Milwaukee: Recreation


Milwaukee successfully mixes old and new architectural styles that tell the history of the city from its beginning to the present. Kilbourntown House, the 1844 home of one of the city's founding fathers, was built by Benjamin Church and is an example of temple-type Greek Revival architecture. It is open to the public and furnished with mid-nineteenth century furniture and decorative arts. The Jeremiah Curtin House, built in 1846, is an example of Irish cottage architecture, and was the first stone house to be built in the town of Greenfield. Built about the same time, the Lowell Damon House exemplifies the colonial style and is furnished with nineteenth century furniture, décor, and art. Milwaukee's City Hall, completed in 1894, was designed by Henry C. Koch and Company, and cost more than $1 million to build. The building stands more than 350 feet tall and is in Flemish Renaissance style, featuring carved woodwork, black granite, leaded glass, stenciled ceilings, and stained-glass windows. The Pabst Mansion, another example of Flemish Renaissance architecture, was built in 1892 and contains decorative woodwork and ironwork.

Milwaukee is also noted for its church architecture. The St. Joan of Arc Chapel at Marquette University is a fifteenth-century French chapel moved from France to Milwaukee in 1965. Under its dome, modeled after St. Peter's in Rome, the Basilica of St. Josaphat displays stained glass, murals, and a collection of relics and portraits. Designed during a time of revival fantasy architecture, the Tripoli Shrine Temple is one of a few examples of the Indian Saracenic architectural style in the U.S. It was modeled after the Taj Mahal in India, and features three domes, two recumbent camel sculptures, ceramic tile, plaster lattice work, and decorative floral designs. The Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary looks out onto one of Wisconsin's national parks, and features spires, mosaics, stained glass windows, and a nineteenth-century statue of Mary and Jesus. St. Stephen's Catholic Church is the last remnant of the 1840 German settlement of New Coeln, and the church's wood carvings are said to be world famous.

The Milwaukee County Zoo is home to more than 2,000 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles, representing more than 350 species; the zoo also features workshops, holiday celebrations, concerts, and food festivals. The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, also known as "the Domes," cultivates tropical, arid, and seasonal plant displays in three beehive-shaped domes. The Boerner Botanical Gardens at Whitnall Park displays perennials, wild-flowers, annuals, and herbs, and features a highly praised rose garden. The Wehr Nature Center, also in Whitnall Park, offers self-guided tours, nature programs, live animals, and three formal gardens. The Center also features 200 acres of land with 5 miles of hiking trails.

Arts and Culture

Milwaukee's cultural heritage dates to the nineteenth century when German immigrants established the city's first music societies and theater groups. Today the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra—the state's only professional orchestra—performs more than 150 classical and pop concerts each season, with 88 full-time musicians. The Orchestra is attended by more than 300,000 people annually, and runs one of the largest state touring programs of any U.S. orchestra. At home, the Orchestra plays at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, which is also the home of the Milwaukee Ballet Company, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony, and the Florentine Opera Company. The Skylight Opera Theatre, founded in 1959, presents a season of more than 80 productions ranging from Mozart to Gilbert and Sullivan. The Theatre is located in the Broadway Theatre Center in the city's historic Third Ward.

For more than 50 years, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's multi-play season is produced in the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex, which includes a Mainstage theater seating 720 patrons, the Stiemke Theatre featuring flexible seating, and the Stackner Cabaret where patrons take advantage of the full-service bar and restaurant. Riverside Theater presents theatrical shows and musical performances. The Milwaukee Chamber Theater has been producing first-class live theater for more than 30 years.

Milwaukee's museums present a variety of choices for the art enthusiast. The Milwaukee Art Museum on Lake Michigan

The Pabst Mansion.
The Pabst Mansion.
is housed in the War Memorial Center designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the St. Louis Arch. The Museum's permanent collection consists of nineteenth- and twentieth-century painting and sculpture, extensive Haitian art holdings, and the Bradley gift of modern art displayed in a wing built in 1975. In 2001, the Museum unveiled its newest addition—the Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava. The Charles Allis Art Museum houses its collection of nineteenth-century French and American paintings in a 1911 Edwardian mansion. The collection spans 2,000 years and includes original and antique furnishings. The American Geographical Society Collection at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee exhibits material related to geography, exploration, cartography, and the earth and social sciences.

Other Milwaukee museums include the Discovery World Museum with 150 hands-on exhibits and live theater shows; Thomas A. Greene Memorial Museum with minerals, crystals, and fossils; the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University with a wide range of art forms; the Milwaukee County Historical Center; and America's Black Holocaust Museum. With more than 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Milwaukee Public Museum features a Costa Rican rainforest, archeological exhibits, and a live butterfly house. The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, overlooking Lake Michigan, displays its collections in an Italian Renaissance-style villa.

Festivals and Holidays

Milwaukee, dubbed the "City of Festivals," is the site of a wide variety of ethnic and cultural festivals, many of them held along the city's lakefront. Most events are scheduled in the summer, beginning with RiverSplash in June, which hosts a paddleboat race, canoe rides, fireworks, street vendors, food booths, and live music. In July, Bastille Days celebrates all things French with French cuisine, live entertainment, and a 5K run. Summerfest, billed as the world's largest music festival, attracts national headliners for a week-plus celebration. Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, Summerfest takes place in a 23,000-seat amphitheater and offers unique attractions and food from more than 50 restaurants in addition to live music.

For parade fans, Milwaukee hosts a St. Patrick's Day Parade every March, complete with bagpipes, clowns, local politicians and celebrities, floats, and marching bands. The annual Great Circus Parade in July, presented by Baraboo's Circus World Museum, attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators. The event features 75 historical circus wagons, clowns, 750 horses, and elephants, camels, and zebras. On parade day, circus performers and animals follow a three-mile route for an authentic recreation of a turn-of the century circus parade. Another popular event close to Milwaukee is the Wisconsin State Fair in August; the Fair runs 11 days and features agriculture, food, shopping, and 28 stages of local and national entertainment.

Sports for the Spectator

Major league baseball's Milwaukee Brewers compete in the National League and play their home games at Miller Park. The Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association are based at the Bradley Center, a privately funded $94 million sports and concert facility that provides the city with one of the nation's most architecturally significant and functional sports facilities. Bradley Center is also home to the Marquette University Golden Eagles NCAA basketball team and the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. From its home at the U.S. Cellular Arena, the Milwaukee Wave became the 2005 Major Indoor Soccer League Champions.

Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers field teams in most collegiate sports. Jetrockets, wheelstanders, and funny cars are featured in a season of competition at the Great Lakes Dragway from April through November. The Milwaukee Mile, the oldest operating motor speedway in the world, attracts nationally known drivers for Indy car, Stock Car, and NASCAR events.

Sports for the Participant

The Milwaukee County Park System maintains more than 140 parks on nearly 15,000 acres. Indoor and outdoor recreational activities offered year-round include rugby, soccer, softball, baseball, swimming, tennis, golf, ice skating, tobogganing, and boating. Public skating is available at the Pettit National Ice Center, which contains the country's first U.S. indoor 400-meter racing oval, one of only five worldwide. The center was the first facility to house speed skating, hockey, and figure skating under one roof, and has hosted events such as the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships and the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Time Trials. Milwaukee's location on Lake Michigan offers a myriad of water-related recreational opportunities.

Shopping and Dining

Milwaukee is one of a few Midwestern cities with a skywalk system connecting the downtown commercial district; one section, called Riverspan, bridges the Milwaukee River. The Riverwalk walkway along the Milwaukee River is lined with shops and restaurants. Downtown, the Shops of Grand Avenue is an enclosed multilevel four-block marketplace of 150 shops and restaurants and five historic buildings forming the core of the glass skywalk system. The Historic Third Ward is a restored warehouse district featuring art galleries, restaurants, antiques, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Old World Third Street gives visitors a taste of Old Milwaukee with cobblestone intersections and ethnic markets and restaurants. Brady Street serves as Milwaukee's Italian neighborhood with authentic restaurants, markets, bakeries, and an artistic, student-oriented crowd. Several neighborhood and regional shopping malls also serve the metropolitan area. Fondy Farmers' Market, the city's largest farmers' market, is open six days a week in season and specializes in locally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, and food products.

Some of the best German restaurants in the country are located in Milwaukee, such as Karl Ratzsch's, Restaurant, Mader's Restaurant, and the Bavarian Wurst Haus. Dining in Milwaukee is not limited to award-winning German cuisine, however; besides Continental, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese restaurants, Milwaukee offers a surprising mix of other ethnic choices, such as African, Irish, Cajun, Polish, Serbian, and Thai. One of the city's most popular food specialties is the fish fry, which can be found at Buck Bradley's, Harry's Bar and Grill, Red Rock Café, and the Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

Visitor Information: Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc., 648 Plankinton Ave., Ste. 425, Milwaukee, WI 53203; telephone (800)554-1448