Reasons to Love Milwaukee

FOR THE LAST 30-SOME YEARS, we’ve set out to recognize the who and what of the city in our own special way. But this year, we took a nostalgic turn because, let’s face it, we know we’re part of a city with a lot to offer, if only the world would just lend us its ear. So this is our love letter, hearts and all, written with visual aids taken from more than 300 of you. Milwaukee’s diverse, hilarious and creative swath of people represent our top reason to love the city. So look closely at the next 10 pages.…

FOR THE LAST 30-SOME YEARS, we’ve set out to recognize the who and what of the city in our own special way. But this year, we took a nostalgic turn because, let’s face it, we know we’re part of a city with a lot to offer, if only the world would just lend us its ear. So this is our love letter, hearts and all, written with visual aids taken from more than 300 of you. Milwaukee’s diverse, hilarious and creative swath of people represent our top reason to love the city. So look closely at the next 10 pages. You might find a reason to adore the city that you haven’t pondered before, or a little reassurance that your affection is well-placed.

Edited by Claire Hanan, with Kurt Chandler, Ann Christenson, Matt Hrodey,  Howie Magner, Tim McCormick, Aimee Robinson and Dan Shafer.

1. The City Hall Building 

O, City Hall! Something about your rugged American majesty and salt-of-the-earth charm would land you on Walt Whitman’s “Best of Milwaukee” list, if he’d ever written one. (We don’t think he did, but we did confirm that Thoreau once visited a pre-Calatrava lakefront in the summer of 1861.) The easiest, and simplest, way to tour this 393-foot timepiece is to ascend its central staircase, where generations of representatives and constituents have worn a central depression in the stone. 

2. The Cheese Culture

Can you imagine a world without cheese? Nor can we. Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in production of this scrumptious food made from pressed curds of milk. Wisco-ites proudly wear their dairy fidelity on their midsections. If we’re eating cheese curds that don’t make the phonic sign of freshness, well, we’re probably still eating them. Frenzied cheddar heads plan road trips to the state’s small, family-owned (many of them award-winning) cheese producers to get a glimpse of true artistry. Dairy defenders says it’s our soil and the milk produced from grass feed that gives our cheese its superior flavor. We’ll raise some soft, stinky Limburger to that. 

3. Our Tour Guides

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Ryan Schabach took a job at Lakefront Brewery in June 2014, working in the gift shop, helping on the bottling line, selling tickets and leading tours. His 45-minute tour is 1 ounce standup comic, 1 ounce pitchman and 12 tall ounces of Quality Control Taster.

You’re also a stage actor. 

I graduated from a theater program at UW-Madison in 2003 and still travel the country for gainful employment. Last October, I got the chance to work with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and, shortly after, an offer from Next Act to be in their 2014-2015 season. Comic character roles are by far my favorite parts to tackle.  

So why a tour guide at a brewery?

I first took the Lakefront tour 12 years ago, led by none other than one of our founders, Jim Klisch. Going on a Lakefront tour was so influential to me that I immediately got involved in homebrewing and made it a point to visit craft breweries as I traveled from acting gig to acting gig across this country.

Are there policies that guides must follow?

George Carlin had a bit in his early stand-up that discussed the seven dirty words you can’t say – and neither can we. It’s also important that the information we give is accurate. Yes, it can be funny, but it can’t be made up. And with industry standard terms such as “bunghole” [a capped hole in a beer barrel], we are professionally obligated to be both accurate and funny.

How much of your act is off-the-cuff?

There is plenty of room to ad-lib, especially when the audience is asking a bunch of high-tech questions and just begging to be teased. Tonight, I had someone with a baby chilling out in one of those hands-free front packs. Nothing says Wisconsin like hands-free parental baby care – cheese curds in one hand, beer in the other, and a baby judging my metaphor on yeast reproduction.

What’s your favorite Lakefront brew?

Lakefront IPA. It’s my staple tapper. But when I’m at home, I drink the snot out of Fixed Gear. I’m not allowed to drink Fixed Gear in public anymore. I become a terrible dance partner after just a few.

4. The Urban Animals

The East Side’s wild turkeys (cousins to Wauwatosa’s healthy flock), the Italian Community Center’s groundhogs and Riverwestian foxes are just a few of the feathered and furry wild beasts residing in our urban kingdom. And as long as they leave our cats alone, we welcome their stay. 

5. Our Court Jester

What other U.S. city boasts its own court jester? None. And that’s why we love “Jane the Phoole,” who’s been decreed as our official ambassador of silly by the Common Council.

6. Our Population is Growing

Although we aren’t near our peak of 1960 (when 741,324 souls called MKE home), census data show our numbers are steadily climbing, thanks in large part to an influx of young adults flocking to the Historic Third Ward. Milwaukee (population of 599,164 as of 2013) can lay claim to being only one of two (Chicago being the other) Great Lakes cities enjoying an uptick. 

7. Our Two Moons

Just like Mars, we have two moons that loom large – the one Neil Armstrong first stepped onto and the world’s second-largest four-faced clock that rests above Allen-Bradley, affectionately known around here  as the “Polish moon.” 

8.  We’re Prudent about  State Emergencies

When 2011’s Groundhog Day blizzard left the city besieged by snowdrifts that resembled 1,000 reclining marshmallow men, civility ruled. We don’t need no National Guard. And when summer downpours clog our storm drains with a dense weave of organic rubbish and candy wrappers, we’re out there with rake handles.

9. Beer Gardens

In the last two years, the number of Milwaukee’s beer gardens has increased 400 percent by combining two things Milwaukeeans do best: care for their parks and craft their brews. And this is on top of earning the county roughly $560,000, which its parks desperately need. It also makes for a particularly enjoyable instance of history repeating itself. 

10. Mike Gousha is Our Walter Cronkite

Sure, he’s been around awhile. Sure, we’ve written about him before. But where else would we turn for pensive interviews and tireless promotion of Marquette? Mike Jacobs? Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha” remains the best TV news program in town, even if it means waking up earlier for church.

11. The Gnarly Bike Trails

Photo by
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

 Yes, finding a decent off-street commute to work (or school) can sometimes be a fool’s errand. But that’s changing thanks to extensions of the Oak Leaf and Beerline trails along with completion of a Bay View-Downtown connection. But when it comes to recreation, we (nearly) can’t be beat. The League of American Bicyclists puts the Badger State as third-best in the land and gives Cream City bronze status when it comes to our bicycle friendliness. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Breathtaking views of our Great Lake or a picturesque ride to a local beer garden paint a better picture. 

12. Our Cops Ride Harleys And have done so since 1910.

13. Under-the-Radar Art Scene

There’s a rough and raw warehouse near a boat storage facility just a block and a parking lot off of KK. A collection of 40-some artists have studios in the seven-story building, and each day, they’re churning out rap songs, handbags, leather belts, rare books and much more, in relative anonymity. It’s a climate like this, they say, in which the creation of their art can thrive – a sort of antithesis to the Third Ward’s commercial gallery scene. We’re all for a little subversion.

14. Bob Uecker

15.  We Fell in Love  with an Instrument

Although few people know who actually owns the darn thing, the 1715 “Lipinski Stradivarius” violin played by Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond captured the imagination of a city on edge this winter when robbers wrested it from his stun-gun disabled hands. Milwaukee Police detectives eventually brought the bandits to justice, and the Strad back to the MSO, but not before the city faced the prospect of a terrible loss. 

16. Our Soldier’s Home

Tucked away behind Miller Park is one of three remaining Soldiers Homes in the country. Built in 1867, it’s one of the first locations of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The philosophy behind creating the Soldiers Home was to have a safe haven “for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan,” according to President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address. Restoration efforts at the site are ongoing, and the Milwaukee VA hopes to soon renovate nine historic buildings for homeless veteran housing. 

17. We Know How to Tailgate

Photo by
Photo by Joe Hang

Combine Milwaukee’s love for the Brewers with its love for beer and grilling, and you get one helluva tailgate party – one sports fans say is the best in the league. Just follow the smell of smoldering charcoal and sizzling brats, and you’ll find Miller Park. Hours before game time, blue-and-gold-covered fans can be spotted swarming the parking lots, playing bags, beer pong and ladder toss (affectionately dubbed ‘testicle toss’), while others perfect their smoke-based culinary confections, and many more vigorously support our local breweries.

18. The Bartolotta Bros.

Joe and Paul. Paul and Joe. As the empire Bartolotta has grown exponentially (to include endeavors like Downtown Kitchen at the U.S. Bank Center and new endeavors at the Mayfair Collection), it’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years since the brothers put their culinary-tuned noggins together to open Ristorante Bartolotta in Tosa. Two years later came Lake Park Bistro. Joe brings his restaurant management background, and his bro – owner of a ballyhooed restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas – lends his cooking expertise. Bartolotta chefs come up through the rigorous ranks of Paul’s training before landing in the kitchens of Bacchus and other Barto venues. A brother act, indeed.

19. Milwaukee River Greenway

You might not always like what you stumble across, or appreciate the graffiti, but no other place rivals the Milwaukee River greenway for pulling nature over your head, throwing you in the back of a van and making you forget all about the fragmented reality of urban life. If the city were a prom queen, then this realm of riverbanks and trails would be its verdant sash. 

20. Field Report

Photo by
Photo by Leonard Hane

With the October release of Marigolden, nobody can mistake Field Report for one-album wonders. Not that those odds were high, given the band’s initial wave of national acclaim. Might this mean that Milwaukee – a city forever seeking a homegrown band whose music resonates far beyond Shank Hall, a city searching for a troubadour to tell its tales to the world – has finally found its next musical talisman? “We’re from here, and we’d love to belong to you,” frontman Chris Porterfield once told a Milwaukee audience. You do, Chris. Just keep spreading the message.

21. The Festivus Poles

Sure, it’s nothing but a straight aluminum pole, held upright by a simple, X-shaped aluminum stand. But Festivus wasn’t just another subplot in “Seinfeld,” which wasn’t just another sitcom. People actually celebrate that made-up holiday, and someone at Milwaukee’s Wagner Companies was smart enough to capitalize. They’ve even got Festivus in a Box, with a pole, a book on Festivus, Human Fund donation cards and a grievance form. Our only grievance is that we didn’t think of it first. 

22. Our Polydactyl Cat

He’s not a mythical beast, but his proportions are the stuff of fairy tales. Daniel, an orange and white whiskered cat, just happens to have eight additional phalanges (and one popular Facebook page). He uses his abundant extremities to raise awareness for Milwaukee Animal Alliance, which acts as an umbrella group for local animal rescues. And, we think, his furry mitts will be the perfect tools of dexterity to sign autographs, like the local celeb he is.

23. We’re Cuddly with Corporations

Milwaukee is unquestionably the economic epicenter of Wisconsin, but the city also stands out nationally with its high number of Fortune 500 companies. The seven on the prestigious list include Johnson Controls (No. 68), Northwestern Mutual (110), Manpower Group (144), Kohl’s (151), Rockwell Automation (410), Harley-Davidson (433), and Joy Global (493). That’s more than far more populated metros like Miami, Tampa and San Diego. Measuring headquarters per million people, Milwaukee is in the nation’s top five cities, and a 2012 study ranking headquarters per million put MKE as the No. 1 city in the United States. 

24. We Proudly Enjoy Music on the Cheap

Cliché as it sounds, there is something for everyone in the city’s live music scene. Some of our  favorite spots in town make the music experience affordable for everyone, too. You don’t have to break the bank to see a show at the Pabst Theater group – where 10-buck gigs are frequent and e-members enjoy perks galore. Neighborhood venues, like Cactus Club in Bay View, serve up quality shows at wallet-friendly prices, not to mention the outdoor opportunities that abound in summer. 

25. Hank the Dog

Although the timing of his discovery was questionable, even the biggest skeptics (you’re looking at ’em) agree the money raised by the Brewers’ Hank swag (20 percent of all purchases) for the Wisconsin Humane Society is a home run for everyone. 

26. Herb Kohl Makes It Rain

Herb Kohl made big bucks from the Bucks, buying Milwaukee’s NBA club in 1985 for $18 million, and selling it this year for $550 million. But nobody made him give so much of that cash away. He reportedly left at least $100 million on the table by insisting the new Bucks owners keep the team in Milwaukee. He then pledged $100 million toward a new Downtown multipurpose arena. He gave Bradley Center employees farewell letters of appreciation, and $500 checks. He also gave parting gifts to Bucks employees ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars. It’s been one generous going-away affair. And that’s not including all those tips at Ma Fischer’s. 

27. We Have Our Own Iron Man

Contemporary metal worker Seth Tyler talks about the improvisational element of forging. That’s why this form of craftsmanship “chose” him, he says. Pieces from his portfolio grace the interior (tables, chandeliers, range hoods) and exterior (gates, hanging lanterns) of local homes and businesses (including a fence at BelAir Cantina Tosa). Iron is “as organic as clay,” he says, yet it’s perceived as an “immovable force. With the addition of heat, it becomes docile.” His ornate pieces carry on a tradition that dates locally to the celebrated work of early-20th-century master blacksmith Cyril Colnik.

28. Our High Concentration of Award-winning Chefs

Yeah, we can mop that culinary inferiority complex right up with a little help from the James Beard Association, which holds the yearly Academy Awards of restaurants. Sanford chef/co-owner Justin Aprahamian picked up his first Beard in 2014, 18 years after his mentor, Sanford D’Amato, collected his. More Beards have landed in the laps of locals, specifically Lake Park Bistro executive chef Adam Siegel and two-time winner Paul Bartolotta, co-owner of Bartolotta Restaurant Group. 

29. JoCasta Zamarripa

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

As a strictly nonpartisan outsider and frequently contrarian operation, we do our best to avoid even the appearance of favoritism or bias. That being said, state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) is the first Latina member of the state Legislature – even though the 2011 redistricting tried (and failed) to fracture the South Side’s Hispanic voting bloc. Whether you adore or despise her legislative initiatives, such as a bill extending in-state tuition to undocumented students, is another matter, and another story.

30. Our Local Radio Scene

Photo by
Photo by Darris Harris

When it comes to terrestrial radio, the left of the FM dial is all we need. Most radios in the area are able to pick up two public radio stations (Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate WHAD-FM, 90.7, and National Public Radio’s WUWM-FM, 89.7) that give real meaning to fair and balanced. And when it comes to eclectic (maybe even bizarre) music, there’s WMSE-FM (91.7), which lets its squadron of volunteer DJs run wild with shows like Dr. Sushi’s “Free Jazz BBQ” and Paul Cebar’s three-decades-young “Way Back Home.” (The Mighty 91 even lost its senses long enough to think bringing on editors of Milwaukee Magazine for our short-lived chat show, “No Revisions,” would be ratings gold; it was not.) Finally, just a little more to the left, you can find WYMS-FM, 88.9, better known to most as Radio Milwaukee. The station keeps its listeners in the know when it comes to the music scene and “the scene” with auditory explorations of the city and community do-gooders. And did we mention they’re all commercial-free?

31. Walker’s Point

Walker’s Point is rapidly supplanting Bay View as the coolest of cool neighborhoods. With its corridors of extraordinary restaurants, craft breweries, distilleries, indie coffee shops, rainbow-bannered gay bars, multiethnic shifts and hipster vibe, some have called Walker’s Point Milwaukee’s Brooklyn. We call it unique. And one of the biggest names behind the rebirth of Walker’s Point is developer Juli Kaufmann, founder of Fix Development. Most notably, with her leadership, the abandoned site at 130 W. Bruce St. has been transformed into the ultra-sustainable Clock Shadow Building, which has received national attention for its design.

32. Frozen Custard

What tastes better on a scorching, car-seat-sticks-to-your-bare-legs kind of day? Cool, creamy custard. What sates an aching, primal need on a night so bitter, you need a mummy suit made of SmartWool? Oh, yes – cool, creamy custard. Denizens debate the best source of the rich, egg yolk-based treat – Kopp’s, Gilles, Leon’s? But nobody can deny this town’s frozen custard supremacy.

33. We’re Pretty Sticky

Once we’ve got you in our clutches, we won’t let go. Only five other states retain their “native-born” population better than Wisco does.

34. The Best Place to Take a Nap in January? The Domes, of course.

35. We Practice Yoga Anywhere

Photo by
Photo by Front Room Photography

Our weather patterns don’t scream Malibu. So it makes sense that when those few precious months of fine atmospheric conditions come to visit, we take our downward dogs to the county parks, Bradford Beach, the Lynden Sculpture Garden (for yogic maneuvers in a tree sling) and the roof of a parking structure at Bayshore Town Center. The pursuit of mind-body oneness also leads us – unimpeded by crappy weather – to the Milwaukee Art  Museum for asanas inside Windhover Hall.

36. Our Thriving Roller Derby Scene 

Both women and men – on the Brewcity Bruisers and the Milwaukee Blitzdkrieg, respectively – showcase the only sport that loves a good pun as much as it loves speed and agility. As evidence of its increasing appeal, the Bruisers outgrew their home at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex and moved all bouts to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, while also forming a recreational league and a tots team called the Micro Bruisers. And for those not accustomed to the high-speed hipchecks, there’s a rec league, too. 

37. Our Creative Funeral Home Conversions

More entrepreneurs have tried to convert more buildings into funeral homes (and vice versa) in Milwaukee than in any other town we know, and we know a few. Most recently, a Franklin developer attempted to transform a bowling alley into a funeral parlor. Then there was the former funeral home on Mitchell Avenue marketed as a residential property in 2011, cubbies for dead bodies and all, and a former West Allis funeral home that now boasts the town’s only art gallery. 

38. We’ve Lost our Collective Minds Over Bloody Marys. 

Exhibit A.

Photo courtesy of Sobelman's
Photo courtesy of Sobelman’s

39. We Appreciate the Alphabet

 Southeastern Wisconsinites should know that the art of typing and printmaking runs deep in our veins. Not only did Milwaukeeans invent the first widely used typewriter in the 1860s, we’re also close to the Two Rivers-based Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, the only one in the world that catalogs the history and preservation of the art of wood type and printmaking. It may be little- known, but with workshops, artist residences and more than 1.5 million pieces of the type itself, this historic art house keeps us on the finely printed art world’s map. 

40. Yes, we’re the city of festivals, and everyone has a favorite.

41. We’re the Lords of Wordplay

We have our own lovable brand of big-city weirdness, and a perfect example of this can be found at Mitchell International Airport, of all places. After you “discombobulate” before going through security at Concourse C, you’ll make your way to the “Recombobulation Area,” a place that has existed for years despite the fact that a) recombobulation is not a real word, b) this is not a TSA requirement in any capacity, and c) no other airport in the world has such an area. This is all objectively awesome. Is this piece of clever wordplay the reason passenger traffic at the airport has increased in 2014? Maybe not, but we’re not ruling it out. 

42. Urban Ecology Center

The brainchild of naturalist Ken Leinbach, the Urban Ecology Center is the perfect place for penny-pinching, outdoor-loving Milwaukeeans. For as little as 30 bucks a year, members can borrow kayaks, canoes, bicycles, sleds, snowshoes, ice skates, fishing poles, croquette sets, kites, bocce balls, garden rakes, shovels, pitchforks, tree-loppers and (yes!) even wheelbarrows. Step aside, R.E.I. and Home Depot.

43.  Menomonee Valley  & Eddee Daniel

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

Over the past 15 years, the Menomonee Valley has gone from neglected dumping ground to the most expansive public- private partnership in Milwaukee. Reclaimed as a business park, entertainment spot and recreation area after decades of industrial decay, the Valley is an example of balance between the natural and built environments. It’s anchored by some of Milwaukee’s most popular destinations – Harley-Davidson Museum and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino – and is now home to new and renewed companies, from Rishi Tea to Palermo’s Pizza to Charter Wire. And it’s never been more accessible. Traversing Canal Street, a 6-mile extension of the Hank Aaron State Bicycle Trail mimics the curves of the Menomonee River, which isan emerging water route for canoes and kayaks. Cars, bikes and boats pass the Falk manufacturing plant, Twisted Fisherman restaurant, Marquette University’s sports complex and the Global Water Center. But the Valley’s crown jewel is Three Bridges Park. Christened in July of 2013, the park connects the South Side to 24 acres of open prairie, riverbanks, and trails. Early this year, Valley partners even commissioned local photographer Eddee Daniel as 2014 artist-in-residence to record and share images of the Valley’s changing forms.

44. Lakefront’s My Turn Series

Imagine working for Ford Motor Company and having the CEO say to you, “Build your dream car and we’ll name it after you.” Talk about the land of opportunity! But this is precisely what Lakefront Brewery does, albeit on a smaller scale. Its My Turn Series, which started with employee Dan, asks its employees to create their favorites, which then bear that employee’s name. Many bottles of Chad, Johnson, Andy, Chris, Luther, John, Brad, Terrance and Pilo later, you can now sip My Turn: Colin until Nov. 1. Now that’s employee appreciation. 

45. The PR Boss

Kristin Settle is not your average press-release slinging flack. The PR head of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s is also the queen of researching and responsiveness, and, most importantly, she’s damn fast. If you’re a hack like us, lucky enough to work with Settle, you’ve hit the jackpot. 

46.  We’re Breaking  the Glass Keg

Barley’s Angels, the all-female group of homebrewers that has a local chapter in Milwaukee, congregate monthly to learn about ingredients, techniques, and to sample beer. Will it be one of these women who opens the first female-led brewery? Now you know where we’re putting our money. 

47. Jabari Parker

Photo by
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler

He stepped off an airplane from New York City the morning of June 27, freshened up at the Pfister Hotel, then headed over to the Third Ward. The previous night, as the second overall selection, he was one of the toasts of the NBA Draft. And now, he was the toast of Milwaukee.

A few hundred Bucks fans turned Jabari Parker’s introductory press conference at the Milwaukee Public Market into a pep rally. This might seem apropos for a 19-year-old who’d just finished a celebrated freshman year at Duke University. But NBA draft picks, even top ones, rarely get such an over-the-top pro unveiling. 

Two obvious factors helped generate the enthusiasm. 1) Parker was a universally acclaimed talent, pegged by basketball experts as a can’t-miss future star. 2) The Bucks, coming off their worst season in franchise history, couldn’t afford to miss, and they wanted to capitalize on the spotlight. 

But a third factor may have played an even bigger role. Before the draft, Parker was not shy about his desire to play in Milwaukee, and immediately after the Bucks took him, he alluded to spending his entire career here.

In other words, he liked us. He really liked us. And so fans returned the favor.

“It was something special. The day that I first came here after I got drafted, that was memorable,” says Parker, a Chicago native. “It felt like this was a place I’d be settling in for a while, like your new home.”

He’s spent his first few months as a Bucks player getting to know the new home better. He says he’s been struck by the behemoth nature of Summerfest, by the city’s diverse culture of hardworking people, and by its lakeshore. And he looks forward to knitting himself into the community.

“I know a lot of people want to do it for publicity or because of their brand,” Parker says. “But for me, I just want to go behind closed doors, just surprise people. Maybe one day, just show up to a local high school gym and just watch. I think it’s just about being present.”

48.  UWM’s School of  Freshwater Sciences

One of these years, the apocalypse is going to hit. We just know it. And the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be perfectly positioned to lead the globe in the purification and rationing of water, thanks to its graduate school dedicated to nothing but the slippery stuff – the only one of its kind in the country. Whether Milwaukee becomes the Silicon Valley of water or not, we’re always glad for a tall, icy glass of this most refreshing of natural resources.

49. Ten Chimneys

The Lunt-Fontanne duo taught the theater world much, and Genesee Depot was left with a pretty sweet gift of its own. The Ten Chimneys museum, the couple’s former home with, yes, 10 chimneys, plays host to curious tourists, theater-lovers and its own “master teachers” such as actor Alan Alda, director Barry Edelstein and Oscar-toting actress Olympia Dukakis.

50. Our Statues of the Living

Robin Yount, the Bronze Fonz, Bud Selig and Bob Uecker: Love them or not, they’ve all been immortalized with our budget version of the Midas touch because, when you’re beloved enough in Milwaukee, we figure, why wait?  

51. We Don’t Care What We Look Like

We’re flipping the switch on the questionable lists that dub Milwaukee one of the least-fashionable places in the country. While the city certainly has room to grow in terms of its sartorial offerings (editor’s note: We’re making progress), we like to think of our subpar status as an indicator of a more  important trait: self- confidence. Our fashionistas and fashionistos are bubbling with personal style for days, and our feature on Page 68 is proof that real Milwaukeeans don’t need to don a YSL Le Smoking jacket.

52. The Dog Parks

For many Milwaukeeans, heaven looks like a busy day at the Currie Dog Park. Envision a pair of labs romping through a wooded trail, a wily husky and a German shepherd wrestling with mouths agape, and tens of their humans making new friends of their own. Now multiply this scene by seven, and you have the collective county dog parks, including the behemoth Granville Park, which boasts 10 acres of trails, hills and river access. Two paws up for the County Parks Department. 

53. Our Hog Museum

Photo by
Photo by Timothy Hursley

We live in a city of fabulous museums, but Harley-Davidson’s HD Museum gets our top props for its originality and specificity. From exhibits on African-American Harley riders, to a meticulous study of the leather jacket and a history lesson on the great American road trip, a stop at the Harley is a must for even the four wheel-lovers among us.

54. Dave Mitchell

Milwaukee’s leather-cloaked history is no secret to the fashion savvy. What’s little-known is that the son of one of the city’s great leathermen is carrying on the tradition with quiet panache. While Mitchell Leather may not craft the handbags for JC Penney or Coach as in its heyday, its custom briefcases and purses are about as close to handcrafted couture accessories as Milwaukee will ever get. And that’s all thanks to the tireless efforts of Mitchell the Younger. 

55. We Built The Electric Guitar

Without Les Paul, rock ’n’ roll just wouldn’t sound the same. “The Wizard of Waukesha” built the first solid-body electric guitar back in 1941, and we’ve been hearing reverberations from that invention ever since. His Gibson Les Paul has been the ax of choice for Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Eddie Van Halen, who said of his hero, “Without the things you’ve done, I wouldn’t be able to do half the things I do.” 

56. We Embrace Our Stereotypes 

We unabashedly wear hats of cheese and speak in poetic terms about the power of the curd. We order sausage like pigs might actually fly away, and if the pace of our beer garden expansion is a sign of our love of suds, our “Laverne and Shirley” past isn’t long gone. Is this all cringe-worthy? Our doctors say yes, but our collective sense of pride asks them, “What are you, from Illinois?” 

‘Reasons to Love Milwaukee’ appears in the October 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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