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5 reasons why you should visit Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home

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Monday, December 15, 2014

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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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

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. 


A Good Land That Keeps Giving

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November 25, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie


There was a time when the best way to taste the highlights of a region was to dine at one of its grand hotels. They combined cosmopolitan sophistication and regional flair. Though much of how and why we travel has changed, a few of Milwaukee’s better hotels have kept this tradition alive, offering a sense of place through food.

A fine hotel nestled in one of the most fertile places on earth ought to deliver special dishes that reflect gifts of the soil.  Chef Aaron Miles at Milwaukee’s Intercontinental Hotel does just that.  It is true that ingredients available to chefs with seasonal acumen do narrow by November, but for an accomplished chef, that is where the fun begins. Chef Miles has a “no butternut squash policy” in his kitchen. “The stuff is ubiquitous,” he told me.  Instead he populates the late-season Kilow@t fall menu with Minnesota wild rice cakes, root vegetable blends colored with rutabaga, winter carrots and parsnips, with enough autumn vibrato to hold their own against a lamb shank brined in IPA from Lakefront Brewery. He cooks with an eye toward the season, without falling back on old standards or the overwrought crutch of “comfort food,” heavily sauced and bereft of spirit.

Just a dozen blocks to the South, Chef Bradford Shovlin’s menu for Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel evinces his Midwest heritage and accomplished training. After stints with Chef Bruce Sherman of Chicago’s North Pond (a 5-time James Beard Best Chef Award nominee and 2012 winner) and time in other esteemed kitchens, Shovlin brings a delicate, culinary inventiveness to the hotel that Condé Nast Traveler Magazine listed among the 100 best in the country.

My favorite of Shovlin’s opening dishes takes lush Beluga lentils which give way to locally -sourced kale, cauliflower, hazelnuts and Pleasant Ridge Reserve (one of the rock stars of Wisconsin cheese). Another dish that reveals his poised, seasonal sensibilities, is the bison tartar from nearby New Belgium, Wisconsin. The farm, called Lake View Buffalo, is helmed by a fifth generation farming family. I filmed a Wisconsin Foodie at the farm in 2011, and the majestic animals and the family that raises them were highlights of the whole season. Eschewing the standard tartar preparation, he pairs it with a horseradish-cured egg yolk, caper berries and Sarvecchio (a Wisconsin Cheese that beat the parmesan-making Italians at their own game when blind tasted at an International Cheese composition in 2012 as “Best in Class.”) 

This deep into the season, the natural predilection is to hunker down, to find a place that offers the warmth the soul seeks as the days get that much shorter.  Milwaukee, to its credit, has always been known as one of the more friendly places; an honest city, in the sense that, when you visit, we are genuinely glad you did.  As autumn rolls into winter, I am glad that my city remains a place where one can tuck-in and savor the memorable cooking and hospitality of a good land that keeps giving.


The Holiday Shuffle: 5 Things to Do When They’re STILL Here

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

So you’ve carved the turkey and decked the halls. You’ve exchanged hugs and learned all about Cousin Susie’s new job and Uncle John’s broken toe. You’ve done everything that the holidays require…and your out-of-town guests are still in your house. Luckily, Milwaukee is full of seasonal delights to get you out of the house and all back into the ho-ho-holiday spirit.

A performance of A Christmas Carol by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Try one of these foolproof methods for forgetting whoever it is that keeps leaving their wet towel on the bathroom floor and remembering that you’re family and you love each other.

  1. Ride the Jingle Bus – Seeing all the beautiful holiday lights downtown is easy. For just $1 per person, you can take a 40 minute tour on a comfy Coach USA bus and marvel in the festive panorama on display. With each tour led by a helpful Milwaukee Downtown Public Service Ambassador, this is a great option for first-time visitors who’d also like to get to know the city. You’ll also get to enjoy complimentary cookies and cocoa in the “Warming House” while waiting to board the bus, along with a holiday coloring book for the kids.
  2. Check out a holiday show – From stone-cold classics like the Milwaukee Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” to kid-friendly fun like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” at First Stage and irreverent laughs at “A Cudahy Caroler Christmas” at In Tandem Theatre, everyone in the family will find something to spark some holiday cheer.
  3. Get active in North Pole style – After too much turkey, pie and all the other stuff in between, you’re probably ready to get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution to start exercising. Milwaukee is home to both the Santa Rampage, a merry cycling pub crawl where both riders and cycles are decked out in their holiday finest, and the Santa Hustle 5K. The Rampage is BYO-Costume, but signing up for Santa Hustle will get you a jolly sweatshirt along with your own Santa hat and beard.
  4. Visit the Kooky Cooky House – A beloved Milwaukee holiday tradition from the 1960s and 70s is being revived this year at Discovery World. A visit to this whimsical automated cookie factory is free with museum admission. Any long-time Milwaukee residents in your family? Give them the opportunity to introduce the new generation to this wacky classic.
  5. Take a brewery tour – So this isn’t exactly holiday related. So what? You’re in Milwaukee, and brewery tours are a great way to entertain a big group. Anyone who’s still in a sour mood after the hilarious tour at Lakefront Brewery, meeting the hologram of Frederick Miller at MillerCoors, sipping a delicious root beer alongside German-style brews at Sprecher Brewing or facing off with the brewery scoundrels of Milwaukee Brewing Company is nothing but a straight-up Scrooge.

Don’t let close quarters and overly-strong ‘nog ruin your magical holiday memories. It’s the season of good cheer, after all – let the city bring fun and festivity back to your holiday visit this year.

(Five wasn't enough for you? Find more local holiday events here!)


Milwaukee Halloween Costume Ideas

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Monday, October 20, 2014

By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

Here we are, barely two weeks away from Halloween, and you still don’t have a costume. Never fear!  You are not doomed to pick a cliché or obvious costume and see yourself coming and going all night. I am here to provide you with quick Milwaukee-themed costumes GUARANTEED* to make you the hit of every party.

*Results may vary.

A sculpture of the Fonz from Happy Days on the Milwaukee RiverWalk

This could be you!

Bronze Fonz (w/ optional fan) – Ayy! All you need to transform into the RiverWalk’s #1 selfie destination is a pair of jeans, a leather jacket and two thumbs. Varsity costume-wearers might want to dip into some bronze face paint to take this look to the next level. This is easily transformed into a couples’ costume: just have your partner ready with a cellphone and their best thumbs-up to complete the pairing as a selfie-taking fan.

Hank the Dog – This is the cutest possible option. Get yourself some Brewers gear (which you probably already own), make dog ears out of felt and you’re good to go! A little creative face painting will go a long way with this one. Everyone is going to want to take pictures with you and buy things with your face on them.

The Calling – Want to stir up some drama at your Halloween shindig? Just dress up as Milwaukee’s most controversial sculpture, The Calling, aka the sunburst, aka the big orange metal asterisk at the end of Wisconsin Avenue. Dress all in orange, and be prepared to stand with your arms and legs outstretched as wide as possible whenever someone asks who you are.

Frederick Miller – Show your historical chops by dressing up as one of the icons of Milwaukee’s brewing heritage.  If you’ve seen his hologram, you know all you need is a convincingly old-timey suit and a sweet goatee. Carry around a bottle of beer for additional verisimilitude (you’d be doing that anyway, right?). This costume could also easily be “zombiefied,” if you want to show off your gorey makeup skills.

Racing Sausages – The perfect group costume! Getting the full gang together would be great, but if you don’t have the full five, it’s easy enough to act like your missing sausages are seriously losing this race. This could easily be a very in-depth DIY project if you choose to manufacture yourself a sausage costume, but you could also dress up in each sausage’s relatively simple outfit. I don’t think anyone would blame you.

The Gaslight Building – This one is simple with a show-stopping accessory. Any outfit (ideally one that’s orange-y brown in color) becomes an instant costume when topped with that awesome flame. You could easily adapt a tutorial for creating the classic Sims plumbob (the floating green diamond) into this shape. Choose which weather you’d like to forecast, and you’re ready to go! (If you really wanted to go for it, this would be the perfect time to deploy a color-changing LED light.)


Milwaukee’s Culinary Scene: Gearing Up for Greatness

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Monday, September 22, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

As autumn transitions from knocking on the calendar's door to making itself at home, and produce variety starts to taper off, it’s easy to think that things might cool down on Milwaukee's dining front. Far from it. 

Richness abounds, and our great restaurants, craft brewers and cocktail-mixing folks are kicking into high gear as they switch menus and embrace the season. There is still, in fact, plenty coming from farmers’ fields at this time of year, and the cooler weather’s bounty is making its way into many of Milwaukee's culinary offerings.

One could happily wear themselves out, working their way across Milwaukee, sampling the exquisite cocktails made with Great Lakes Distillery's silver medal-winning Pumpkin Spirit. Hi-Hat, Black Sheep, and Café Lulu are some of my favorite imbibing spots around the city, whose cocktails do justice to Great Lakes’ seasonal spirit. 

If your penchant leans toward beer, order a cheekily named Sasquatch from Milwaukee Brewing Co., easily found on tap handles across the city. What began as a home brew by one of Milwaukee Brewing Co.'s team now takes shape by way of700 pounds of pumpkins and 400 pounds of sweet potatoes, plus a variety of specialty malts. Flavor notes of pumpkin and cinnamon make it a great fall brew. 

Should you wish to stay on the beer bent, swing into Benelux Café or any of the other Lowland's cafés or restaurants. Take a moment to raise a glass to the owners, both of whom have been knighted (yes, knighted) by the Belgian Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mashstaff and just recently returned from their trip to Amsterdam. The knighthood is an honor bestowed by one of the oldest professional organizations in history, and something akin to a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize for brewers.  

Le Rêve Patisserie and Café

As any good Belgian knows, another of the world’s favorite indulgences is chocolate.  Milwaukee hosts two renowned master pastry chefs in October. Le Rêve Patisserie and Café in downtown Wauwatosa hosts a seven-course Pour l'amour du chocolat dinner on Oct 21. Visiting chef Jerome Landrieu, director of the Chocolate Academy in Chicago and listed as one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America, will be partnering chocolate, course by course, with Le Rêve's superlative French cuisine. 

Not to be outdone at the hands of chocolate, Shorewood's North Shore Boulangerie has a vanilla event planned a few days earlier, on Oct 19, with World Pastry Championship-winner Patrice Caillot and Dr. Ken Cameron, author of Vanilla Orchids. An engaging discussion between the professor and master chef on the history of the world’s most popular fragrance and flavor will be moderated by yours truly, followed by a cooking demonstration and samples. 

If October is a precursor to the culinary escapades of the winter holiday season, I would estimate that—as a city—Milwaukee is gearing up for greatness.



Bublrs Around Town

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Friday, October 10, 2014

By Kevin Hardman
Launch Director at Bublr Bikes

You may have noticed the bright blue bike stations popping up around downtown or have seen news reports about “Bublr Bikes” bicycle sharing coming to Milwaukee. But you might not know this project has actually been nearly three years in the making.

City of Milwaukee leaders and a group of citizen advocates have seen and experienced bike sharing around the country and the world. Inspired by the international bike sharing evolution, our team set out to bring this innovative urban transportation option to Milwaukee. (In case you’re interested, here’s a list of bike share systems around the world.)

The concept is simple: once you purchase a Bublr Pass ($7 for 24 hours or $20 for a month) you can check out a bike at any kiosk to run an errand or visit an attraction. You simply leave the bike at another kiosk near your destination, and when you want to return or go somewhere else, you check out the same or another Bublr Bike. You can do this as often as you wish within the time frame of your pass. There are no additional expenses for any trip that is under 30 minutes. A trip over 30 minutes will incur small usage fees.

Bicycle sharing is simply another healthy and cost-effective transportation choice for residents and visitors to experience Milwaukee. It provides a great way for families or even a business traveler to get around in a fun and interesting way!

The Bublr Bikes kiosks are conveniently located all around Milwaukee. You can find stations at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, Red Arrow Park, Schlitz Park, Cathedral Square, Chase Plaza, the Public Market, the 411 East Wisconsin Building, U.S. Bank Center, the Wisconsin Center and Discovery World. If there isn’t a bike kiosk near you now, never fear, Bublr Bikes plans to expand into other neighborhoods in 2015.

Learn more at


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