Milwaukee’s geography and rich journalistic history make this magazine contributor a fan.
Like many others, I have always felt a special attachment to the Milwaukee lakefront. As someone who grew up a flatlander in downstate Illinois (where the only lakes were small and man-made), living close to a Great Lake has been a special joy. I suppose that’s why my wife Barbara and I have never lived more than a few blocks from Lake Michigan over the past 47 years.
I can recall taking any number of “inland” visitors down to the lakefront and seeing them gasp at its size and power. Our German foreign exchange student was quite stunned by this unexpected new ocean. And that was on a calm day. I couldn’t wait to show him our lake on a stormy day.
Birdlife and the UEC
Our lakefront location puts Milwaukee on a major migratory flyway, making both spring and fall an extraordinary time to live here if you are a birdwatcher. With its necklace of lakefront and riverway parks Milwaukee remains a great place to find and enjoy the vast majority of some 350 species that regularly occur in Wisconsin. And we’re lucky to have organizations like the Urban Ecology Center (with three Milwaukee locations) to help put residents in touch with nature.
Milwaukee has always outboxed its weight when it comes to the restaurant scene. When I came to town it was most famous for an array of high-quality German restaurants like Mader’s, Karl Ratzsch and the John Ernst Café, along with the English Room and Frenchy’s. And they were all downtown. Only one survives today. Now we have a much larger and ever-changing array of innovative restaurants offering seasonal and locally-sourced selections from cuisines worldwide. And you can find these establishments all the way from Riverwest to the Third Ward to Bay View and beyond.
Music and theater
Milwaukeeans love a good play … or a musical … or a concert. You have to start with the powerhouse Milwaukee Rep, but also of note: Acacia Theatre Company, First Stage Children’s Theater. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act, Renaissance Theaterworks, Skylight Music Theatre, Sunset and Theatre Gigante. And the concert scene benefits from an array of venues that range in size from Miller Park to the American Family Amphitheater, to the new Bucks arena, Pabst Theater, Riverside, Eagles Ballroom, Shank Hall and so on to intimate joints like the Cactus Club and Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.
Some of the moments I have loved best in Milwaukee have taken place in Miller Park and before that in old County Stadium. Games enjoyed with my two sons (the older one still lives here and teaches in West Allis, so we share a partial-season ticket package) have included several playoff games, an All-Star game, most of Paul Molitor’s 38-game hitting streak, Robin Yount’s 3,000th hit and Nolan Ryan’s 300th victory. Whether or not the Brewers are contending (AND THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR), a night or day at the ballpark is time well spent.
Whether you are at the game or hosting a backyard picnic, there is no better way to celebrate summer in Milwaukee.
It’s what brought me to Milwaukee nearly 50 years ago and continues today. Milwaukee has long had a dynamic media scene, with strong daily newspapers, a lively alternative press, and for the last 35 years a strong eponymous magazine that manages to combine comprehensive coverage of events and dining with hard-hitting journalism.