My MKE Staycation: Museums, Records and Pizza

I believe that the middle of a hectic week is the optimal time to take a staycation. Hopefully this will allow me to recharge my creative batteries.

My MKE Staycation is an ongoing series on We ask writers and contributors to describe their ideal day off in Milwaukee. Catch up on the entire series here.

As a freelance writer, I’m very lucky to be able to set my own hours. But since I write something every day, sometimes I feel like I don’t really take time off. I’ve made it my mission to take at least one true staycation day a month. Here’s my dream itinerary:

8:45 a.m.

I drive to Cudahy’s Sheridan Park, 10 minutes from my Bay View home, for a brisk morning walk. Part of the Milwaukee County Parks system, Sheridan is one of my favorites, with a man-made pond and spectacular views of Lake Michigan. I love living near water and so much green space — some of the Milwaukee area’s greatest assets, in my opinion. Aside from a few joggers, the park is pretty empty; an ideal place to go for a little meditation and quiet reflection.

Sprocket Cafe, Bay View. Photo credit Catherine Jozwik

9:15 a.m.

I head back home so my husband, Franz, and I can embark on our Brew City adventure. We could make coffee with our French press at home, but I’m in the mood for an espresso drink, and the Bay View area is home to more than half a dozen coffee shops, many of them independent.

So we head to our friendly neighborhood java joint, the bicycle-themed Sprocket Café, cozily decorated with vintage metal signs and comfy furniture, which proudly brews Anodyne Coffee. Franz gets a coffee with a bit of cream in it, while I opt for a large skim latte and a scrumptious chocolate-dipped biscotti.

10 a.m.

Franz and I sit down to breakfast at Café at the Plaza, a café inside of the lovely art deco Plaza Hotel, built in the 1920s. Although I’m a bit jittery from the latte, I enjoy a cup of strong black coffee. I order the lemon poppyseed pancakes, which come with the perfect amount of blueberry syrup. Franz gets a bacon and cheddar omelet and I steal a few bites. We’re true Wisconsinites — we love our dairy and smoked meats.

11:30 a.m.

After a leisurely breakfast, we head to the Milwaukee Public Museum. We enjoy the museum experience so much we recently decided to become members. At $65 a year, dual memberships are reasonably priced and include many perks, such as free museum admission for one year and $5 parking in McArthur Square.

Since the museum contains so many fascinating exhibits and artifacts, it’s hard to see everything in one visit. This time, we start with the Streets of Old Milwaukee, catch a flick in the nickelodeon, walk by the saloon and tour the European Village. Of course, we buy candy from Haymarket Square. Franz gets Swedish fish; I get a bag of lemon hard candies.

Milwaukee Public Museum

We leave the Streets and check out the geology and dinosaur exhibits, watching the iconic T-Rex feast on a triceratops and reading about Earth’s beginnings.

The fourth floor’s newer “The Crossroads of Civilization” exhibition is a real treat, with Egyptian and Mesopotamian artifacts, including incredibly-preserved pottery, dating back several thousands of years. The two mummies are especially cool, albeit a bit spooky.

Prehistoric sea creatures, Milwaukee Public Museum. Photo credit Franz Buchholtz

2:15 p.m.

Nothing’s more romantic than a night under the stars. Franz and I head to the Dome Theater a bit early (admission and membership includes a complimentary planetarium show) for Wisconsin Stargazing, a 2:30 p.m. 20-minute show about stars, planets and constellations.

2:55 p.m.

After the planetarium show, our stomachs are rumbling, so we grab sandwiches from the café. Caffeine and sugar junkies that we are, we also buy coffee drinks and a chocolate chip muffin from the museum’s Stone Creek Coffee kiosk.

3:30 p.m.

Since the fourth floor, with its seemingly endless exhibits, is our favorite (we especially love the igloo) we spend a bit of time there before perusing the gift shop (I buy a stuffed wooly mammoth). Now it’s time to do some shopping.

5 p.m.

A perfect staycation would not be complete without a visit to the record store. Franz has been collecting movie soundtrack vinyl for years, and I’m starting to build up my collection, especially in the jazz department. So we drive to Acme Records in our neighborhood of Bay View, a reasonably-priced record store with an awesome selection of jazz, rock and electronic/ambient records.

I score a few great ones — McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Tangerine Dream. Franz finds an obscure Italian horror movie record. We wind up spending more money that we can probably afford, but we leave the shop eager to listen to our newfound gems on our home turntable.

Two Acme Records gems. Photo credit Catherine Jozwik

5:45 p.m.

I check my email and see that a few library items I requested are available for pickup. One outstanding feature of the Milwaukee Public Library system is the ability to request items from its website and have them transferred to any MPL location. I always pick them up at the small, welcoming St. Francis Library.

Franz and I drive there and I check out a book and DVD set, psyched to have entertainment for the evening. From there, we stop at home and feed our demanding but lovable tabby cat, Meatball.

6:45 p.m.

Since neither of us feels like cooking, the hubby and I decide to get pizza at the 42 Ale House, St. Francis’ “nerd bar” and restaurant, with a plethora of board games and a few 1980s arcade games.

The place is a little crowded for a Wednesday night, but we are seated pretty promptly. I order ginger beer to drink; Franz gets a craft root beer. We order a pepperoni and spinach pizza, which turns out to be a cheese lover’s dream, with a perfectly doughy crust with a hint of rosemary in it.

8 p.m.

Stuffed with delicious pizza, we head home and listen to a few of our new records and enjoy our library haul.