In southeastern Wisconsin on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is roughly an hour north of Chicago by car. Wisconsin has a cold climate and Milwaukee is no exception. Winter temperatures of -60 F can occur with the frigid wind chills off turbulent Lake Michigan. But Milwaukeeans are a hardy crew and, to prove it, members of the Polar Bear Club defy arctic conditions by taking an icy swim in the lake every January 1st.
Known as the beer capital of the world, Milwaukee currently boasts three major brewers including Miller, Sprecher and Lakefront breweries although others, such as Pabst and Schlitz, have come and gone. The success of Milwaukee breweries has been credited to the brewing skills and business acumen of German immigrants, many of whom were among the city’s earliest settlers.
Brewery tours are an ever-popular attraction and include free beer! The Fredrick Pabst Mansion, the “Finest Flemish Renaissance Revival Mansion in America” was built by Captain Pabst in 1892 and is a testament to the success of brewing in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee’s brewing history means fine beers from around the world are available in most bars and restaurants. Milwaukee also has its share of good eats. Karl Ratzsch’s Restaurant is the place for authentic and excellent German food and Coerper’s 5 o’Clock Club is a deceptively funky (but killer) steakhouse. Kopp’s Custard features awesome burgers and custard, whle the Mekong Cafe is known for outstanding Thai and Vietnamese fare.
Popular tourist attractions include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Brewers Baseball, Mitchell Park Conservatory, Bucks Basketball, Milwaukee Public Museum and Planetarium, Milwaukee Country Zoo, Paradise Landing Indoor Water Park, Audubon Nature Sanctuary and the Harley-Davidson Museum.
The cultural scene includes the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Opera and Skylight Opera. There are also many venues for plays, including the Sunset Playhouse.
The Milwaukee River weaves through downtown Milwaukee and into Lake Michigan with charming historic bridges and waterways throughout the downtown area. Voyager and Iroquois boat tours are popular with locals and tourists alike featuring cruises around the river, harbor, marina and lake. Happy Hour cruises are especially fun, offering great views of the city.
Milwaukee’s lakefront provides a miles-long recreational area including public McKinley Marina for boat docking, jet ski rental and sailing lessons. A bit north, Bradford Beach is a popular attraction with picnics areas, volleyball, in-line skating, biking, partying and musical events.
Sometimes called the city of festivals, Milwaukee has Summerfest Music Festival, Festa Italiana, German Fest, Wisconsin State Fair, Irish Fest, African World Festival, Indian Summer Festival and the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. There are also the Asian Festival, Arab World Fest, Bastille Days, Holiday Folk Fair, Mexican Fiesta, Water Frolics and numerous smaller neighborhood festivals and block parties.
The city has a large student population with many colleges and universities, among them The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Marquette University, with its dental and law schools. Marquette also features the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art and the Al McGuire Center, home of Golden Eagles Basketball.