How to Have an Extremely Sophisticated Weekend in Milwaukee
There’s more to Brew City than all that beer (and brats) (and cheese)
So you’re headed to Milwaukee — but possibly looking to explore the city beyond the beer, brats and cheese that made it famous.
Happily, there’s more to this lakeside city than holing up in biergartens and pubs: Take a quick 90-minute road trip for (yes) cutting-edge art galleries, eclectic cuisine and excellent opportunities to soak up the summer sun.
What to Do: Milwaukee RiverWalk and Lakefront Trail
The Milwaukee RiverWalk winds through three neighborhoods with three miles of landmarks and vistas along the Milwaukee River. Take in the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B communities while sipping brews, dining al fresco and posing with the Bronze Fonz along the way. The soothing sounds of crashing waves are a highlight of the paved Lakefront Trail. Meanwhile, look for 19th-century mansions, the sailboat-dotted McKinley Marina and the beach and red lighthouse at Lakeshore State Park.
101 W. Pleasant St., 500 N. Harbor Dr.
Where to Shop: Bronzeville Collective MKE
Milwaukee boasts a storied reputation as a center for expert handicrafts, from woodworking to the Milwaukee Handicraft Project during the Great Depression. Explore contemporary handcrafted works at the Bronzeville Collective, a retail showcase for Black, brown and queer artists in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Expect Milwaukee-themed tees, embroidered trucker hats and more — we especially liked Mr. Bloom’s lapel pins.
339 W. North Ave.
Where to Eat (Part I): Milwaukee Public Market
Forget about diners and beer halls — if you want to sample the freshest and most inventive Milwaukee fare, head to downtown’s Milwaukee Public Market. Artisan dishes and products including wine, olive oil, chocolates, pizza, soups, salads, pastries, Middle Eastern faves and, yes, brats and cheese burst from every corner. Wander through the maze and pick up your choices of eats, and then head upstairs to the second floor Palm Garden to dig in. On Saturdays from June until Labor Day, the market transforms into a bustling outdoor experience with growers, makers, and artists from around the region.
400 N. Water St.
Where to Stay: St. Kate: The Arts Hotel
As the name suggests, this boutique hotel is really leaning into the art thing. Multimedia artworks are sprinkled throughout the lobby, from a bronze horse that appears to be made from twigs to a dangling mobile installation created from found art and fabrics. In addition to its six galleries, St. Kate also hosts live music, a performance theater space, a bespoke pizza eatery, an elegant artisanal American restaurant and a champagne bar. Each of the 219 rooms is filled with contemporary art as well as a ukelele, coloring book with colored pencils, a record player and vinyl albums that you can play and exchange at the front desk. Not surprisingly, the lobby bar is a popular meeting space for drinks and music.
139 E. Kilbourn Ave.
Where to Eat (Part II): Jewels Caribbean
Milwaukee might be noted for its frigid weather, but this restaurant/bar delivers enough tropical heat to melt the frostiest days. Jewels Caribbean is a stylish spot with Caribbean-blue walls and a long bar encrusted with shells, sand, and starfish. On the weekends, there’s live R&B and jazz, and the menu features Caribbean classics like curry shrimp, jerk chicken and a flavorful mango salad. (There are even CBD dessert treats like chocolate chip cookies or brownies.) The cocktail menu serves up fruity island specialties like drunken coconut water (gin, coconut water and coconut jelly) and banana cabana (with cream of coconut, Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, white rum and banana).
2230 N. King Dr.
Where to Drink: Sprecher Brewing Company
Milwaukee’s original craft brewery gives some insight on another kind of brew: Sprecher Brewing Company has launched Milwaukee’s neighboring suburb of Glendale as the “Root Beer Capital of the Universe.” The tour includes four samples of fire-brewed beer and unlimited tastes of their root beer and sodas. If you’re around in August, don’t miss the town’s Root Beer Bash, set for August 28th this year. Root beer recipes like chicken with a root beer glaze and root beer battered fried fish will be presented, along with a classic car show and live music.
701 W. Glendale Ave.
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