Monday, February 9, 2009

I Heart Milwaukee!

National Geographic's Traveler Magazine focuses on cities this month. But your typical "it" towns of Shanghai, Montreal, London, get the gist. However, they're asking for input from readers to represent their city. Show it some LOVE if you will. So below is what I'm sending in for Milwaukee. I encourage you to do the same!

Milwaukee is My City.

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to our beautiful Lakefront (parks, beaches and festivals in the summertime, or maybe just  Lakefront Brewery in the winter (well also in summer, I won't lie).)

When I crave the best wings on the planet earth I always go Points East Pub. Affordable drinks, a friendly staff and usually live music in the backroom.

To escape the
city streets I head for a bike ride on the superb Oak Leaf Trail. There's over 100 miles of bicycle trails in Milwaukee County alone and you can link into other trail systems to seemingly ride forever!

If I want to
see a great movie I go to the beautiful Oriental Theatre, or its sister, the Downer Theatre. Both work with Milwaukee Film for unique screenings by local and international filmmakers and participate in our film festival.

For complete quiet, I can hide away
in the future "Milwaukee's Central Park". Bring your bike, dog, hiking shoes, camera. It's so peaceful here you forget you're just a couple miles from downtown.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with
the Bronze Fonz (just don't call it "art").

If you have to order one thing off the menu from
Beans & Barley it has to be the chicken salad plate. I've never once been disappointed, nor seen anywhere in the world incorporate so many vegetables into one meal.

The Milwaukee Public Market is my one-stop shop for great gourmet cheeses, artisan bakery, fresh deli and produce year-round.

Locals know to skip
Water Street and check out Brady Street, the Third Ward, Riverwest or Bay View instead. Milwaukee has so many diverse neighborhoods, pretty much one for every personality type.

When I'm feeling cash-strapped I go to
any of Milwaukee's free summer music events -- Jazz in the Park, River Rhythms, Chill on the Hill -- just to name a few. I'll also never miss the quarterly Gallery Night - a fantastic night on the town with all the art you can handle for free.

For a huge splurge I go
to any of Milwaukee's independently owned boutiques--two faves are Boutique Vieux et Nouveau and Lela.

Photo ops in my city include
the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and the best vantage points are from a boat on Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, or neighboring parks.

If my city were a celebrity it'd be
Mickey Rourke, poised for a comeback.

The most random thing about my city is
it is home to the largest four-faced clock in the world (Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock).

My city has the most
charmingly aloof men.

My city has the most
fun-loving women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking (or snow-shoeing in the winter) part of our miles of trails; canoeing, kayaking or sailing in one of our many waterways (or ice skating on them in winter); playing a round of beach volleyball at Bradford Beach; then going for a sunset or moonlit stroll along the lake.

My city's best museum
is the Milwaukee Art Museum. The architecture is impressive, but the collections and special exhibitions will blow you away.

My favorite jogging/walking route is
along the Lakefront (I can't give the preservation of this public space enough props) from downtown all the way up to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

For a night of dancing, go to
'80s Night at Mad Planet (not your typical '80s night, this skews toward alternative, industrial and deep cuts). Or, for live music, check out the beautiful and historic Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom.

Pizza Shuttle is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what's going on at night and on the weekends, read (And of course The Accidental Wisconsinite!) Also make sure you're twittering with the right folks. Milwaukee has a solid creative community leveraging social media to get the conversation started.

You can tell a lot about my city from
the dedication of its sports fans

You can tell if someone is from my city if they
are ridiculously nice and can drink you under the table.

In the spring you should walk Milwaukee's unique neighborhoods, catch a early-season Brewers game at Miller Park (don't forget to tailgate), and people watch on the first warm day sitting outside at Alterra at the Lake.

In the summer you should
hit up Milwaukee's plethora of festivals and free music events (including Summerfest, the world's largest music festival), create a brilliant meal from locally-grown produce found at our city's numerous farmer's markets, and experience the wonder that is the Wisconsin State Fair.

In the fall you should
drive to Elegant Farmer for apple and pumpkin picking, head over to Madison for a Badger Football game, and back to Milwaukee for a Packer party on Sunday (because who can get tickets to Lambeau, really?). The bars really get creative with the latter, my favorite from this season was The Bomb Shelter bar serving bear meat at halftime during the game against Chicago.

In the winter you should
explore Milwaukee's magical one-of-a-kind pubs and taverns like Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall and Paddy's Irish Pub. Not a drinker? Escape to the tropics and the desert at the Mitchell Park Domes.

A hidden gem in my city is
the Urban Ecology Center. Not only does this incredible organization do wonderful educational work (connecting inner-city kids with nature), but it's a fantastic asset to the community and visitors alike. There's usually an interesting hands-on program regarding the environment or sustainability going on, and if you're a member you can borrow equipment (from drills to skis to kayaks for free). The "super-green" building at the Riverside location alone is worth the visit -- plus where else can you slide into a community center?

For a great breakfast joint try
the Café at the Plaza in the Plaza Hotel. Charming old school dining counter and open kitchen and in the summer they have the most adorable courtyard area. Huge portions at affordable prices, it tastes like your grandma is making you breakfast.

Don't miss the
Locust Street Days festival in June, the quintessential neighborhood festival. One of Milwaukee's nicknames is "The City of Festivals" so there's usually a church festival, a neighborhood festival and a large ethnic or music festival happening every weekend in the summer.

Just outside my city, you can visit
historic Cedarburg. With several boutiques, a winery, and even a crepe shop, this town is the definition of "quaint," and a great place to take parents. 

The best way to see my city is
walking the length of the ever-expanding Riverwalk. You can walk from the harbor, through downtown and into developing residential areas.

If my city were a pet it would be a
loyal hunting dog. It may seem to loll about sometimes, but it'll surprise you at times  and run after some birds with the gusto of a young pup.

If I didn't live in a city, I'd live (where?) -
in the Welsh countryside, as I can't imagine living in an American suburb.

The best book about my city is
The Making of Milwaukee by local historian John Gurda. I'm not sure of any fiction books that are set here. But we win the classic television category hands down with Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is
"Roll Out the Barrel." Seriously, what other MLB team includes a polka after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame?".

If you have kids, you won't want to miss
the Discovery World Museum. Hands-on exhibits, a to-scale replica of the Great Lakes, an authentic tall ship and a splendid aquarium provide fun for adults too.

The Santa Cycle Rampage could only happen in my city. Sure other cities have Santa events, but do they include biking in the snow, brewery tours, shotskis and polka seranades?

My city should be featured on your cover or website because
Milwaukee is a vastly underappreciated gem. I am a transplant from "urban darling" Portland, Oregon and I think Milwaukee has got it goin' on.


  1. Mickey Rourke made me laugh out loud. And suck it Big Ben!

  2. I see a Wolski's sticker on a beer bottle, but no mention of closing Wolski's!

  3. OK I am compelled to visit Milwalkie, WI (not Milwalkie, OR)!

  4. Great post.... We really do live in a great city.

  5. Wow - what a fantastic list - thanks so much for putting it together! We're looking forward to posting as many of your lists as we can!

  6. You’ve done Milwaukee proud. It disappoints me that people don’t realize how fantastic it is here. I love it!

  7. WOW--that is one heck of a post! (What?! No mention of Leon's?!) Milwaukee is truly a gem. I'll have to check out Kochanski's next month when I visit--I miss Art's. NatGeo did feature Milwaukee in like 1978-1979 or so. It was a cute story. Did you ever notice the similarities between Portland and Milwaukee? I was freaked out when I visited Portland, so much so I posted about it

    I am going to cross-post this to my blog, I have a lot of MKE readers.


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