I am not ashamed to admit it: I am a Cheesehead.
Though I live in Arizona now, I’m still very much a Wisconsin girl. In addition to going home at least four times a year to visit friends and family, I flaunt my ‘Sconnie pride wherever I go. I’ve worn a Green Bay Packers shirt in Australia, shipped Racine Kringle to my boss in Colorado, and staunchly defended my state against the taunts of a West Coast resident (I’m sorry, but happy cows do not come from California).
I love Wisconsin. And if you ever get a chance to visit, I promise you’ll love it, too.
Contrary to its stereotype of humble milkmaids and obese beer-guzzlers wearing nothing but green-and-gold paint in a blizzard, the state is actually quite cosmopolitan. Don’t believe me? Go to Milwaukee, a city that works just as hard as it plays.
8 Milwaukee Must-Visits for FBGs
1. Best trail to walk, run or ride: Oak Leaf Trail. Leave the car at home — the best way to see the city is through Milwaukee’s extensive trail system. Hundreds of miles of trail await walkers, runners and cyclists. The Oak Leaf Trail, with more than 114 miles weaving through and around the city, is fabulous. For the best views of the city, start at Henry Maier Festival Park (home of Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival!) and take the trail along the lakefront, past Discovery World, the Art Museum and Bradford Beach. Not staying near the lakefront? It’s pretty easy to access the trail from anywhere in the city — check out the trail map.
2. Best market for local, healthy wares: Outpost Natural Foods. With three locations (and a fourth in the works!) offering fresh, local foods, Outpost is the place to load up your shopping cart with Wisconsin’s finest. Don’t miss the deli, where you can get fresh salads and hot dishes made to order.
3. Best gym in town: Wisconsin Athletic Club. Milwaukee’s known for long, cold winters, so gyms are a must to stay fit and healthy through the snowy season. The Wisconsin Athletic Club locations are bright, clean and spacious. The best part? The indoor pools — yes, I said plural pools! The North Shore location offers separate pools for lap swimming and aquatic fitness. If you’ve ever seen a showdown in lane six between a triathlete and an aqua-aerobicizer, you know why this is important.
4. Best place for a post-workout treat: Colectivo/Alterra Coffee Roasters. There’s nothing better than a hot latte after an early-morning workout. Colectivo/Alterra, hands down, is the best place to go for a cup of Joe. Order your favorite brew at the lakefront, 5th Ward or Bay View locations, then settle in to a cozy chair. The people-watching will keep you entertained for hours.
5. Best race: Brewers Mini Marathon. Though there’s a lot of fantastic races in and around the Milwaukee area, my favorite is the Brewers Mini Marathon and 10K. After running around Milwaukee landmarks such as the Mitchell Park Domes and Harley-Davidson Museum, racers finish in true Wisconsin style — with their very own tailgate party at Miller Park. (Two words: FREE. BEER.)
6. Best group ride: Attitude Sports. This mom-and-pop bike shop, located just a short drive from the city, is a great place to get cycling gear, nutrition and the scoop on the best routes in the area. If you don’t want to ride alone, inquire about their group rides. Attitude offers multiple group rides throughout the week for all levels, from the no-drop beginner’s ride to a heart-busting race simulation.
7. Best dinner featuring local fare: Braise. I can’t say enough about Braise, a community-supported eatery where the menu changes daily based on the offerings of local farmers and purveyors. Spend five minutes talking to Owner/Chef David Swanson — he loves food, and it shows. Every plate is crafted to showcase the best seasonal fare the city has to offer. Heck, even the cocktails from the bar feature fresh, local ingredients.
8. Best caloric splurge: Frozen custard. Did you really think I’d write about Wisconsin without mentioning dairy? Though I’m typically a pretty healthy eater, within an hour of arriving in Wisconsin, I’ve got a belly full of frozen custard. Mind you, this isn’t ice cream — it’s richer, more flavorful, and … you know what? Just go eat it. Lots of it. Kopp’s is a tourist favorite, but if you ask the locals, they’ll whisper that Leon’s and Gilles are way better.
Fellow ‘Sconnies: did I miss any of your Brew City Favorites? What’s your favorite Fit Bottomed destination in Milwaukee? —Susan