Commerce Street is a fun little squiggle at the bottom of the Milwaukee River valley not quite Riverwest (although it mostly is, technically), not quite Brady Street and definitely not Downtown.
You can experience everything in an afternoon, or longer with added activities like rock climbing, carp baiting or climbing the city’s tallest hill. To make the trek, start at the Riverwalk and continue all the way to the top of Reservoir Park, the city’s highest point. Warning: This is not a good idea.
1872 N. Commerce St.
The thoroughly modern Lakefront Brewery has a popular tour that about 65 percent of the local population has completed an average of 14 times. The food and fish fry are extensive and delicious and include pretzels, sausages, pot roast, and occasionally something green. The gift store is probably larger than your favorite band’s merch booth, while the old side of Lakefront, the original building-half, reminds you that they’ve been doing small-scale crafty beer since 1987, long before any of this was cool.
Commerce and Booth
The Vetter Denk architecture firm designed this very stylish staircase to accomplish the difficult task of getting pedestrians from Commerce Street up to Booth without risking their lives or blocking a nearby bike path. At the top, you’ll find dramatic views of Downtown.
This curving amphitheater, managed by the nearby COA Youth & Family Centers, is perhaps the most dramatic of many efforts that have transformed Commerce Street into a beautiful hidden valley. The SJF has hosted occasional Shakespeare and the Skyline Music festival each summer, which wrapped up in late August.
1990 N. Commerce St.
Do you even row? This has got to be tremendous exercise. Teens and adults can join and learn to row and use the boathouse, which has rowing machines and weights. Adult membership is $400, but you’re paying for a year’s access to boats (“shells”) you can take out on your own.
2076 N. Commerce St.
Beerline is the heart of Commerce Street and open from early hours until late (except for Monday). The vegetarian food is a fun mix of savory and sweet crepes, salads, super-thin omlettes (made on a crepe griddle), tacos, nachos, pesto mac, juices, sandwiches, ginger shots, espresso drinks, etc. If your experience with vegetarian or vegan food is, “Well I do like Beans & Barley,” you’ll find as much or more to enjoy here. You’ll also find a large outdoor patio with good seating.
2084 N. Commerce St.
A local place sistered with another location in Brookfield, Hot Yoga offers Bikram (heated) yoga and other styles. The rooms are heated to 95-105 degrees, meaning a lot of sweat, so showers are available for afterward.
2060 N. Humboldt Blvd.
Perched over Commerce Street, Stubby’s continues the theme of beer-food-beer with 53 tap beers (not more, not less), games, trivia and a full menu. Stubby’s taps rare kegs, throws down a lot of prime rib, and the outdoor deck overlooks the Milwaukee River and those crazy rowers. It’s definitely a more-is-more kind of place.
The riverbank extends from the developed Riverwalk to the greenway and the Kiwanis Landing, which is used for canoe and kayak storage. Community groups, including the River Revitalization Foundation, have elevated the area from neglected backlot to something beautiful.
2220 N. Commerce St.
Adventure Rock offers classes to kids down to age 5, and then there are the teams, camps, and parties for youngsters and adults. Or maybe you live in the adjoining Belay Apartments and just need a winter activity other than buying fried chicken and brownies at the nearby Pick’n’Save. A day pass runs $15, plus gear rentals, unless you recently starred in a documentary co-directed by Jimmy Chin.