It can be tough to curate an authentic travel experience that captures a place’s true spirit by venturing into its “real world” and meeting the individual characters who make it what it is. But that’s exactly what a new hostel in Milwaukee aims to deliver.
Arriving in an increasingly crowded lodging market, Cream City Hostel will be a rarity in southeastern Wisconsin (there’s another hostel, Wellspring, on a farm near Newburg). Located at the juncture between Milwaukee’s Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, the new venue will breathe life into a nearly century-old one-time bank that has sat vacant for more than a dozen years.
“This hostel adds a new element to the scene,” says Kristin Settle, VISIT Milwaukee’s director of communications. “It will allow people to come to the city and have a different kind of experience.”
Hostels generally offer dormitory-style lodgings in which guests share rooms, bathrooms, common areas and a kitchen where visitors can cook meals. The communal atmosphere fosters a social experience of togetherness and kinship among guests, Weber says: “When you stay at a hostel, you make five new friends in a half-hour.”
The stereotype of hostels being hippie havens is off the mark, says Weber, who’s an avid hostel traveler herself. Cream City plans to draw from a large demographic pool: from digital nomads (location-independent people who use technology to work from anywhere) and bicyclists circumnavigating Lake Michigan to foreign travelers and musicians in town for a Saturday night gig. And, of course, its modest prices are sure to bring in a few budget travelers. “You can’t book a hotel in the summer in Milwaukee for $30,” Weber notes.
Cream City Hostel
500 E. Center St.
Prices: Rates vary depending on time of year, but travelers can expect to spend between $27 for a spot in a 12-bed shared room to $70 for a private room.
Accommodations: Space for up to 50 guests, shared commercial kitchen, common living areas, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast. A large, enclosed green space will be used for community events and programming.
Juli Kaufmann, the project’s developer, says Cream City Hostel will have a “simple, contemporary aesthetic that celebrates Milwaukee.” And to cultivate a genuine local experience, hostel staff will guide visitors to happenings and places that we locals are looped into: quirky walking tours, diverse neighborhoods and their festivals, merry watering holes and hidden-gem restaurants that you won’t necessarily find in the Zagat guide.
“It stands out,” says Kaufmann. “If you want to experience a city, it’s a way to embed yourself in a truly authentic experience and a neighborhood. There’s a lot of options Downtown, but it’s sterile in many ways. You can get that same packaged boutique feel in almost any town.”