Sunday, May 19, 2013

Segway at the Lakefront Parks

This is kind of an expensive way to see the lakefront parks, but if you've never done a segway tour, or are looking for a way to entertain out of town guests, this is a lot of fun!  Tours begin at the Bike & Skate Rental shop in Veteran's Park at 1500 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.  Tours start at $49 per person and can be scheduled for 10:00, 12:00, 3:00 & 5:00.

We tried this last summer with a group of 8, when we had visitors from England, and had a great time.  You begin the tour with a short video and a practical lesson in how to operate the segway.  This is all about balance, and it can be tricky learning to lean to make it go.  The professionals who work there will make sure you know what you're doing before you head out on the trail, so you get some practice time on the greens near the bike & skate shop.  Then when you feel comfortable, the guide takes you along the lakefront at a pretty good pace.  There is a storage bag on the front of the segway to put a water bottle, camera, personal belongings.  You will also be making frequent stops to hear about the history of the area and take photos.  The guide in our group was happy to take photos of us as we toured.

They provide helmets.  You have to be 14 years of age or older.  There are 2 different tours- one historical and the other just highlighting buildings and structures you'll see.  As long as the weather is nice, they are a fun time!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Boerner Botanical Gardens in Full Spring Bloom

If you're in the mood for spring flowers in a very big way, what better place to go than Boerner Botanical Garden? Here's a Facebook link with 20 inspirational photos that should make your day.  If you have never been there, expect a little bit of walking with spaces divided seasonally, as well as specific gardens focused on a particular type of plant.  May and June have the most variety of blooms, in my opinion, but later this summer, the rose garden will be spectacular.  No matter when you go, there's something to see.

If you want to see a schedule (that is totally dependent on Mother Nature), they have a chart that shows what types of flowers are blooming during a specific month- the garden blooms schedule.

Before you go, you can take a virtual tour via the county's website that includes the history of the park, and you can explore each of the garden areas more fully, by clicking on the specialty gardens link.

The Friends of Boerner Botanical Garden have their own web page that includes events and some very good maps of the gardens. The garden walks are an especially nice way to explore the garden where you're hosted by a plant expert and told more about the garden as you walk.  Sunday Brunch is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors after a nice meal.  Make a reservation with Bartolotta's by calling 414-525-5635 and schedule your table from 10-1:30.

Admission is $4 for children and seniors, $5 for adults.  The gardens are open every day during summer from 8 am until sunset.  For a map with directions, visit the friends page.

There are some interesting family events coming up.  Be sure to check back at the friends page for more information.  If you like bugs, this might be for you.

Family Workshop
Garden Fun with the Bug Whisperer Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Come for a garden walk with the Bug Whisperer Antonio (Tony) Gustin Entomologist, award winning film producer, educator and performer! Discover insect life after dark; activities include visiting black light stations and making your own bug catcher. Please bring a flashlight and lidded jar for collecting insects.
Families: $20 members/ $25 non-members (Limit 5 people per family)
Individuals: $10 members/ $12 non-members
For more information or to register call 414-525-5659

Friday, May 17, 2013

Disc Golf- Great Exercise for All Abilities!

Disc golf is now available for play in 8 different Milwaukee county parks, and is FREE.  Although I've seen some enthusiastic players even through the winter, this is really the beginning of the season for those who want to play in a league or even for fun.  You can see the listing of disc golf parks complete with addresses at the county parks website, but there is an even more comprehensive area map available at the Great Lakes Disc Golf Club google map, which includes parks outside of Milwaukee.  The number of holes and the difficulty of terrain varies by park, so if you try one and find it too challenging or long, try another!

There are also 2 courses, Underwood Course in Wauwatosa, and Grant Course in South Milwaukee, with only 3 holes and far less challenging terrain designed with people who are beginners or have a disability.  If you click on the link, you can even find additional links that include photos which show you where the holes are located, which can be helpful if this is really your first encounter with disc golfing.

Great Lakes Disc Golf Club is the best place for information about club membership, leagues, or probably anything else disc golf related.

You will have to bring your own discs, however there is a vendor, Madhatter Disc at Estabrook on Wednesdays that can sell you whatever you need to get started.  And if you're there, don't forget Estabrook Beer Garden which is now open for refreshments!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Community Garden Plots

This has been updated for 2016 and you can see it at this blog post.

You might be out in the parks or nearby and see lots of wooden garden plots like this one at Kadish Park.  It's time to think about filling these plots with seeds and plants for the summer.  There are many plots still available if you'd like to plant your own garden this year.

There are two main places you can contact for information about getting a garden plot, Milwaukee Urban Gardens or the UW Extension Office.

Milwaukee Urban Gardens has plots at the following places:

Concordia Gardens in Harambee, operated in partnership with the Victory Garden Initiative and Transition Milwaukee
E. Concordia Ave. at N. Palmer St.

Village Roots Garden in Bay View, operated by the Bay View Garden and Yard Society
1115 E. Otjen St.

All Peoples’ Garden in Harambee, operated by the All Peoples’ Church
2600 N. Second St.

Cluster Two Grow and Play Lot in Harambee, operated by the Cluster Two Neighborhood Association with Groundwork Milwaukee
3347 N. Third St.

Greenfolks Garden in Riverwest
519 E. Wright St.

Amaranth Garden in Walnut Hill, operated by Amaranth Bakery and Cafe
3319 W. Lisbon Ave.

KRIC Garden in Lincoln Village, operated by Groundwork Milwaukee
2502 S. Fifth Pl.

UW Extension rents out plots or even larger spaces, if you really want to try your hand at microfarming.

Rental Gardens in the City of Milwaukee   

GARDEN 05 – 5TH AND MINERAL16 plots 
Annual rentals 20’ x20’ plots   
GARDEN 18 - 5TH AND ROGERS47 plots
Annual rentals 20’ x20’ plots
Douglas & Sherman – 24 plots 
Annual rentals 20′ x 20′ plots
Annual rentals 20’ x 20’ plots
TGS – TIMMERMAN GARDEN9400 W. Appleton Ave. – 142 plots  
Annual rentals 20’ x 20’ plots 
TOWN OF LAKE COMMUNITY GARDEN6th & Howard Ave. – 80 plots
Annual rentals 20′ x 20′
KHA1 – KOHL FARM MICROFARM8400 W. County Line Rd.
26 microfarms
Equivalent of twelve 30’ x 30’ plots
KHA (L) – KOHL FARM LARGE8400 W. County Line Rd. – 850 plots
Annual rentals 30’ x 30’ 
KHA (S) – KOHL FARM SMALL8400 W. County Line Rd. – 28 plots
Annual rentals 20’ x 20’ 

There is one more amazing place, directly across from Johnsons Park, called Alice's Garden.  This is a community garden, and you are welcome to drop in during the growing season.  They should soon have an updated calendar of summer activities at their website.  You can enjoy the plants, take a class, just hang out and be part of something bigger.

If you need help, take a gardening class with Milwaukee Urban Gardeners:

South Side May 4th 10am-noon in English and EspaƱol at the new Menomonee Valley Urban Ecology Center, 3700 W. Pierce St., Milwaukee, WI 53215. $2 MUG or UEC members / $4 Non-member. Phone UEC 414-431-2940 for reservations.

And check out the information page for the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center Gardening Programs.  Victory Garden Initiative also has community gardens at Concordia Ave, and another in Bay View.  All of their rentable plots are already gone for the season though.  Whitefish Bay needs help in their community garden, if you'd like to volunteer. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Helios Mullti-gyms added to Parks

Maybe you've driven by the park in your neighborhood and seen some new workout equipment.  The county has been adding some helios multi gyms.  These are great because you can be outdoors and still work some major muscle groups.  Here's the latest update of where they have been installed below, or go to the Milwaukee County park link.
For a video that gives you more information about how it's used, go to helios youtube

Work out all of your major muscle groups at exercise stations built into the multigym structure:

•    45
° back-extension bench
•    Abdominal-crunch/sit-up bench
•    Chin-up bar (with chin assist function)
•    Calf-raise platform
•    Triceps-dip station (with dip-assist function)
•    Elevated push-up platform
•    Cardio thigh-squat station

Your body weight adds resistance to your exercises.
Fitness Center at Doctor's Park

  1. Cannon Park, 303 N 95 St, east of the wading pool
  2. Doctors Park, 1870 E Fox Lane,
  3. Humboldt Park, 3000 S Howell Ave, between the baseball diamond and the pavilion
  4. Jackson Park, 3500 W Forest Home Ave
  5. Johnsons Park, 1919 W Fond du Lac Ave, off of 19 St & Brown St
  6. King Park, 1531 W Vliet St, southeast of the community center
  7. The Lakefront/McKinley Park, 2300 N Lincoln Memorial Drive, near the Northpoint Snack Bar
  8. Lincoln Park, 1301 W Hampton Ave
  9. McCarty Park, 8214 W Cleveland Ave, southeast of the wading pool
  10. Mitchell Park, 524 S Layton Blvd, northwest of the wading pool
  11. Scout Lake Park, 5902 W Loomis Rd
  12. South Shore Park, 2900 S Shore Drive, northeast of the tot lot
  13. Washington Park, 1859 N 40 St, west of the Senior Center

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stairs for Exercise

Forget the stairmaster while the weather is nice.  We have plenty of stairs in the parks that will do just fine on a nice day when you need an extra workout.  Most of the stairs can be found along the beach parks that have a bluff.  An added bonus is that the Oak Leaf Trail goes past or through many of these parks.  And as a double bonus- all of these parks have spectacular sunrises over the lake or city, so if you're inclined to get up early, you may be rewarded with a nice view and cool breezes.

I'll start at the north of the county at Doctor's Park.  If you walk past the playground to the restrooms and go to the far northeast of the upper bluff, you'll find stairs to the bottom.  These are rustic.  There is also a paved roadway, actually there are 2, that come from the parking lot at the north end.

There are two in Whitefish Bay- Big Bay and Klode Park.  Big Bay actually has a ramp that is paved, and a stairway that goes through the woods, which you can access at the beach level.  Klode Park has a paved ramp, but there are also wooden steps.  It's sometimes nice to have an alternative.

Lake Park has maybe the most famous stairs.  Everyone sees them when they drive by because they face Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Atwater Park has a steep set of stairs, but there is also a paved ramp.  I've heard it said, these are the most brutal.  Lots of stairs in quick succession.  Nice views though!

Estabrook Park has a set of stairs that begin at the beer garden and take you to the river.  Though there aren't a lot of stairs, there is added incentive because you can buy yourself a drink when it's all done. There are also bathrooms and a water fountain, which are open when the beer garden is open.

McKinley Park- across the street from it actually.  As you look west, you'll see a very straight set of steep stairs on the hill, but you can park on the street at McKinley and walk over. These steps go into Back Bay Park.

Bradford Beach has a couple sets of stairs across the street, which run between Wahl Avenue at the top (which makes great alternate parking on a busy beach day) to Lincoln Memorial. Some people use the trails up the hill to the hospital for exercise too.

Kilbourn Reservoir Park on North Avenue is the highest park in Milwaukee.  The thing to do here, if you're feeling up to it, is to climb up from one side, do the loop at the top, and go down on the other side of the park.  From at the top, you have maybe one of the best views of the high-rise buildings in Milwaukee.  There are also plenty of benches, so if you tire, you can sit and enjoy the view.
Doctor's Park stairs through the woods

Lake Park

Atwater Park at Shorewood= BRUTAL!
Kilbourn Reservoir Park Stairs West side

Kilbourn Reservoir Park Stairs East side


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Milwaukee Museum Mile

The Milwaukee Museum Mile is a set of 5 Milwaukee museums, and 2 of them have parks so I think it's worth a mention.  This Sunday, May 5 from 11-4, they are offering free admissions at 4 of them and  a 2 for 1 deal at the north point lighthouse in Lake Park.  We went last year and it was a rainy miserable day, so this was a good indoor adventure.  Although all 5 of the museums are interesting, I'll focus on the 2 that have parks.  Be sure to click on the link for the flyer so you can read up on all 5 of them if you plan to attend.  Although you can see these museums any time, this is a good way to get a taste of all of them with special kids' activities and refreshments thrown in.  There is also a free shuttle bus that will go around the circuit so you only need park your car once.  In summertime, this is an easy circuit to do by bicycle.

The first noteworthy museum set in a park is the north point lighthouse in Lake Park.  If you go, be sure to climb the stairs into the 74' tower for a stunning view of the lake and surrounding park area.  When we were there last year for the first Museum Mile open house, there was lightning over the lake and it was the most amazing sight.  Of course, in nicer weather, it's beautiful too.  There are historical artifacts on the lower floor and if you have time, you can read about who has worked here since it was built in 1888.  Lake Park itself was designed by the same man who designed Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, and this is one of Milwaukee's first and finest parks.  Be sure to look at the east side of the lighthouse if weather is nice and walk across the Lion's bridges, spanning the lighthouse ravines.
North Point Lighthouse
The 2nd museum, with a park in its backyard, is Villa Terrace Art Museum.  The house alone is an incredible place, with an architectural style reminiscent of Italy.  The gardens have recently received some intense work, including pruning of more than 40 trees, and although there may not be too much in bloom at this time of year, it is still a very pretty place to roam and to get some exercise.  Try those steps and get your heart pumping! The photos I'm posting here are late summer of last year, so it won't look quite the same, but you can see how green and vast the gardens are.   Be sure to look down when you walk into the courtyard as you enter the building.  The children who used to live here collected all the stones which were laid out into a mosaic.  They do host music here on the first Sunday of every month, and then every week during the summer, with snacks for purchase.  If you attend, you won't be disappointed.  You can also eat on the patio facing the garden, and it makes for a wonderful experience, especially if you have out of town guests.  Here's a description of the gardens from the Villa Terrace website.

Overlooking Lake Michigan, the Renaissance Garden at Villa Terrace recreates the classic elements of a 16th century Tuscan landscape while accommodating the vagaries of the Wisconsin Climate.   Rose Standish Nichols designed the original villa gardens in collaboration with the home’s architect David Adler.  In 1997, the Friends of Villa Terrace led by landscape architect Dennis Buettner created a restoration plan to revive the garden, focusing on the classical elements of the original landscape.  

The Renaissance Garden is open year-round (weather permitting) with an official garden opening celebration on the first Sunday in June.  Entrance to the garden is obtained through the main entrance of the museum.  (Terrace Avenue)

Points of interest:

“Neptune” Gate
Inspired by master craftsman Cyril Colnik, this wrought iron masterpiece by metalsmith Dan Nauman creates a regal entrance to the garden from the Lincoln Memorial Drive level.

Scaletta d’Aqua
A dramatic “water stairway” flows down past three terraces of flowering crabapple trees to a Vasca, a fishpond used historically to keep the daily catch fresh
Two Secret Gardens and a thicket (where, in the past, birds might be caught for the evening meal)

Grassy spaces and benches, bordered with culinary and medicinal herbs, potted citrus trees, unusual plantings, dwarf fruit trees and statuary.

A tram carries passengers from the upper terrace to the lower garden (currently inoperable).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Doctor's Park- Great Nature and Bird Life

One of the ravines through the woods.  Some nice trails here too.

This morning I was recovering from the 82 degree days we just had and had to adapt back to 50s with hat and mittens.  At least I could count on some sunshine at Doctor's Park.  This is a great place for nature lovers.  It has beach, woods, wildlife, and for those just looking for a playground, there's one of those here too.

Lake Michigan had some wave action today at the beach
If you're doing the Oak Leaf Discovery Passport, there is a box with the secret word at the restrooms at the top of the bluff.  Look for this box.

Like many of the other parks in our area, there is an active Friends' group for Doctor's Park.  They have some big plans for the park and have been conducting listening sessions.  To keep up with them, you might like their Facebook page.

When I did the previous blog on birding, I neglected to add Doctor's Park Bird Walk to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day, which will be May 11at 8 am.  You can meet in the parking lot with field guide and binoculars if you have them.  People of all experience levels are welcome.  This will indeed be a great place to see birds.  I share with you some photos I took today to show you a few of the varieties I saw.  There were actually clouds of birds flying overhead making sweet music and filling the trees.  What surprised me was that there were so many varieties flying together. You can get out your bird guides now and identify them.