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).

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