Chicago Tribune Lauds Milwaukee

As Christine points out, there’s something pretty radical about a Chicago paper lauding Milwaukee, as the Chicago Tribune did today (free registration required).

Milwaukeeans have a love/hate relationship with Chicago. Milwaukeeans tend to have an inferiority complex but also disparage Chicago’s traffic/drivers/expense/general bad attitude.

However, this love/hate relationship is not reciprocated by Chicagoans. Instead, the most dominant attitude by Chicagoans towards Milwaukee is complete indifference. I’m constantly amazed at how many Chicago residents have no idea where Milwaukee is or why they might stop there. I’m pretty sure a non-trivial percentage of Chicagoans confuse Milwaukee with Minneapolis, so they think it’s hundreds of miles away. In fact, downtown to downtown is about 90 miles, and it’s an easy 100 minute train ride or a quick 90-105 minute drive. I do the drive (or take the train) at least once a month either to downtown Chicago or to the nearest Trader Joe’s in a northern Chicago suburb–it takes a half-day to do the roundtrip, but it’s not a big deal.

Thus, given the indifference, it’s a noteworthy development when Chicago’s major daily comes out singing Milwaukee’s praises.

This is not to say that Milwaukee is the most compelling destination that Chicagoans could imagine. But my sister and brother-in-law, and their two nieces, came from California to spend a week with us in Milwaukee and had a good time. I was petrified about this because the Midwest generally doesn’t have a whole lot of “California-grade” tourist attractions.

Nevertheless, we found plenty to occupy a couple days. We spent one morning driving the lakefront, seeing the Beer Baron mansions on Lake Drive, stopping at the hip and college-y Alterra coffeehouse on Lincoln Memorial Drive (in the old pumphouse building), checking out the Art Museum and touring Marquette (including the fascinating Joan of Arc chapel). We had a great vegetarian lunch at Beans & Barley, went to Cosi for a S’mores dessert and then toured the Sprecher brewery. That night, we went to a movie in a state-of-the-art movie house for a couple of bucks less than the California movie houses. Another day, we took them on a walk in the Schlitz Audubon park. The frogs and turtles were mostly hiding, but the wildflowers were everywhere!

We didn’t even get to do everything on our list–we were going to take the family to Cedarburg (my wife, in particular, likes the massively-overpriced caramel apples) and the Pabst House and a ballgame at Miller Park. They will just have to come back for more fun!

FWIW, the Miller brewery tour is better than the Sprecher tour. As the Tribune article points out, the video is hilarious, and I liked touring the beer caves. The tasting at the end…well, it’s Miller products, and tasting it fresh from the brewery doesn’t really improve the experience in any noticeable way. However, they allow you to send as many free postcards as you want to your friends, so bring your address book. And the tour is free! The major plus for the Sprecher tour? All the free soda (of seven varieties) you can drink. (Only problem: both my wife and I thought all of the varieties, other than the root beer, weren’t that good).

So my hope is that the Chicago Tribune article starts to lift some of the mystery about Milwaukee. Perhaps that will lead to less indifference and more interaction between us.