Travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Episode 538 Transcript

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transcript of Travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Episode 538

Travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – What to do, see and eat (podcast transcript)

Chris: Amateur Traveler Episode 538. Today, the Amateur Traveler talks about beer and parks and Polka, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the world’s largest music festival as we go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But maybe not, maybe not today

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host Chris Christensen. As you do your Christmas shopping this year, I hope you’re saving some money there in the budget to join me in India or Japan next year, more about that at the end of the show. But now let’s talk about Milwaukee. I’d like to welcome to the show Barbara Alley from Milwaukee who has come to talk to us about Milwaukee. Barbara, welcome to the show.

Barbara: Thank you very much, Chris.

Chris: I was gonna use the city’s nickname but come to talk to us about… And I don’t know if the city even has a nickname.

Barbara: I’m not sure that it does. I mean Cream City.

Chris: The what city?

Barbara: They call it Cream City.

Chris: Cream City.

Barbara: There’s a type of white brick that a lot of the buildings are built from.

Chris: Interesting.

Barbara.: And most people think it has a beer reference.

Chris: Could you put Milwaukee on a map for us, first of all?

Barbara: Sure. It’s about two hours north of Chicago so we’re right in the middle of the Midwest.

Chris: Excellent. And why should someone come to Milwaukee?

Barbara: Well, Milwaukee has appeared on a lot of lists lately and it seems to be coming of age for the last 10 years. It’s moving from an industrial city into an eclectic art center with all kinds of interesting food and drink and its budget still. It isn’t very expensive.

Chris: Okay. Are there specific highlights that you would recommend before we get into a typical itinerary for Milwaukee?

Barbara: Sure. Well, it has everything a big city has for far less money. There are operas, theatre, beer, dancing, fine dining, sports and loads of outdoor space for an active vacation.

Chris: Okay. What kind of itinerary would you recommend for Milwaukee?

Barbara: Well, if you come in summer, and most people should because you know our winter often lasts for six months, we have a fantastic music festival called “Summer Fest.” It’s the largest musical festival in the world.

Chris: Really?

Barbara: Yes, and we have a lot of big names. People that you would recognize almost every day of the week on many different stages and of course lots of food. And then when there isn’t “Summer Fest” for the 10 days during the summer then there are cultural festivals every weekend. So depending on your nationality we probably have a festival for you.

Chris: Cool. Now, you mentioned coming in the summer. The only travel I’ve ever done to Wisconsin I think has been in the summer. My mother’s family is from a little further upstate than where you are. Tended to see a lot of humid weather and mosquitoes. Is that the best time of the year to come?

Barbara: Well, my favorite season is fall because during the summer you’ll find that it’s very warm here and humid, though we do get a breeze off of the lake. I think that it’s even better in fall because then you have the fall color and you have fewer people and you just have all the beautiful outdoors things to do here.

Chris: Okay. So where would you start someone who is visiting the city?

Barbara: Well, I think it depends on the amount of time that you have but if you’re limited on time, I would probably suggest taking a tour. We don’t have the big double-decker buses like some cities have but we have like an 11-person van called “Untapped Bus Tour” and I think that gives you the best overall tour of the city. It would include some cheese tasting, the Lakefront Brewery Tour, and some great photo ops.

Chris: But since it’s untapped, it does not include beer?

Barbara: Well, it does, yes. The Lakefront Brewery tour, they will serve you beer but I suppose if you mean if you’re drinking on the bus, no. But we do have the Pedal Tavern so if you want that you can take a tour around the city pedaling with a lot of other people and going from bar to bar.

Chris: And when you say the Pedal Tavern, it is…I’m on a regular bike?

Barbara: It’s no… It’s nothing like anything you’ve ever seen.

Chris: That’s what I wonder.

Barbara: I think it seats 11 people and so you’re all pedaling independently and there’s a table down the center where you can have your beverages. But generally you’re drinking in the bars and pedaling back and forth.

Chris: But it actually is a portable, pedal-able bar?

Barbara: Yes, it is.

Chris: That’s where I thought you were going with that but… I’ve seen this once. I saw this in Minnesota.

Barbara: Yes, okay. They have one in Boise, Idaho, too. I’ve seen it there. They’re not common, though.

Chris: If we don’t get a chance to do a tour or after our tour, what are we doing next?

Barbara: Well, there are also walking tours and historical tours. If you look at the guide books, of course, they will recommend museums but I think that there are a lot of off the beaten path places that you can find using the bikes. And we have Bublr bike racks, the rental bikes, about 60 bike racks now around the city. So you can buy a 30-day pass for $15 or you can pay $3 a ride. And the Lakefront is absolutely beautiful. I mean, all year round, even in the winter because we get these wonderful ice formations because of the wind and the waves. But during the summer, of course, you can fly a kite. You can eat some food. You can see some of the nice beaches and you can do that by bike.

Chris: Okay. You’ve mentioned a couple of different things there, a couple of different ways that I wanna go here. First of all, you’ve mentioned the guide books would recommend some museums so let’s at least give them a nod even though I think you were pushing us in a different direction.

Barbara: Sure. Well, of course, there’s the Milwaukee Public Museum. It has a reciprocal program so if you’re coming from a place where you’re a member of your local museum you should check the list because you may get in for free. It has the…a lot of historical displays and some really nice information about the [inaudible 00:06:15] that you would find here and some of the Native American culture.

Chris: Okay. Any other museums before we move on from that?

Barbara: Well, my favorite is the Grohmann Museum and this one is under the Milwaukee School of Engineering. It’s only $5 to enter and they have three floors of mostly European paintings depicting men at work. But what’s really cool is that they have a rooftop garden with these enormous bronze sculptures and so there are flowers and great views of Milwaukee from here. Luckily we found the best obx rentals to stay, near from all these destinations so we could visit without need to worry anymore for accommodation.

Chris: Okay. Well, just so you know, Milwaukee comes from an Algonquian word. It means either “good, beautiful and pleasant land” or possibly “gathering place.”

Barbara: Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking it probably meant.

Chris: When you mentioned history, you gave a nod to the native history but what sort of history am I gonna learn on my history walk or when I go to the history museum?

Barbara: Well, there is a group here called Historical Milwaukee Inc and they take you on walking tours of the city. So you can hear about the type of architecture and why it was developed and about the beer barons and the pioneers who came to Milwaukee and turned it into a city. In fact, there’s a fantastic cemetery here called “Forest Home Cemetery” and you can go on historical tours at the cemetery and look at these enormous stones that were put here for the families like the Schlitz and Pabst and the other brewers that might be familiar to people who drink beer.

Chris: And so those would be the beer barons that you were making reference. Why Milwaukee? I’m assuming there’s a lot of water coming through Milwaukee.

Barbara: Well, there is. There are three rivers and then, of course, we have Lake Michigan as well.

Chris: Sure, that’s true, also fresh water.

Barbara: And you have to remember that the people who came here originally came from Germany so this is a very similar climate and it looks very similar to places in Germany. So I imagine that is how it began because those people had that knowledge and came here and made this their home.

Chris: Cool. What else are we gonna do in Milwaukee?

Barbara: Well, you have to get on the water so you could rent a kayak with Milwaukee Kayak Company or you could choose from three or four different boat tours on the river. Most people like to combine it with food so they have booze cruises with snacks or even a meal. In fact, there are different themes so you could take a pirate cruise if you were here with your family that includes these enormous water guns and water balloons. And the last time we went on one they had vessel set-up with pirates that we could have a fight with. It was really quite fun.

Chris: So a good warm summer day activity?

Barbara: Well. Yes. They do run through the fall because, of course, the colors are really pretty from the water, too. But always more fun in summer, not as cold. Then there are the breweries. You have to visit a brewery. And, of course, Miller is the oldest one that’s around here but there are a lot of micro-breweries popping up now.

Chris: Do you have some that you recommend?

Barbara: Well, I really like the Lakefront Brewery, of course. That’s included in the Untapped Tour. But you can go have a tour there any time. And then Brenner Brewery is one of the newer ones. Now this is a guy who used crowdfunding to create his brewery and he’d post on Facebook when he’s ready to bottle beer and people can come and help them bottle beer and walk home with free beer in return. So it’s unique.

Chris: And that’s gonna happen all during the year then?

Barbara: Yes, all during the year. Yeah, and, in fact, during the Packer games he will have potlucks so you can come bring food and he shows the game on a big wall in his brewery.

Chris: Okay, because we’re a few miles from the Packers and the Packer Stadium but we still have Packer fans down in Milwaukee.

Barbara: If you live in Wisconsin you have to be a Packer fan. Whether you are truly or not, you have to say that you are because people live football here. Now, of course, we also have beer gardens in our parks. That’s kind of a novelty. I haven’t been elsewhere where I’ve seen so many beer gardens. It started out with one but now we’re up to five or six during the summer.

Chris: Or at least elsewhere outside of Europe.

Barbara: Outside of Germany. So you have the lovely outdoor setting and you have the local brews. And you can eat enormous pretzels dipped in mustard, just delicious. They’re as big as your head.

Chris: Well, and you mentioned eating… We’ve got the German influence in the food. Are there specific dishes I should try in Milwaukee?

Barbara: It has become such an eclectic food scene that it’s hard to keep up. Yelp is an excellent resource for finding restaurants here. I mean, you can look through on Milwaukee’s website for the top restaurants but a lot of those tend to be a little bit pricey. What I love about Milwaukee is that we have such an ethnic influence so that you can get Vietnamese, Somali, Chinese, German. I mean, every nationality I think is represented except Moroccan. So if you know a good Moroccan who wants to come open a restaurant, people are looking for that.

Chris: Okay, good to know. But do you have a favorite?

Barbara: Sure. Well, there’s a hole in the wall place called Blue Star Café and it’s a Somali café. And you get enormous portions for $10. It’s kind of a rice dish and then you can have your meat on top of it and then you get a drink along with it. And, of course, there are the farm to table restaurants as well. Like Ardent is a really good one for that. And there are places that specialize in some desserts, too, like Honeypie.

Chris: Honeypie. I don’t know a Honeypie.

Barbara: I bet you can’t guess what they serve.

Chris: Well, I’m always gonna guess beer with everything you say.

Barbara: Well, and I know you’re more of a Hawaiian drinker.

Chris: True.

Barbara: But we do have nice wines, too. They just aren’t brewed here in Milwaukee.

Chris: The Honeypie, though. I don’t know what a Honeypie is or looks like.

Barbara: Well, it’s just the name. They have great cocktails but they have a lot of pies.

Chris: Okay, got it. Okay. This is not a particular type of pie. It’s a restaurant that has good pie. Got it.

Barbara: Yes, inspired food from scratch is what they’re known for.

Chris: Okay. I’m always up for a pie restaurant.

Barbara: And they also have handmade buttermilk biscuits and Bloody Mary’s is something you have to try here. I don’t know if they do this in other cities but here it’s almost like a competition to see how fancy the accoutrements can be. So you can get a Bloody Mary with a half of cheeseburger and some bacon wrapped around it. Or you can get one that’s in the pitcher with an entire chicken.

Chris: You mentioned beaches, your favorite beaches, but you didn’t name them.

Barbara: Yes, well, there are nine beaches along Lake Michigan. And Bradford Beach is the one that is probably easiest to find. It’s flat and you can see it from the main road that goes along the Lakefront there. So you can’t miss that one and they are known for volleyball and they have a beach house there that serves drinks.

Chris: There’s a theme woven through this here.

Barbara: Yes. People do like their alcohol here in Wisconsin. But my favorite is a little further north and it’s called Atwater Beach and it’s kind of a quiet place in that you don’t know it’s there. You drive by and you see the above the cliff park. But then there’s a staircase that goes down to the bottom and there are actually people who surf here in fall. But it’s just a beautiful bluff and nice sand and kind of protected from the wind.

Chris: And surf there in the fall because there are enough waves in the fall to surf?

Barbara: Well, now, it depends how much you need to get on a surfboard. I mean, by California standards it’s probably not great surfing but for the Midwest, it’s almost unheard of to be on a surfboard. So, yeah, they do kite surfing at Bradford Beach and they do regular surfing at Atwater Beach and at Bradford Beach. So there are some waves.

Chris: Okay, okay. Interesting. Now the other… You mentioned breweries and beer which, obviously, Milwaukee’s known for. There’s at least one other company I can think of that’s kind of well-known that comes out of that area.

Barbara: Harley-Davidson, right?

Chris: Right.

Barbara: Yes. We have a beautiful Harley-Davidson Museum where you can sit on bikes and have photo ops and even have them sent directly to your email so that you can post it on Facebook.

Chris: I’m assuming there are events then that are also going on for people who are big motorcycle fans?

Barbara: Yes, and they do a lot for veterans as well. They’re always scheduling events. They’re part of almost every function that happens in Milwaukee that’s geared towards the community. Harley-Davidson is there in one way or another. They have a biking path that starts kind of near the Harley-Davidson place and you could bicycle from there all the way out to the baseball field. So it’s kind of in a nice location, too. There’s a hotel just across the river from it called the Iron Horse Hotel. And its whole theme is motorcycle or Harley-Davidson so they have bike nights.

Chris: Interesting. You mentioned the baseball field. I’m sure that even our international listeners who don’t know baseball could probably at this point in the podcast guess that the name of the local baseball team would be the Brewers, but it’s something…

Barbara: Good for you. So it’s a popular thing to go see a ballpark game here. You can even do a tour. And if you pay additional money you can get behind the scenes and you can slide down the slide. The one that the mascot goes down after a home run.

Chris: Okay. I didn’t know that that was a Brewer’s thing, all right. I apparently have watched the Brewers more when they’re playing at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Barbara: Okay. Well, of course.

Chris: And when I’m at the Brewers game I’m gonna get a beer, obviously, or at least someone is going to get a beer who likes it better than I am. And what am I gonna get with my beer?

Barbara: Well, it is brats. But you can get hamburgers and cheeseburgers. If you wanna get one of the box seats though then they serve you a variety of fancy dishes and even pizza. You can get all kinds of foods there now. It’s not just the hotdogs that it started out to [crosstalk].

Chris: Well, I would’ve been disappointed though if I couldn’t get a good brat in Milwaukee.

Barbara: Yes, very good. German-based bratwurst.

Chris: Well, and if I wanted to do that when I’m not at the ballpark, where are you gonna send me?

Barbara: Well, there are so many places but there are a couple of places that make brats and they distribute everywhere. So I would say go to any restaurant and you’re gonna have an option to get a bratwurst. But I think they taste best when you’re at one of the festivals.

Chris: Okay. Arts and culture, if I’m interested in connecting in that way with Milwaukee, where are you gonna send me?

Barbara: We have so many stages and probably the best way to find out what’s happening while you’re here is there’s a website called mkestages.com and it will have the calendar of everything, every play. You’ll have the symphony and the opera and ballet, just anything that’s going on. That’s the place to go.

Chris: Side trips while I’m in Milwaukee, I should get out to…

Barbara: I would say go to Cedarburg because there you have the winery. They have a strawberry festival, a creperie. It has the last covered bridge that exists in Wisconsin. It’s built on a river too so you have some beautiful scenery there.

Chris: And how far is Cedarburg or where is it?

Barbara: It’s maybe half an hour from Milwaukee. There’s also a quilting museum. I think it’s a national quilting museum that recently opened, I mean, in the last few years. And it’s quite popular as well.

Chris: Okay. Any place else you’re gonna send me?

Barbara: If you like nautical things, there’s the Schooner Coast Tour and it’s put together all along the coast. Like, you could start in Milwaukee and then head up north and you could visit all the lighthouses and the nautical museums. That’s kind of a fun thing to do if you have several days.

Chris: This is a multi-day sailing ship tour?

Barbara: No, it isn’t. You just drive with your car and it’s a list of places that you can visit. But they all have a nautical theme.

Chris: Got it, okay.

Barbara: It’ll tell you about the shipwrecks and about the ships that were built here during wars and just generally everything you wanted to know about Lake Michigan.

Chris: What’s gonna surprise me about Milwaukee? I’ve been to Wisconsin many times, never been in Milwaukee.

Barbara: Well, I think that the surfing was something that surprised me.

Chris: Fair enough.

Barbara: And also they have so much diversity in parks. We have cliffs and we have beautiful rivers and bridges. And a lot of it was built under the new deal concept. I think people are not aware that there are like 150 parks here. We also have the undiscovered places. So you could use the app “Go Ranger! ParkFinder.” You’ll find a lot of interesting places to visit there. Roadside America lists some things and also this app called “Field Trip.” And those are not only good for Milwaukee. They’re good for anywhere you wanna go.

Chris: Well, and Roadside America… Let me plug that one since… I don’t know if we’ve mentioned or at least mentioned it in years on the show but that’s also a great place to find the world’s largest ball of string or…

Barbara: Yes.

Chris: Babe the Blue Ox, those sort of kitschy roadside attractions. What am I gonna find specific to Milwaukee with that app?

Barbara: Well, of course, you’ll find the Bronze Fonz.

Chris: Of course.

Barbara: If you follow Happy Days. Of course, you have to be of a certain age to even know what that television show is. We do have the Bronze Fonz right on the Riverwalk.

Chris: Both Happy Days and its spin-off, Laverne and Shirley, were supposed to be set in Milwaukee is the reason why you have a Bronze Fonz? And, in fact, Laverne and Shirley, of course, worked in a brewery in the Mythical Shots Brewery with… I’m sure it was supposed to be Schlitz. Well, that was the beer that made Milwaukee famous according to the taglines. And so anything else we need to cover in Milwaukee before we get to my last four questions?

Barbara: Yes, definitely. Outdoor art, there’s a website called Milwaukee Mural Map now where you can go around the entire city looking for outdoor art. But in the last couple of years, it’s become huge that you can drive all over the city and see these amazing beautiful murals. We also have a lot of in-school programs like we have the Milwaukee School of Engineering which I told you has that museum. It also has students that teach you how to unicycle at one of the downtown parks, Red Arrow Park. So if you have ever wanted to learn how to unicycle you can do that in Milwaukee.

Chris: And have you taken their unicycle tutorials?

Barbara: I have. I got the sticker that says, “You tried.”

Chris: “You tried,” okay. That was… I think that’s the sticker I would get.

Barbara: I don’t think I’ll ever be very good at it. Now we have a technical college here, too, so those students have a fine dining restaurant called “Cuisine” that’s open during the school semester where you can get three really fine courses for about $35. And we have the Polka Escalator.

Chris: Pardon?

Barbara: In our Wisconsin Center there’s an escalator called the Polka Escalator so when you embark on it, you push a button and as you travel up it plays very loud polka music and you see photos of a polka party.

Chris: Of course you do.

Barbara: Of course, it’s the only one in the world that I’m aware of.

Chris: I could believe that that is the case.

Barbara: And then we have chocolate, too. We have locally made chocolate. So there’s a company called Northern Chocolate Company. It’s only open on the weekends like Friday and Saturday but he exports all over the world. It’s some of the best chocolates you’ll taste. But he’s also very special about who he allows in so you have to push a doorbell and he’ll decide whether you’re allowed to come in. And you might be asked to remove your shoes and then you can make a purchase. Definitely well worth it because he has chocolate molds you’ve never seen anywhere like the hooker hair because you need prostitute bunnies to give to your friends for Easter. I can make stuff up.

And then we have a lot of local artists, the Brass Rooster where you can get your head measured and have a hat made. There’s the Wax Wing that features only locally made gifts. So it’s more about the people that are here. There’s some very interesting people. We’re not really a guide book kind of city. We’re more of a Yelp and a Trip Advisor and a Roadside America kind of a place.

Chris: Okay. I’m standing in the prettiest spot in Milwaukee. Where am I standing? What am I looking at?

Barbara: The art museum, the Calatrava. The wings actually open and it looks like a huge white ship. And then you have the view of Lake Michigan behind it.

Chris: Okay. And besides the Polka Escalator, one thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Milwaukee?”

Barbara: Aerial Yoga. I mean, we have an Aerial Yoga Center.

Chris: When you say aerial yoga, that sounds very dangerous.

Barbara: Well, it’s one of those places where you kind of hang upside down in a hammock to do your yoga sessions. They probably exist in other places. The other thing is that we do chocolate pairing with whiskey because of the distillery and the brewery. I don’t know if that’s… That was something that really made me go, “Hmm.”

Chris: Finish this thought. You really know you’re in Milwaukee when what?

Barbara: When you’re invited to have a beer with someone and you’ve never met them before. People are very friendly here and they like to share what they like about Milwaukee.

Chris: And if you had to summarize Milwaukee in three words?

Barbara: It’s evolving, eclectic and I think cool.

Chris: Okay, excellent. Our guest again has been Barbara Alley. And, Barbara, where can people read more about your travels or about Milwaukee for me?

Barbara: I write the Milwaukee Parks Blog which is all about the green spaces that are in and around Milwaukee. And it’s milwaukeeparks.blogspot.com.

Chris: And has there been a really great post recently about a quirky little park in Milwaukee?

Barbara: Well, lately we’ve been doing a lot about fall colors because this is fall. So I would go on top of the Kilbourn Reservoir Park and you can see the view of Milwaukee. But the best view exists on top of a hospital we have on the 8th floor called The Healing Garden.

Chris: Excellent. Well, Barbara, thanks so much for coming on Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for your hometown of Milwaukee.

Barbara: Thank you very much for having me, Chris.

Chris: In News of the Community, I do wanna remind you again about those two Amateur Traveler tips next year 2017, in June to Japan, and in November to India. Check that out at amateurtraveler.com/trips. There’s also links to both those trips now on the website amateurtraveler.com under the Book Travel tab. Jim wrote with a question for everyone. He has been using the iTunes enhanced version of the show and looking at the pictures and the links and has been trying to do that with the podcast app. And apparently they’ve broken that again. He’s using the Downcast app to listen to the show which is what I use as well. He’s wondering, and I am as well, how many people are still using the iTunes enhanced version. And I ask that…I should ask that every year because it does take at least another hour or two of time to produce that show.

So if you could put a comment on this episode or drop me an email, let me know if that is a version of the show that you appreciate, that would be terrific. I got an email from Terry that said, “Ciao, Chris. Kamustai. Thank you very much for your podcast. I enjoy your style very much, a little too much sometimes. It feeds the travel bug too much. I was heartened to see that you learn languages, too. That’s also one of my pastimes. I did Swahili for our trips to Kenya and Tanzania and spent two years learning Italian to go to Venice for two weeks. My wife and I are traveling to Chad early next year to go on safari there. I’m currently learning some Arabic for the trip but I fear I won’t have anywhere near enough learned before leaving so I might have to take a trip to the Middle East, probably Oman, where I can say and understand more. Asantesana, Terry.”

Well, and Terry, first of all, Karibu and I would like to say that learning languages is still something that I do. But, honestly, with the podcasting and the blogging and my own start-up company and then a third job, I honestly don’t have that much time to do the language learning and more. Something I still enjoy but really have not been as good doing at recently as I was before I started the Amateur Traveler ironically enough. I’m also probably not as good at travel planning as I used to be because all that time that I used to put into planning my own travel now goes into trying to help you plan your travels. So it’s just one of those things. The shoemaker’s kids have no shoes.

With that, we’re gonna end this episode of Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet leave a comment in this episode at amateurtraveler.com. If you’re interested in learning more about other trips that we’re doing for Amateur Traveler, join the Facebook group amateurtraveler.com/trips, which is a private group. And, as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

Travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – What to do, see and eat (podcast transcript)

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

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