Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Swing Park has an Address Now

The weather has been unseasonably warm so far this month, which maybe isn't a bad thing.  It just means that we haven't had a chance to do the traditional things we'd be doing in January like playing in snow.  Still, there's plenty to do. We've been making our way through my list of 100 things to do in Milwaukee this winter, which brought us to the Swing Park this week.

I was happy to see the city has posted an official address sign for the swing park now.  We used to have to describe it as "under the Holton Street Bridge" or "across from Trocadero".  Maybe you've heard now that Trocadero has closed its doors, which could have added to the confusion. Now you can officially find it at 1737 N. Water Street. Using Google, it shows up at the appropriate location. It was added to TripAdvisor. There's an unofficial page at Facebook. Guess the secret is out.  Have you been there yet?

This is a great place to visit in all kinds of weather.  Since it's covered, you won't get rained or snowed on.  The benches light up at night, so it's a fun park to visit after you've been out on the town. The swings are sturdy enough for any adult and you can get some major air with the right amount of pushing/pumping. The sand under your feet will maybe help you imagine you're on a beach somewhere.

It's kind of noisy at the moment, due to construction on a new building next door. And the portable toilet that was there in summer has been removed, as well as the baby swings next to it.  Not sure if they are coming back once construction is finished.  Stay tuned.
These benches light up at night

Not a lot of swings, but they are sturdy

An accessible swing on rubber matting
Parking is no longer available in the lot next door, but there are a few spots on the street near the bridge.  Alternatively, you can park across the bridge by Lakefront Brewing on Commerce St., and walk over the to swings.  There's always a nice view of the everchanging Milwaukee river scenery from here. Seems like new buildings are going up every year.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter Festivals and Other Cool Events Around Milwaukee

It's been kind of disappointing with the low amount of snowfall we've had this month.  Even the ice rinks have been unusable in the parks. Frankly, it looks a little more like spring out there right now.  Not that I don't like warmer weather, but it would be nice to get the snowshoes out at least a couple more times.

Weather permitting, this is normally a great time to find some fun  at winter carnivals, festivals and other events.  Mark your calendars, cross your fingers for some new snow, and plan to attend these January and February activities. I've included a few that are outside Milwaukee county, but are worth the drive.  Know of any more?  Leave it in the comments. And don't forget my list of 100 Things to do in Milwaukee this Winter. There is no reason to be bored or housebound this winter.

Boerner Botanical Gardens hosts a Winter Fest January 22, 10-2. Most activities will be held indoors, but there are planned nature walks, games, and entertainment by Miss Sparkle the Clown. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested for the nature walks. 

The Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park holds  Winterfest on Saturday January 28. Become a member and use sleds, snowshoes, skates, etc. The festival will include music, hot cocoa, homemade pies, and crafts too. Admission is free.  This is a beautiful park with lots of winter fun choices. 

This is also the kick-off weekend for the Winterfest at Lake Geneva where snow sculptures are created by talented teams of artists.  It's a drive, but worth it if you've never been because it attracts talent at a national level. Winterfest is also home to a Human Dog Sled Race, The Abominable Snow Race, magic shows, helicopter rides, a chili cook-off This lasts from January 28-February 12.

Lynden Sculpture Garden will have outdoor fun as well as art activities indoors at their 7th Annual Winter Carnival.   Free to members or with admission to the sculpture garden. Prices for nonmembers: $9 general admission and $7 students & seniors. Kids under 6 are free. Family passes for nonmembers will be available at the door for $20. Expect outdoor art-making, studio activities, scavenger hunts, tours and tree-walks, and whatever other winter activities--ice skating, painting the pond, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing--the weather permits. This year the highly participatory, artist-driven carnival, curated by recent MIAD graduate Reece Ousey, features an artist's version of an outdoor mini-golf course created by Miguel Ramirez--a winter-friendly extension of previous indoor projects Ramirez has exhibited in Milwaukee. Current and former Lynden artists-in-residence, including Sara Caron and Pat Hidson and Tori Tasch, will be on hand with new projects. Caron is planning a walking performance, and Hidson and Tasch will offer a pressure-printing workshop. The Little Havana Express food truck will be serving Cuban cuisine--sandwiches, empanadas, and hot beverages--from 11 am to 2 pm.

Schlitz Audubon will hold a Winter Carnival, Sunday January 29, though parking will be offsite at Bayside School. All Members: $5 Non-Members: Adult $10 | Youth $5
Scheduled Activities include Lake hikes, trail hikes, Kohl's Wild Theater, Frozen Science, and an Owl Meet & Greet.  Don't miss the Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides too. 

Sheridan Park is the place to be for the Frosty Hog Fat Tire Bike Race, while just down the street is the Yeti Dash at Warnimont Park. Both events will be held February 4.

The Milwaukee County Historical Society in Pere Marquette Park will have a Family Day celebrating the new music exhibit Melodies and Memories-200 Years of Music, February 4, 11-3. Learn about instruments through the Brass Bell Music Store Instrument Petting Zoo, participate in an art project to make your own instrument, see four different performances throughout the day by members of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and enjoy the exhibit including the Cascio Interstate Music’s instrument player pods and 65+ tunes at the listening stations. Admission is free. While you're here, take a walk along Milwaukee's River Walk which can be very pretty to see when the river is frozen.

Mequon Nature Preserve will host its 5th annual Winter Frolic on February 4 from 10-4. Some of the activities: Alaskan Malamute Dog Sled Demos, tractor rides and petting zoo, sleigh rides, workshops, crafts, ice fishing, bonfires, and snowman building.  Sounds like fun. This event was huge last year so expect parking shuttles or go early. 

Weather permitting, the Door County Sled Dogs will give rides at their Big Birthday Bash, February 11-12 at Whitnall Park. Even if there is no snow, you can meet the team and bring a gift from their birthday wish list.  All the dogs are rescues and you can imagine the expense of having so many beautiful large dogs. 

At Wehr Nature Center. Experience Wehr’s Winter Wonderland on Valentine’s Day weekend (Saturday February 11, 3-5 PM) and see why we are so in love with nature! Explore the trails on snowshoes, learn animal tracking with a naturalist, and even make your own edible scat snack! (Don’t worry it is fudge!) Best of all, compete for great prizes in the ultimate Winter Obstacle Course team challenge on the frozen Mallard Lake.Hot spiked cider and cocoa will be on hand as we warm up by the fire and watch the winter sun set. Event is 21+
Price includes all activities, gear, and 2 drinks.
$20 per person; $15 for Friends of Wehr Members
Reservations guarantee your spot. Walk-ins welcome as space allows

Mitchell Park Domes hosts Hearts Under Glass February 14, 6-10 PM. Celebrate Valentines Day with your special someone in the romantic atmosphere of the Domes at night. Take a moonlit stroll through the Desert Dome, enjoy a cocktail in the candlelit warmth of the Tropical Dome, enjoy the whimsical atmosphere of the Great Train Robbery 2017 Train Show in the Show Dome. Admission is $10 per person.

Cedarburg is hosting its 43rd annual Winter Festival February 18 & 19. Enjoy a winter weekend of family-fun festivities with camel rides, chili contests, ice-carving contest, dog-pulling contests, costumed bed races on ice, barrel racing, a parade, pancake breakfast, marketplace, children's activities, tractor-drawn hay rides plus sign-up to tee off with the "Ice-Burg Open Golf Tournament" in Cedar Creek Park and special events at the Cedar Creek Settlement, including an outdoor Chili Bar and Snow Bar on Saturday from 12-4pm, free wine samplings and live music on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday evening, adults will enjoy the "Cool Brew" featuring a beer tasting, appetizers and live music. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Penguins in Milwaukee

If you thought the only place to see penguins in Milwaukee was at the County Zoo, you're in for a surprise.  No, these aren't real penguins.  They are a new tool used by people who need some help with balance while ice skating. Called penguin pals and designed for beginner skaters, they are also helpful for anyone who might not be so steady on two skates. 

Come skate and bring your friends to Slice of Ice, located in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee.  This rink is for figure skating only, so no hockey sticks allowed.  You can bring your own skates and skate for free, but there are rental skates available for $7-8. You can have skates sharpened while you wait for $6. This is the only outdoor rink which is regularly groomed, though there are other outdoor rinks in the park system as well as villages. Be sure to check the county parks link to see if the outdoor rinks are open before visiting.  Some strange weather has closed a few of them already, but they may open again.

This Monday while many schools have a free day, come check out the rink and enjoy some good company. Starbucks is located inside so you can find hot coffee, even if you just want to sit and watch the skaters.

Monday, January 16, 2017
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Free Skate Rentals and Penguin Pal skate aids sponsored by WaterStone Bank. Free Pepsi products while supplies last.
(Skate Rental Fee will be in effect from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.)

Parking is sometimes a challenge.  There is no free parking, but here's a handy map which is also on the Slice of Ice website that shows some parking options.  I've downloaded the app MKE PARK and find it useful, though you have to pay a few cents extra for the convenience.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Activities for Frigid Temperatures

We're fast approaching the time of year where everyone seems to stay indoors because of frigid temperatures.  Most people are aware of the usual places to go- Betty Brinn, Milwaukee Art Museum, Grohmann Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World, Harley Davidson Museum, Charles Allis Museum, Villa Terrace, and the Chudnow Museum.  And if you need ideas for what you can do right now or this week, be sure to check out Miltown Moms. Maybe you aren't aware of all the winter fun you can have at indoor spaces in the parks.  I'll list a few that will help you avoid cabin fever. You can always check the weekly events space at Milwaukee County Parks website in addition to this list.

The Domes are a great place to see, especially on Monday mornings if you're a Milwaukee resident, because it's FREE.  Just be sure to bring an ID that shows your address.  There are three domes filled with plants, but the main attraction will be the annual train exhibit in the show dome January 14-April 2.  They are open every day.  Unfortunately due to funding considerations, the weekly Domes Under Glass has been discontinued, but watch the calendar for special evening events.

Every Saturday from 9-1, through early April, there's a farmer's market at the Domes.  Check it out for cheeses, fruits, greens, and other great food items.  You can also have breakfast there.

The Desert Dome decorated a bit for the holidays
There are 2 county pools you can use for $4/3.00.  Each has their independent schedules, Noyes Pool, 8235 W. Good Hope has aqua zumba, lessons, open swim, lap swimming, and other exercise classes.  Pulaski Pool,  2701 S. 16th St. has similar offerings.  The City of Milwaukee uses local schools with swimming pools.  Check out the aquatics link to find a program that fits your needs.

The Milwaukee County Sports Complex, 6000 W. Ryan Road in Franklin, offers an open gym Mon-Fri, usually 9-5 and all you have to pay is $2 per person.  Courts are set up for different sports, but you should bring your own equipment. Check the website, as the calendar at this time only includes the current week and this program might have been reduced.

Unfortunately, due to damage from a snowstorm, the Currie Park indoor golf dome has been closed and will reopen under a new vendor late in 2017, so golfing as a winter option is not available this year.

Milwaukee Recreation has many community centers that are generally open evenings and weekends with activities open to all ages.  You can find the nearest center to you by looking at the map and clicking on each site for more information about services offered.  Milwaukee County Parks has 2 centers (King Center and Kosciuszko Center), that are open for a fee of $3.00 per day pass, or with varying prices for an annual pass.  At these you will find workout equipment, structured and drop in activities, even boxing lessons! Hours vary, but generally you can drop in during the day or early evening.  Check the link for specifics.

COA in Kadish Park (909 E. North Ave) has an amazing free parent/child program at their Riverwest Samson Family Center.  Monday-Friday, drop in with kids from 930-1130 where kids will have guided play, singing, snacks, and activities, and parents can socialize while they have a warm drink.  The program is for kids 0-6 years of age.   I have taken both of my grandkids here and they enjoyed    it very much. There's a second center on Burleigh. Get more information at the website.

Array of toys available at COA Samson Family Center

If you're a senior citizen looking for fun, the county has a number of senior centers in the county parks where you can find planned activities, companionship, sports, and meals.  Some activities are open to ages 50 and older. Others are open at age 60.  Admission is FREE, but there are some costs for classes.  There is a pretty comprehensive video made by the county dept.  on aging so that gives you a peek at what is available.

Wilson Ice Arena is open every day except Sunday for at least a couple of hours for free skating.  About once a month they offer glow skating.  Check out the schedule on the website before you go.

Nature Centers at Schlitz AudubonHavenwoods, and the Urban Ecology Centers, and Wehr Nature Center are a great place to check out some reptiles or birds, and have a little warm fun.  You can often participate in programs about nature, so it's worth it to check out the event calendars at each of the locations.
Get up close and personal with a snake at a nature center
North Point Lighthouse is open on weekends, 1-4.  You can learn about the local maritime trade, see the quarters, and climb the tower for a great view of Lake Michigan.  The best time to see the view is during winter when all the leaves are gone.

Go have Sunday brunch at Hubbard Park Lodge or Lake Park Bistro. Each is a very different experience, but the foods are delicious!  You can stay toasty warm while looking out at the beautiful snowy views of the river or lake.  And if you just want a bowl of soup or a regular meal, Lake Park Bistro is open every day of the week.
View from Lake Park Bistro