Milwaukee has robust German, Polish and Italian communities, but it’s the city’s German heritage that will be celebrated at the annual German Fest, held July 24 to 26. Kicking off Wisconsin’s Oktoberfest season, the 35-year-old event offers traditional German fare, from sauerbraten to strudel and, of course, beer.
Enjoy plenty of live music, cultural displays and even a dachshund derby. A thriving art museum and craft-beer scene and a plethora of water activities are just a few other reasons to visit Milwaukee this summer.
Housing one of the largest Victorian art collections of any hotel in the world, The Pfister opened in 1893 and underwent a massive renovation in 1962. Although vintage charm remains in the lobby and public areas, guest rooms showcase contemporary design. Guests can indulge in spa services or sip cocktails with skyline views at the hotel’s bar, Blu. 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., 414.273.8222, thepfisterhotel.com
Hotel Metro Milwaukee
Art deco-inspired and listed on the National Register of Historic Places – yet still full of modern amenities – this boutique hotel received a 2013 and 2014 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. Eco-friendly features include bamboo and cork flooring in public areas and locally sourced restaurant ingredients. The luxe accommodations include spa whirlpool baths, saltwater hot tubs with shoulder massage machines, a dry sauna and sustainable rainwater showers. Pets are welcome, too. 411 E. Mason St., 414.272.1937, hotelmetro.com
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
The hotel at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino offers luxury guest rooms and an on-site restaurant serving dishes made with local produce, sustainable proteins and hand-crafted cocktails. In addition to the gaming and dining options, the entertainment destination has previously featured comedy acts such as Kevin Nealon and Norm Macdonald and musicians such as Ringo Starr and Boz Scaggs. 1721 W. Canal St., 800.729.7244, paysbig.com/hotel
Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne
Wood-clad walls, spare contemporary furnishings and dramatic lighting create a beautiful backdrop for dry-aged rib eye and Kobe beef filet mignon. Sides range from caramelized Brussels sprouts to butternut squash risotto. Seafood lovers will appreciate the ultrafresh tuna tartare and day boat scallops, while desserts range from donuts to pistachio cheesecake. 724 N. Milwaukee St., 414.223.2200, carnevor.com
Comfortable Adirondack chairs fill out the casual patio area with water views at Harbor House, while tall windows flood the dining room with natural light. Harbor House specializes in seafood dishes, from steamed mussels to rainbow trout almondine, although meaty mains such as steaks, burgers and roasted chicken are also represented. On Sundays, the brunch buffet includes a chilled seafood and salad table, made-to-order eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles. 550 N. Harbor Drive, 414.395.4900, harborhousemke.com
Open since 1902, this family owned business is one of the nation’s best-known German restaurants, with a $3 million collection of art, armor and antiques – some of which date back to the 14th century. Housemade sauerbraten sandwiches are made with beef marinated in pickling spices for 10 days. Customers also savor braised red cabbage, lager-battered herring with turnip chips, several schnitzel dishes and its legendary pork shank with apple demi-glace. 1041 N. Old World Third St., 414.271.3377, madersrestaurant.com
Colectivo Coffee Lakefront
The popular coffee roaster owns multiple locations across the city. This one is situated across the street from Lake Michigan and has an expansive patio. In addition to its massive menu of coffee and tea drinks, all-day breakfast menu items include veggie-pesto burritos and potato-bacon burritos with eggs. 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, 414.223.4551, colectivocoffee.com
The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar
Voted best pasta, most romantic and best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee by local publications, this restaurant also gets high marks for its scallops alla abruzzo with steamed broccoli in an extra virgin olive oil sauce, plus beef carpaccio and lobster tails. Be sure to leave room for a big slice of housemade tiramisu or Chocolate Nemesis – christened “the best chocolate cake ever” by the Chicago Sun-Times. 1503 N. Farwell Ave., 414.276.8867, pastatreemilwaukee.com
Wisconsin Cheese Mart
This iconic terra-cotta brick building displays one of the largest selection of Wisconsin cheeses available in the state, with more than 200 varieties lining its floor-to-ceiling shelves. Sample bleu affinée, 15-year aged Cheddar, peppercorn-Cheddar, chocolate-cheese fudge and more. 215 W. Highland Ave., 414.272.3544, wisconsincheesemart.com
Milwaukee Public Market
With nearly 20 food and beverage vendors plus a second-floor European market and café, Milwaukee Public Market has something for everyone. Locally and nationally renowned chefs (including Chicago’s Rick Bayless) have hosted cooking demonstrations in the market’s upstairs kitchen. Customers can purchase specialty fruit vinegars and premium olive oils, bulk spices and hand-dipped chocolates. Whatever your food-and-drink preferences, they’re all available here. 400 N. Water St., 414.336.1111, milwaukeepublicmarket.org
Usinger’s Famous Sausage
Sausage-maker Frederick Usinger migrated to Milwaukee from Germany in the late 1870s. He later purchased his employer’s shop, married his boss’s niece and began selling housemade sausage. The shop is now operated by his great-grandchildren, offering more than 75 varieties of sausage amid early 1900s murals. 1030 N. Old World Third St., 414.276.9105, usinger.com
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