Explore the best Milwaukee has to offer with VISITMilwaukee and OnMilwaukee this summer by "Urban Exploring." We'll be sharing parks to hike, walls to climb, rivers to paddle, trails to bike and so much more. Be a tourist in your own town and experience it with us!
The Hank Aaron State Trail is 12 miles of continuously connected bike and walking trails – some are on the street – that connects the lakefront with Milwaukee’s West Side, including Lakeshore State Park on the east end, the Third Ward, Walker’s Point, the newly developing Reed Street Yards, the Menomonee Valley, Miller Park and more.
And, best of all for you long-distance hikers, bikers, skaters and runners, the trail connects to the 100-mile Oak Leaf Trail on both ends and is part of a continuous system that also includes the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and the Glacial Drumlin and Military Ridge State Trails.
I rode the section of the trail from the Third Ward to Miller Park and here is some of what I found along the way:
1. Harley-Davidson Museum
The trail passes right by the 6th Street entrance to the Harley-Davidson Museum, which offers a look at the history of this Milwaukee institution, but also has a restaurant that serves up some hearty fare.
2. Seafood & beer
Though I pedaled past, I did consider popping in for a beer and an app on my ride, especially considering the fabulous views here from the patio.
Just east of Potawatomi lies this quirky sculpture garden, created by Menomonee Valley meatpacking mogul Bernard Peck, who bought a piece of land next to his packing plant in 1980. He, along with sculptors Joseph Mendla and Hilary Goldblatt turned the space into a sculpture garden that includes works by the two sculptors, as well as by Richard Pflieger, who created the "Angel in a Cage" you see pictured here, in 1983.
4. Gaming & entertainment
From slots to roulette to bingo, Potawatomi has all the gaming you could ask for, as well as a variety of restaurants, a hotel with the city's most expensive suite at the top and a full slate of entertainment of all stripes.
The Domes aren't exactly on the trail, but they're just a little off the beaten path – if you will – and make for a great detour, with three ecosystems represented. They're also a true Milwaukee landmark. Access it through Three Bridges Park (see below).
Down in the Valley you'll find ample examples of Milwaukee's industrial past (and present), from train yards to factories old and new. My favorite bit of history down there, however, is this bus shelter rescued from the rebuilt 16th Street Viaduct, repurposed as a trail wayside.
The bridge you see here connects the Hank Aaron State Trail with the Urban Ecology Center (see below) and Three Bridges Park, which offers even more trails and great views of the Downtown skyline. It is also the best link to the Domes from the trail.
9. Urban Ecology Center
One of Milwaukee's three Urban Ecology Centers is just across that bridge pictured above, meaning the trail leads you right to nature programming, bathrooms, outdoor equipment rentals and more.
10. Major League Baseball
The Hank Aaron State Trail will bring you right to the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. There's also Friday's Front Row Grill, if you need a nosh or refreshment.
Of course, best of all, the Hank Aaron State Trail offers views of nature. From the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers, to the Lakefront, to prarie grasses, trees and more, there are sections of the trail where you might briefly forget you're in a major city.
12. Breweries & a distillery
You can view, download and print maps of the Hank Aaron Trail here.
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.