Before my most recent trip to check out my brother’s new home, anyone that I told I was going to Milwaukee all had the same response: Why?
To be honest I was a little skeptical myself until Jeff mentioned that it was full of beer, cheese and immigrants, at which point I was nervous I may end up moving there. I managed to make it back, but after spending the weekend, I can now count the Brew City as one of the cooler places I’ve visited. Here’s why:
1. City of Festivals
Milwaukee has tons of festivals at a grounds right on Lake Michigan. They include everything from music series like Summerfest, which is an eleven day event in June and July that features over seven hundred bands and costs $15, to a variety of ethnic festivals. There’s a Pride Fest, Polish Fest, German Fest and Bastille Days, but naturally, given my total hard on for the Irish, that was our party of choice.
Considering Milwaukee’s reputation for beer consumption, it’s only natural that they have one of the largest hurling communities in the country. Ha! Sorry, these are the kinds of jokes I end up making after spending a weekend with Dennis Rheel.
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Hurling is essentially like lacrosse, only instead of tiny nets at the end of your stick, there’s a tiny wooden part on which to balance your ball. Both however, give you a perfectly good excuse to smash someone in the face with a stick. At the Irish Fest you could take in a game or even have your own hurley made for you.
For the kids, there were arts and crafts including this Mr. Potato Head station.
For the women there were lots of men dressed in kilts…
And for the men there were cute girls dancing in short skirts. Everybody wins.
2. The Beach
I love how sporty and drinky this town is. I come from a family full of jocks that enjoy alcohol so it was only natural that we stop at the tiki bar on the beach at Lake Michigan and check out some volleyball games.
3. Take The Cheapest Flying Lesson In The Country
Ok, so this reason is a bit of a stretch, given (in the interest of full disclosure) I haven’t actually priced the instruction rates of every aviation facility in the U.S., however going on the info I was made privy to by my brother regarding his experience studying flight in New York, California and Wisconsin, the costs for such an opulent hobby in the Midwest are considerably less than in the more metropolitan areas of the county.
At Milwaukee’s Timmerman airport a lesson is only $40 bucks an hour! Then there is the small issue of paying for the plane I suppose, which is $125 an hour. But in California it’s like $65 an hour for the lesson! Ok, so I haven’t blown your mind here, but I did work in an angle to justify showing my awesome flying time.
My brother is only a couple of instructional hours away from flying solo…
Once in the air, we got a spectacular view of the lake and downtown Milwaukee.
4. Chicago Is Only Two Hours Away
I’m not trying to sell out Wisconsin but I had never been to Chicago and it’s a pretty quick trip, so we figured why not?
Driving in we were a little freaked out as there were sonic booms and what appeared to be flying saucers tearing through the streets. We soon realized however, the city was not under attack from aliens (slightly disappointed) but rather the Chicago Air and Water Show was taking place.
We got to see, if only briefly, these crazy things hauling ass through downtown.
Aside from that we visited Navy Pier, took an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River and got to hear the Midwest Young Symphony Orchestra warm up for their evening concert at the Pavillion in Millennium Park. Beautiful.
One question though Chicago! Where is all the damn pizza? Being from New York, and an ardent pizza enthusiast, I was very excited to put this decades long debate over whose slices are better to bed. I don’t know if it had to do with where I was staying but there wasn’t a pizza shop for blocks which makes New York an easy win in my book. I’d rather have even crap pizza on every corner than have to go walking for miles to find an awesome deep dish. Case closed.
5. This Guy
To be honest, I really wanted to check out Bryant’s which is Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge and features over 450 drinks but they’re closed on Mondays so we headed over to the Branded Bar at The Iron Horse Hotel where we met Joe.
I knew I liked Joe when the guy sitting next to me ordered a dirty martini and Joe asked him whether he wanted it “Asian hooker dirty or girl next door dirty.” Aside from that however, he was a fantastic bartender. Joe is quick, friendly and doesn’t depend on the menu. My brother mentioned he was in the mood for tequila and Joe threw together a unique and delicious margharita that even I would drink (I hate tequila).
The hotel itself is a converted one hundred year old warehouse that is now geared towards motorcycle enthusiasts.
6. They Have Rainbows There!
7. The Milwaukee Public Market
I love things that look weird and come wrapped up all pretty, even if they are only going to sit on a shelf in my kitchen for eight years making me feel like I am worldly because I own them, so this place was a haven for me. Just The Spice House alone got me excited and I have no idea what any of these things are. They look like they came off a pirate ship though and that’s good enough for me.
Does this sign mean they deep fry french fries and mozzarealla sticks even deeper than they are normally fried? If so, I may WI even more than I NY, if only temporarily. Not to mention they have “state” shaped chocolates, something called cheese curds (and I thought I knew everything there was to know about cheese) and the biggest ice cream sandwiches I have ever seen.
The Public Market also offers classes on a variety of things like grilling and canning and preserving and they even have a “Mad Men” inspired retro cocktail class. Here is the August lineup.
I’m really not a big shopper, especially on vacation, but I did notice that there were a lot of cool shops in the Third Ward area that caught my interest, this one in particular. HotPop is an art and design boutique and gallery and they have the kind of fun stuff that I like to buy people for Christmas and birthdays like these awesome placemats.
They had a lot of cool art. I bought this because for a split second I thought I was sixteen years old again:
Don’t get me wrong. I love it. It’s by a local artist named Jonathan Evans, however when I got home it felt a little too cool for me. Especially when this piece by local artist Ella Martin is way more my speed these days:
I also really liked this graffiti cocktail shaker. When you shake it the little ball inside makes a sound like a real spray can.
Not to mention that I am totally obsessed with office supplies so these “super awesome” ones were right up my alley and who doesn’t love a drunk, belligerent cat?
9. Milwaukee Has The Only Airport I Have Ever Seen With This:
Need I say more?