A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday's List: Happy Birthday, Milwaukee!

Milwaukee is 160 years old this year. Well done, well done-- just think of how much beer and how many brats have been made, and consumed, here in 16 decades of existence. In honor of their 160 years of existence, today's list is the top things to do in Milwaukee:

25) Go ice skating. Any time of the year. And maybe see some Olympic caliber speed skaters while you're doing it.

24) Tour Milwaukee's historic churches. Founded by God-fearing Germans, Italians, Poles and other ethnic groups, Milwaukee's skyline is marked by many, many church steeples.

23) Hang out on campus. Relive your college days, read the school newspapers, ogle some young college students, or play hacky sack. Nostalgia, bay-bee. Milwaukee has several universities and colleges to choose from.

22) Gamble a little. A small taste of Vegas in downtown (well, almost) Milwaukee. Please note-- I suggest you gamble a little. Slots, craps, blackjack, poker, bingo-- it's all here.

21) Shop. Okay, not my favorite thing in the world, but some folks like it, so it's at least worth mentioning. And if you go to quirky places like the 3rd Ward or the East side, it can be kind of fun. Of course, if you prefer malls, there are a number of those as well.

20) Go to a festival. Summerfest (see below) is the Big Gig, but there are festivals in Milwaukee all throughout the year.

19) Hike and Bike. There are a number of great bike trails within, or close to, Milwaukee, and the County Park System maintains excellent hiking trails at all of their parks.

18) Pub Crawl-- Walker's Point. All types of bars oddly situated in one of Milwaukee's more industrialized areas. Neighborhood pubs, college hangouts, dance clubs and gay bars. There's a little bit of everything in Walker's Point-- plus the Allen-Bradley clock towering over everything.

17) Visit State Fair Park. Ideally, during the Wisconsin State Fair (in which case-- do NOT miss out on the Cream Puffs), but even in the off-season it's worth a visit.

16) Golf! The Milwaukee County Park System golf courses are excellent, ranging from pitch and putts to PGA Tour caliber. Add to that the fact that there are Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed courses less than an hour from Milwaukee, and you have a golfers paradise-- at least from April to October.

15) Take a walking tour of the city. Tons of history and remarkable architecture in Milwaukee, so pick the tour you like and spend a day roaming the town.

14) Visit the Milwaukee Public Library. Okay, I might be a little biased here, but the central branch is in a magnificent building, and it home to numerous special exhibits and collections.

13) Take in a game at the Bradley Center. The Bucks are playing well, Marquette is the surprise team of the Big East, and the Milwaukee Admirals are playoff contenders in the AHL.

12) Get a little culture! For the size of the city, Milwaukee has a remarkable amount of cultural entertainment, including many theaters, an orchestra, an opera and a ballet.

11) Visit the Mitchell Park domes. Particularly in winter, when the glorious blooms and tropical interior atmosphere will help get rid of the January blahs. The model train display is also quite good.

10) Pub Crawl--Water Street. The downtown social/drinking/party people place to be. All different types of places to go, from hole-in-the-wall dives to upscale venues. If you have time to wander a bit from Water, do pop into the Safehouse, which is about as campy and cheesy as a bar is capable of getting.

9) Go to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Some very nice collections for a city our size, and the museum has wings!

8) Go to Miller Park. Ideally to see a Brewers game, but even if you can't do that, do go see the stadium-- it's worth the trip.

7) Eat! There are a boatload of great restaurants in Milwaukee-- virtually any ethnic food you could want, prices ranging from cheap to quite pricey, and, of course, plenty of beer, cheese and sausage.

6) Pub Crawl-- North and/or Brady Streets on the East side of Milwaukee. There are a lot of bars in Milwaukee, as you might have gathered from my inclusion of three distinct pub crawls in this list. While on this one, make sure to stop into the Landmark-- which is underneath the vintage Oriental Theatre-- and play a few games of bumper pool. Or bowl. Or play darts with actual metal tips. Or all of the above.

5) See the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo. An excellent zoo, especially for the size of the metropolitan area supporting it. They have upgraded the facilities for the animals and visitors significantly over the last decade.

4) Take a brewery tour. It is Milwaukee, after all. Plus, there are three different ones to choose from.

3) Visit the Milwaukee Public Museum. Yes, it has been plagued by horrendous mismanagement of late, but it is still a remarkable place-- if visiting with kiddies, this one probably vaults to #1. The Vatican display coming in February, 2006 promises to be phenomenal.

2) Go to the lakefront. Milwaukee has a wonderful, largely undeveloped lakefront where you can bike, rollerblade, play volleyball, swim (assuming the water is clean enough-- no guarentees, I'm afraid) or just watch people.

1) Go to Summerfest. It is the largest music festival in the world and it happens right on the lakefront. There is beer, tons of food, all different kinds of music, and it's still pretty cheap. What more could you ask for?

Happy Birthday Milwaukee!


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