Destination: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Destination: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Rochelle Caviness - December 12, 2002
Milwaukee Wisconsin, as a whole, has undergone a vast revitalization in the last several years. This vital and engaging city is situated along the banks of Lake Michigan, and is, in every regard, a modern metropolis. From live theater to natural history museums, Milwaukee has something to offer every visitor, no matter what their age or intersts.
Getting Around Milwaukee
Milwaukee can be reached by air, car, train, bus, and even by boat. If you don't drive, the city has a full complement of taxis, and has an excellent public bus service. You can get to just about anywhere in Milwaukee via the Milwaukee Country Transit System. However, in the downtown area especially, you will need to take care as to which stop you wait for the your bus on. There is a bus stop on almost every corner, but not every bus stops at every bus stop. Consequently, you'll need to find out in advance where to stand if you might have difficulty reading the signs that are displayed at each stop, detailing what buses stop at that particular stop.
In addition to the county buses, there is also a trolley service the operates in the downtown area. This trolley is less expensive than the bus, but it operates in a limited area. Information on the trolley service can also be found on the above mentioned website.
Milwaukee has a long history as the brewery capital of the Midwest. There are still many breweries located in the city, and most of these breweries offer guide tours. Touring a brewery is a 'must-see' if you truly want to get a feel for Milwaukee's past.
Miller Brewing Company
Free tours of the brewery start every half-hour, and they begin with a fifteen minuet video presentation on the brewery. Throughout the tour you will get to explore the history of the Miller Brewery and its founder. Most importantly, you'll get to see how the beer is made, bottled, and packaged. This tour is highly auditory, and the guide offers a running commentary throughout the tour. This is a walking tour that takes you in and out of several building. The tour is not fully wheelchair accessible.
During the tour you will also be offered the opportunity to visit the Brew House, where the batches of beer are mixed. To get to the observation area, you will need to climb 56 stairs. More importantly, you should be aware (and the guide will point this out to you) that the inside of the Brew House tends to be about 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. In the winter this is not a big deal, but in the summer when it is 90 degrees outside, this may be a reason to skip this optional portion of the tour!
At the end of the tour you are invited to sample three different types of beer. Be forewarned, you will be carded, even if you elect to sample the no-alcohol beer. Soda is also available.
History and Art Museums
- Milwaukee County Historical Society
This small museum exhibits material that details Milwaukee's history. Admission is free, and the museum offers, in addition to static displays, an audio - visual presentation on Milwaukee's history.
- Milwaukee Public Museum
Covering everything from Native American Cultures to Butterflies, this huge museum is one of the top must see destinations in Milwaukee. The museum offers an excellent audio tour of one exhibit - "Streets of Old Milwaukee" - which takes you on a tour down a Milwaukee street circa 1880. Docent guided tours are also offered periodically. Specialized tours for visually impaired groups can also be arranged. For more information, check out our article, The Milwaukee Public Museum and Other Family Friendly Destinations in Milwaukee. This article goes into more detail about this museum.
- Milwaukee Art Museum
This extraordinary fine-arts museum is housed in an architecturally stunning building situated along the banks of Lake Michigan. The museum offers free audio tours of their permanent exhibits, and on occasion, for their temporary exhibits such as the recent Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland exhibit. If you want to 'do' the audio tour of the main exhibit gallery, you will be able to borrow a 'walkman' type player and headset as you enter the gallery. To borrow the machine you will need to leave, as surety, a driver's licence or other valid i.d., which will be returned to you when you return the player. The tour is not automatic. Each picture or piece of art work that is included on the tour is marked with a number, to hear the audio description of this item you need to punch the number into the machine.
If you are unable to see the art works, you will find that just listening to the tape is very instructional. The audio descriptions of each piece goes into exquisite detail. Information provided for each piece varies, but can include details on what types of paints where used, historical details about the subject, as well as biographical details about the artist. Hands-on opportunities at this museum are almost non-existent due to the nature of the works exhibited.
Milwaukee is situated in a region know for its cold winter months, so you may not expect to find many gardens to tour in the area. While Milwaukee does not offer as many year-round garden touring opportunities as you might find in a southern state, it does offer two outstanding options, the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and the Boerner Botanical Gardens.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
- Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory
Known as the "Domes," the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory features three enclosed, domed conservatories. Each conoidal shaped dome is designed to support a specific range of plant life. In the Arid Dome you will find cacti, succulents, and other plants that thrive in an arid environment. The Tropical Dome exhibits a wide range of rainforests plants from all five continents. And, the Floral Show Dome featured themed floral displays that change throughout the year. In addition to the plants, the domes are also inhabited by a variety of birds, lizards, frogs, and other forms of wildlife. Tours of the domes are self-guided.
- Boerner Botanical Gardens
One of several gardens operated by the Milwaukee County Parks system, it is open May through October. Featuring several formal, outdoor gardens, including: house, annual, perennial, herb, rock, and rose gardens. No matter what time of year you visit these gardens, they are sure to delight the senses.
Before you end your visit to Milwaukee, you'll want to attend one of the performances put on at the Milwaukee Rep. This acting company's repertoire ranges from classics to modern musical comedies such as the "Oil City Symphony." Nothing compares to a live performance, and you're bound to be pleased with whatever The Rep happens to be performing during your visit.
Of special note, The Rep is extremely friendly to the visually impaired. Programs are available in large print. The Rep's performances are held in four different theaters, the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, Stiemke Theater, Stackner Cabaret, and Pabst Theater. On specific days, The Rep offers one "audio-described performance" of their current Quadracci Powerhouse Theater production. The descriptions are provided live, and you are able to listen the description via a small receiver that fits unobtrusively in your ear. As well, you can get a large print or audio script synopsis of the performances held at the Quadracci Powerhouse and Stiemke Theater's. In addition to being extremely accessible to the visually impaired, The Rep's is equally accommodating to individuals with other disabilities.
Where to Eat in Milwaukee?
For information on where to eat while you are in Milwaukee, check out the following article: Milwaukee: An International Dining Wonderland.
Where to Stay in Milwaukee
Milwaukee offers a wide range of accommodations ranging from bed and breakfasts to five-star hotels. On my most recent visit to Milwaukee, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency, located at 333 W. Kilbourn Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. The accommodations where superb, as was the hotels staff. I've been told that this hotel is very friendly to guide dogs. And, I was particularly gratified by the level of assistance I received from the hotel's concierge, who patiently helped me decipher the county's bus routes, and where I need to stand to catch the right bus. The accommodations at this hotel where superb, and I had an all-around wonderful stay. Best yet, this hotel is an easy walk away from most of the attractions in the downtown area.
Be sure to visit the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau's, where you'll also find detailed information about all that Milwaukee has to offer.
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