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Thursday, January 23, 2014

36 hours in milwaukee (part 1)

If you're like many people I know, you probably rarely visit some of the top attractions in your city unless you have visitors from out of town.  The same is true for me in Milwaukee.  When the New York Times came out with their most recent 36 hours in Milwaukee guide, Paul and his coworkers decided to turn it into a challenge of sorts.  They would follow the guide with a little tweaking and get to know their city better (and I would come along because it sounded awesome).  

The 36 hours concept is simple: most people have about 36 hours in a city if they're visiting just for the weekend.  So each guide helps you prioritize your time so that you see the best of what the city has to offer in the time you have there.  We did the 36 hours in Milwaukee challenge over the MLK weekend, and I'll be sharing the highlights here in two parts.  Get ready for some Milwaukee amazingness!!

F R I D A Y    N I G H T
6:00 Milwaukee Art Museum: While I was eating pizza, the rest of the crew started the weekend at a Museum After Dark event.  Once a month, the Art Museum has an evening event tailored to the younger, hipper crowd.  This month's theme was salsa, so apparently there was lots of salsa dancing and lots of salsas to try with some fish tacos to go with them.  Next month's theme is Cocktails and Crafts which sounds amazing!  (These pictures are from past visits to the museum.  It is one of my favorite places to go, and seeing the front entrance, the Chihuly sculptures, and the Georgia O'Keefe paintings never fails to lift my mood.)

7:30 Bryant's Cocktail Lounge (not pictured): While I was watching roller derby, the rest of the crew continued on to one of the most fun bars in Milwaukee (or so I'm told).  The NYT says this about the bar:
After-dinner cocktails await in the historic Mitchell Street neighborhood at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, a dim, lushly upholstered time capsule of a bar inside a nondescript two-story house. On a recent evening the soundtrack was Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin playing over a vintage McIntosh stereo system.

9:00 Blue Jacket (Third Coast Cuisine): This is where I joined in!  The Third Coast refers to the Great Lakes region, America's coastal area that borders lakes instead of oceans like the first two coast regions.  Blue Jacketserves Third Coast cuisine with flare in a seasonal menu that sources local ingredients.  I noticed their menu included very simple items, most of which were known by their main ingredient (fish, brussel sprouts, soup, etc).  

Since I had already enjoyed pizza and derby, I ordered a Summer Mule (a summer version of the Moscow Mule that sounded tasty) and some ice cream.  The rest of the group caught me up on the previous two stops, and we made a plan of action for Saturday.  The day would include Mitchell Park Domes, Usinger'sMader'sClock Shadow CreameryPurple Door Ice Cream, Anodyne Coffee, Zaffiro's, and would finish with a drink at Wolski's

S A T U R D A Y   M O R N I N G
10:00 Mitchell Park Domes: These domes offer Milwaukee residents a horticultural respite from bad weather and a beautiful place to visit in nice weather.  Each dome houses a different environment, and the main dome has exhibits that change seasonally.  During the winter, the Domes house a farmer's market on Saturday mornings (which meant free admission!) and a really neat train exhibit in the main dome.  I was in love.    

Luckily the main dome also had a coffee station, so all the 36 hours participants could gear up for our busy day.  After taking some photos and buying some produce, we took stock of our day.  Because Mitchell Domes took less time than anticipated, we pushed lunch back and decided to check out Usinger's and the Wisconsin Cheese Mart first.  Flexibility is really the name of the game when completing a 36 hours challenge (it also helps to have someone who actually knows the city to help you plan your weekend as they will have a better idea of how to get in free or at reduced cost to the sites - this really helped us when we were making our schedule since it wasn't as affordable to do it in the way the NYT set it out). 

Usinger's, Wisconsin Cheese Mart, and Mader's are all located on Old World Third street, just north of Milwaukee's downtown area.  The street is home to some of the German-iest bars and restaurants in the city.  Across the street is Pere Marquette Park which hosts concerts, political speakers (I saw Bill Clinton there last year), Christmas lights, and other events throughout the year.  I've also seen a few river tours leave from the park - it's tough to see in this photo, but the river is just behind the park.

11:00 Usinger's Fine Sausage: walking into Usinger's feels like walking right into Germany.  The walls are painted with murals of "sausage gnomes" enjoying the process of making sausage (not quite as creepy as it sounds), and all the writing on the murals is done in German.  Even this mostly-Vegetarian enjoyed a trip here for the smells and history.  NYT says this about Usinger's: Usinger’s is Milwaukee’s oldest, greatest temple of sausage. You can buy the 133-year-old, family-owned company’s smoothly textured bratwurst and piquant beef summer sausage all over town, but nothing beats a visit to the downtown store, with its hand-painted elf-themed murals and knowledgeable, no-nonsense veteran clerks.

When we had our fill of sausage, we walked down the block to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart.  We were two thirds of our way through the Wisconsin trifecta of sausage, cheese, and beer.

11:15: Wisconsin Cheese Mart: Not included on the most recent list, the 36 hours sticker in the window tipped me off that the Wisconsin Cheese Mart had been included on the 2008 list.  So we must have somehow knew that we were supposed to go here even though the 2013 guide didn't include it. 

Cow butt!

The Cheese Mart, founded in 1938, sells hundreds of varieties of cheeses, and the staff will be able to point you in the right direction to find something to fit your taste.  There's always samples out, and we even managed to find a few tasty cheese on sale!  I've been to a happy hour here before and was really impressed with the food menu and the selection of beers on tap.  Definitely worth adding to a trip to Old World Third!  

Ready to book your ticket to Milwaukee yet?  It might be cold if you decide to come now, but as you can see, it didn't stop us!  In Milwaukee you just have to bundle up and go for it, otherwise you wouldn't do anything for about six months.  

*If you checked out the original NYT article, you'll notice that we've taken some liberties with the schedule.  I like to think we stuck to the heart of the challenge if not the exact timeline.  After tomorrow's post, you'll also see that we cut three locations and added others in their place.  We decided against a brewery tour in lieu of naps since we were tired and had all done tours multiple times.  We cut the bookstore (much to my chagrin) and a burger shop, but added the cheese mart, a coffee store, and another burger shop in their places.  Again, flexibility was key :)   

Check back tomorrow for part two of 36 hours in Milwaukee!

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