Milwaukee is a fun vibrant city with its own unique identity. Just ninety miles north of Chicago, it was settled by Germans, and their influence persists today. Milwaukee is so well run the Mayor of Portland recently visited to get tips on dealing with the homeless.

The historic Third Ward and nearby Walkers Point have many LGBTQ venues to chose from. The stunning architecture of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion (designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) alone makes the city worth a visit. Indeed, the “Cream City” is named for its many buildings of that color. Few U.S. cities have preserved their historic buildings (and repurposed them) as well as Milwaukee has.

WHAT TO DO

Make your first stop the Milwaukee Art Museum if only to gaze at the stunning building which hangs like a giant ship over Lake Michigan. The recent Darrell Ellis: Regeneration exhibit chronicles the many talents of the young New York City artist who died at 33 from complications from AIDS. New exhibits for 2024 include: Larry Bell’s Iceberg–Exhibition, and Idris Khan: Repeat After Me

Take the Hop Streetcar around town. Shop til you drop and enjoy the many restaurants in the historic Third Ward just south of downtown. Eat Wisconsin’s foodie specialties like brats at the Milwaukee Public Market. Or have a fresh squeezed carrot juice and garden salad at the Green Kitchen in the Market. Enjoy wine or a local micro brew or have a micro brewed coffee. And pick up some Wisconsin cheese to take home.

Work out at the Wisconsin Athletic Club. Visit the Harley Davidson Museum to learn about the history of this client-driven company and the culture it created. They also have a nice restaurant. Try one of the twenty food vendors at the nearby 3rd Street Market Hall. I love food halls. Enjoy a Lakeshore Brewery Hazy IPA at one of the many bars. Visit the Milwaukee County Historical Society Museum to learn about the beer culture in the city where beer made Milwaukee famous.

Nightlife

Wisconsinites love their liquor whether it be beer, an Old Fashion, or the like. So like the rest of the state and city, there are a lot of LGBTQ+ bars in Milwaukee. The new POP video bar (124 W. National) is the first new bar in the city since 2010 and is a fun, airy place. It also features a full-service restaurant. Try the pizza. Other nearby bars (all in Walkers Point) include Woodys and LaCage Nite club. Kruz is where you will find the leather crowd. Woodys has two for one special on Thursdays and features a friendly crowd.

Stop by the Pint bar, one of only twenty-five lesbian bars left in the U.S. The Harbor Room is nearby and is also fun. You can take the Green Line Express bus to the bars in Walkers Point from downtown or the Third Ward.

Stay

I stayed at the historic Homewood Suites just north of the Milwaukee Public Market. It’s in the historic Button Block Building made of red sandstone from the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The repurposed building features lofty ceilings, the original wood floors, and more. Did I mention the free laundry machines? Built in 1892, the building’s sandstone is over one million years old. Check TripAdvisor for other hotel recommendations. There are tons of hotels in the Public Market area.

Travel Tips

Milwaukee has its own lingo you may not be familiar with including:

Bubbler: Milwaukee speak for a water fountain

Kringle: A large round pastry made in Racine

Brats (pronounced Brawts): A spicy pork sausage on a bun

Cheese curds: Rubbery tasting bits of cheese shaped into a small ball. They can be fried or fresh and now come in many flavors.

Drumlins-A long oval hill created by glaciers. They are found west and north of the City.

Make sure to say, M’waukee, as the locals don’t pronounce the l’s.

And they are from WES-KAHN-SIN (pronounced with a very nasal accent). Also called Sconnies. 

Getting There

Amtrak has seven trains each way from Chicago which take 90 minutes and makes three stops. There is also one (soon to be two) trains to St. Paul, Minnesota. The inter city buses and trains all use the sleek Multi-Modal terminal which also features Bubblr shared bikes, Milwaukee Public Transit buses, the Badger Bus to Madison, Amtrak, Greyhound, MegaBus, and the Hop Street Car. Why more cities don’t have such a facility is beyond me. The terminal is clean, bright, features restrooms, and even sells tickets and has a snack bar.

General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) is the city’s international airport (and also has an Amtrak station). It’s an under-used, uncrowded airport and a great option even for those in northern Illinois. They feature a “decombulation area” after TSA to regroup, the only one in the country. Don’t miss the aviation history museum. Old timers will remember Northwest Orient, North Central, Midwest Express, and Ozark Airlines. Did someone say chocolate chip cookie? (It was a highlight of the Midwest Airlines flight.)

There are few cities left that have such a unique character and identity. Milwaukee is one of them and is worth a visit.

More Information

Shepherds Express is the weekly which features a LGBTQ section. Our Lives is the state’s LGBTQ publication. VISIT Milwaukee has several tips including a separate LGBTQ section.and Visitor Guide.

 

 

 

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.