A Midwest Vacation – Milwaukee (+ Chicago)!

B and I just got back from an amazing vacation. Last year, we took advantage of the Fourth of July holiday to fly to Ireland and spend time in Dublin, Galway, Doolin and even London (yes I know that’s not in Ireland but while we were over there I had to make a stop in London before the Olympics!). This year, we opted to stay in the U.S. but instead drive to a few neighboring cities – Milwaukee and Chicago!

What a great week! We only spent one night in Chicago (we’ve both been there before) and spent the rest of the week in Milwaukee. Meaning I also got to check a NEW state off my list – Wisconsin! (side note to my non Midwest friends and family, Wisconsin is just north/northwest of Illinois! I had no idea either, but now that I live in Ohio I’m becoming much more used to learning about all these states that I never really knew much about as a New Yorker)

DEEP DISH PIZZA IN CHICAGO (yes, CAPS are necessary)

DEEP DISH PIZZA IN CHICAGO (yes, CAPS are necessary)

B and me in the bean!

B and me in the bean!

So after those photos from Chicago, let’s talk Milwaukee. Here are a few highlights from our trip, plus recommendations if you plan on stopping by or planning a Milwaukee visit soon:

7 Ways to Spend A Week in Milwaukee

1. Enjoying the Local Fare and Dining Out: Obviously dining is pretty important. Why visit a place without enjoying the local fare? We ate quite a few good meals out, including Thai food at a restaurant called The King and Thai, dinner at the Brat House (I’ll let you guess what we had there), brunch at a Belgian place called Benelux and more. At the Thai place we shared spring rolls, Tom Yum soup and then I got the spicy tofu/eggplant dish. At Benelux, I had a quinoa/squash breakfast skillet. B also got one of their famous Bloody Marys, which came with a “beer chaser.” Not a bad start to our day! Not pictured, we also enjoyed brunch at a french cafe Coquette, some German food at the local Hofbrau House (including some “pig wings” which B loves, plus reuben rolls which are like spring rolls but have reubens inside) and a pretzel the size of my head … or even bigger … at the Brat House.

Yum. Appetizer at the King and Thai (spring rolls before my eggplant came out)

Yum. Appetizer at the King and Thai (spring rolls before my eggplant came out)

Benelux Bloody Mary and beer chaser. Yum!

Benelux Bloody Mary and beer chaser. Yum!

BEST brunch at Benelux- quinoa, squash and eggs!

BEST brunch at Benelux- quinoa, squash and eggs!

The Brat House special!

The Brat House special!

2. Listening to Music All Day and Outside at Summerfest: One of the reasons we decided to go the Milwaukee (I know, you were wondering how we ended up there for our week off – don’t worry, “Why Milwaukee?” is a completely common question) was that it was their annual Summerfest music festival. For two weeks, there is an all-day (morning through around midnight) music festival right on their lake. And you know how much I love water! Each day there are several stages that feature various bands performing throughout the day, and at night in addition to the smaller stages there are also some larger stages with larger headliners performing (Rush, John Mayer, fun., Tim McGraw, etc.). Oh, and did I mention that it was only $10? Yup. For $10 (plus my $3.75 delicious peanut butter cup ice cream cone and $7 Greek dinner) B and I each got to see about 12 hours of live music, including Barenaked Ladies (hellllo my middleschool years!) and Guster!!! (yes, I loved Guster in college. And saw them several times performing in Boston. Along with almost all other Boston College ladies)

Enjoying Summerfest

Enjoying Summerfest

3. Going For Daily Runs and Walking Around: When we got to our hotel, we parked our car and then didn’t have to take it out again until we left. We walked EVERYWHERE (well except to Miller Park … see below) which I of course love. And Milwaukee has some good walking/running paths – both along the river and along the lake. For walking, I preferred the Riverwalk downtown, but for our morning runs (I got out for a run each day but one) I preferred running to the lake and then taking advantage of their waterfront paths and parks. There is just something I LOVE about running along water, with a city on the other side of me. We also got out for a run along Chicago’s lakefront – check out the view!

Running in Milwaukee

Running in Milwaukee. Love the view of the city and the lake.

Heeeeey, it's the Fonz! (seen along the Riverwalk)

Heeeeey, it’s the Fonz! (seen along the Riverwalk)

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LOVE running along the lake. Favorite way to see a city = going for a run.

4. Checking Out the Unique Neighborhoods: Milwaukee didn’t seem to have a real downtown area. They had a few neighborhoods but no real city center. My favorite neighborhood was probably the Historic Third Ward, which reminded me a lot of Ohio City or Tremont (or Tremont in a few years). It had cute little shops, nicer boutiques, nice shopping (hellllo Lululemon and Anthro!), fun dining (including Benelux and Coquette) and my favorite – The Public Market. I’m not a huge brat person, so while B was perfectly content with feasting on brats and beer at the Brat House, I was more excited to take advantage of the fresh salads and other foods at the Public Market. Oh, and just browsing around this covered indoor market was fun – they had candy vendors, food, coffee, spices, souvenirs/apparel, and even a cheese stand with a few samples. Yup, more cheese samples!

Entrance to the Historic Third Ward (and see the market in the background!)

Entrance to the Historic Third Ward (and see the market in the background!)

Checking out the neighborhood by the lake. That's the art museum in the background! (yes we went there)

Checking out the neighborhood by the lake. That’s the art museum in the background! (yes we went there)

5. Brewers Game: We were lucky enough to see a Brewer’s game when we were in town! I was pretty excited for the game – not only because they were playing the Mets, but also because I’d heard that tailgating before Brewers games is a pretty common spectacle to expect at Miller Park. While we didn’t end up joining in any tailgates, it was cool to see all the people grilling and drinking before the game, and we also ended up taking a free shuttle from downtown (the Brat House) to the game AND the Mets won. Which my mom was happy about.

my mom was excited

my mom was excited about the Mets win

Brewers game!

Brewers game!

B scored us great seats!

B scored us great seats!

6. Taking in History at the Pabst Mansion: Not only is Milwaukee famous for Miller, but it’s also the home of Pabst! Yes, this town has a lot of beer. One morning B and I decided to walk to the old Pabst mansion to see where the Captain Pabst lived and learn more about the history of the beer all hipsters love, PBR. The mansion offers tours every hour and even though the tour was kinda long (a little over an hour), it was pretty cool. They have restored almost all the rooms in this old mansion so that you can see what life was like when the Pabst family lived there. Our tour guide was a cute old lady who clearly loved her job and knew a ton not only about that historical era, but also the house and the family. Only downside? No beer on the tour (in case you were wondering).

only in Milwaukee ...

only in Milwaukee …

B in front of the Pabst Mansion

B in front of the Pabst Mansion

7. Touring the Lakefront Brewery: B had heard great things about Lakefront Brewery, so we hustled over there for a brewery tour one day. I had a ton of fun at this tour, as our tourguide was super entertaining. Even though nearly all brewery tours are the same (guess what, they all make beer!), this tour was a bargain in terms of what you got for the admission (side note; Great Lakes in Cleveland offers FREE tours)- for $7, you got four drink tokens (each good for a free beer sample) plus two glasses to take home.  Not bad, huh? (and the tour guide may have given B two extra tokens as well … making it an even better deal!)

drinks before the brewery tour. slightly blurry, but the only picture someone took of the two of us!

drinks before the brewery tour. slightly blurry, but the only picture someone took of the two of us!

BONUS-Along the Way: The drive to Milwaukee wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Mars Cheese Castle. That’s right – a castle that sells cheese! I thought that for sure my loyalty to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn would be done for – after all, what chance does a barn have to stand up against a castle? Honestly, if you’re looking for tons of samples of cheese and other deliciousness, my vote still goes for the Cheesebarn (sorry Wisconsin folks!) – the castle had like 4 samples compared to the Cheesebarn’s 4 gazillion samples (no exaggeration there). Though we did pick up a bag of cheese curds and some Spotted Cow and other Wisconsin-only beers to enjoy – so I would still recommend the stop, but don’t go with high sample expectations.

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On the way back, we also stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory!! When I saw that there was a Jelly Belly Factory nearby, I told B we had to stop. I am slightly obsessed with jelly belly (I may be chomping on a few now haha) jelly beans, and each Easter my mom would give me a bag or a few in my Easter baskets. Oh, and I almost forgot – they had FREE JELLY BELLY SAMPLES!!

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SO many jelly beans!


I hope you all enjoyed your Fourth of July holidays.  Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Milwaukee? What was your favorite part?
  • Favorite Easter candy?
  • Favorite type of cheese? Have you ever had cheese curds?
  • Do you like to run on vacation? What’s your perfect running location?

One thought on “A Midwest Vacation – Milwaukee (+ Chicago)!

  1. So I’m totally nostalgic for my childhood now! I grew up in Wisconsin and have taken more than my fair share of trips through Milwaukee and Chicago. The Jelly Belly Factory and the Cheese Castle are two regular stops! So much fun. Looks like you had an awesome time too!

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