By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Aug 10, 2009 at 2:36 PM Photography: Whitney Teska

The Iron Horse Hotel's new backyard patio, The Yard, has been open since the start of the season as a fun outside bar, but now that real summer-like temperatures have finally arrived, it's become a great garden getaway from the heat and hectic pulse of the city that surrounds it.

Sitting under the artfully strung little white globe lights and the airy canopy of a few canvas coverings is a definitely relaxing way to unwind after the workday. But perhaps The Yard's best feature is its versatility.

Yes, it's a hotel bar, but it's a far cry from the typically swanky lounges found in many lobbies. And, yes, it's an exclusively outdoor area, but the small gatherings of all-weather couches, loveseats, chairs and tables create a rather intimate environment not usually found beyond the boundaries of four walls.

Interestingly, it works as both a sort of secret retreat from the urban jungle as well as a comfortable spot from which to soak in the view of it.

To the north, bits of Milwaukee's skyline peek out from behind the trees, thick with their summer leaves.

To the west, the Sixth Street Viaduct gleams in the bright sun and to the south, the Allen-Bradley clock tower stands tall as a majestic symbol of a neighborhood that is on the rise.

The view to the east, of course, doesn't extend very far, as it's beautifully obstructed by the towering red brick façade of the mighty Iron Horse Hotel.

The Yard offers a full bar with table service and the music -- which is rather loud, at least upon opening at 4 p.m. -- runs all the classic rock, country, and dance pop bases. You're bound to head Lynyrd Skynyrd followed by Van Halen followed by Prince, but most likely, you're not there for the music; you're there for the bigger picture pleasure of its charming, laid back environment.

The décor here is impressive -- it can't be easy to find furniture that can weather the elements while keeping in theme with the stylish aesthetic of the hotel. The look is rich and rustic, with no detail overlooked. Even the tables are manufactured from repurposed warehouse wagons and such with perfectly rust-worn wheels and distressed wooden surfaces -- no doubt homage to the neighborhood's history.

The prominent earth tones mixed with chrome metals create an intentionally industrial look that doubles as a sophisticated, comfortable hangout, much like the Iron Horse itself.

Thursdays (through September) are Bike Nights at The Yard. Complete with full bar and menu of outdoor grilled favorites, the weekly 5 p.m. event indulges in entertainment and the art of the motorcycle culture to the city's motorcycle enthusiast, and non-riders as well.

The hotel offers 24-hour secured motorcycle parking and a self-service bike wash, to boot. The theme for Bike Night this Thursday, Aug. 13 is Ducati Motorcycle Rally, but, of course, all styles and models are welcome.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”