Monday, September 11, 2017

Biking the Beerline

Mural showing rail to trail by Rozalia Singh

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the history of Milwaukee that we have a trail called 'The Beerline." It's not a direct path to anywhere, really. And it is only bikeable by those with a degree of curiosity and a great desire to find it. Type it into your Google map application and you're bound to find a segment.  It's less than 4 miles and runs on both trail and city streets, along the west side of the Milwaukee River.

I began at Estabrook Park Beer Garden, and found the Capitol Drive end of the trail, but I had to get on from an opening at 1st and Abert (look for Central Bark) because of fencing around some of the businesses. From here, I just followed signs or checked again on my map application. This is a scenic route for late summer/early fall with lots of opportunities for food and drink on the way. If you follow my circular route, the total mileage is about 9 miles and you will see 7 parks with an option to add a few more without much effort.  Though this can be done in about an hour, it's more fun to stop on the way, especially if you like art.
Fred Kaems and John Kowalczyk painted this in 2016

John Kowalczyk just finished this hummingbird shelter last week

There are some signs to help you find your way.  When you arrive at the old railroad depot shelter behind Cafe Corazon, you can get a bite to eat, if you like.  This is a great farm to table option in the area. I recommend continuing to Snails Crossing Park to see the artwork of artist Marina Lee, who has her studio on the corner adjacent. This park was a community built effort and includes sidewalk poetry, painted logs, sculptures, along with a few playground pieces.  Every time I visit, I notice something new.
The old train depot at Cafe Corazon

One of the snails by Marina Lee

Continue down Bremen to Locust or any other cross street that will take you to Gordon Park, an old swimming hole in years past. During summer, this park has a splash pad. Kids love the sandbox and play area. With large shade trees at the fringes, you can have a nice picnic here. Near the river's edge, you'll find the paved path. Follow this through the shade of the trees. You'll know you're on the beerline by the turtle a bit further on. I followed this to the street and visited Lakefront Brewery and the Swing Park, then returned to Beerline Cafe for a Chai latte smoothie. Beerline is a vegetarian cafe with outdoor seating. If you're feeling energetic, hike or bike to the top of Kadish Park, or even further up to Kilbourn Reservoir Park. The views of Milwaukee are pretty good all year round, but the best when the trees have lost their leaves. You might notice the outdoor pavilion at Kadish Park, which is the venue for the Skyline Music Series during summer on Tuesday nights.
The trail markers used along the river trails look like turtles
Lakefront Brewery does a fun tour if you have the time.  

Swing Park under Holton Street
Beer line Cafe has outdoor seating, and is just below Kadish and Kilbourn Parks.

Heading back to Estabrook will be on the east side of the river.  Just backtrack to Kiwanis Landing Park.  This project was once an eyesore but volunteers with Milwaukee River Revitalization have cleared the area, put in a boat launch, and planted flowers. There are picnic tables for anyone needing a break here.  A sign at the bridge to the east side shows details about all the parks and trails in the area along the river. Once you cross, the trail is crushed limestone for a while but it is bikeable.

Milwaukee River
On the east side, you'll bike through the Milwaukee Rotary Arboretum, and you can come up to the Oak Leaf Trail through the winding paths near the Urban Ecology Center.  Climb the tower if you have time to look at the view. Then it's a clear shot on the paved Oak Leaf Trail back to Estabrook, passing Riverside Park, and Hubbard Park, which has a nice beer garden. Just before crossing Capitol, there's a new sign showing the details about the railroad in the area.  The bridge lights up at night to show where the train used to cross. The event is called the Ghost Train. 
Tower at Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park

Read about the railroad in Milwaukee

Friday, August 4, 2017

Going Back to Hoyt Pool

Recently I visited Hoyt Pool with Dawn St. George, the new Executive Director of Park People of Milwaukee County. This was especially endearing because Dawn grew up in Wauwatosa and had fond memories of her summer days spent at the pool.  We met with Kit and Michael who head up operations at Hoyt Park, and they gave us a tour and historic overview.
Plenty of bike parking between the nicely landscaped beds

The pool also has a sandy beach for kids to play
The pool is in a county park, but funding is raised by the Friends of Hoyt Park and Pool who manage all aspects of it- maintenance, landscaping, entertainment, and food.  It's an interesting relationship that may become more common as the county budget for parks is stretched further each year. It certainly is successful here. Most of the money comes from pool season memberships and revenue raised by purchases made at Hoyt Landing- the beer garden. The Friends group also partners with the local park & rec department to offer swim lessons and other classes. Members get exclusive access to events held at the park.

The history of Hoyt Pool is outlined in detail. It's a story of a community coming together to rescue a pool that had been closed.  They raised funds to completely renovate the property and signed a 55 year lease in 2007, which ensured local residents would continue to enjoy the watering hole and activities held there.  It's a gathering place for friends, dogs, families, and sometimes even tourists looking for a fun place to get a drink in the great outdoors.

Have you been?  There's still plenty of summer left.  Refresh yourself in the water or stop by for some high quality local entertainment.  Here's the calendar for the Landing. Wednesday through Sunday, the beer garden is open. Try the pizza, enormous pretzels, or even a brat from SA Braii. Here's the full menu. The Landing will be open through late October.

While you're there, check out the historic bridge over the river. You have probably seen it in many instagram photos. Why not add your selfie and tag the park? We'd love to see your photo!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kayaking Group Tours in Milwaukee

If you're looking for an extraordinary way to bond with friends or co-workers outside of the normal channels, kayaking down the river together might be it.  I'm a board member at the Park People of Milwaukee County, and we decided it would be great to gather on the river for a few hours, as most of us only see each other at the monthly meetings.  This was a great respite.

One of our members set up a group kayak tour with the Urban Ecology Center.  All we had to do was show up in comfortable clothing that could stand getting wet a bit.  We had to stand in water to get into the kayak too, so water shoes were helpful. The kayaks and professionals met us at the launch site in Thiensville, with all the gear we needed. They had transported it using a trailer specially made for kayaks. They even did the unloading, though we helped a bit.

One of the Urban Ecology Center professionals was with us throughout the day, acting as leader. She gave a short briefing, helped us gear up, and watched over us as we paddled. There were only a few small mishaps- hats blowing into the water, low lying branches getting in the way, getting stuck on shallow rock ledges. The sun was quite strong though, and I was glad to have sunglasses and sunscreen. A few of our members had never been in a kayak, and they were able to do this, so don't let being a beginner stand in the way. The kayaks are lightweight. They had doubles and singles. My son and I were able to share a kayak, so he could enjoy the scenery even if he didn't paddle.

The scenery along the river is quite nice this time of year. We saw waterfowl- heron, geese, ducks. The greenery makes for some great photos too.  We passed the stone bridge, which I had never seen before.  Very nice.  There's a new small boat launch near Brown Deer Road called Badger Meter River Park.  If you're looking for  launch point, or just a place to get out and have a picnic, check it out. 

Ready to plan your own group tour?  It doesn't have to be kayaking. You can also do biking or a nature walk.  In winter, it could be cross country skiing.  The link for group events is here. The fee will vary depending on the number of hours and the amount of equipment.  Remember once you're a member, you can also use the free rental of equipment, including kayaks, or even try out the shuttle service. Check out these other fun Urban Ecology Center paddling programs this summer. See you on the water!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Outdoor Yoga in Parks 2017

At an international travel blogger conference held in Milwaukee during spring, attendees were offered an opportunity to do yoga inside the Milwaukee Art Museum. It turned out to be one of the highest rated experiences. I said to one of the participants, "this is cool, but just wait until summer! Outdoor yoga in our parks is the BEST!" She was very impressed because it isn't an option in the city where she lives.  Have you tried it yet? I encourage you to do so.  You will need to bring a mat for all of these classes and dress in comfortable loose clothing. It helps to have layers, because weather can be unpredictable.

Here are the current classes available for Summer 2017.

OmTownYogis bring yoga to the parks for the fourth year, and now they've added a special tab for the parks on their website.

This runs July 8-August 26, on Saturdays at three parks from 9-10 AM:  
KLODE PARK (5900 N Lake Drive, Whitefish Bay) 
ATWATER PARK (4000 N Lake Dr, Shorewood)

And on Wednesday evenings from 5 - 6 PM at Hart Park (1150 N 68th St, Wauwatosa - on the river across the street from the bandshell)

6/14 Kim Carpenter of TOSA YOGA CENTER
7/12 Julie Kamikawa of KOLIBRI KIRTAN & YOGA
7/26 Shayna Broadwell of WISCONSIN ATHLETIC CLUB
8/9 Katie Haws of TOSA YOGA CENTER
8/16 Forest Richter of INNER LIGHT YOGA STUDIOS
8/30 Michelle Shultz of GET HOT YOGA

For the yogi who loves a bit more adventure, try the Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga at Veterans Park on Tuesday nights, put on by Milwaukee Power Yoga. 
SUP Yoga: Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga Summer Series
Tuesdays, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. with Kate Dean | June 20th - August 29th 

Like Yoga and Paddling, but separately? Clearwater Outdoors hosts H2O & Body Saturdays, 8-10 AM now through September 16. You'll need to register at the website link. Cost varies depending on whether you're an adventure club member.
Saturday, meet at the Clear Water Outdoor rental Watershed building, corner of Water and St. Paul in the Third Ward at 7:45am for check in. Enjoy an hour of yoga followed by a blissful morning paddle on the Milwaukee River. No experience is necessary - instructors will be on hand to guide you through yoga and the basics of paddling. Space is limited for this popular event. Please bring your own yoga mat.

Kadish Park has one of the very best views of the city of Milwaukee and the riverfront.  To do yoga here, simply join the Meetup Group.  They hold events on various days and times, but once you're in the group, you'll be in the know for everything they plan. I love that this is just a group of passionate yogis who want to share their love of yoga.
This is a casual, beginner oriented group that will focus mainly on basic and a few intermediate poses. A mat or towel is recommended as the grass at Kadish can be a little scratchy. Afterwards we will usually descend the hill and enjoy some drinks and food at one of the nearby restaurant patios along the river. No experience necessary and all ages welcome. Totally free.

If you enjoy farmer's markets and yoga, head over to Cathedral Square where yoga kicks off each Saturday morning at 9 AM. This goes on throughout the season with the last session September 30. This is put on by the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

Each Saturday morning from 8:30-9:30 AM, the Tosa Farmers Market is also happy to provide Yoga at the Market just over the bridge toward Hart Park. The last farmers market is October 14.

Come to Bayshore Mall's Center (at the fountain) Saturdays 8-9:30 for a yoga session put on by Neroli. These are FREE!

Would you like to try Hatha Yoga? Come to the Schlitz Audubon Center for weekly classes which are held outdoors, weather permitting. Every Monday | 5:30pm – 6:45pm

Lisa Lewis, LMT, CYT leads this yoga class designed for all levels of students. Classes are therapeutic in nature, and will be challenging at times. Students are taught to observe their body and breath and to practice within their capacity. Come enjoy spring! When the weather is warm enough class will be held outside. The first class is always free!

Members: $15 drop-in, or $60 for 5 classes, or $100 for 10 classes. (Package expires after 12 weeks.)
Non-members: $20 drop-in, or $66 for 5 classes, or $110 for 10 classes. (Package expires after 6 weeks.)

Try yoga or tai chi at Lynden Sculpture Gardens.
Yoga: A Meditation Practice on Art with Heather Eiden
Sundays, 1:30-3 pm - June 4-25, 2017

Tai Chi for Health Warriors with Angela Laughingheart
Sundays, 9-10:30 am
Session I: June 11-July 2, 2017 - Registration closed.
Session II: July 9-30, 2017
Session III: August 6-27, 2017

Here's a flyer for yoga at the Umbrella Bar at the Rock Complex. Though it says to register at the website, it took some time for me to find out how, so I'll just say to preregister at the punch pass link.

Alice's Garden hosts yoga at nearby Johnson's Park. There's an event June 25, but check the Alice's Garden Facebook page for more events during the summer.

Perhaps my favorite space is Villa Terrace Museum.  Try this at least once this summer. Every Sunday at 8:30 AM, June through October. $10 donation. A different instructor every week.

Atwater Beach has a special annual event focused on surfing. What a super fun event this has been in the past, and a great way to learn about Great Lakes surfing. This day includes beach yoga and it will be August 19. Check the Surfrider web page for more information on the event, which runs from 5:30 AM.  You can also learn to surf, and ride a SUP. Movies round out the fantastic evening.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Benches and Trees Make Great Gifts

Father's Day is coming soon. Are you looking for a unique gift for the dad who has everything?  How about having a tree planted or a bench placed in a park in their honor?  It's easy to do and makes a gift that will last a long time and be enjoyed by many people during all seasons.

Trees are available through the Park People website.  Costs run from $400 through $550, depending on the type of tree you choose.  There are a variety of trees- crabapple, japanese lilac, redbud, evergreens, maple, oak, birch, etc.  The trees are planted during spring and fall.  You get a brass hang tag that will be placed on a branch after planting and can usually choose the site in the park of your choice.  Wouldn't it be great to have a tree you can enjoy with your friends and family for many years to come?

Commemorative benches are also available through the Park People Website.  Prices start at $1900 for a steel bench.  Wooden benches made of fir are available for a couple hundred dollars more.  A brass tag will be placed on the bench. You decide what to write on the tag, and can also choose the park location.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Outdoor Movies, Music, and Festivals in Parks 2017

It's outdoor movie season- Humboldt Park
The Family Flicks Schedule is out!  This is a great way to spend a summer evening with your family or make a date night.  Bring a blanket and some snacks.  Settle down on the lawn with your friends and have a good time with these family friendly titles!  Movies begin at dusk.  You can see the complete line-up of great movies by clicking on the link.  This year 2 additional locations were added.  Here's what we know so far. All movies are shown at no charge:

Veteran's Park at 1010 N Lincoln Memorial Park, sponsored by Guardian Credit Union and Gift of Wings at the Kite Shop.
Sat., June 10 The Jungle Book (PG)
Sat., June 24 Sing (PG)
Fri., July 7 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)
Sat., Aug 19 The LEGO Batman Movie (PG)
Sat., Aug 26 La La Land (PG-13)
Sun., Sept 3 DOUBLE FEATURE: Groundhog Day (PG) and Top Gun (PG)

Film on the Hill at Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave, sponsored by the Bay View Neighborhood Association in the bandshell.
Sat., July 22 La La Land (PG-13)
Sat., Aug 5 The LEGO Batman Movie (PG)

Ferch's Beachside Movies on the beach at Grant Park, 100 Oak Creek Parkway, sponsored by Ferch's Grille and Guardian Credit Union
Wed., June 14 Sing (PG)
Wed., July 12 Moana (PG)
Wed., Aug. 23 Zootopia (PG)

The Swing Park is the place to be for Bike-in Movie Nights. Here is the line-up, thanks to generous donors. You can still donate to a Go Fund Me account and get a shout-out before the movie.
June 16 Space Jam
July 21 Princess Bride
Aug 18 Back to the Future 2
Sep 15 The Muppet Movie
Oct 20 E.T.

And for a complete poster of all the entertainment in county parks, download the 2017 Best Entertainment Guide and Summer Movie Guide. Print them out and share with friends and co-workers.

Peck Flicks at the Marcus Center will be back starting in August.  This is at the outdoor stage along the river beside the Marcus Center starting at 7:15, although seating and snack sales begin at 6. Starting in July you'll find family friendly concerts here too. Here's the full schedule of Live at Peck.

Fish Fry and a Flick at Discovery World will not be returning this year, and maybe after seven years, it will not be back again.

Looking for festivals? OnMilwaukee is a great resource for all kinds of happenings.  Here's their summer festival guide.

And for a complete poster of all the entertainment in county parks, download the 2017 Best Entertainment Guide. You can print it out and put in up on your refrigerator.

Have you been to the Rock Sports Complex yet?  Enjoy great views from the umbrella bar and check out the music events. They have added a beer and soda garden for this summer. 

One last place for festivals being held in Milwaukee- the website Everfest.  Lots of information about upcoming street, church, and other festivals.  You may want to bookmark this site for future travel this summer because you can put in a city and it will let you know what's happening for a range of dates.

Looks like it's going to be a great summer for entertainment in Milwaukee!!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sculpture Milwaukee on Wisconsin Avenue Begins Today

It took several years of planning, but philanthropist and art lover, Steve Marcus,  is finally seeing his vision of world class high quality art pieces being plucked down along Wisconsin Avenue for the summer. This is no small feat. He and everyone involved deserves huge applause, especially Russell Bowman who is the curator.  You might recall Bowman was a previous director of our Milwaukee Art Museum and he is the reason we have the Calatrava iconic building today.

We're lucky we get to see it for free, and if all goes well, this could become an annual event. The program is being called Sculpture Milwaukee and it will be intact through mid October. Officially there are 22 pieces, though Wisconsin Avenue has other artwork and architecture that make this a virtual garden of eye candy for the soul.

I took a stroll along the outdoor art museum's corridor today and really enjoyed the unique pieces in so many different forms.  No matter what your taste, there will likely be a piece that speaks to you.
Road construction and parking are currently a problem for the downtown.  If you want the sculptures to yourself, I'd advise getting up early to see the sunrise on the lake at the art museum, then walking Wisconsin Avenue. I didn't arrive until 8:30, so I parked at Juneau Park on the street where you have 2 hours of free parking (it's there, just look for it in between metered parking), because I like a bargain. I walked the entire street, got a coffee, talked to artists, took photos and made it back with time to spare.  You could also park in O'Donnell garage for about $5.

I met the new Wisconsin Avenue Artist in Residence, Mauricio Ramirez, who has been fighting bad weather in painting the ten utility boxes he's been selected to paint.  The project adds a layer of urban art to the project.  Using only spray paint and geometric designs to paint famous people of Milwaukee, it's a challenge that won't go unnoticed.

You might recall a few years ago, the flowers planted along this corridor had a bicycle theme.  Those are gone now, but there are still some very beautiful plantings, incorporated into the whole artistic theme.

There were some boxes that had been removed during the Northwestern Mutual building project, streetside to the construction. These were lamp poles with motion detectors which would generate a flip story as people walked by.  You'll be happy to know these have been put back in place now. Be sure to walk both sides of the Avenue so you see all the details.

If you choose to do the walk during your lunch hour, you'll likely find food trucks in abundance.  Stop by to refuel.

Looking for additional urban hikes?  Look at my posts about the Milwaukee Statue Tour, and Summer Walking Tours.

This is also a great time to hop on the Milwaukee Trolley.  It starts this week-Thursday through Sunday. Rides are only $1.  You can find lots of additional fun ideas in my Milwaukee Bucket List book.  Summer is the best time to enjoy Milwaukee.