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Most visitors associate Milwaukee with Harley Davidsons and beer. But this city is sure to surprise many first-timers. Milwaukee has a thriving and well-supported arts community, including the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum. There is also a fabulous historical museum and lots of fabulous summer festivals, including Asian Moon, Irish Fest, Bastille Day and Indian Summer.
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Milwaukee Travel Agents

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Katlyn DeLaney

Katlyn DeLaney

Destination Specialties
Hawaii, Oahu, United States, Florida
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Jenny Adams

Destination Specialties
Caribbean
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Emily Lomnitzer

Travel Agent in the New York City Metropolitan Area

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Sara Rowlands

Sara Rowlands

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Aimee Byrd

Europe Travel Expert

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Europe, France, Germany, Italy
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Megan DeStefano- Vincent Vacations Travel Advisor

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Linze Chapman

Office Manager & Group Coordinator

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Caribbean, Bahamas, Hawaii, Maui, Mexico, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas
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Latest Milwaukee Deals & Packages

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7-night Voyage along the Great Lakes with Smithsonian Journeys Cruise

Price: $8,140 - # of Days: 7 days

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62-night Longitudinal World Cruise VII

Price: $47,995 - # of Days: 62 days

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68-night Longitudinal World Cruise VI

Price: $52,995 - # of Days: 68 days

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7-night Great Lakes Explorer Cruise

Price: $7,295 - # of Days: 7 days

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7-night Niagara & The Great Lakes Cruise

Price: $7,295 - # of Days: 7 days

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7-night Undiscovered Great Lakes Cruise

Price: $6,995 - # of Days: 7 days

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Overview

Introduction

Milwaukee's friendly and unpretentious citizens personify its touted spirit of gemutlichkeit, a German word loosely translated as "enjoying good times with friends." The bonus in Milwaukee is that great food and entertainment vary more—and cost much less—than you might imagine. Whether your idea of a good time is golfing, theatergoing or biking beside lakefront mansions, a day in Cream City will drain your energy long before your bank account.

Thanks to the generosity of residents and businesses, fine arts flourish in Milwaukee. It is home to Skylight Opera Theatre, as well as the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its unusual sunshade. Watching the roof extend and retract is also a fun pastime at the Miller Park baseball stadium, known for comfort and great sightlines.

Or you could spend the morning strolling through the largest stand of crab-apple trees in the U.S. (Boerner Botanical Gardens), lunch on authentic Wiener schnitzel, and then tour the factories that make Harley-Davidson engines and Miller beer. Microbrew fans could round out the afternoon with a cruise that shuttles passengers to tours at three Milwaukee River craft breweries.

Milwaukee's character is strongly linked to its past as a haven for immigrants. Many of the city's pre-eminent restaurants originally catered to diners homesick for the flavors of the old country. And Milwaukee's many summer ethnic festivals celebrate the dozens of cultures that make it such a vibrant melting pot. Rock 'n' roll fans who time their travel for late June or early July get to experience Summerfest, one of America's best music festivals.

NASCAR fans are happy at the Milwaukee Mile speedway, and motorcycle enthusiasts are ecstatic about the huge Harley-Davidson Museum. The fabulous Pier Wisconsin complex, a lakefront education center, serves as the home for Discovery World, the tall-masted schooner S/V Denis Sullivan and an attraction focused on freshwater ecology and maritime history—the Great Lakes Aquatarium.

Must See or Do

Sights—Mitchell Park Domes; a tour of the Miller Coors Brewing Co.; landmark buildings in the Historic Third Ward; a day at Summerfest; a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game at Miller Park.

Museums—Milwaukee Public Museum; Milwaukee Art Museum; the William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design; Discovery World; the vibrant Harley-Davidson Museum.

Memorable Meals—A gourmet dinner at Sanford; flavorful frozen custard from Kopp's; a Friday fish fry at a neighborhood tavern.

Late Night—Gazing at the city lights over a drink at Harbor House; sampling microbrews at Lakefront Brewery; late-night espionage at Safe House; strolling along the RiverWalk.

Walks—Any of the lakefront parks; the roses at Boerner Botanical Gardens; touring with the guides from Historic Milwaukee.

Especially for Kids—Milwaukee County Zoo; Betty Brinn Children's Museum; science adventures at Discovery World; Paradise Landing—an indoor water park at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.

Geography

Wisconsin Avenue is the city's main street. It runs west from the lake through downtown, passing the Pfister Hotel, the convention center, the Milwaukee Public Library, and farther west, Marquette University, the Pabst Mansion and the Tripoli Shrine Temple. Visitors can easily catch a ride between sites on a trolley. The area known as the RiverWalk includes both banks of the Milwaukee River as it flows through downtown, from Highland Avenue south to Clybourn Street. North of downtown and east of the Milwaukee River is the neighborhood known as the East Side, the city's oldest area, with some of its most interesting architecture. Downtown, the East Side and the RiverWalk are all easily explored on foot.

You'll need a car to see the rest of Milwaukee. The city's streets are laid out in a grid pattern, and the numbering system is refreshingly rational. Within the city, numbered streets run north-south, and named avenues run east-west. The division between north and south runs roughly along Interstate 94, and the division between east and west is the Milwaukee River. Thus, 3000 N. 50th St. is 30 blocks north of the freeway and 50 blocks west of the river. This system continues into the inner suburbs, but newer areas in Waukesha County have their own mazelike systems.

History

Milwaukee's Native American name, Millioki, means "gathering place by the waters." For centuries, the Potawatomi, Menomonee, Chippewa, Winnebago and Sauk peoples lived together peacefully where three rivers (the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic and the Milwaukee) empty into Lake Michigan. The first European immigrants to Milwaukee were French traders and trappers who arrived in the late 1600s and early 1700s. By the 1830s, three different settlements competed vigorously: Juneautown on the east bank of the Milwaukee River, Kilbourntown on the west bank and Walker's Point to the south. They eventually merged to form Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's distinctive ethnic character dates to the 1840s, when thousands of Germans, attracted by the New World's religious freedom and affordable land, settled there. Milwaukee became known to some as the German Athens. German immigrants brought their language, their culture and—most significantly—their methods for making beer. Brewing became Milwaukee's trademark and helped make the city an industrial powerhouse. Well-paying jobs attracted new waves of immigrants from all across Europe. The 1910 census found more than 40 different nationalities that called Milwaukee home.

World War I dimmed the city's multicultural atmosphere, however. German was no longer taught in the public schools, and German culture lost its predominance. The Prohibition era that followed the war closed many breweries for 13 years but precipitated the development of a more diversified economy, which grew to center on precision manufacturing.

Milwaukee lost much of its industrial base in the 1970s and '80s, so it made a transition to a service economy. Key industries included automation, medical technology, banking, printing and consumer goods. At the same time, an ambitious building campaign began, including projects such as the Performing Arts Center, Grand Avenue Mall, RiverWalk, the Miller Park baseball stadium with its retractable roof and the futuristic addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Historic neighborhoods such as Brewers' Hill, Walker's Point and Bay View are being redeveloped, creating vital residential areas within the city. Milwaukee also launched a building frenzy of high-rise condominiums that overlook Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee River or downtown.

Developers have favored mixed-use commercial/retail/residential buildings in the trendier areas, such as the East Side and the Historic Third Ward. Although these neighborhoods are still perceived as artist-friendly, many residents fear rising housing costs are diminishing their diversity. Slowly gaining ground again is the downtown office market, encouraged by the return of several large employers from their self-imposed exile to the suburbs.

Potpourri

Milwaukee breeds musicians: Steve Miller, Les Paul and Jeremiah Griffin Harrison (of the Talking Heads) were all born there.

If you drive east on Wisconsin Avenue, you'll see the "sun" come up regardless of the time of day (actually, you'll see a modern-art sculpture at the end of the street that looks like a futuristic sun).

The East Side of Milwaukee is a living museum of Polish flats, structures that were built to be one story and then raised up later to accommodate another level underneath as more family members immigrated to the neighborhood.

The Allen-Bradley Clock, one of Milwaukee's best-known landmarks, is the largest four-faced clock in the world.

The world's largest dinosaur skull is housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

The flame-shaped light on top of the Milwaukee Gas Co. building changes color to forecast the weather. Yellow is cold, red is warm and blue means no change.

Famous Milwaukee natives include Vegas showman Liberace, actor Spencer Tracy and Oprah Winfrey, who spent part of her childhood in the city.


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