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5 reasons why you should visit Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home

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By Katy Deardorff
Communications Manager
VISIT Milwaukee


“Care for him who shall have borne the battle…” – President Lincoln

Recently listed as one of Milwaukee Magazine’s “Reasons to Love Milwaukee,” our Soldiers Home is a unique tribute to our city’s history of honoring veterans. With fall dwindling away, now is the perfect time to download the free smartphone walking tour app made available by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, bundle up and get outside before it’s too late.

A historic building part of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home

5 Reasons why you should visit Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home

  1. Milwaukee’s Soldier’s Home is one of the three original Soldiers Homes in the country. Built in 1867, Milwaukee joined Chelsea, Maine and Dayton, Ohio; however, it is the only Soldiers Home that retains the majority of its recuperative village and designed landscape. The Soldiers Home is very much the start of the modern-day Department of Veterans Affairs and its establishment was signed by President Lincoln just before his assassination.
  2. Milwaukee was chosen because a veteran care system was already established by the West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society. In February 1866, the West Side Soldiers Aid Society had provided temporary lodging to more than 16,000 men and served more than 70,000 meals in the previous 13 months.
  3. Originally almost 400 acres, the VA Campus grounds were designed by landscape architect Thomas Budd Van Horn. The grounds became one of Milwaukee’s first city parks and attracted Milwaukee residents each weekend. (The grounds are now 90 acres.)
  4. Old Main, which sits on the highest point of the campus, was the original domiciliary. It was designed to be an all-purpose building for veteran care, including dorms and parlors. The remarkable building has sat vacant since 1988. The rest of the campus was designed to feel like a small village that provided supporting services, such as a recreation hall and library, to veterans.
  5. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance are at work to Save the Soldiers Home. Though many of the Soldiers Home buildings remain in use, some of the largest and most visible – Old Main, Ward Memorial Hall, the Chapel, the Power Plant and the Administration Building – are currently unoccupied and rapidly deteriorating. The National Trust and MPA, in partnership with a broad-based coalition of civic and veteran organizations, have come together to urge the Milwaukee VA Medical Center to renew and restore this living landmark in a way that rehabilitates and reuses the historic buildings on the site, while providing enhanced services to veterans.

For more information about the Soldiers Home, click here. Otherwise, continue the conversation below with your comments. 


12 Days of Foodie Christmas

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December 5, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

With the bounty of the Great Lakes on one side, lush Midwestern soil on the other, and its mélange of Eastern and Northern European heritages, Milwaukee is an incredible food town. And discerning visitors know that the holidays are one of the best times to visit the city.

For years, friends and fans of the show Wisconsin Foodie have inquired about where I seek out my meals, merriment and ingredients during the holidays. Though not in any particular order, here are my Twelve Days of Foodie Christmas.

  1. The old threat of coal in my stocking has never held much weight, but now, because of the cleverness of the Troubadour baking folks at Colectivo Coffee, there are delicious, edible bags of coal with which to fill those stockings. They released the first batch on Dec. 5.
  2. Many wake up to St. Nick leaving small goodies in stockings or shoes on Dec. 6, but in 1933, that was also the day America woke up to the repeal of prohibition. The Iron Horse plans to celebrate in style.  Signature cocktails and beer from Milwaukee Brewing Co, all at near 1933 prices.  A burlesque show helps ring in the anniversary. No doubt the dancers will be wearing holiday colors. 
  3. On Dec. 7, great cuisine will abound in Milwaukee, leaving me torn about which table to take my seat.  Sanford Restaurant, the fine dining destination of national prestige, celebrates its 25th anniversary. Founder and former chef/owner Sandy D’ Amato and his wife Angie will return to cook at the dinner, as well as half a dozen guest chefs, including current chef/owner Justin Aprahamian, Gerard Craft of St. Louis, Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern in Madison; Joe Muench of Maxie's, Blue's Egg and Story Hill BKC; Giuseppe Safina of Tutto;  and Nick Burki of Coquette Cafe. Wines will be from Hobo Wine Company by owner Kenny Likitprakong, maker of Folk Machine and Banyan wines.

    The same night, just 20 blocks or so to the south, more of Milwaukee’s best chefs are also gathering for The Plate Collective Dinner.  Chef/husband Dan Jacobs and potter/wife Kate Riley come together to bring you an interactive dining experience. Chefs from different restaurants, including Dan Van Rite of Hinterland, Thomas Hauck of Circa 1880, Shay Linkus of Vanguard and Paul Zerkel of Goodkind, join together to prepare a coursed dinner, plated on dishes custom-made by Kate.
  4. No holiday is complete in our household without a pilgrimage to Larry’s Brown Deer Market, the first purveyor of fine specialties foods in Wisconsin. The shop’s century-long history is, in essence, the history of specialty foods in Milwaukee. Each year, Larry’s receives a prized allotment of some of the best cheeses in the world. Hook’s 15-year aged cheddar and Tall Grass Reserve from Landmark Creamery are my picks this year.
  5. My family always looks forward to visiting the Christmas lights display at Cathedral Square, then heading across the street to Elsa’s on the Park for a view of their annual avant garde Christmas tree, some rich for warm cocoa for the children and hot toddies for the grown-ups. 
  6. Tea at the Pfister is a special, seasonal tradition. Hosted in the Blu Lounge, on the 23rd floor, one can experience a beautifully refined tea service with all the trimmings, while enjoying one of the loveliest panoramic views in the city.
  7. The French invented pastry, and their gift to the world should be yours for the holidays. The holiday tart in particular is a thing of beauty in form and taste.  Moreover, you have not really had a hot chocolate until you have had one at Le Rêve Patisserie and Café, with true French chocolate and homemade marshmallows floating in the rich drink.  
  8. I don’t know why but at some point during the holidays I look forward to tasting pickled herring, specifically, Ma Baensch’s. I’ve had other herring in fancier restaurants, in roadside taverns, in the north woods, but Ma Baensch’s has got it; that ineffable something that says Midwest Christmas to me. Swing into St. Paul Fish at the Milwaukee Public Market to pick some up, and pair it with saltines and a Pabst on tap. It’s the holidays after all.
  9. If you are like me, the time for champagne is always.  However, the holidays seem partial to champagne like no other time of year.  Though champagne must come from the region known as Champagne, not all bubblies from that region are alike.  To learn why, Thief Wine does a particularly smart champagne tasting on Dec. 16 and 17. 
  10. Milwaukee, with its deep Eastern and Central European heritages, is historically famous for its sausage. It gets that avenue right more than any other culinary road it has ever gone down. For the holidays, I always visit and pay homage to a master.  Frank Jakubczak, now in his mid 70s, has owned his own sausage-making shop for over 40 years, and is a living link to the way things have always been done best…with humility and true craftsmanship.
  11. As a young teenager delivering papers, one of the surest signs that the holidays were in full-swing was the warm glow of “Tom and Jerry” signs in the windows of restaurants, bars, taverns or pubs. A traditional eggnog drink flavored with brandy or rum, I can still remember my first warm, sweet, frothy sip, given to me by my Aunt Valerie one Christmas. Bryant’s, America’s first free-standing cocktail lounge, carries on the Tom and Jerry drink tradition with aplomb.  One sip of their batch, and I am 9-years old again, handing a warm mug of holiday cheer back to my favorite aunt.
  12. Now in its fifth year, Great Lakes Distillery celebrates the only holiday event  a show “about nothing” could produce.  Festivus For the Rest of Us is held in the distillery on December 23. Feats of strength, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots and, of course, the pole are all there. Not to mention Great Lakes Distillery’s exquisite spirits.



Top 10 things to do with your family over the holidays

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By Katy Deardorff
Communications Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

‘Tis the season for holiday travel! Milwaukee is home to great festive events that will get you up and moving into the holiday spirit. Grab your family and friends, a warm winter coat, and your best holiday cheer and check out these top 10 things to do in Milwaukee this holiday season.

1. Hop on the jingle bus and tour Milwaukee’s Annual Holiday Lights Festival starting Nov 20. For just $1 visitors and locals alike can explore thousands of lights and dozens of displays in the downtown area.

2. Be sure to enjoy the holiday lights while riding in style in a cozy mini coach bus and sampling some delicious desserts with Milwaukee City Food Tours Dec 5-22!

3. There’s no better time to catch a show than during this festive season. Experience the magic of Disney’s The Lion King, playing at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts through Dec 7.

4. Witness a classic holiday spectacle with the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker” from Dec 13-27.

5. Be sure to catch the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of the treasured holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” at the Pabst Theater from Dec 2-24 and watchRep favorite actor Jonathan Smoots debut as Scrooge. It’s certain to fill your heart with cheer!

A performance of A Christmas Carol by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

6. Get out and enjoy scenic downtown views and have great fun skating with family and friends at the “Slice of Ice” outdoor ice skating rink at Red Arrow Park. Skating is free with your own skates!

7. Too cold outside? Then head to the Petit National Ice Center, a U.S. Olympic Training Center! Don’t miss out on skating with the country’s best.

8. Football may be in full swing, but make sure to get in on the basketball action while in town. Spend a night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and catch the exciting action happening in collegiate basketball with the Marquette University Golden Eagles or cheer on Jabari Parker and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks as they bring home victories for Brew City. Nearby, the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena hosts home games for the Panthers.

9. Ring in the New Year with an extravagant dinner at Ardent, a semifinalist for the Nation’s Best New Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation Awards.

10. Be adventurous and kick start your new year joining hundreds of locals and visitors as they plunge into the icy waters of Lake Michigan at this year’s Polar Bear Plunge.

Looking for more ideas? Check out Milwaukee for the most up to date happenings in the city! With a variety of ways to filter and find things to do, there’s bound to be something for every family member you’re inevitably hosting.