Just think how lucky you are to live in Milwaukee. Most inland cities get a river to play in. That's it. A river. St. Louis is great, as is Minneapolis -- don't get me wrong -- but neither has anything of the breadth and beauty of Lake Michigan. It's like an ocean without the waves (sorry, surfers), and it's the perfect place to spend a day out.
Don't think for a minute that you have to own a boat to enjoy the lake, either. You can swim, wade, jet-ski or sailboard (there are rentals near McKinley Marina). You can take the brisk winter plunge with the Polar Bears on New Year's Day. If you don't want to get your feet wet, stroll or jog or bike along the beaches or Veterans' Park. Don't forget the paddle boats in the lagoon, either.
But if you're itching to get out on the lake, here are a few ways to do it.
--Take a dinner or cocktails cruise on the Edelweiss or Edelweiss II, which do brunch, dinner and after-dark romantic cocktail cruises down the river and out into the lake in their low-center-of-gravity boats. This is literally smooth sailing with the boats leaving from Third St. Pier, 1110 Old World Third St. Call (414) 272-3625 for more info.
--The familiar Iroquois, which moors on the west bank of the river, just north of Clybourn St., can accommodate 145 folks on its two decks and it makes daily cruises -- from May through October -- out into the harbor, with views of downtown, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Summerfest grounds and the Allen-Bradley clocktower. This is a great place to have a party or group outing. Call (414) 384-8606 for details.
--Riverwalk Boat Tours offers a great weekend brewery tour with stops at Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee Ale House and Rock Bottom Brewery. The 3-hour weekend bar hop (swim?) is $20 per person and can accommodate up to 44 people on the Brew City Queen. Brew City, which is located in Pere Marquette Park at Third & State Sts., also rents pontoon and paddle boats by the hour, 1/2-day and full day. Call (414) 283-9999 for info.
--To get down into the water, call Pirate's Cove Diving at (414) 482-1430. Pirate's Cove arranges diving charters to Lake Michigan shipwrecks. History lovers and diving fans will love this!
--There are also a number of companies running fishing charters out of McKinley Marine on Lincoln Memorial Dr. at the foot of Lafayette Hill, including Little Dipper, (262) 252-4426; Maritime offers half- and full-day trips on its 30-ft. vessel, (414) 247-1660); Capt. Jack Remus will take you out on his 33-ft. craft and if you catch nothing, you pay nothing! (414) 482-2336; Take 5 does fishing charters, fireworks trips and boat rides, (414) 871-FISH. When you get back in, there's a handy fish cleaning station, donated in 1986 by the Grunau Company, with a cleaning table, cutting boards, suspended water hoses and disposal cans.
--Wisconsin's tall ship, the Denis Sullivan, is a beautiful addition to the Lakefront and skyline. A trip to the Schooner in the Milwaukee Harbor provides insight into sailing, the environment and our Great Lake. Wisconsin Lake Schooner Education Association (WLSEA) is a non-profit organization committed to re-establishing the historical, cultural, and environmental bonds between our community and one of its most valuable natural resources, the Great Lakes. Its primary mission is to offer experience-based, hands-on educational opportunities to learners of all ages. Membership is open to the public and begin at $25 per year. For more information about WLSEA or opportunities to sail the Denis Sullivan, call Therese Hamilton, Director of Sales & Marketing, at 414-276-7700.
--If you need more sailing, you can stop in at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, 1450 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. For a reasonable annual fee, you can learn how to sail and then have free access to a boat all season long. This is one of the city's best recreation options.
--Perhaps you've got a boat of your own or are thinking of making the investment. If so, there are public boat launches at McKinley and South Shore Marinas as well as one just south of the Third Ward on S. Water St.
McKinley Marina has a gas dock, mechanical service, storage, a yacht club, and the McKinley Deli for food and beverage. South Shore Marina and Yacht Club, (414) 481-2331, has similar services located on the lake, at the foot of E. Nock St. in Bay View. If you're further south, check out the South Milwaukee Yacht Club (414) 762-9819. Further north? Port Washington and Sheboygan have excellent boating services, as well.
There are a number of repair, maintenance, storage and marina options in the city, check the Yellow Pages for details.
The car ferry is another Lake treasure, watch for OnMilwaukee.com's feature on the ferry later this summer. Please remember, the lake is our great natural treasure. Please treat it accordingly. Don't pollute it or endanger its wildlife. Let your children enjoy it as much as you do.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.