The Run Down
For this week’s guide, we’re taking you on an overnight trip to that other big city on Lake Michigan. I’m talking about Milwaukee, which is a real easy 1.5 hour Amtrak ride from Chicago’s Union Station. We met up with a local who served as our tour guide, and provided us with a action-packed 24+ hours in Milwaukee. Here are the details.
1. Great Lakes Distillery
First off, here are a few logistics notes about taking the Amtrak up to Milwaukee.
– The Amtrak train you’ll be taking is the Hiawatha line. It’s $25 each way. Details and schedule can be found here.
– There are between 12 – 14 trains running to and from Milwaukee each day. If you buy a ticket online and later decided to leave at a different time, it’s pretty easy to change your reservation online (at no-charge). We pushed back our return trip 3 times, because Milwaukee was super dope.
– If you’ve never taken the Amtrak before, the seats are spacious, the train has free wi-fi, and there are power outlets by each seat. After a few episodes of whatever Netflix show you’re binge watching, you’ll be in Milwaukee.
Here’s a picture from our train as it was going over the river and pulling into the Milwaukee Amtrak station.
Once your train pulls into the station, you are less than a mile from our first destination. We’re headed to the Great Lakes Distillery for a guided tour and tasting. This is a small batch distillery, so the actual tour consists of doing a 360 degree spin of the warehouse, but what they lack in space they make up for with a 15-20 minute educational session on the distilling and brewing process. It’s a great tour for those who didn’t get enough of organic chemistry in college.
The last half of the tour is the tasting portion where you’ll get the chance to try out a flight of six different spirits. These are generous pours, so if you’re drinking every last drop, you’ll be properly feeling it as we move on to the next stop.
Here are some tips and resources to help you plan.
– Tours and tasting is $10 per person and held every day.
– Schedule can be found here.
2. Lost Valley Cider Co.
We’re going just a few blocks down to our next stop, which is a cider bar called Lost Valley. This bar is dedicated solely to ciders and meads from all over the world. I love a good cider mainly because I’m generally a big fan of juice and any iteration on it.
The good thing about this place is they offer 4oz tasting flights, which give you a chance to try as much of the menu as possible. Two ciders that topped our list was the Seattle Cider Cold Brew, a coffee and cider amalgamation, and the Finnriver Habanero. If you’ve ever eaten apples dipped in a tamarind and chilli powder, the Finnriver Habanero is a cider version of that.
3. Indulgence Chocolatiers
We’re moving on to our next stop, which is just a few short blocks away. Before we talk about the next place, I wanted to give you an idea of the neighborhood we’re in. Here’s a shot of our walk from Lost Valley to our next destination. There are a lot of old warehouse buildings, loft conversions, and underpasses like these that cut across different parts of the neighborhood. For context, it sort of feels like a less crowded and more spread out Fulton Market type of neighborhood.
Now onto the actual venue. We’re continuing our tasting theme, and we’re here at Indulgence Chocolatiers for some chocolate pairings. They have a bunch of different options to choose from, and the chocolatier behind the bar was good about recommendations on which to choose depending on the mood you’re in.
If you’re wanting to keep the drinks going like we did, try the sangria and chocolate pairing. It’s a nice easy transition from cider to sangrias. Plus the chocolate pairings were spot on.
Here’s a shot of the second pairing we did. It’s a chocolate and cheese pairing, which seemed like an appropriate Wisconsin style choice.
4. River Walk in the Third Ward District
By this time, you’re probably getting hungry for real food. From Indulgence Chocolatiers, we’re going to be walking towards the next stop located in an adjacent neighborhood. We’ll be following the river and strolling along the River Walk in the Third Ward District Neighborhood. To set the tone, here are a few shots of where we’re walking through.
5. Ale House
For our first meal, we’re going full-Wisconsin at the Ale House restaurant. What I mean by that is we’re getting cheese curds and all the other fried fixings that compliment it. Head to the back of the restaurant where they have a deck overlooking the river, and indulge in all this fried goodness. It will give you a second-wind when it comes to continuing this booze fueled trip.
6. Victoria’s On Potter
After dinner, we’re changing things up and are headed to the Bay View neighborhood which is just south of the Third Ward District. We’re here to continue our expedition at Victoria’s On Potter, which is a divey neighborhood bar that serves cheap drinks, and has what we actually came for — Hammerschlagen. It’s a German game (which many turn into a drinking game) where you take turns hammering a nail into a tree stump. Last to hammer their nail in loses.
Below is the Hammerschlagen tree stump and hammer in question. The bartender gave us a quick tutorial and played the first game with us. If you want to hammerschlagen throughout the night, it’s $0.50 a nail. More about this game at this official hammerschlagen rules page.
7. Boone and Crockett
Our very last stop of the night is another bar in the Bay View neighborhood called Boone and Crockett. We’re having a night cap here, and finishing strong with a round of old fashioned cocktails. This isn’t any old fashioned, this is aged for a few weeks in oak barrels that are suspended from the ceiling.
According to our host, this is one of the best cocktail bars in Milwaukee. After having the old fashioned, I’d say it makes a strong case.
8. Milwaukee Public Market
We’re not quite done with you yet, Milwaukee. Before we hop on the Amtrak back to Chicago, we’re going to be grabbing a morning coffee and breakfast at the Milwaukee Public Market. This place is in the Third Ward District, and close to all the spots from the day before.
It’s a huge indoor market with a bunch of different vendors. Come here and grab a coffee, breakfast, snacks, or browse.
9. Bublr Bike Riding
If you have extra time before your train, Milwaukee has a bike share system similar to Divvy. We’re close to the lakefront, and taking these bad boys out for a spin was a great way to see the city. There is a lakefront trail (very similar to the one in Chicago, but way less crowded which made it much more pleasant to ride).
Take this around the city for a bit ($3 every 30 minutes), and when you’re ready, you can drop it off right in front of the Amtrak station.