I Must Go to Milwaukee
Welcome to Milwaukee – Joe Caruso (Welcome to Miami Parody, from Kiss 103.7FM) Find out more about Joe here.
I’m actually pretty excited to write this blog. The Dane and I just got back from a trip to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One interesting thing about Wisconsin is that a lot of the towns were named by Native Americans.
Milwaukee means “gathering place by the water.” There are many others: Oconomowoc (originally Coonomowauk meaning waterfall), Manitowoc (once upon a time an Indian saw a spirit near the mouth of the river. Their name for spirit is manitou), Kewaunee (means I’m lost. Presumably this is because of the dense fog on the lake, where Indian seaman would get turned around), Weyauwega (means old woman), and Winnebago (means dirty water people). While I don’t speak the language, the names do make me feel welcome. Milwaukee is also known as the city of neighborhoods. As you can tell from the aerial photo below, it’s true.
There’s a funny little story that goes along with the title of this post. When I was a young girl, my dad would get up early on Saturday mornings to “go to town.” Each Saturday, he’d sit down at the table to put on his shoes and each time I’d ask, “Daddy, where are you going?” (Because Dad always did the most fun stuff!) Every time, he’d say, “I must go to Milwaukee.” I have no idea why he’d say that. Maybe it was a throw back to his childhood when he fell in love with the Milwaukee Braves before their move to Atlanta or maybe it was for the beer. I’ve asked him more times than I care to count and he always laughs and says, “I have no idea where that came from.”
Many years later, you can imagine that I’ve heard him say that many, many times. By chance, I met a guy that just so happened to be from…Milwaukee. I remember the first time The Dane planned to take me on a trip there to meet his family. I called my dad and told him, “I must go to Milwaukee!” Of course, Dad laughed and immediately said, “I must go to London!”
Through the years, I’ve been to Milwaukee a number of times. Early on, we went during the hottest part of the summer to his folks lake cottage. During those times, The Dane and the kiddos would go swimming in Lake Michigan, which has the coldest water EVER! Sometimes, we’d go at Christmas and visit a little town called Cedarburg. It is one of the most charming places to visit during the holidays, especially for a southern girl who never sees snow. One year, we visited over New Year’s and got to watch the Polar Bear Plunge. How those folks don’t freeze to death is beyond me. Not only is it cold, but there’s wind blowing in off the lake which makes it ten times worse!
Cedarburg, WI (circa 2007) with The Great Dane
This year, our niece planned a Fall wedding. While we were making our plans, it dawned on me that I’ve never been there during the Fall. I started getting very excited and told The Dane that I wanted to visit the city because we’ve never really done that. I could see the wheels turning in his head. He said, “I have a few places in mind.”
I knew it was going to be fun, but I had no idea just how unusual and spectacular it was going to be.
Now I know that when you think of places to visit, Milwaukee probably isn’t at the top of the list, but it should be because it’s a truly awesome place to visit.
I started getting excited even before we landed. In South Carolina, the leaves are turning and this time of year they are beautiful, but the weather isn’t really all that cold except maybe late at night. During the day, we’ve been experiencing temperatures in the mid-80’s. I was looking forward to “real” Fall weather.
Our first day, The Dane whisk me off to the city. Our first adventure was to Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, otherwise known as The Domes. I was a bit surprised that he’d never told me about them before.
The Domes began construction in 1959. Donald Grieb designed them to look like beehives. He envisioned three of them with distinct climate controls for each one. His vision became three different plant displays – Desert, Tropical and Floral Show. The Domes were completed in 1967 at a cost of $4.5 million. Currently, The Domes are open Monday – Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturday, Sunday and Major Holidays from 9am to 4pm. It only cost $5 each.
The Dane tells me that this was one of his grandmother’s favorite places to visit and I could certainly see why. Walking up to them was a bit odd. The domes reflect the sky and it almost feels like you are walking up to captured clouds. Inside, there is a welcoming feeling. We checked out the architecture and talked to both the guide and the lady that ran the gift shop. Both told us that The Domes are having some issues and sadly, the Desert Dome was closed.
We first visited the Show Dome. Standing before the doors, I had no idea what to expect. I could sense that it was like a greenhouse on the inside, but that was about all. When I opened the doors, the scent of all the floral flowers was the first thing I noticed. It wasn’t too strong, just the fresh scent of Autumn flowers and fresh dirt. It smelled…like falling in love feels.
After the Showroom Dome, we visited the Tropical Dome. It was much warmer in this dome. One thing that was very cool was that there were birds flying around. We spotted several. These birds were orange and black. How perfect is that for Halloween?
They are called Orange Bishop Weavers. We were told that they are usually found in Sub-Saharan Africa where they usually live around tall grass. They were very easy to spot because of their coloring.
We also stopped to watch the Koi fish swim in the lovely pond set up for them.
Sadly, the domes are in need of repairs. The guide told us that a lot of the materials and technology used to build them are now outdated. Through family we learned that it is possible that the cost of fixing them is far more than it would take to level them and build new ones.
We were lucky that they were open as they been closed due to some falling debris. I’m guessing that’s why the Desert dome was closed while we were there.
It was interesting to me how much people are touched by the domes and how much they wished there was some way to keep these and update them, though every person we talked to about them seemed to have a profound understanding that the cost might outweigh the benefit.
I highly recommend seeing them while they are still open to the public.
My father-in-law first took me here a little before my husband and I got married.
I was very fond of my father-in-law and as we walked in the door, he came back to us for a little while. The Dane and I talked about his humor and it was obvious that we both missed his laughter.
It was bittersweet, but the food was absolutely amazing. Mader’s is a has been a staple in Milwaukee for 106 years. In my opinion, they serve the finest German food you can find. If you ever have a chance to visit, check out the Wall of Fame. Many Presidents and famous entertainers found their way to Mader’s as well. My favorite dish is their Hungarian Style Beef Goulasch. Yum!
After leaving Mader’s, we made our way around the city to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Some time ago, I joked to The Dane that I had never seen dinosaur bones. Surprisingly, he remembered my off-handed joke and decided to take me to see one. Here it is:
The museum was also not completely what I expected. Inside was a very cool exhibit called The Streets of Milwaukee. This exhibit is built to look like Milwaukee during the turn of the 19th Century. If you’d like to see some of this exhibit, visit here. Along the streets, you’ll come to a real working candy store. Inside, you find the nicest lady who truly loves her work. She can tell you just about anything that you want to know about the exhibit. As an added bonus, she’ll tell you about a little game you can play that makes looking around the exhibit even more fun. (I won’t spoil it for you)
Another very interesting and interactive part of the museum is a butterfly garden. The guide told me in a quiet voice, “If you stand very still, they will land on you.” I felt so lucky when this one landed on me.
One of the last things we decided to do on our tour was the Art Museum. Some years ago, I took an art class and learned about the designer of the museum, Santiago Calatrava. We learned about his work, though the Milwaukee Art Museum was not a part of what we studied. When I first saw the museum several years ago, I knew right away that Calatrava had designed it. His designs all have a very distinctive bone-like structure.
I have come to love the city that is my husband’s hometown. It has so many beautiful things to love about it. Every time we visit, I discover new and exciting things. No visit is ever the same thing twice.
All in all, we got over 18,000 steps on this adventure (which was good because Mader’s was not a light meal).
Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving me a little of your time ~PJ