Milwaukee Is Cool And You Know It

by  Paul Eisenberg | Jan 3, 2012
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin / Sean Pavone/iStock

Of all the 2012 family vacation ideas offered up last week, Milwaukee quickly emerged as the pick that generated the most smiles, but then it’s a city that always seems to do that. Knowing sequel fodder when I see it, I wanted to elaborate on some Milwaukee points of interest (initially suggested by my colleague Beth Blair) and continue to make a case for why the city could be an easy choice for one of your family getaways this year.

Winter means value
If history is any guide, Milwaukee will be freezing through February, but if you’re a family that enjoys wintry climes without the aid of winter sports, several of the city’s best family-friendly attractions are indoors and clustered downtown. There’s value in these parts, too. Winter airfares to Milwaukee from many major U.S. cities are bargains, as are hotel packages, such as a deal from Marriott Residence Inn ending March 1 that bundles a suite with a trio of important winter extras: free hot food, movie theater tickets, and bowling passes. And yes, bowling shoe rentals are thrown in, too.

What to see and do
The Harley Davidson Museum ($16 adults, $10 kids ages 5 to 17, children under 5 free) has the good sense to realize that if you’re being asked to ogle more than a hundred years of achingly beautiful motorcycles, you’re going to have the desire to leave your fingerprints on one, hence the welcome “experience gallery,” where you and your brood can sit on and touch a variety of bikes. And whoever thought that an exhibit celebrating women motorcyclists would pack appeal is correct: “Women at the Handlebars” opened here last May.

More than just an aquarium bordering Lake Michigan, Discovery World ($16.95 adults, $12.95 kids 3 to 17, children under 3 free) is an antidote for families who have had their fill of formulaic science museums. Two attractions that should draw your attention here first are the HIVE, a virtual reality room that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel rightly likened to Star Trek’s holodeck, and an energy exhibit that includes an interactive replica of a nuclear reactor. And should all this science and tech somehow give your family a hankering for Wi-Fi, it’s free throughout the museum.

An hour-long pizza factory tour ($5 and $7.50) awaits at Palermo’s Pizza, where your kids can indulge their fascination with watching pizzaiolos make pies and if they’re under the age of 10, should be as excited as their parents that a free slice is included in the deal. And speaking of food, mother of three and Milwaukee iPhone app for families author Julie Henning was kind enough to leave a comment for this blog in which she recommended Safe House, a spy-themed restaurant that at first blush wouldn’t seem all that family-friendly, but whose clandestine quirkiness and decent kids' menu have been charming local families with children young and old for many years.

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