Moving to Milwaukee

9 Things All Milwaukee Transplants Need to Know

A guide for Cream City newcomers: You’ve packed your bags, picked up the keys to your new place and filled out a change of address request form. Now what?

When I moved to Milwaukee last spring, I worried that it would take me months and months, maybe even years, to properly settle in. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. My new neighbors and coworkers welcomed me with open arms, or – sometimes – arms laden with platters of cheese curds and Treat cookies for me to try, and I started to feel at home almost immediately.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Still, there were a few things I wish I’d known before making the move:

1) You need a permit to park on city streets overnight. I didn’t know this was a thing until I found a cheery orange parking ticket tucked behind one of my windshield wipers. If you live in the city, and you don’t have a garage, you’d better pony up for a parking permit. On the plus side, it only costs $55 [editor’s note: we’ve updated the price to reflect what’s currently on the city website] a year and takes about five minutes to order online. 

2) Snow tires are your friend. No, your mechanic isn’t ripping you off. You’ll need them during the winter months, unless you want to know what it’d be like to accidentally slide through a crowded intersection, Tokyo Drift-style, while every other driver on the road honks furiously at you.

3) Don’t stare blankly at your bartenders when they ask you if you want your old fashioned “Wisconsin style.” They really just want to know whether you want it served with brandy – Wisconsinites have been mixing Korbel into the classic cocktail for generations, apparently. It tastes surprisingly good. And even better if you order it “sour.”

4) Bloody Marys are good on their own, but they’re way better served with about 100 garnishes and a beer back. Seriously, I used to think of bloodies as a boozy addition to a great breakfast. Now I think of them as a meal all their own. And I’m not complaining. 

5) Frozen custard isn’t ice-cream. Or yogurt. Or gelato. It’s a creamy, egg-y, slow-churned beast of its own, and it’s delicious.

6) Friday-night Fish Fry is a big deal around here. And not just during Lent – plenty of restaurants offer some variation of the delicious artery-clogger all year long.

7) You can’t avoid the Packers. I lived in New England when the Red Sox won the World Series, and I survived several championships while in Chicago, and through it all I remained indifferent toward every type of sportsball. So, I didn’t expect to care any more about the Bucks or Brewers or Packers when I moved here. But, after accidentally stumbling into a couple of Packer bars during game-time, I found myself getting slightly swept up in the fervor. And, though I doubt I’ll be springing for tickets to Lambeau Field any time soon, I’ve started to accept the fact that maybe being a bit of a Cheesehead wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

8) You won’t be dressed down for dressing down. I was invited to a “gala” event about a month after moving to the city and assumed I’d be horribly undressed in an LBD (I’m not a Kardashian, or a fabulously wealthy financier, and I don’t get invited to enough black-tie parties to justify the cost of a gown). But no. If anything I’d dressed up a little more than most of the party-goers. Milwaukeeans really value comfort, sometimes at the expense of style.

9) Take advantage of local cultural institutions. The MAM and the Public Museum are both free, and open late, the first Thursday of every month. 88Nine hosts regular contests and ticket giveaways for listeners. Milwaukee Film members get to check out a free screening each month. You should take advantage of all the freebies and special perks these cultural institutions – and so, so many others – offer.




Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.