Something’s Brewing

Appears in the September 2023 issue.

Where to eat, drink, and stay at the “other” city on the lake

Milwaukee skyline

Boasting beaches, brews, and bobbleheads—just a two-hour drive from the western suburbs, Milwaukee makes for a terrific getaway. Although the Cream City (a nickname derived not from its ties to the dairy industry but rather from the distinctive cream-colored bricks of many of its 19th-century structures) bears many similarities to the Windy City, it also has plenty of one-of-a-kind highlights.

“While Chicago and Milwaukee share Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is a distinctly different city,” says Ian Thompson, senior communications manager for Visit Milwaukee, the city’s tourism bureau. “Our history, attractions, museums, theaters, and festivals are all unique experiences you cannot find anywhere else in the world.”

Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee Art Museum


Whether you plan to spend part of your weekend checking out the iconic Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion at the lakefront Milwaukee Art Museum (, hanging with the kids at the nearby Discovery World science and tech museum (, nodding along with more than 10,000 ballpark giveaways at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame (, going hog wild at the Harley-Davidson Museum (, or just strolling the banks of the Milwaukee River in search of a thumbs-up photo op with the Bronze Fonz, be sure to eat hearty and get plenty of rest.

National Bobblehead Hall of Fame
National Bobblehead Hall of Fame


There might not be a better place on this planet than Milwaukee to subsist on little more than bratwurst and beer (though your physician might raise an objection), but those looking for something a little bit off the well-worn sausage-and-suds path will discover plenty of other options. For example, “Milwaukee” and “empanadas” might be a long-shot combo in a game of word association, but you’re sure to find several pockets of delight among the 16 varieties on offer (all of which enjoy a significant boost from the outstanding chimichurri) at East Side hot spot La Masa ( Meanwhile, a more traditional, old-school Wisconsin tavern vibe awaits at the Swingin’ Door Exchange (, which, amid the circa-1930s dark wood, stained glass, and cozy (read: tight) confines, serves up a killer old-fashioned and some seriously elevated comfort food—such as the maple mustard-glazed pork chop sandwich—with no pretension whatsoever.

Bronze Fonz
Bronze Fonz


Skip the standard cookie-cutter hotels in favor of something a little more historic and, let’s face it, just a little bit cooler. At the top of that list for many is probably the city’s most famous hotel, the Pfister (—an 1893 icon that is as well known for its grand lobby and well-appointed rooms as it is for its many unsubstantiated ghost stories. Elsewhere, housed in the more than 125-year-old Loyalty Building, the Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Downtown ( can certainly give the Pfister a run for its historic bona fides (if not its opulence), boasting a five-story atrium replete with marble and iron, a bank vault, grand staircase, and magnificent skylight.


Of course, leaving Wisconsin without a Spotted Cow beer, an O&H Kringle, or a frozen custard is just gauche. And as long as you’re in Milwaukee, you might as well get this last one exactly right with a stop at the venerable Leon’s (, which has had them lining up for rich and creamy treats since the 1940s.


Photos: Visit Milwaukee (panarama, Bronze Fonz); Milwaukee Art Museum; National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum