My parents met at Marquette University in Milwaukee back in 1975. Many of my aunts and uncles also went there and met their spouses as well. I’m not sure why two families from Virginia and Miami, Florida chose a college in Wisconsin, where temperatures like -20 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill are a real thing, but who am I to judge? I went to Virginia Tech – not exactly the warmest place on the planet, but it’s basically the Caribbean compared to the stories I’ve heard of Milwaukee.
But, I digress. I’ve never been to visit this land of some many of my family’s love stories, so I made it a destination on our way to Madison, Wisconsin.
We were delighted when our Chicago hosts’ friends offered us their place for the night in Milwaukee [thanks!]. And so, we packed up the #BeepJeep and traveled across the border to our first Wisconsin city.
Upon arrival, we promptly parked it and unleashed the bikes, which had been woefully neglected for a few weeks. Katie, a new Chicago friend who was born and raised in Milwaukee, had equipped us with an excellent list of places to explore during our 24-hour blitz of the city.
And so, armed with our activity checklist, we set off.
Stop 1: Bastille Days Festival
I’m going to preface my impressions with that this was much cooler at night. I believe they have fireworks every night along with live music. During the day, it was a bit of a smaller festival than I expected for the number of attendees that pour in each year.
There are several food vendors, though only a few French ones, a tiny Eiffel tour and a lot of local artisans, in addition to several live music booths and lots of beer and wine. It was definitely worth a visit, but we only stopped by briefly and got a shwarma wrap before heading on our way.
Stop 2: Marquette’s Campus
Josh and Manny plotted and bought me an awesome DSLR while we were in Chicago, and this campus tour was my first adventure trying it out. I have a lot to learn, but here’s a DSLR tour of the campus.
A pretty church.
The chapel that my parents were commissioned in.
The Navy ROTC building where my parents trained.
Flowers, which I’m told were not there when they were there, but are a beautiful addition to the expanding campus.
College is a defining time in a young adult’s life; it was interesting imagining what my parents’ experience was like. My dad told me to add a few feet of snow to all of the scenes that I saw—a bit hard to imagine as we were there, biking around the city, on a beautiful summer day.
Stop 3: Lakefront Brewery
We found a perch alongside the Milwaukee River with a freshly poured flight and watched as patrons paddled up on all forms of watercraft – tethering kayaks, SUPs, and canoes to the dock next to motorboats that were packed to the gills for an afternoon on the river.
Brewery hopping boat tours cruise by as bachelorette parties sashay through with feather boas, tiaras and pints. We took in the sights and tasted a series of Lakefront beers. Though some were better than others – we favored the Bridge Burner and the Hop Jockey. There really wasn’t a bad one in the batch (though we were less keen on the seasonal banana brew). We’ve tried several since and they have a really solid line of beers.
We each grabbed a pint of our favorite and settled down in the polka hall with some beer brats and Wisconsin mac and cheese, plotting our next moves.
Stop 4: A Biking Tour of the Third Ward
We were told to visit the Third Ward, so I’d like to say this was planned, but it was totally by happenstance that we peddled through on our way to Drink Wisconsinbly for dessert. I was delighted when I realized as we passed the downtown market, which is a pretty astound replica of Seattle’s market, which we will most certainly visit in a few weeks.
When we reached the end of street, we paused as a bridge had raised to allow several Saturday night party boats to pass through.
Stop 5: Drink Wisconsinbly
We’d been torn on where to do dinner, Lakefront or Drink Wisconsinbly, so we opted for dinner at Lakefront and dessert at the latter. Sometimes you just win at decision making. After stopping by the apartment to add a few more layers for the evening, we biked across town to order a State Fair, a fitting name.
Our fare arrived on a white rectangular platter, elegantly displaying Purple Door cookies and cream ice cream with deep fried oreos – well as elegant as you can display a dessert fit for the fair. We washed it down with a Spotted Cow, since we were now in Wisconsin. Good decisions all around.
I loved this side of town. There were tons of interesting bars and restaurants, food trucks, and live music that reminded me very much of Durham, N.C.
Stop 6: Wolski’s
Full and a bit tired from a long day, we cycled over to a neighborhood tavern that Katie had told us to end the night at. Neighborhood tavern is a very literal term. We turned off the main drag of bars and restaurants and peddled past a series of apartments and houses.
When we pulled up outside a tiny little house with a sign displaying the name, we had the discussion of whether we should go in. But then the doorman came out and chatted us up, and knowing Katie had yet to point us in the wrong direction, we decided to go in and check it out.
We were delightfully surprised. What looked like a tiny spot from the front unfolded into a few dimly lit rooms inside with darts, pool tables, and an outdoor section.
We settled up to the bar which was filled with the scent of freshly popped popcorn and ordered up two pints of Lakefront, cheersing to a successful Saturday of exploring.
Stop 7: Sleep
After 20 miles biked zig-zagging the city, we promptly fell asleep, only to rise early to grab some brunch at Café at the Plaza prior to jetting over to our next destination, Middletown’s Mustard Museum.