Bill in the USA - MILWAUKEE

Milwaukee proudly proclaims itself as a "Genuine American City".


Bill in the USA - MILWAUKEE

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

Milwaukee is sometimes regarded as a smaller cousin of Chicago (my hometown), so it may not get a whole lot of attention or respect. However, the opening of the Milwaukee Art Museum addition (by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) has thrust it into magazine ads and into the spotlight. I am very jealous that Milwaukee has a Calatrava and not Chicago!

Milwaukee holds the annual Summerfest by the lake. This festival always draws star musical acts.${QuickSuggestions} If you have time to see only one thing, run over to see the revamped Milwaukee Art Museum. The surrounding area of the lakefront is gorgeous on a sunny day.${BestWay} We stayed overnight in Brookfield, a suburb west of Milwaukee. Therefore, we drove around quite a bit during our weekend in greater Milwaukee. Staying in Milwaukee would be more convenient, but of course the hotel rates are generally more expensive.

Milwaukee is about two hours north of Chicago (depending on how fast you drive) so you can do Milwaukee as a day trip.


Sheraton Brookfield

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

This property of the Sheraton chain is located in the prominent Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. It has an in-house restaurant and bar, along with an array of vending machines if you do not want to venture out after a nighttime drive to the hotel.

The lobby is fairly nondescript, with even more nondescript hallways leading to the elevators. The standard rooms in the Sheraton are fairly spacious and comfortable, although the decor is a bit dated. You can always count on toiletries like soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. There is an indoor pool and jacuzzi that is very popular with the kids (don't try going on a Sunday morning unless you enjoy getting splashed by lots of flopping young kids). The workout room is small but is comfortably stocked with towels, magazines, water cooler and a TV. Seemingly every nook and cranny of the hotel has at least one issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine.

I am not sure why anyone would want to stay here unless you have business in Brookfield. This is not a knock against the hotel though, which is certainly decent enough. Downtown Milwaukee is not too far away (about a 15 minute drive), but I am more of an "urban" person who likes to walk around town. Staying in this area will naturally limit your time about central Milwaukee. You will need a car to get around here, although the Sheraton does free parking to guests with its surface parking lot.

Sheraton Brookfield
375 South Moorland Road
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53005
(262) 364-1100

Champps Americana

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

This popular sports bar in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield draws a good crowd with lots and lots of large TV's showing sports (I am surprised anything in suburban Brookfield would draw a crowd, but I am just an innocent city boy). Hey, the food is not too bad here either. I had a combo consisting of a cup of soup (French onion topped with a thick slab of melted cheese) and a good-sized half-sandwich (thick and hearty Reuben) with your choice of a side (cole slaw for me). The huge menu lists well over 125 items including steaks, fish, pasta, pizza, burgers, burritos, appetizers, etc. Everything on the menu seems reasonably priced as well.

Champps bills itself as an upscale casual dining restaurant, although I think the image of a sports bar is more appropriate. The staff seems pleasant and efficient enough, appropriate for this type of establishment. You would think a sports bar would be swimming only with guys, but there were a fair amount of women here as well.

Food is served until only a certain time in the evening, so if you arrive really late you can only get drinks and an eyeful of sports programming. There is a daily happy hour and various special nightly themes for visitors.

Champps Americana
1240 S Moorland Rd
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53005
262-797-6600

Applebee's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

This worldwide chain (I have also seen one in Athens, Greece) strikes me as Bennigan's with better food. We wound up dining at the Applebee's location in the Mayfair Mall in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, as we were driving back to Chicago after a pleasant stay in Milwaukee.

Applebee's has a décor that is part sports bar, part family restaurant. You will be greeted once you enter by a wait staff member, and we found the overall service to be friendly and efficient. I imagine the wait can be a few minutes at peak hours, but we were immediately seated during lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon.

The fairly diverse menu features steaks, fish, chicken, burgers, drinks, appetizers, and desserts. I ordered a full order of riblets, which are a bargain at about ten dollars. You get a huge plate of barbeque pork riblets with your choice of sauce (the honey mustard that day was excellent), with tiny cups of beans, coleslaw, and a heap of crisp and well-seasoned fries. You can sit in a cozy booth or at elevated tables that usually face a TV showing a sporting event. This particular Applebee's was also a popular take-out place, as its location in the Mayfair Mall apparently draws that type of crowd.

I have seemingly shocked some of my colleagues who think that I would never ever eat at a chain restaurant. Indeed, I have eaten at another Applebee’s and found the dining experience to be similar, but still inferior to the Mayfair branch. On this particular time and date, Applebee’s was the right call for me.

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar
2500 N Mayfair Rd
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53226
414-476-5771

Milwaukee Art Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

The Milwaukee Art Museum is proudly proclaimed as Wisconsin's top art museum. It is even better as it welcomed a new addition in 2001, a beautiful structure designed by Santiago Calatrava that is a new drawing card for the city of Milwaukee. You can tell when something becomes a fabric of the city when wedding photographers use it as a backdrop prop. The new pavilion is now the glittering white centerpiece of Milwaukee's attractive lakefront.

The Burke Brise Soleil "wings" of the Quadracci Pavilion opens and closes at noon every day, as well as during the opening and closing times for the museum itself. It is a magnificent, graceful object that deserves as much notice as it should get. Some may say that it is a relatively small object and is merely the new entry to the museum, a la Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. But what an entrance! Stare upward once you step into the Grand Reception Hall, where you will marvel at the play of light through the Brise Soleil and the structural elements. True, it is not a high-rise or an entire building, but the pavilion stamps Milwaukee as a legitimate world-class city that may eventually step out of the long shadow of nearby Chicago.

One should not forget that this is actually a pretty good art museum. The original galleries have a bit of a brutalist design scheme, housing a permanent collection that features European and American artists from many eras. There is also a smattering of Haitian, African and Asian art. Outsider art also has found a surprising niche here.

Just north of Calatrava's museum addition is the War Memorial Building, designed by noted Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (famed for his work on the St. Louis Arch and the TWA Terminal at New York City's JFK Airport. This is actually the original part of the museum building (constructed 1955-57 with associate architect Maynard Meyer of Milwaukee). A tiled mosaic by artist Edmund Lewandowski of Wisconsin embellishes its west exterior. This artwork commemorates World War II and the Korean War. Other parts of its exterior are currently scaffolded. The interior is sparsely decorated, with an information desk, glass cases for medals and displays, and a counter for Milwaukee tourism brochures. There is an elevator with access to offices and a "back door" entrance to the main museum. There are lavatories on the lower level open to the public. An addition to the museum, opening in 1975, was designed by the local firm Kahler Fitzhugh and Scott.

As befitting a world-class art museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum is now open seven days a week (it was formerly closed on Mondays). It is open late until 8PM on Thursdays. The Images Cafe, with some excellent views of the lakefront, is a pleasant place for a bite to eat. If you have only a little time, visit during the last hour for free admission into the regular galleries.

Milwaukee Art Museum
750 North Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53202
(414) 224-3210

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

This smallish but interesting set of three "domes" that comprise the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory house quite a variety of flora displayed in reasonably natural settings. There is a lush tropical setting, an arid desert climate, and a changing floral landscape (this was the site of an important orchid exhibition during our visit). A curvy entrance with a ticket booth and coat racks fronts the three domes. Designed by local architect Donald Grieb, the beehive-shaped glass domes (they are NOT geodesic domes!) are 85 feet in height and have a diameter of 140 feet at their bases. Each dome has 15,000 square feet of space for plant life. Construction began in 1959 and was completed in 1967.

The Arid Dome features plants from North and South America, Africa, and even the Canary Islands. You will spot very colorful and boldly shaped cactus here. The Tropical Dome holds over 1,200 species of flora as well as some birds and iguanas. The rainforest plants and fruit trees here are, as one can imagine, quite colorful and diverse. The Floral Show Dome features five seasonal exhibitions each year.

The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory is open every day from 9am to 5pm, including holidays. However, the Floral Show Dome is closed for about two weeks between exhibition changes. There is a pop machine, but try to eat before visiting or you may be looking longingly at some of the flora!

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory
524 South Layton Boulevard
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53215
(414) 649-9830

Miller Park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

No, Miller Park is not a flashy amusement park dedicated to Milwaukee's local brand of beer! Miller Park is the gargantuan new baseball stadium that has served as the home field to the Milwaukee Brewers since opening in 2001. It is quite an engineering feat, as it is capped by a sliding fan-shaped roof structure that is opened and closed to coordinate with the weather conditions (Milwaukee seemingly has cornered the market on buildings with movable tops - see Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum addition). The roof weighs over 12,000 tons and can be closed in merely ten minutes. Despite its huge scale, it incorporates elements that promote a certain old-fashioned intimacy that appeal to the fans (brick facade, natural grass, manual scoreboard, etc.). Even if you are way up in the nosebleed seats of the fourth level, you still feel comfortable and part of the action.

The stadium has your mandatory modern color scoreboard, along with a section in left field for popular team mascot Bernie Brewer. Even if the game is a dull one, the always amusing "sausage race" during the 7th-inning stretch livens things up. Yes, four people dressed up as cartoonish sausages (bratwurst, Polish, Italian, hot dog) race down the foul line in a live version of those animated scoreboard races. If you are looking for more edible versions, there are plenty of food stalls in the stadium along with souvenir stands.

The plaza adjacent to Miller Park has bronze statues dedicated to Milwaukee baseball greats Henry Aaron and Robin Yount. There are also plaques commemorating workers who died during a tragic construction accident in 2000. Helfaer Field, a deluxe field for youth baseball and softball, is located adjacent to the main stadium. This is actually the site of old County Stadium, the former home field for many great Brewers teams over the years. Surface parking lots engulf Miller Park, but locals make the best of the situation by holding "tailgate party" cookouts before games.

Miller Park is west of downtown, near a leafy residential neighborhood. If you are really hot for baseball stadiums, you can even take a tour of Miller Park when there is no game for a nominal charge.

Miller Park/Milwaukee Brewers
One Brewers Way
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53214
(414) 902-4100

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on December 5, 2002

The legendary Frank Lloyd Wright designed this interesting building in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. It is a circular design that was one of the last ones created during the long and storied architectural career of Wright. It is said that Wright was very emphatic in pushing this bold design scheme past the rather conservative body of Greek Orthodox congregation in 1956. It was completed in 1961, two years after his death.

The exterior is capped by a saucer-like roof with a shade of blue that is reminiscent of many domes in Santorini. The low but massive blue dome really jumps out at passersby, although Santorini domes are usually taller. The aisles of the interior plan are in the shape of the Greek cross, with equal lengths, but contained within the circular whole. Groupings and rows of seating have numerical significance as related to the number of apostles, etc. The main and upper levels can hold about 1000 people, a surprisingly large number in such a relatively small space. Colored glass windows are incorporated along the perimeter of the building, allowing for wonderful lighting effects within the interior. The space feels airy and cozy at the same time. The interior also contains a banquet hall and classrooms. An exterior sunken garden surrounds most of the church.

Tours are available on Tuesdays and Fridays, although we were fortunate enough to get a look inside after the Divine Liturgy Sunday service. If you do take the official tour, you can also pay a bit more for a Greek lunch or dessert.

If you are a big fan of Wright's works, you can swing by here while on your way to see some of his other projects in Wisconsin like Taliesin and the Johnson Wax headquarters.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
9400 West Congress Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53225
(414) 461-9400

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