This past Saturday, Sept. 20, a friend and I deemed ourselves "urban explorers" for the day. We hopped onto the green line (a proper urban adventure isn’t complete without some form of public transportation, right?), ventured from the East Side to Downtown where we visited various landmarks that had their doors wide open for the general public as part of Doors Open Milwaukee.
Now, I’ve been living in Milwaukee on and off for the past two years. I have to sadly admit the majority of that time has been spent confined on the East Side as I attend classes full time at UW-Milwaukee – cue the sad music, please.
Of course, I haven’t been totally confined to my neighborhood and childhood visits to local attractions, but my typically hectic schedule doesn’t allow for much exploring. A few open doors on Saturday changed that not just for me, but I’m assuming for a lot of other new urban explorers, too.
Because Saturday was my only free day, I couldn’t make it to every location on my "must-see" list. However, here are five locations that stuck out.
It’s one thing going to the Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., for a live show when the energy sweeps through. It’s a whole other thing, when you walk through the historic theater with a lot of empty seats. Despite those empty seats, however, the energy still thrives inside. On this self-guided tour, we made our way up to the balcony seating to take in the wide view of the interior.
There were daily performances hosted by The Dairyland Theater Organ Society scheduled for the day as well as screen presentations of films and past performances. Sadly, we weren’t able to catch any of them. But it was very cool to stand on the same stage on which many, many great performers have stood to entertain crowds across the decades.
Polaris at the Hyatt Regency Hotel
Whenever my family and I attended an event at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, we’d consistently stay at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which is just a short walk away on 333 W. Kilbourn Ave. I can no longer keep track of how many celebrities and other well-known names (most in the professional wrestling industry) I’ve met at the hotel.
Another memory of the hotel is the Polaris, a once-operating restaurant that slowly rotated as you dined. Although the place is mostly empty and bare, beyond a few tables and chairs, the Polaris spun again on Saturday. Maybe I’m easily pleased, but to me, it was fun to revisit in a nostalgic kind of way.
The Pfister Hotel
The Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., is known as a prime landmark in the city and it is one that I’d never visited before Saturday. I’ve read and heard plenty about the hotel, which was the first all-electric hotel in the city, as well as the "palace for the people" according to its planner, Guido Pfister. As we walked through the front door and into the main lobby, the ambience was astounding.
It really is like stepping into a much different era. Not surprisingly, this was one of the busiest locations of the day with hotel guests and urban explorers alike wandering around, taking in the artwork as well as the beautifully constructed interior.
Hopefully it won’t be long before I’m back.
Gas Light Building
While on a brief tour of the historic and iconic Gas Light Building, 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., we made our up to the 17th floor where there were remarkable views of Downtown scenery and Lake Michigan. The views were unmatched (until we made our way up to the U.S. Bank’s observation deck, of course).
US Bank Observation Deck
I’m not particularly a fan of heights, but I mustered up the courage to ride up a cramped elevator to the observation deck of the U.S. Bank Center, which is advertised as the tallest building in the state and, of course, one of the most iconic on the city’s skyline.
The observation deck, which is on the 41st floor, extends 360 degrees, allows explorers to see a stunning view of the city. No matter where you stand, it’s quite a view. You know what would make this experience even better, though? Have the observation deck open until later in the night. I’d only imagine that the view of the illuminated city from the observation deck would be an unforgettable sight.
The deck is normally closed to the public, so if you haven’t been able to make your way up yet, make sure it’s on top of your "must-see" list next year.
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.