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Five Great Reasons to Visit Milwaukee

By Erika Kubick in Food on Jul 14, 2014 4:05PM

When you need a weekend away from the windy city, pack up your car or book an Amtrak up north to Brew City. Milwaukee is a small town in city form, a proud but humble community-driven town with a standout culinary scene and a laid back, Midwest attitude. By car or by train, the trip takes an hour and a half, making it an ideal quick-getaway when you need to slow down for a night or two, which we took advantage of on a press trip to the city. If you’re wondering what to do on the other side of the cheese curtain, here are five reasons to get yourself to Milwaukee this summer.

1. Food:
Milwaukee is a foodie’s paradise. The city has wonderful produce, access to very high-quality meats and of course, it’s in the cheese capital state of America. Milwaukee is clearly proud of its culinary offerings, with local artisans sharing each other’s bounty. For example, a restaurant might serve the local ice cream, topped with whiskey caramel made using locally distilled liquor. When searching for a dining destination, don’t overlook any spot. Even the local casino takes pride in their steak house, Dream Dance Steak, where all employees are provided with a free culinary education. The spot also has an out of this world ostrich entrĂ©e.

I highly recommend Sanford where Chef de Cuisine Justin Aprahamian has been honored with the James Beard Foundation's nomination for Best Chef Midwest for three years in a row and won the title this year. (He is also embarking on brewing his own beer.)

I also suggest starting your morning at The National, an adorable breakfast joint serves some of the best Huevos Rancheros I’ve ever had and an insane Breakfast Sandwich. Don’t forget to indulge in the city’s coffee culture as well: the main players include Stone Creek Coffee Roasters, Anodyne Coffee, and Colectivo Coffee. Insider tip: always order the cheese plate, every single place you go.

2. Harley Davidson Museum
Even if you’ve never sat atop a hog in your life, the Harley Davidson Museum is worth visiting. Relics and antique models from the early years are neatly laid out in attractive displays, which tell the story of a company that’s held it’s own since 1903. From the start, Harley Davidson has always saved a sample from every model they made and kept them in pristine, museum-ready condition.

One of the best exhibits displays a Harley that washed ashore in British Columbia after the Tsunami in Japan. The bike made it all the way across the Pacific Ocean in one piece, keeping its shape surprisingly well despite the deteriorating forces of salt water and sand. There is also an awesomely bedazzled bike on display, a result of too much time with a hot glue gun. If motorcycles aren’t your thing, visit Milwaukee Art Museum or Milwaukee Public Museum, where you’ll find a lovely butterfly garden.

3. Milwaukee Public Market
Whereas Chicago’s French Market is more of a business lunch destination rather than a retail marketplace, Milwaukee’s Public Market fulfills both needs equally. The market retails essentials to fit both your gourmet needs and lunch hankerings: a stylish olive oil vendor, a wine seller with a sprawling selection, and a seafood counter with lobster lunches for under $15.

In addition to selling great food for an agreeable price, the market also has cooking classes upstairs hosting both international chefs and local residents with great family recipes. Moreover, the Public Market is a non-for-profit organization that participates in the community through blood drives and outreach programs and provides vendors with an affordable location. I highly recommend visiting Nehring’s for some of their pizza or a sandwich or St. Paul Fish to enjoy a lobster dinner for $13.95.

4. Beer and Brewery Tours
Milwaukee is known for beer giants like Pabst but craft brew culture has refined Brew City into a natural setting for great drinking and brewery tours. Lakefront Brewery is critically acclaimed for their tours, filled with boisterous laughter and sloshing pints. The brewery is incredibly innovative, sourcing local ingredients, maintaining green practices and up cycling materials. The company created the first organic beer, which they are now aging in an organic barrel. The brewing mechanisms are all part of a sprawling device shipped piece by piece from Germany. While most of the tours are fun-driven, the brewery provides technical, educational-focused tours as well. Other great tours include Historic Pabst Brewery, Sprecher Brewery and Brenner Brewing Company. I also suggest drinking all of the New Glarus your liver will allow, because their excellent brews are not available outside of Wisconsin.

5. Henry Maier Festival Park
While this year’s Summerfest is in the past, the permanent festival grounds host many of Milwaukee’s other annual happenings like Irish Fest. Summerfest is the main attraction, one of the only non-genre summer music festivals. The festival provides an opportunity for new talent with their Emerging Artists series, inviting up and coming talent to play for votes on the Emerging Artist Stage. The festival is family friendly, with music for kids, a playground and craft tables available. Summerfest is also one of the best deals among other popular summer. General Admission is only $18, though that doesn’t include headliners in the amphitheater. If you can’t spare that, everyday there is a different promotion to bypass general ticket fees. These include everything from wearing red to bringing in canned goods for the needy. Upcoming events include Festa Italiana July 18-20, which features Gondola rides, comedy, music, wine tastings and lots of delicious Italian food.