Friday, May 29, 2015

Milwaukee's Quirky Parks

Summer is coming and I know you're looking for a few new places to explore.  I wrote about interesting yard art last fall, which you can check out here. This time, I decided to pull together a list of all the most unusual places I could think of which are in the great outdoors.  Put these on your summer bucket list, though they are equally quirky and fun no matter what time of year.  Many have awe inspiring art.  Some feature historic gems.  All will leave you feeling a bit happier about visiting.  I've created a Milwaukee Quirky Parks pinterest board with more information about the places listed here, just in case you use Pinterest.  While you're there, you can check out the Milwaukee travel board I used when I was creating my Milwaukee Bucket List book.  Lots of great adventures can unfold!

Cass Street Park, at Pleasant & Cass streets. features some beautiful work by local artist Marina Lee.  She also has sculptures at the Snail's Crossing, 3500 N. Bremen in Riverwest neighborhood, and a few others on Martin Luther King Blvd where 6th & Keefe meet (Five Points). Her fiberglass creations are fun and whimsical. She also makes mosaic pathways and interesting planters.
Marina Lee's sculpture at Five Points
Mosaic at Snails Crossing

 City Yard is a sidewalk park outside of the Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave., which includes old call boxes, fire hydrants, signs, stairs, and other interesting older city artifacts.  I love the lions.  Be sure to look at all of them because each has a unique word.

Interested in history?  Really old, old history?  We have perhaps the oldest building in all of North America right here in a park like setting on Marquette University's campus, though it was originally built in France and moved here.  It's the Joan of Arc Chapel and you can drop by nearly every day of the year to view the interior.  You can't really see it from the street, nor is there parking at the chapel.  You'll need to park on a nearby street and walk to the inside commons area. Students sometimes give tours, and mass is celebrated there while school is in session.  Check the website link for details.
Joan of Arc Chapel
On a historic note, there are other parks with old buildings.  Juneau Park has a replica of the  log cabin home of city founder, Solomon Juneau, as well as statues of Leif Erikson, and Solomon Juneau, and a fantastic view of the lakefront.  If you geocache, you'll find this on the Milwaukee geocaching tourTrimborn Farm, at 8881 W. Grange in Greendale, is a Victorian era farmstead with nine buildings including a limestone barn, granary, and lime kilns.  Hales Corners has Ben Hunt's cabin, which is open to the public once a month. It is located at 5885 S. 116th, which is near the library.
Solomon Juneau cabin
Entrance to Trimborn Farm during winter

Want to hold the world in your hands?  This can make some fun, captivating photos!  The globe at the top of Ogden Ave. stairs is also reachable from the Oak Leaf Trail portion that runs along the lakefront.  While you're in that neighborhood, stop by the Jewish museum grounds to see the Holocaust Memorial at 1360 N. Prospect. Visitors enter through steel sheets that look like pages of a book, each with the name of a concentration camp.  Once you're inside, it's quite private.  A somber and beautiful place.
The globe
Lake Park is historic, beautiful and one of three parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  Look on the map at the Lake Park link for the prehistoric burial mound, one of the last remaining in this part of the state. This park also has beautiful bridges, enormous lions, a waterfall ravine, and is the home of North Point lighthouse.  There's even a storage shed which used to be a Nike tracking station during the Cold war.  The Lake Park Friends website does a good job of telling the history of this park.

Forest Home Cemetery is a rare garden cemetery, from the time when people would picnic and pay respect to family members who had passed on.  It has the widest range of trees planted in the area and is the final resting place for many famous early Milwaukee mayors, beer barons, and entrepreneurs.  The graves are artistic and original.  Go on a weekend tour to get the most out of the visit.
Blatz- a beer baron's grave here

Want to play chess?  There is a single board in what many people call Stone Bracelet Park at 3rd & Walker in Walker's Point.  You can't miss the HUGE stone from which the park gets its common name. Enderis Park has a couple chess boards as well as some amazing huge artificial trees made by artist Nancy Metz White, called the Magic grove. 2900 N. 72nd St.  There's another magical tree by the same artist at Mitchell Boulevard Park, called the Tree of Life. 5115 W. Bluemound Rd.
Bring your own chairs at Walker's Point Park

Chess at Enderis Park
Stone Bracelet

The Magic Grove
Tree of Life
In the same area as Mitchell Boulevard is the Wisconsin Soldier's Home which features civil war era buildings and Wood National Cemetery, complete with cannons at the 60 foot tall Soldiers and Sailors monument.  Download the walking tour at iTunes.

Want a bird's eye view of Milwaukee?  Take either set of stairs to the top of Kilbourn Reservoir Park at North Ave. between Holton and Humboldt.  This used to contain the water supply for the entire city but now it's just a very high park.  Or ride the elevator to the top of MSOE's Grohmann museum with a $5 admission, and see sculptures and flowers too.  The sculptures (all featuring men at work) face out during winter months, and in when the rooftop garden opens. This is also one of the cheapest places to get a drink at the student priced vending machines in the lowest floor of the museum.  Be sure to check out the paintings which are, in my opinion, some of the greatest artworks outside of Europe by European painters.  Want a view of the entire valley?  The best place is at St. Luke's Healing Garden, 2900 W. Oklahoma, which is on the hospital's ninth floor and is open to the public.  You'll see a panorama of the ball park all the way to the Basilica from up there.  Part of the garden is indoors, so don't let wet weather keep you away.
The view from Kilbourn Reservoir park
The Grohmann's sculpture garden

Healing Garden

A gorgeous fall morning view from the Healing Garden
Adults and kids on swings.  Great concept for those who are young or still want to feel young.  Try the Swing Park under the Holton St. Bridge near Trocadero at 1758 N. Water St.  You'll know you're in the right place when you see a mouse on a chimney high above street level, which is pretty unusual too. It has gone through some changes since it was first created by volunteers, but the concept is still basically recycled tires which are really fun.  Since it is covered, you stay dry no matter the weather.  Cross over the river bridge to Lakefront Brewery to see the quirky Stooges made of fermenting tanks.
Swings for all sizes
Walk the river walk to see seasonal art as well as have your photo taken with the Bronze Fonz.  It's a Milwaukee icon!  You may see an old phone booth, Gertie the duck, inset tiles made by local school kids, little free libraries...well, there is so much cool stuff.  You just have to experience it.
The Fonz
The River Walk

Have you ever walked through a sculpture of historical significance?  Catalano Square is the place to be.  Check out Stratiformis, a sculpture created by Jin Soo Kim using knitting machine parts.  Look closely and you'll see wear on the donated pieces or perhaps even a stray piece of yarn.
Cathedral Square Park is a great place for outdoor music and is famous for Jazz in the Park during the summer.  To extend this fun, the city crew painted a piano keyboard crosswalk at the square.

Maybe climbing a rock is more your style?  Try your hands and feet at Jake's Rock located in Hales Corner Park. This is a man made rock and is quite challenging.
Do you like large, old, gnarly trees?  Go to South Shore Park where you'll find a plaque indicating the largest European copper beech in the state.  How cool is that?  For more big tree fun, check out Eddee Daniel's Urban Wilderness blog about a tour of our county's largest trees.

For interesting sculptures, in Brown Deer you can visit Lynden Sculpture Gardens.  This lovely huge garden has a variety of sculptures placed throughout including painted cows, horses made of sticks, and a ladder in the pond. You're sure to find something on the grounds that will make you go hmmmm.....

And lastly, drive by Mary Nohl's house.  It may be moved...or it may not.  There has been some controversy about what will be done with the house since her death. The concrete sculptures in the yard are very interesting, though you are not able to enter the property at this time.

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