Posted June 21, 2016

One City, Three Ways: Milwaukee


If you’ve never visited Milwaukee, we can’t think of a better time. This inconspicuously cool town not only made it into the top 10 of Lonely Planet’s “Best in the U.S.” list, it’s now home to Wisconsin’s first Kimpton.

Opening in June, the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel is located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, a thriving district of revamped warehouses, galleries, theaters, boutiques and eateries. Journeyman welcomes you with eclectic-industrial design, a dramatic 20-foot-long chandelier and a rooftop bar with sunset views. And it’s all in a neighborhood that’s strolling distance to the picturesque Riverwalk and artisan food vendors at the Milwaukee Public Market.

So, how should you play in Milwaukee? Read on:

D65-310513 - © - Walter Bibikow

Artistic & Jubilant

If a city’s vibrancy depends on the art, theater and music scene, Milwaukee has it going on. For starters, don’t miss the Milwaukee Art Museum. Shaped like a floating cross with cantilevered wings, the architecture itself is a mind-blowing work of imagination, never mind the 25,000-plus works inside. And once a month on Friday nights, the museum lights up for a cool “MAM After Dark” series. At the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), you can tour the school’s two museum galleries, both nationally acclaimed. Beauty conspires with music at The Pabst Theater, a concert hall boasting a lavish Baroque interior including a Carrara marble staircase, while the Broadway Theatre Center houses three performing theater companies.

When it comes to celebrations, Milwaukee reigns with dozens of festivals, especially in the summer. Many of these street fairs pay homage to the city’s multi-ethnic populations—Polish Fest, Scottish Fest, German Fest, etc. But the grandest of all is Summerfest, which hosts 100+ musical groups over 11 days. (This year it runs June 29–July 10, in case you’re the spontaneous type.)

Hoppin’ Good Times

Even though iconic names like Pabst and Schlitz are long gone from Milwaukee—once the world’s top beer producer—never fear. Milwaukee is now a bastion of thriving craft breweries and brew pubs. One of our favorites is Lakefront Brewery, located in an old trolley station. Tour the trio of fermentation tanks painted with the Three Stooges, and if you’re there for the Friday night fish fry, you’ll be transported to a German beer hall complete with polka band.

Other well-loved local pubs include Milwaukee Ale House, featuring six house-brewed ales and a copious menu, and Hinterland Gastropub, offering creative cuisine and cocktail concoctions that often mix in beer. A quick 10-minute drive from the city is Sprecher Brewery, best known for its Black Bavarian and Oktoberfest brews, plus gourmet sodas.

June - The Domes, MIL

Nighttime at one of “The Domes”. (Photo credit: Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation & Culture.)

This & That

For those with a rogue streak, we couldn’t resist throwing these unexpected shout-outs into the ring. It’s a sure-fire way to make your friends back home wonder, “You did that in Milwaukee?”

  • Visit “The Domes,” a.k.a. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, a fun and fascinating botanical attraction that highlights three separate climates—desert, tropical and floral—all beneath beehive-shaped convex glass.
  • Go sailing, fishing, jet skiing and even fresh-water surfing (for real) on Lake Michigan.
  • Jump-start a hog and trace the history of these legendary bikes at the Harley Davidson Museum.
  • Get a unique view of downtown while kayaking or paddle boarding on the Milwaukee River, which meanders through the city.
  • Eat fried cheese curds (you’re in Wisconsin, after all) at SafeHouse, a spy-themed restaurant that Wired once mentioned as among “the planet’s hippest hangouts.”
June - MKE blog post

The Interpol Bar Map at SafeHouse.


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  1. gary king says:

    Just booked a room! Looking forward to seeing your new Kimpton.

    It has been years since I have been to the city.

  2. gary king says:

    Was at the Milwaukee Kimpton hotel for its opening. Beautiful hotel and a great staff ! The roof top is really special.l

  3. Cheryl Potratz says:

    Went to the roof top bar at the Kempton in Milwaukee tonight. I had the most wonderful, refreshing cocktail the C.I.C!! Despite the rain we had a wonderful time. Is there any way I could have the recipe for the C.I.C?

    • Faith Yi Kimpton says:

      Hi Cheryl, we’re so glad you had a good time and a great cocktail at The Outsider! We regularly post chef and bartender recipes on our blog, Life is Suite, so please keep an eye out!