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Born and raised in Milwaukee, leaving for college (Cleveland) and for a decade (to Santa Fe and NYC), Stathas has a unique perspective on the city she calls home.

We asked Milwaukee Magazine contributor Sara Stathas to share with us the reasons she loves Milwaukee. Here are her picks:

Milwaukee Film Festival

There’s nothing like the energy created by this event — connecting different parts of the Milwaukee community while bringing in filmmakers, actors and industry people from other states and countries. Here they hunker down for 15 days of vast cinematic options. I’m the first to admit I rarely go to movies! But I can’t get enough of them at the Milwaukee Film Festival. My favorites are the documentaries, followed by the shorts and the Milwaukee Film Show. Those 15 days go by too fast.

Oriental Theater

Photo by Pamela Strohl for Milwaukee Film

Milwaukee County Parks

Especially the parks along Lake Michigan. Thank you, Milwaukee’s socialist mayors who had the foresight to value urban sustainability by creating the Milwaukee County Parks System in the 1920s. Can anyone imagine a Milwaukee without Lake Park, Lincoln Memorial Drive, or the expanse of parkways crisscrossing the county? I went to college in Cleveland, another city on a Great Lake. There were no parks on the lake, just an airport, a freeway, and lots of rocks. When I lived in NYC, they were in the long and costly process of returning green space to areas along the Hudson River in my neighborhood. Milwaukee got it right from the beginning. South Shore Park was a deciding factor in my return to Milwaukee.

Summer

YES, summer! I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather and much prefer sunny skies to cloudy. I hibernate in the winter but live it up in the summer. Beer gardens, outdoor dining, outdoor coffee shops, really long walks, shopping in the Third Ward, sitting on my porch, outdoor festivals, Tour of America’s Dairyland, Atwater Beach, Chill on the Hill, and, of course, The Wisconsin State Fair. Opportunities to be had outside in the summer are endless. I am outdoors as much as possible and take it all in. There is never a shortage fun things to do on a warm day or night in Milwaukee.

Chill on the Hill

Photo by Lindsey Anderson

Brewers, Bucks, Admirals

It’s obvious, I know, but our Milwaukee sports teams are something special. I moved back to Milwaukee in the fall of 2011 during the Brewers chance at the World Series and was instantly immersed in Brewers’ Fever. I shot photos for the Brewers in a sold-out Miller Park during the playoffs, an experience that was just thrilling. It’s impossible to ignore the Milwaukee Bucks now, with Giannis (The Greek Freak) and the new arena. I love watching them grow as a team. And the Admirals! I don’t understand why Milwaukee isn’t a bigger hockey town. Admirals’ games are pure affordable joy. 

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Beer and food and coffee

Another obvious choice, but having lived in other cities, I can’t get over the number and diversity of brews/breweries. Considering the size of Milwaukee, dining options here are amazing. The level of expertise and heart that is brought to the table, literally, is impressive. (If I can mention favorites: Goodkind, Odd Duck, Lakefront Brewery, The Noble, Rocket Baby Bakery, Beerline Cafe, San Giorgio, Wolf Peach, Wy’East Pizza, Stone Creek Coffee.)

Photo by Brad Rochford

Doors Open Milwaukee

As a freelance photographer, I’m afforded access to incredible behind-the-scenes experiences. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I scroll through listings of hundreds of Milwaukee-area landmarks, businesses and buildings open to the public. Personal highlights include:

  • A tour of City Hall including access to the top of the clock tower, a look into the original clock caretaker’s living quarters, and the thrill of ringing the bell!
  • A tour of the MMSD facility that included a complimentary bag of Milorganite.

Sara Stathas is a contributor to our November 2017 issue, photographing our cover story “Born to Run.”

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