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Did You Know … ?
- The Milwaukee Mile is the world’s oldest operating motor speedway (1903).
- Frederick Miller founded Miller Brewing (1855) using yeast he carried in his pocket from Europe.
- The Harley-Davidson motorcycle was created in Milwaukee in 1903.
- Schlitz was the “Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.”
- Milwaukee is home to the oldest certified bowling alley in the U.S. (1908).
The other Lake Michigan city
Milwaukee was once known as the beer capital of the world. Several well-known beer brands originated here, including Miller, Pabst and Schlitz. There was a time when more beer was made in Milwaukee than anywhere on the globe. One of the majors, MillerCoors, survives and there are other local beers to sample, too, made by renowned microbreweries and independent brewpubs.
Beer may have, as one slogan said, “made Milwaukee famous,” but the 21st century city offers more than suds. The city boasts of a multidimensional cultural life, plus a physical setting conducive to outdoor adventure on water and land.
With around 600,000 people, it’s the second largest city on Lake Michigan, after the really big one, Chicago. The city also has three rivers, and Milwaukee County boasts 15,000 acres of recreational parks.
Visitors inclined to vacation in the outdoors are looking at some obvious options on the rivers and lake — fishing, sailing, rowing and water sports.
In addition, this is a very bike-friendly place: Milwaukee boasts 55+ miles of bike lanes, 50 miles of bike paths and 100 miles of on-street bike routes, plus 2,000+ bicycle racks. The bike paths are equally useful to the cross-country skier, hiker or jogger.
As for Milwaukee’s culture, the word covers a lot of territory as illustrated by major but quite different museum developments — the $110 million expansion in 2001 of the Milwaukee Art Museum which added dramatic new architecture to the lakefront skyline and, in the motorcycle’s hometown, the debut in 2008 of the Harley-Davidson Museum.
The city also is a noted melting pot, a kind of microcosm of the U.S. That translates into a broad range of restaurant experiences and a calendar full of ethnic festivals, ranging from African and Arab fests to the huge German and Irish heritage events. Further, the Indian Summer Festival celebrates Native American culture. Claiming another chunk of the calendar, the 11-day Summerfest music festival is described as the country’s largest.
Other diversions range from the Downtown Theater District and the Florentine Opera Company (Wisconsin’s only professional grand opera company) to sports, particularly the aptly named Brewers baseball team.
Things to do for Venturers
- Get out on Lake Michigan. Choices include sailing and windsurfing. Sportfishing, too. Or skate on water that’s hard, meaning the ice slabs at Pettit National Ice Center.
- See a NASCAR event or other motor races at the Milwaukee Mile.
- Come to town on your Harley-Davidson to attend the autumn Milwaukee Rally for bikers. Or, at any time, rent a Harley-Davidson and tool around the city where this motorcycle originated. Visit the Harley-Davidson Museum, too, of course.
- Enjoy German food and beer at the city’s Oktoberfest at Old Heidelberg Park. Also, take a food tour. Choices range from ethnic to pizza — plus one that doesn’t sound totally food-oriented, the Bloody Mary Brunch Tour.
- Depending on season, cycle or go cross-country skiing on the county’s 100-mile Oak Leaf Trail.
- Rent a kayak or canoe for a float on the Milwaukee River. Or join a guided paddling excursion.
Things to do for Centrics
- Mining is part of the Milwaukee region’s history — and the focus of the Bucyrus mining equipment museum. Learn about some of the largest machines ever made — and get a feel for excavating and dumping tons of dirt from the cab of a 1,500-ton machine.
- Stay at the Iron Horse Hotel, a specialty property designed with the motorcycle enthusiast in mind.
Or, stay at the green hotel, Hotel Metro, and you can borrow a bicycle for getting around town.
- Join the brewery tour at MillerCoors and sample the beer, too. Or, consider the tour of the Lakefront Brewery, led each Friday by co-founder Russ Klisch. Lakefront is a certified organic brewery.
- Schedule your visit to coincide with the ethnic festival of your preference: African World Festival, Arab Fest, Bastille Days, Bavarian VolksFest, Festa Italiana, German Fest, Irish Fest, the Mexican Fiesta, Polish Fest or the Native American Indian Summer Festival. (At Bastille Days, join the Storm the Bastille 5K fun run/walk.)
- Shop for Wisconsin specialties at the indoor Milwaukee Public Market or on Old World Third Street, the latter also noted for its flavor of an older Milwaukee.
- Drop by for laughs at Milwaukee’s International Clown Hall of Fame. If it’s Friday, end the day with the city’s traditional fish fry, offered in numerous restaurants around town.
Things to do for Authentics
- Try your luck with blackjack at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, and check out the entertainment at its Northern Lights Theater, a cabaret-style venue.
- See the Milwaukee Brewers play at Miller Park, and order your bratwurst with a local favorite — Secret Stadium Sauce. Buy the bottled sauce to take home (if you like it).
- Take a river or lakefront cruise. Or, take the world’s only brewery tour by boat, visiting three local microbreweries on weekends in summer.
- Choose your walking/shopping option. The RiverWalk along the Milwaukee River offers eclectic shops plus restaurants. The Historic Third Ward, a restored warehouse district, lures with art galleries, the city’s Institute of Art and Design, restaurants, antique shops and the Broadway Theater Center. And, Brady Street is lined with Italian bakeries, markets and restaurants.
- Buy theater tickets and make a night of it. Or shop your choices for opera and the symphony.
- Go bowling at Holler House, a neighborhood bar that is home to the country’s oldest certified bowling alley. The two lanes are serviced by a personal pinsetter.
For more information, consult Visit Milwaukee at www.visitmilwaukee.org