
This includes an oat IPA, a lemon IPA, and a juicy IPA, two of which are in collaboration with draft beer companies.
So, if you want a taste of local Grafton beer, come to the Sahale Ale Works.
Know More about Grafton’s Contributions to Music History at the Paramount Plaza
One of the landmarks of Grafton is the Paramount Plaza, which celebrates the town’s strong ties to the blues and African-American jazz recording industry.
Here, Grafton honors the artists recorded in the town, featuring the Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame.
You’ll be fascinated to see 44 ‘piano keys’ in black granite, placed against a field of white concrete.
In the beginning, there were only 6 of these inductees, with the village adding more ‘keys’ with the names of the artists that recorded for Paramount Records each year.
You shouldn’t miss spotting the multi-level granite water feature that is a sculpture of three musicians.
Enjoy Delicious Food and Drinks at the Milwaukee Ale House
Located on 13th Avenue is a great place where you can wine and dine while enjoying a laidback ambiance.
The Milwaukee Ale House offers fare and house ale to locals and visitors, occupying two floors and promenade decks overlooking the river.
Its views are one of the reasons why people come to this place, aside from its delicious menu.
And if you’re looking for a wide variety of food choices, this alehouse never disappoints.
From burgers and sandwiches to eggs, omelets, and salads, you won’t ever run out of choices.
Even the kids will have their share of their delicious favorites, as the Milwaukee Ale House serves kids’ menu for lunch and dinner.
Indulge in Some Steak and Seafood at the Juices Ghost Town Tavern and Restaurant
It’s rare to find a place that is both a steakhouse and a seafood restaurant.
Thankfully, there’s Juices Ghost Town Town Tavern and Restaurant, located on Ulao Rd.
It’s a place where people gather for food, drinks, and fun.
If you’re scared of ghosts, don’t worry because the name doesn’t have anything to do with actual ghosts!
Love crab legs? They serve delicious crab legs on certain days of the month.
As for their Prime Rib, many patrons have labeled it ‘the best’ in Ozaukee County and ‘the finest’ in southeastern Wisconsin.
Whichever steak you choose, you can expect it to be juicy and succulent with each bite.
As for their seafood, it’s fresh and cooked to perfection, ensuring that you salivate even at the sight and smell of it.
Get ‘Beautified’ at The Salon at Ulta Beauty
Aside from exploring restaurants and parks in Grafton, make sure to also pay a visit to their salon—The Salon at Ulta Beauty.
This is not your typical salon because you aren’t just getting a makeover but also a consultation with a licensed beauty professional prior to getting your makeover.
Choose one or try all of their services, including hair services, makeup and lashes, skin services, ear piercing, and wax.
They’re not just about beauty services, but they also have a store and offer online shopping.
Ulta Beauty has beautifully combined and tailored their services with how customers shop in their stores and online.
Enjoy a Beer and Some Delicious Food at the Water Street Brewery
Head to Gateway Drive and experience for yourself the tasty and superb offerings of Water Street Brewery.
This place has other stores in Delafield and Oak Creek and was actually the first brewpub in Milwaukee.
Beer lovers will taste both traditional, and specialty beers paired off with delicious American eats such as burgers, sandwiches, pizza, brunch, and kids' menu.
The selection of beers is extensive, including Bavarian Weiss, Raspberry Weiss, Victory Amber, and Honey Lager Light.
Make sure to also try their speciality beers, such as their El Dorado, Lake Effect Seltzer, Peach Saison, Wee Heavy Scott Ale, and Dopplebock.
Enjoy Coffee Brews at Grafton Arts Mill Roastery
For a sip of coffee creations and assorted beverages, drop by Grafton Arts Mill Roastery.
This cozy caffeine spot is open daily and is located on the first floor of the old Grafton Mill building on 14th Avenue.
Try their freshly roasted and brewed coffee selections, or sip an Italian-style espresso.
If you prefer something cold, blended iced coffee and espresso drinks will do the trick.
You can also opt for non-coffee beverages like the Oregon and Rishi Chai, and Rishi Teas.
Try other healthy options like smoothies made with blended fresh fruit and yogurt or green tea, or go for a blended veggie smoothie.
Grafton Arts Mill Roastery also serves homemade baked goods, granola, yogurt parfaits, and Umpqua oatmeal.
Get Chocolate Goodies by Handmade With Love
A visit to Handmade With Love will surely bring out the chocoholic in you.
This local shop is on 12th Avenue and offers a variety of seasonal and handmade chocolate treats great for special occasions, gifts, or simple sweet cravings.
Owner and Chocolatier Brianna Large offers you her chocolate-dipped creations with more than 19 years of her experience, and a passion passed down from her grandmother.
Indulge in Chocolate Covered Oreos, Graham Crackers, and Nutter Butters and enjoy bites of Pretzel Rod varieties; all these are hand-dipped and drizzled with your choice of chocolate flavor.
You’ll also love their Peanut Butter Cups in small and large sizes, assorted Turtle flavors in M&M, Pecan, Homestyle Pecan, and Cashew, along with Almond, Cashew, Sea Salt Almond, Sea Salt Cashew Barks.
For something fruity, try the Chocolate Covered Raspberries and Strawberries, or have delicious Caramel Apples in Plain, Chocolate, Chocolate Sea Salt, and other varieties.
Let Kids Have Fun at Just 4 Fun Playland and Party Place
Your little ones will have lots of fun at Just 4 Fun Playland and Party Place.
This 6,000-square-foot kiddie attraction is located at Badger Circle Grafton and is open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with the weekends reserved for private events.
Your kids will enjoy playing all day in this indoor facility, built with safe and fun play equipment.
Bigger kids will love running around, jumping, and climbing the Rainbow Play Superstructure while little ones have their space in the Soft-Play area.
When you and your tots get hungry, you can get lunch, snack items, and beverages at the Picnic Blanket snack bar.
If you want to make your kid’s birthday extra special, Just 4 Fun Playland and Party Place offer venue rentals for private celebrations.
Browse Local Artworks at Arts Mill Gallery & Boutique
Have a glimpse of local artworks at Arts Mill Gallery & Boutique on Grafton’s 14th Avenue.
The gallery is situated inside the historic Grafton Mill and features more than fourteen local and regional artists in their studios.
Some of the in-house artists at the gallery include Adrian Spinks, Caleb Griswold, Cherie Burbach, and Gina Studelska to name a few.
The institution also works in collaboration with the North Shore Academy of the Arts which offers various literary, visual, and performing arts programs.
Catch art shows and featured exhibits or participate in classes on art and photography sessions.
You can also check out a selection of merchandise that you can bring home.
View creative pieces at the Arts Mill Gallery & Boutique.
Grab Some Beers at The 024 Taproom
Also located inside the Grafton Mill building, The 024 Taproom is a great Craft Beer Bar you can try while you’re in the city.
Since 2017, the taproom has grown with its line of cocktails and spirits served in a casual and friendly ambiance.
Hang out with your friends because there’s something for everyone here from wine selections to a full bar to enjoy.
Come by from Wednesday to Saturday for a cold beer while enjoying the views of the Milwaukee River.
You can also bring along your fur buddy since the venue is pet-friendly.
The business is also active in supporting local charity works and is also an active Chamber member.
Enjoy great drinks and have a good time at The 024 Taproom.
Other Things to Do Nearby
See an Old Light Station Museum at 1860 Light House and Light Station Museum
The iconic 1860 Lighthouse served as the guide of 19th and 20th century Lake traffic, situated in Port Washington, some 13 minutes away from Grafton.
In 2000, the Port Washington Historical Society renovated the place.
The craftsmen of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg replicated the destroyed tower and lantern, while volunteers took care of restoring the facades and restoring the living quarters' interior and outbuilding facades.
Take a tour here and be in the shoes of the lightkeeper and his family in the 19th century and marvel at the stunning views over Lake Michigan and its surrounding areas.
It’s truly a sight you won’t ever forget.
Taste Excellent Wines at the Cedar Creek Winery
Go a bit to the north of Milwaukee and arrive at the Cedar Creek Winery, where wines and people meet.
It started in the 1970s and is the sister winery of Wollersheim Winery.
Because of this, all of its wines are made by Philippe Coquard, a French winemaker who is also Wollersheim’s winemaker.
Just like its sister winery, Cedar Creek’s wines include Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet.
However, there are also numerous other wines here that you cannot find in Wollersheim, such as various types of fruit wines.
Grafton is one place that offers both food and sights.
Don’t be the last to see and experience its unique offerings.
It may not be a big city, but it is exactly this vibe that makes it different from the rest.
Come and stay in Grafton for a vacation like no other.