Diversity of neighborhoods, food and festivals
On our summer trips to Milwaukee, I love taking my two daughters to Bradford Beach, festivals, and a variety of Milwaukee neighborhoods because the kids get to interact with different ethnic groups, see a wide range of socioeconomic conditions and experience sights, smells and sounds of a vibrant urban life. Everything from the music on the radio to the food in the restaurants is much different from what they are familiar with. It keeps things interesting.
Over the course of a week or two, I’ll get frozen custard from either Kopp’s or Leon’s – or even sometimes both. I’ll get a fish fry from Fritz’s Pub or Lakefront Brewery. I’ll stop in to Glorioso’s for an Italian sausage sandwich. I’ll get an Oakland gyro. I stop in for bacon, eggs and hash browns at George Webb. Of course, Real Chili always heats things up. Even a slice of Rocky Rococo pizza and a Cousins sub are on my must-do list. And usually I make several trips for the cheap and tasty steak and bean tacos served on paper plates at Conejito’s. Needless to say, Milwaukee is not a place to watch your weight.
I grew up going to Milwaukee church festivals. All the gambling and beer drinking seem remarkably unholy, but it makes me proud to be a Catholic. I always have a list of church festivals to attend. I also like going to all the other festivals, starting with Summerfest, as well as ethnic festivals like Polish Fest, Bastille Days and Festa Italiana. Then there is the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, the great block parties in Walker’s Point and Bay View, as well as the fantastically diverse Locust Street Festival, Summer Soulstice Music Festival on North Avenue and the eclectic Brady Street Festival. Oh yeah, I can’t forget the Wisconsin State Fair. Gotta get my cream puff!
Walking around Walker’s Point, Bay View, Brady Street, Downer Avenue, the Third Ward, Wisconsin Avenue, Mitchell Street and Lincoln Avenue are always interesting experiences.
Milwaukee’s parks are truly great. Grant, Doctors, Hubbard, Mitchell, Whitnall, South Shore — all offer a different atmosphere to find some tranquility in the city. And then there’s the gem of them all, the lakefront with its gorgeous Bradford Beach and Lake Park. No visit to Milwaukee is complete without at least a few days spent at the lakefront.
What a fantastic collection of unique coffee shops and cafes in Milwaukee, especially those named Colectivo, Stone Creek and Anodyne. Nowhere else in the country offers such a wide variety of coffee shops housed in wonderfully eclectic and historic settings. The Colectivo on the lakefront is simply awesome.
I guess because I teach about media and journalism, I have a fondness for the Milwaukee media scene. I often livestream Radio Milwaukee in Colorado for adult alternative music with a hip urban feel. I still admire the investigative reporting by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel journalists – I just wish they had more of it. I’ll read Milwaukee Magazine for features about interesting people and places. I tune into WUWM for NPR reporting, local in-depth reports, and Bob Reitman’s insight into music. Shepherd Express always has some insightful political views. And my mornings in Milwaukee usually start by listening to WTMJ-AM to find out who got shot overnight and what burned down.
Easy access to the rest of Wisconsin
So many lakes. So many woods. So many mosquitoes. Seriously, one thing I really like about Milwaukee is how easy it is to get to the countryside. Whether it’s the nearby Kettle Moraine forests or the distant Northwoods, it’s simple to get away. And how about all the lakes! From working-class Okauchee, Nagawicka and Pewaukee lakes just west of the city, to stylish lakes like Lake Geneva or Elkhart Lake, there’s no reason not to get in the water in the summer. And don’t forget the granddaddy of them all, Lake Michigan.
A Milwaukee native, Kris Kodrich is a journalism professor at Colorado State University who returns to Wisconsin every summer to reconnect with friends and family, attend festivals and drink Spotted Cow. He has worked as both a reporter and an editor for daily newspapers in Wisconsin and Florida. His Ph.D. is in mass communication from Indiana University, his M.A. is in journalism from Ohio State University and his B.A. is in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He has been a Kiplinger Fellow at Ohio State University, a Fulbright Fellow in Spain, a Freedom Forum Asia Fellow at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Chile.