The blogosphere was alive and kicking last week over a Chicago column that took some mighty serious shots at the efforts of the Wisconsin tourism community to lure visitors to our city.
A Chicago blogger compared tourism ad programs of Milwaukee and St. Louis, both designed to get Chicagoans to visit their respective cities. While it hurt to see what he wrote, we'd be stupid if we didn't at least listen to the criticism leveled at our efforts.
I don't want to get into the whole thing, but in essence he said that the St. Louis campaign offered one-of-a-kind attractions that weren't readily – or at all – available in Chicago. He compared that with Milwaukee's efforts that focused on a lakefront, beer, brats and festivals, all of which Chicago has, perhaps in even more abundance that Milwaukee.
In addition he blasted the Milwaukee campaign, apparently conducted under the auspices of Visit Milwaukee, for the following: "Milwaukee. Think of us as Chicago's Upper, Upper North Side."
He said, with lots of truth, that Chicago doesn't have "upper" sides. That's New York. Chicago has a far northwest side, a far southwest side, etc. If we knew Chicago the ad would have read: "Milwaukee. Think of us as Chicago's far, far, north side."
Enough of that. I think the idea of promoting truly unique attractions is what you need when you try to lure tourists. Why leave your hometown to go somewhere where you can get the same stuff you can get at home?
With that background in mind, I've come up with a list of things that are unique to Milwaukee and could be featured in an advertising campaign in Chicago.
1. The Calatrava addition of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The building itself is worth the trip. The collection inside doesn't match other collections in this country, including in Chicago, but the building is truly one of a kind. Seeing it from the outside is breathtaking but walking around inside you truly get a sense of magic design. Chicago has nothing to match it.
2. The Mitchell Park Domes. There is nothing like it, not only in Chicago, but anywhere else in the country. The horticultural wonder is over 50 years old, but the new lighting and increased attention makes it a gorgeous spectacle, especially at night.
3. Summerfest. I know Chicago has music and festivals, but nothing quite matches the diversity and quality of Summerfest for music. The food and people watching are a bonus, but to sell Summerfest as a giant musical smorgasbord is a winner all around.
4. The Tripoli Shrine Temple. Located at 30th and Wisconsin, it was built in 1928 to be an exact replica of the Taj Mahal. It is an absolutely spectacular structure and open to the public. Any place with a Scimitar Room has to be a top shelf and unique attraction.
5. Sanford Restaurant. Chicago may have its Alineas and Spiaggias, but the world class food at Sanford is the equal to any of them and perhaps even better. Prices are nicer and the relaxed atmosphere combined with the best that Milwaukee has to offer can be a nice lure to those who are used to the hectic pace and high prices of Chicago. Target this one to all epicureans.
6. The Basilica of Saint Josaphat or the Greek Annunciation Church and The Joan of Arc Chapel. The triumvirate of religious shrines. One built to resemble St. Peter's in Rome. Another designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And the tiny chapel, more than five centuries old and the only medieval structure in the western hemisphere that is still in use as originally intended.
7. Brady Street or Bay View. Two kind of quirky neighborhoods with good bars, restaurants and interesting shops.
8. The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. For hikers and nature enthusiasts, the center is a great example of fun outdoors. There are 185 acres along the shore of Lake Michigan with six miles of hiking trails.
9. Thin Crust Pizza and Custard. Both are foreign to Chicago. I'd say go to Zaffiro's on Farwell and then walk down the bridge to Northpoint Custard stand. They'll never forget Milwaukee.
10. The Brewery Boat Tour. Ride a boat and stop at a brewery. Drink Free Beer. Do it again. And again. Now, that's beer. Or you can tour Miller Brewery. Again, more free beer.
That's a partial list of specific stuff that you can sell Chicagoans on. Now, I for one, don't necessarily want them here. But if it's tourist dollars you are after, let's sell the stuff that really makes our city so special. Other suggestions are more than welcome.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.