As employees of OnMilwaukee.com, we pride ourselves on being "Milwaukee experts." Therefore, when we host out-of-town guests, we had better be able to show them what makes Milwaukee a great place to live and visit.
Molly Snyder Edler
I would take out-of-town guests on a tour of the Lakefront Brewery. Not only is it very Milwaukee to check out the magic behind the beverage that made us famous, but the Lakefront tour is so spirited and hospitable that it always results in a fun -- and tipsy -- time. I would also show off the Milwaukee Art Museum, Lake Michigan and possibly one or all of my favorite watering holes, including Jamo's, The Nomad and The Foundation (Bryant's used to be on this list but unfortunately it's closed now.) For meals, I would suggest Maria's Pizzaria, Izumi's, Nessun Dorma or LuLu.
If the timing is right (meaning May through September) I'd take people for a little ride down the river on the Milwaukee Maiden or Brew City Queen, which are tour boats that make three brewery stops at Lakefront, Rock Bottom and the Ale House in a matter of four hours. Then it's over to the South Side, because no trip through "real" Milwaukee is complete without a stop at Koz's Mini Bowl, which is always a fun and hilarious take on one of this city's favorite indoor sports. To cap off the night, it's over to Bay View, because if there's a good band playing, I'm always happy to show off the newly remodeled Cactus Club, one of our best live music venues.
After a long night out on the town, I'd start Sunday out with a hearty brunch at Comet Café, followed by a little record shopping next door at Bulls Eye. If we're not out of cash at this point, it's time for an afternoon matinee at the Oriental Theater.
It's tough to say how I'd handle the role of "tour guide for a day" because I'd have to consider factors ranging from the age and personalities of the visitors. If kids are involved, I'd say that the Zoo is a perfect starting point, with lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery, sitting along the river. If it's around the Fourth of July, well, a trip to Summerfest is a given. From April to October, a trip to Miller Park for tailgating is in order. Summer weekends mean a trip to an ethnic festival. If my guests like to enjoy an occasional adult beverage, there is always a brewery tour that leads into an impromptu pub crawl.
Rule No.1 with visitors to our amazing city: Don't take I-94 home from the airport. Take 794 and the Hoan Bridge into Downtown. The reasoning here is simple. The views, landmarks and general aesthetics of this drive are far more appealing than the boring nature of the I-94 drive into Downtown.
That being said, via car I'll first quickly showcase the Lakefront and its accessibility (including Discovery World, Summerfest and the Milwaukee Art Museum), the Historic Third Ward, the East Side, Commerce Street, Brady Street and a quick drive through MU.
If there's only one day and night in Milwaukee, it's dinner or drinks at Roots, coffee at Alterra on the Lake, a snack at the Milwaukee Public Market and then a roof top tour of a few Downtown housing units to truly showcase the ever-growing Riverwalk and neighborhoods of Downtown.
Where I take visitors to Milwaukee depends, of course, on their interests, but the lakefront is a gimme. At any time of year, the view is dramatic and a lot of people, especially from outside the country, don't realize that Milwaukee is on a lake that appears to be a sea when standing on shore. Turning around, the lakefront also offers great views of Downtown and up along the East Side, too. Once we're down there, it's an easy walk to the Milwaukee Art Museum and any number of great restaurants.
I've got this one down to a science. Generally, first-time visitors are expecting Milwaukee to be all about beer, all the time (probably because I tell them that there's a part of the city that actually smells like yeast). That means the pressure's on to dazzle them with a little high-brow, a little low-brow, a little touristy and a little "Milwaukee undercover."
Let's say I'm picking them up at the airport, first thing in the morning. Since we're on that side of town (more or less), we'll begin with breakfast at Chez Jacques. Then we'll hit the Art Museum. With the highbrow, artsy fartsy part of the day done, we'll head west for the Miller Brewery tour. If it's in season, we'll stay out there for a Brewers game. If not, it's back to the East Side for the Lakefront Brewery tour.
Depending on our fanciness level, we'll have dinner at Nessun Dorma, Roots or The Social. With enough food in our stomachs for the night ahead of us, we'll hit the Nomad on Brady, Angelo's on Van Buren, then down to Bay View for the trifecta of Lulu, Palomino and finally Palm Tavern. That's a lot to do in just one day, but it's possible. Worst case scenario, we hit about half these places, and it's still a great way to show off our favorite city.