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Doors Open This Weekend
What to see and where to eat.

Riverwalk image courtesy of Doors Open Milwaukee.

This weekend, buildings all over the city will be open and on display as part of the Doors Open event. This is the third year Historic Milwaukee has undertaken this ambitious project, and sites of historic, architectural, cultural, or commercial significance like churches, office buildings, theaters, museums, hotels, clubs, and more will be open and free to enter. What started with 100 buildings downtown has now grown to 134, stretching as far north as Silver Spring Road and west to Bluemound Road. Attendance has grown from 10,000 to 15,000 in just one year, so organizers are hoping for 20,000 people this time around.

New this year is a build-your-own-map feature online, so you can select from a list what buildings you want to see and then print your own personal map prior to the event. Or, if you want to see all of the buildings plotted on a map, download the full event guide here.

I spoke with Amy Grau, program manager for Doors Open Milwaukee, to find out how to get the most out of this unique event. According to Amy, the best way to approach it is to pick one thing you are interested in or one neighborhood to explore. “There will always be at least two building representatives at each site to give you the history of the building, but feel free to go about it on your own.”

Amy’s event highlights:

  • A surprise reveal at 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 21 from Our Mecca at City Hall. In case you didn’t get to see the floor on display back in August, see this historic gem and giant piece of pop art in a whole new way.
  • The US Bank building is always a popular spot, and the observation deck provides one of the best views of the city.
  • For the first time, the Gas Light building will be open. From the 17th floor, you get a great view of the city. For safety reasons, you cannot go all the way up the actual flame sculpture, but you can enter for a chance to win a private tour at a later date.
  • Brenner Brewing Company is not completed yet, but you can see all that goes into the process of building a brewery. And Mike Brenner is a bit of a wild card, so it’s sure to be an entertaining stop.
  • At Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, Wisconsin Foodie’s Kyle Cherek (and Milwaukee Magazine blogger) will be hosting tour.
  • The Polaris on top of the HYATT, which has been closed for about 10 years, will be open, although it no longer spins.There are seven public tours. Pick up your free tickets at City Hall, starting at 10 a.m. on the day of the tour.

For the history buffs, there are also In-Depth
Tours throughout the weekend, exclusively for Historic Milwaukee members. You can become a member here.

If you get hungry along the way, be sure to dine at one of these 10 establishments that will donate 20 percent of event-related proceeds to Historic Milwaukee. Be sure to mention you are participating in the event.

The event will happen rain or shine, but luckily, most of the sites are indoors. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on both days, but be sure to check the website, as a few sites have different hours. For a full list of buildings, click here. “Ideally, we’d want all the buildings in Milwaukee open,” admits Amy. Maybe next year?


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