Arts and Culture Weekend Getaway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1Spend your first evening browsing through one of Milwaukee's hippest hoods. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward makes for a stellar shopping trip. Independently owned women's clothing shops and more than three dozen art galleries are housed in restored historic buildings. We hope you left some room in your luggage.
2Just a 5-minute drive north on Milwaukee Street takes you to the East Side for dinner at the lovely Sanford Restaurant whose chef de cuisine Justin Aprahamian was the only city chef nominated for a James Beard award in 2012. It's no wonder, too, considering the artistry that comes out of his kitchen in dishes such as grilled pear and Roquefort tart with caramelized onions and walnuts, and grilled wild sturgeon on crab hash.
3It's a mile-and-a-half walk south on Water street to your next stop: you're in Brew City, so it's only right that you should mark the trip with a beer. Hit the Milwaukee Ale House, where your hops come with history in the 100-year-old former saddle-making factory, right alongside the Milwaukee River in the hip Third Ward. Try a seasonal offering or a year-round brew, including their amber ale or stout.
1Power up for the day at Alterra at the Lake, a coffeehouse in an 1888 historic building by the river. Java here is freshly brewed, free-trade, and organic. The made-from-scratch pastries are a bonus.
2The can't-miss attraction is hands-down the Milwaukee Art Museum, featuring Santiago Calatrava's eye-popping Quadracci Pavilion that hosts temporary exhibits. Arrive by 10 am to watch the opening of this modern addition's famous exterior "wings." With an expanse as wide as a 747, it's a breathtaking vision. The artwork inside doesn't disappoint either, boasting an impressive collection focusing on 19th- and 20th-century American and European art. Pick up one of the self-guided themed tours or join a docent-led tour, held every Saturday at 11 am.
3Another iconic form in Milwaukee is the Domes of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. The three 85-foot-high glass domes are photo-worthy themselves, and underneath, you'll find the natural beauty—in the tropical, arid, and seasonal plant and flower displays.
4Fat, juicy certified Black Angus beef burgers are what's in store at Sobelman's — they serve about 150 of them at lunch daily — though you can also order a Southwest chicken sandwich, fish sandwich, or black bean veggie burger. It's all good at this "rugged" biker-friendly joint.
5From lunch, head back about 2 miles east toward the river to learn some city history from a different perspective aboard the Milwaukee River Cruise Line's Historic Milwaukee Boat Tour. It's an hour and 20 minutes packed with information about its brewing and German heritage, industrial contributions, historical development, and local celebs.
6The next destination, just a 5-minute drive west, proves a perfect complement for that beer history you heard about and adds a little culture and art: a guided tour of The Pabst Mansion. Completed in 1892 for beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst, this treasured landmark epitomizes Milwaukee's Gilded Age, decked out in high style with terra cotta ornamentation, painted and textured walls, and stained-glass windows.
7Hop on the farm-to-table bandwagon at Milwaukee's newest hot spot Braise. Owner and well-known Milwaukee chef Dave Swanson has said that his motto is "Reconnecting with our food." At his innovative community-supported restaurant, the menu changes daily depending on the fresh ingredients he gets from any of the 400 farmers he works with throughout the state. The result? Tantalizing dishes such as crispy pork belly and creamy polenta, and mushroom and leek lasagna with Parmesan bechemela.
1The Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee's arts and fashion district, is filled with galleries and boutiques in high-ceiling warehouses. At the center of it all is Cafe Benelux, a casual-hip spot for brunch with a fantastic roof deck. Locals rave about the elaborate Bloody Marys, pannenkoeken crepes, and salmon Benedict.
2You don't have to own a Harley to appreciate its colorful past and super-cool style. A visit to the Harley Museum is in order for any Milwaukee guest. Don't own a hog of your own? Try one on for size in the "Experience Gallery" for a virtual ride; get a glimpse of the Serial 1 bike to see where it all started; and make a stop at the Custom exhibit where you'll find the Elvis Bike and the mega-sized King Kong.
3You're in primo dairy land and it's practically an obligation to get some cheese or ice cream before you leave — we say get both. So head to the new Clock Shadow Creamery, housed in the appropriately green FIX building, designed to be net-zero energy and carbon neutral. Here, you'll see cheese-making in progress; take home some cheese curds, mozzarella, and other dairy products all made from rBGH-free local milk. The adjacent Purple Door Ice Cream gives you free reign to enjoy a scoop of small-batch homemade green tea, balsamic strawberry, or even whiskey-flavored ice cream.