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Milwaukee's must-sees

© By Elle Andra-Warner
























  Last summer in Milwaukee, with a wine glass in hand, I rocked the night away with 23,000 other concert goers (all ages) at Summerfest, the world's biggest music festival. The bands were a-rockin,' and the spirited crowd clapped, sang and danced to the beat. A Great Lakes mini-Woodstock. It was a blast and a fabulous beginning for my first visit to Wisconsin's largest city (600,000), located on the shores of Lake Michigan.
     Over a million people annually attend the 11-day event that takes place on the waterfront's 75-acre barrier-free Henry W. Maier Festival Park with entertainment from noon to midnight on 11 music stages (most with capacity for 5,000-10,000 seating/standing). There's four unique marketplaces, a daily children's festival and with over 50 food/beverage vendors, plenty of options for food, from ethnic to traditional. I relished a bratwurst with sauerkraut ($3.75) at Mader's German Kitchen in the Ethnic Gardens and later munched on some "Major Goolsby's Sweet Fries". There's even something for golfers at Summerfest - drive a hole-in-one on a nearby island, and win a car ($5 for 3 golf balls).
     Summerfest is a music festival bargain. Once you pay your admission at the gates (very reasonable), you can move from stage to stage at no extra charge. The one exception is the 24,000 seat Marcus Amphitheater, which requires an additional ticket purchase. Check this out - for seniors, Summerfest admission is $3.00 anytime.
     On the waterfront, a short distance from the Summerfest grounds, sits one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen: the spectacular 'flying building' of the Milwaukee Arts Museum. The Burke Brise Soleil - a massive wing-like concrete architectural work of art with 72 steel fins sits atop the museum's windowed reception hall and acts as its sunscreen, and incredibly, the wings flap slowly open and shut three times daily. The moveable engineering masterpiece was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, and stretches dramatically onto Lake Michigan, a gleaming long-necked white bird about to take flight. Conde Nast Traveler magazine called it one of the "new wonders of the world."
     The museum design includes a 250-foot suspension bridge that links downtown Milwaukee to the museum entrance and the waterfront. Step inside the entrance and enter Windhover Hall, a dazzling glass-enclosed reception area with curved high ceilings. From here, take the gleaming white outer hallways lined with portholes, reminiscent of a luxury ocean liner, leading to the museum galleries. Their collections include 20,000 works ranging from antiquity (an Egyptian mummy coffin dated c. 350 B.C.) to the present.
     Not an architectural tourist, it's the novice "wow" factor that intrigues me with buildings. However, grand mansions appeal to me, Milwaukee boasts one of the grandest, the 37-room Pabst Mansion, built in 1892 by Captain Frederick Pabst, the famous beer baron and an accomplished sea captain, philanthropist and patron of the arts. Walking through Pabst Mansion, I felt like a time traveler. Most rooms maintain their historical integrity. For example, the French Rococo-style parlor was used exclusively by Mrs. Pabst; so strong was her signature in the room that I felt she might appear to share afternoon tea. For a view of the gilded age, Pabst Mansion's splendor is a must-see in Milwaukee.
     Suggested local restaurants include fine dining at Il Mito in Milwaukee's Walker Point and lunch at downtown Coast with a bird's-eye view of the lakefront. For a cup of fresh coffee, drop by local favourite, Alterra Café on the Lake, situated in the historic former Milwaukee River Flushing Station along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Elle Andra-Warner is a Thunder Bay-based travel writer and photographer who has authored several books..

Photo Credits
Milwaukee VCB
Elle Andra-Warner

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Greater Milwaukee Convention & Tourism Bureau: www.milwaukee.org
Milwaukee Art Museum: www.mam.org
The Pabst Mansion: www.pabstmansion.com
Summerfest: www.summerfest.com
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee,_Wisconsin
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Milwaukee(Wisconsin)


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