‘Twas beer that made Milwaukee famous, and although two of America’s three largest breweries long ago left town, the old city on the lake still retains much of its German brewing and imbibing heritage. Down the highway a bit sits Miller Park, home of the aptly-named Brewers baseball club, whose mascot Bernie, in less PC days, slid into a barrel of beer with every home run. Today they race sausages – check YouTube – which is just fine, because few things go better with a glass of John Barleycorn than a bratwurst.
Of course, if ground meat’s not your thing, there’s always Wisconsin cheese, platters of which are served on Old World Third Street, a row of German-American establishments on the west side of the Milwaukee River. Along the river itself, or rather its new RiverWalk (San Antonio, we’ve stolen your idea!), one can also enjoy food and refreshments while watching boats hum lazily by. One such bar was Port of Call, where we sampled the Wisconsin Cheese Plate (Bellavitano Merlot, Mobay, Five Year Cheddar, Seasonal Fruits, Roasted Walnuts, Crostini) and yes, an ice cold beer on such a summer night. Keep a lookout for the “Bronze Fonz” as you walk off your meal.
The city’s Lake Michigan coast is breathtaking, featuring two major parks near downtown (Veterans and Lakefront), the Summerfest fairgrounds (Katy Perry played that evening), and its crown jewel, the Milwaukee Art Museum. Its boat-like Quadracci Pavilion and connecting bridge were designed by Santiago Calatrava, and features a 217-foot-wide brise-soleil (I had to look it up, too) that opens like an enormous pair of white wings. Inside is an eclectic collection ranging from the ancient to the modern, and although the museum seems large, it’s not overwhelming. Incidentally, admission is free the first Thursday of each month; otherwise, it’s $14.
For easy navigation around the city center, try the Milwaukee Trolley Loop ($1). It comes in especially handy if you’ve had a few beers.