MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Milwaukee

Milwaukee at Christmas

During the holidays, this city shimmers like Cinderella.

No one ever accused Milwaukee of being flashy.

Best known for tractors, motorcycles and beer, it’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of town, stolid and practical like the Germans who built it.

It’s not what you’d call a trendy destination. And yet every time I go there, I have a great time.

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Party in Milwaukee

Summer is one long festival in this unsung city on Lake Michigan.

Once, I thought of Milwaukee as the ugly duckling of Midwest cities, a colorless runt with the grit of Chicago but none of its allure.

Silly me.

It’s true that downtown Milwaukee, during the day, is not exactly flashy.

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10 great day trips around Milwaukee

Ride trolleys, see lighthouses, spot birds and hike past mansions.

Milwaukee doesn’t toot its own horn much, so you’ve got to explore it yourself to see how much fun it can be.

Right in town, you can spend an entire day touring breweries or riding on the Oak Leaf Trail, a 100-mile chain of paved paths, parkways and connecting streets.

But the city also is surrounded by old Yankee mill towns and German settlements.

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Polish for a day

At Milwaukee's lakefront festivals, visitors get a big helping of another culture.

On a beautiful summer day in Milwaukee, history's underdogs were having a ball.

They were listening to pianists play Chopin. They were dancing an exuberant style of polka. They were tucking into pierogi and paczki.

Call it payback time for Poles.

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Mad about brew

In the town that worships beer, brewery tours draw legions of fans.

For people who love beer, there’s no better place to drink it than in a brewery.

In 1880s, beer-loving Milwaukee had more than 80 of them. Three became national giants, giving Milwaukee the nicknames Beer Town and Suds City, but only one survived.

That’s Miller, acquired first by Philip Morris, then South African Brewing, and now merged with Coors. Schlitz closed in 1981, and Pabst in 1997.

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Playtime in Milwaukee

For children, this easygoing city is just the right size.

There’s one city in the Midwest that never will get too big for its lederhosen.

Milwaukee, sometimes called the biggest small town in America, doesn’t brag — though it should. It has a swell baseball stadium, a beloved art museum and a beautiful lakefront.

Lake Michigan borders downtown, lined with beaches, bike trails and playing fields. Craft breweries and restaurants reflect a culture steeped in Gemütlichkeit, the German term for congeniality and good life.

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Bicycling along Lake Michigan

Miles of trails in Milwaukee and on Ozaukee County's Interurban Trail provide non-stop scenery.

We all know Milwaukee for its beer, bratwurst and oompah bands.

But not many people know it’s also a great place for bicycling.

Sure, there’s a constant stream of bicyclists on the lakefront stretch of the Oak Leaf Trail. From Lake Michigan, bicyclists can veer off onto a secluded stretch of the Milwaukee River or head toward Miller Park on the Hank Aaron Trail.

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On budget in a dorm

In summer, college residence halls are a boon to budget travelers.

Until recently, my memories of college dorms mostly involved sloppy drunks, sloppier roommates and a bathroom shared by the whole floor.

Then my husband and I stayed at Marquette University in Milwaukee. It was as quiet as a cathedral, and we had a private bath and a panoramic view of the city from our 17th-floor picture windows.

We paid $28 apiece, which was nice because we like to save money. But mostly, we stayed at Marquette because it was so convenient, three blocks from the special bus that takes summer visitors to the lakefront Henry Maier Festival Park and right on the route that takes baseball fans to Miller Park on game days.

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