By Amy Grau Special to Published Sep 18, 2015 at 7:56 PM

Doors Open Milwaukee: With over 175 places to visit, where do you even begin? Well, it depends on what you like. It depends on who you’re with. It depends on how much of Milwaukee you want to see.

I asked a couple of Doors Open Milwaukee Committee members, who have been working on this event along with me for the last nine months, to offer their individual top 10s. With varying backgrounds and tastes, yet both with a love for the city and this event, these individuals know Doors Open. Take a look at who they are, and check out what they want to see. You may want to follow in their footsteps.

Amy Grau, Doors Open Milwaukee program manager

I believe it may be hardest for me, being the person who actually gets all of these wonderful places to participate, to step back and pick just a few great locations to visit. For the record, they are all fantastic. So in order to make the list below, I had to pretend I wasn’t going to be stationed at City Hall Headquarters all weekend (come say hi!), that I wasn’t the one who organized this event and that I was actually able to attend for one day. What would I choose? First off, if all of the factors above were the case, I’d take my family. I have two younger boys, ages seven and nine, and would gear my choices toward places they could learn, explore and enjoy equally alongside my husband and I.

1. Mitchell Gallery of Flight

When I go to the airport, I am usually rushing to catch my flight. If there is a long delay, well, I live so close, I’d just go home. So the opportunity to linger around the Mitchell International Airport long enough to notice there is a 1,400 sqft flight museum just has not happened. In addition to the museum itself, some backrooms and special items from the archives will be on display as well, exclusively for Doors Open.

Bonus: The museum, located pre-security between Concourses C and D, will be providing parking vouchers for all attendees of the museum during the event.

2. Milwaukee Firehouse Engine 12

This is the Heavy Urban Rescue Team (H.U.R.T) station for the City of Milwaukee. They have four areas of specialized rescue: confined space, trench, high/low angle rope rescues and structural collapse. The equipment here is like no other station. Battery-operated jaws of life? Yes. Two, as a matter of fact, and used by the firefighters on a weekly basis for rescue. A rope long enough to rescue someone from the top of the US Bank Center? Yes, and only at this station. Amazing equipment that you will see nowhere else.

3. Milwaukee Police Academy

A simulated street scene for police officers to practice approaching cars, an apartment scene to learn how to maneuver through during emergencies, a tavern scene to learn levels of intoxication and proper approach, and a firing range — all indoors, to tour and walk through in this facility. In addition, their first floor memorial to officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty in Milwaukee is something to see.

4. North Central Little League / The Hangar

Right down the street from the Police Academy, North Central Little League (NCLL) has been giving children from Milwaukee and Wauwatosa the opportunity to play Little League baseball for 36 years. Take some swings in the cage, hit off the tee or work on pitching. This brand new facility will offer all ages a chance to experience some indoor baseball fun during the event and is a great "break" location to visit with children.

5. Federal Courthouse

The Federal Courthouse, a family location? You bet. Not only will the Courthouse offer a historical scavenger hunt for families, but they will be giving family tours of a courtroom at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Having such a location offer something geared specifically toward children and families is a fantastic learning experience for all. I love when places one may generally think "Hmmm, that’s not for kids," makes it for kids. Open during Doors Open on Saturday only and usually not this "open" to the public in this capacity, it’s one of the prettiest buildings downtown. Even your kids will think so.

6. Milwaukee City Hall

Well my goodness, what isn’t there to see here? The Mayor will have his office open. You can sit in his desk (and he will most likely be there Saturday morning to greet you). The Common Council Chambers will be open for tours, and Common Council President Michael Murphy will personally be giving the 11-11:30 a.m. free Sunday tour. There will be an amazing art exhibit by six Milwaukee artists, The Dry Points, all over the City Hall Rotunda. Access Contemporary Music has composed a piece (one of four throughout the city) specifically written about this location and will be playing it here during the event. There will be a scavenger hunt going on around Downtown and ending here — not to mention the beauty of the building itself. City Hall is a flurry of nonstop activity throughout the event. I am glad it is also Doors Open Headquarters, where I will be stationed throughout, since I may be able to sneak a peek at some of the excitement around me.

Mayor Tom Barrett will have his office open for Doors Open Milwaukee this weekend (Photo: Erol Reyal)

7. War Memorial Center

Here is one of those great examples of a location that is not in our Family Passport (this year anyway) yet has geared their participation toward families during the event. Don’t miss this one! New to Doors Open this year, the War Memorial Center offers a variety of interesting exhibits. Touch a steel beam from the World Trade Center destroyed on 9/11, and hear the story of how the beam came to Milwaukee. Reenactors, face painters and bagpipers will be on hand as kids discover the War Memorial on a "history hunt." A great place to take the family to learn and explore.

8. US Bank Center

This is the general public’s only chance to get to the top of the observation deck of Wisconsin’s tallest building, so I highly recommend doing so. Close to 8,000 people enjoyed the view last year during Doors Open. Don’t worry: If there is a line, it goes rather quickly with the two freight elevators to take you up to the 41st floor. And it doesn’t matter what type of weather; I’ve been up there on sunny and stormy days, and both views are equally breathtaking.

9. Jones Island

A Doors Open Milwaukee staple, I have to say it is easily one of my most favorite tours/sites during Doors Open Milwaukee. The amount of learning involved at every age? You’ll never forget your tour at Jones Island. And this year they are offering family-friendly, shorter 30-minute load-and-go tours in addition to the 60-minute tours – both of which will travel via motorcoach around the entire Jones Island facility. It’s definitely something that should be on the to-do list during Doors Open weekend.

10. Bay View Printing Company

I love print. I love old school print. I love letterpress. I love big machines that help to make letterpressed, old school print. I love tours that you can actually watch what goes on at the location in action. I even think my kids would like this one and learn a lot about how this was the way to print everything back in the day. It is new to Doors Open this year, and I wish I could go, but I will be a little busy that weekend. Go for me if you can, and let me know how it is.

BONUS: Brenner Brewing Company

So this is where I am done checking things out with my kids, find a sitter and come back for one last location. Brenner Brewing is having a street/block party during the event: Bacon Bomb Beer Blues & BBQ Bash at Brenner Brewing (say that five times in a row). Four Milwaukee blues bands, a barbecue picnic, a Packer Potluck Sunday, Brenner beer and the possible chance of brewmaster Mike Brenner, in addition to giving tours of his brewery, bringing out his accordion to play a song or two? The perfect ending to a perfect day of exploring.

SPECIAL NOTE: Mobcraft Brewery, despite it being listed in the official event guide, will not be part of Doors Open Milwaukee this year. We hope to have them join us in 2016!

Colter Sikora, Doors Open Milwaukee cartographer and blogger at Roamin’ Catholic Churches

My picks are split between my heavy interest in Milwaukee’s sacred spaces and all of those other fun places that I get the honor to map each year. This list attempts to satisfy both of my callings – which is no easy task with 176 sites to choose from!

These sites are written in the order of a mock itinerary for a day at Doors Open Milwaukee. Any other method of ranking sites would be like splitting hairs. I am planning a couple of days of Doors Open with some Madison-area friends, so my actual itinerary will likely vary:

1. Glorious Malone’s Fine Sausage

Wisconsin is full of great meat markets, but few purvey head cheese with the reputation that comes from this family-run business. Touring the sausage plant will be an extra treat to go with my morning deli run!

2. All Saints' Cathedral

Beauty runs through the whole gamut of Milwaukee’s houses of worship. This Episcopal Cathedral with its chapels and rich statuary and windows is a long-standing Milwaukee classic.

3. Milwaukee City Hall

This pick seems so obvious, with the special tours of the bell tower and the Mayor’s office, along with an awesome exhibit from The Dry Points. However, the City Hall building with its design has a way of representing a cathedral in its own right. I’ve visited City Hall for Doors Open a few times now, but I don’t think I could ever tire of this place.

4. St. Joseph’s Chapel

Driving by this chapel on Layton Boulevard, you may be hard-pressed to imagine its beauty. Step inside however, and you are bound to be awed by the beauty of the mosaics, stained-glass windows or any of its other marvels.

This isn’t in Europe, this is St. Joseph’s Chapel on Layton Boulevard! (Photo: Colter Sikora)

5. The Brewhouse Inn & Suites

I love a successful repurposing project when I get to see one, and from everything I’ve been told, this hotel does a great job of blending Pabst’s historic brewing past with the present-day amenities that are essential for a hotel space. I’m excited to finally get a peek inside!

6. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Only a couple blocks from The Brewhouse Inn & Suites, this church is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture and design both inside and out. One question I want to have answered when I visit is, "How on earth has this church thrived either because of or in spite of being in the shadow of one of America’s largest brewers?"

Where suds meet Scripture. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church sits across N. 9th St. from the Pabst Brewery site. (Photo: Colter Sikora)

7. Barnett Art Gallery

Wisconsin’s widest collection of for-sale art? A beautiful Victorian Italianate home with a rooftop panoramic view of Downtown? I think this is a winner!

8. St. Mary and St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church

I recall the first time I saw this church, speeding by on I-94 and being surprised that this domed masterpiece was a relatively new addition in Milwaukee, built in 2006. Inspired by millenniums-old churches in Egypt, the church itself and its community will be offering a terrific overview of their faith and art.

9. St. Stanislaus Catholic Church

I finished Doors Open 2014 by visiting this church and want to go back again this year. They are in the process of restoring the church to its 19th century grandeur, and with nearly a year’s work under their belts, I’m excited to hear how their work has progressed. Plus, this is a parish that celebrates mass in Latin as the Catholic Church did prior to the Vatican II meetings in the 1960s. Get ready to go old school at St. Stan’s!

Detail from the Sanctuary at St. Stanislaus. (Photo: Colter Sikora)

10. Great Lakes Distillery

Another tour to satisfy the taste buds, this distillery offers a wide range of spirits available through tasting flights. Even more impressive is be the opportunity to check out the still, fermentation tank and bottling area – all without having to drive down to those far-away whiskey havens like Kentucky and Tennessee!

BONUS: Falcon Bowl and St. Casimir Catholic Church

These two places ooze significance, both for the Riverwest neighborhood and for me personally. The bowling alley, home of Milwaukee’s Polish Falcons, and the church have held the balance of the fun times and the somber ones for generations of Milwaukeeans for over a century, and they both have astounding details for the architecture and décor fan. What strikes closest to home, though, is that my Polish great-grandparents lived across the street from Falcon Bowl on East Clarke Street, and I will get to retrace some of their footsteps at these establishments this weekend. Na zdrowie!

I bet you’ll find me at the Basilica and Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, too!

East Clarke Street, aka the author’s Little Polonia, with St. Casimir in the background and the Falcon Bowl on the far right. (Photo: Colter Sikora)

Paul Doro, Doors Open Milwaukee media coordinator

If you’ve seen anything about Doors Open Milwaukee on TV, heard about it on the radio or read a story about it around Milwaukee, chances are Paul is the one who set it up. Finding specific places of interest for media is what he does, and his personal choices below seem to reflect that same type of hands-on, action-type excitement. Paul’s Doors Open Milwaukee 2015 choices are:

1. Bay View Printing Company

2. Concordia Gardens

3. Iron Horse Hotel

4. Jewish Museum Milwaukee

5. Milwaukee Firehouse Engine 12

6. Milwaukee Makerspace

7. Milwaukee Public Library East Branch

8. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

9. Milwaukee Blacksmith

10. Weld Guy

Amy Grau Special to
Amy Grau is the program manager for Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s annual Doors Open Milwaukee.