Two days before Christmas, I met a handsome Dentist in a bar in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The conversation flowed effortlessly and the chemistry between us was light and refreshing. But, this was Christmas time in Florida and I soon found out that Dr. Handsome was actually a tourist and would be heading back home in a few short days. Bummer. We exchanged numbers anyway and a few weeks later, I found myself booking a fight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit him. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse… because I’m pretty much down for a weekend trip any time to anywhere and good ol’ Frontier Airlines never fails to come through with a deal. Under $100 for a round trip flight is a no brainer in my world. So, I booked the flight. And the very next thing I did was make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned because you absolutely can not run off to visit a handsome Dentist with dirty teeth.
Tip for the locals: The staff at Banana River Dental were fantastic! They managed to squeeze me in on short notice, were gentle but thorough and gave me the best/easiest cleaning I’ve ever had (as someone who hates visiting the Dentist- this is a major compliment.) If you’re on the Space Coast and looking for a good Dentist, I highly recommend them!
Flash forward to me preparing to pack for my weekend away. It’s 85 degrees outside in Florida, my teeth are sparkling clean and I’m pumped! Just have to check the weather in Milwaukee first… and… wait… Are those negative numbers?! *Enter Florida Girl in panic mode. I guess I hadn’t fully thought through the whole winter in the Mid West thing before I committed to this trip, but then again, would it really be my life if there wasn’t some sort of plot twist?
Question… How many scarves are too many for a 2 day trip? “
Another thing I love about Frontier Airlines- You’re not allowed to over pack. After my mini panic attack subsided, I settled on two giant scarves, two sweat shirts, a puffy vest and several long sleeve shirts for layering under the one actually warm jacket that I own. Turns out, I was totally overreacting. Being freezing cold in Florida is so very different from being freezing cold in literally any other state. The humidity here really messes with our heads and barely an hour into the flight, I was having serious regrets about the two layers of pants I was wearing. Think: Butt sweat and negative temperatures. Not a pretty picture.
Touching down in Milwaukee lead me to the most pleasant surprise; there is an adorable used book store in the airport terminal! This turned out to be the perfect place to stall as I was working up the courage to journey out into the frozen tundra. If you’re ever in the Mitchell Airport, be sure to stop by the Renaissance Book Shop.
Finally feeling brave enough to continue on with my journey, I pulled up my Uber ap and headed towards to exit. And I headed towards the exit. And I headed towards the… parking garage? It started out nice enough; some interesting art installments and a meditation room (another cool point for Milwaukee) and then there were endless people mover sidewalks and the crowds completely disappeared and I found myself all alone in this never ending corridor of parking garages. They say there’s a first time for everything and this was definitely a first for me- I was stuck inside the airport. (Sigh) I laughed it off and trudged on, eventually discovering the error of my ways and making it to the exit. The snow outside the window was beautiful, but I was still hesitant to venture out into the cold. One small step for man… One giant surprise when the Uber driver cracked his window and yelled “trunk’s open.” Adding to my day of firsts, this was the first time that my airport Uber driver didn’t get out of the car to help with my suitcase. Not that I needed his help because you know, strong independent woman and all, but it was noted. No tip for you, Milwaukee Steve!
Driving through the city was great! I had no idea how cool Milwaukee was. Honestly, I’m one of those people who believed that Wisconsin was nothing but cow fields and red barns. I don’t even think I realized Milwaukee was in Wisconsin before I met Dr.Handsome because Milwaukee is a real city and there are no real cities in Wisconsin, right? But regardless of my geographical ignorance, I was feeling Milwaukee and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into some cheese curds. No matter how much traveling I do, I still love to be a tourist and the most Wisconsin thing I could think to do was eat a cheese curd so it had to happen.
When I arrived that afternoon, Dr. Handsome was away at a training for work so I had to let myself in to his apartment via the intercom on the front door. This sounded like an easy enough task to accomplish, but between my fat frozen fingers and the broken scroll button, we had quite a battle, that intercom box and I and I may or may not have called half of the residents in the building before I finally got Dr. Handsome on the line to let me in. All was forgiven, though when I found the homemade banana cranberry bread he had left for me on the kitchen counter. I helped myself to this adorable mug I found in the cabinet and sat in front of the window admiring the scenery for what felt like hours. At this time, I decided that Milwaukee was okay by me.
As per a deal we made prior to my trip, Dr. Handome made dinner before we headed out for a night on the town. And since we’re both kinda old and sleepy, a night on the town meant a few hours at a local brewery because again, my tourist agenda had to include beer in Milwaukee. We did several brewery tours that weekend as it is a very popular Wisconsin activity, but my favorite had to be the tour at Lakefront Brewery. Our guide, JJ was hilarious. There was a ton of group interaction, funny stories and all the bunghole jokes! The beer was delicious and the samples were plentiful. What more could you ask for on a brewery tour? Oh, right… They also have the actual line from Lavern and Shirley’s Shotz Brewery and a mandatory part of the tour involves a group singalong of the theme song while two volunteers (a Lavern and a Shirley) from the group “work” the line.
DOIN IT OUR WAY!!
On this night, I also experienced negative temperatures for the first time in my life. While we were out, the temperatures dipped to negative 9 degrees. Perhaps it’s not an impressive low for all of you Northerners, but this Florida girl was definitely feeling the chill!
Saturday started with brunch at Café Hollander. Their Tosa Village location looks and feels as if it were plucked right out of Belgium and placed there in Milwaukee decades ago. The café felt warm and welcoming and the architecture, the string lights, the snow drifts outside the window; it was all fabulous. We shared a massive cheese curd topped Bloody Mary (yes!) that also came with it’s own little tiny beer sidekick and then I devoured an entire Dutch Baby pancake all by myself. Absolutely no shame in my brunch game!
The next stop on our adventure was a row of antique shops on South 1st Street. I tend to wander into antique shops during my travels because the antique game in Florida is really weak! While it’s true that Florida is weird as hell, we’re not that old so our antiques stores are typically comprised of 60’s/70’s retro junk. Don’t get me wrong, I love retro junk, but I also get a kick out of the REALLY old junk that can only be found in the more historic parts of the country. The shops here and the buildings that house them have a ton of character and were full of interesting things to touch, see and buy. Throughout the weekend, we also stumbled into a huge 3-story antique mall with an entire floor of Asian furniture, statues, books, etc. called Antiques on Pierce, aka my Antique Heaven and a super eclectic shop with a variety of decorative odds and ends that serves complimentary toasted ham sandwiches on Sundays aka my other Antique Heaven. Seriously, though; if you ever find yourself roaming around Milwaukee on a Sunday afternoon, you should stop by Alt’s for some shopping and a ham sandwich. Tell them I sent you. They won’t know who I am, but they’ll feed you a ham sandwich anyway and that’s a win in my book. And from this moment on, lets just go ahead and refer to Milwaukee as my Antique Heaven.
That afternoon, we made our way to Miller Valley (Yes, they actually named it that.) for the Miller Brewery Tour. This is a pretty long tour with a bit of walking, a super stinky cave and a whole bunch of stairs to climb so if you’re only in it for the beer samples, save yourself some time and just hit the bar. But if you’re actually interested in hearing the colorful history of Miller Brewing Co and getting into some historic Milwaukee buildings, check it out. I’m a big fan of the “the girl in the moon” and I was like a kid in a candy store being surrounded by all of the Miller High Life memorabilia and cheesy merchandise. You see what I did there? Cheesy… Wisconsin? But really, I loved it.
Sunday was spent wrapping up my tour of the most “Milwaukee” things. We made a quick stop at the North Point Lighthouse. Even thought it wasn’t open to visitors, this stop was one of my favorites. The lighthouse, covered in white fluffy snow and the views from the lion guarded bridge were breathtaking. I would love to see this place in the Spring time, climb it’s spiral staircase and hopefully not die on my way to the top. But, as with most things in life, I would be willing to bet that the view from the top is more than worth the struggle of the climb.
After the lighthouse, we grabbed a cup of coffee from Milwaukee’s favorite coffee shop, Colectivo to warm up. The coffee and the fireplace did the trick. These cute little guys are located all over Milwaukee. The ambiance is great and each one is unique. My favorite beverage was the El Dorado Latte: Dirty Turmeric Ginger Chai with Cayenne Honey. It hit the spot on those cold afternoons and was the perfect in-between-brewery fuel.
Dear Colectivo People, Can we please get one of these in Florida?!
Next up was the Milwaukee Public Market. This place is so cool! I don’t know why these food halls haven’t taken off in other parts of the country yet, but they really should be more of a thing. While it pales in comparison to New York’s Chelsea Market, it’s way more market than we have at home in Central Florida so I’ll gladly take it. We actually stopped by here more than once during the weekend; one time on a quick dessert run, picking up some fresh baked goodies from C.Adam’s Bakery (I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookies) and then again on Sunday for lunch which we pieced together with a lobster roll from St. Paul Fish Co., a pizza from Foltz Family Market and a few local beers from wherever we found the tastiest selection. It’s fun to be able to pick and choose each part of your meal and create a deliciously unique masterpiece. It would also be so convenient when you have children who would rather starve than agree on one single restaurant for dinner. Maybe Florida will catch on someday…
After lunch, we managed to fit in one more brewery and a few more beers before I had to head to the airport. We grabbed some cheese curds to-go from Clock Shadow Creamery because google told me that their squeaky curds were the best in Milwaukee. While I didn’t have much to compare them to, they were pretty tasty and squeaky (which is apparently a good thing- it means they’re fresh) and they made my plane ride dinner a lot more enjoyable.
So, to wrap up my thoughts on Milwaukee… It was really cold. I experienced negative temperatures for the first time in my life. I learned the meaning of “wind chill” and how to navigate giant side-of-the-road snow banks. I strolled through their breweries and I sang the Laverne and Shirley theme song with a group of drunken strangers. Overall, I dug their quirky vibe, their refreshing beers, their fancy coffees, their old ass antiques and even their squaky curds. It was surprisingly hip and I’d even call parts of it beautiful, especially covered in snow.
You’re alright by me, Milwaukee.