Tell me about Milwaukee.

I’m soon going to apply for graduate school at several universities, and at the moment the program at the top of my list is at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. I’ve corresponded a bit with an adviser, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason I won’t get in. So chances are good I’ll be moving there this summer.

I’ve lived on the West Coast all of my life: Los Angeles until age 8, San Jose until age 33, and the past five years in Portland, with a brief stint in Seattle. I have been east of the Rockies twice in my life, for only a few days each: Washington DC when I was 13 and Dallas five years ago. My point being, I know nothing about what life in the Midwest is like.

A semi-concern is the climate. I hate summer, and love cooler weather. Here in Portland, during the summer highs are usually in the 70s or 80s, and we average 10 to 15 days per year where the temperature breaks 90°. It’s usually not very humid, but I still hate those 90°+ days. According to Wikipedia, Milwaukee seems to be about the same…?

On the flip side, while I like the colder weather, as you can see I’ve never lived anywhere where it snows on a regular basis. In Portland we might get an inch or two a couple of times per year, and it melts off within a day or two. The most experience I’ve had with snow was December of '08, when we got like a foot, which stuck around for more than a week. I tried driving in it a couple of times, but didn’t like the slipping and sliding all over the place. I’ve always loved the idea of living someplace where it really snows, but I wonder if I’ll change my tune after going through a winter there.

All my life I’ve lived places where mountains are looming over me, and my impression of the Midwest is that everything is very flat, which seems strange to me. And, what’s it like when you get out of the city? Forest, plains, farmland?

Other than that, I’m not sure what exactly I want to know - just the usual stuff, I guess. Politics, traffic, restaurants…

I got my undergraduate degree from UWM back in 92’ and have been back since. It still seems to be about the same. Parking is an absolute nightmare. The campus is situated smack in the middle of a typical grid street neighborhood so the majority of parking is on these residential streets. However, every single street has posted parking limits of 1-2 hours. So every morning (I commuted 30 minutes from a Milwaukee suburb) you had to fight to find a spot, walk a 1/4-1/2 mile to class through slush, snow, and biting sub temperature winds (the campus is a few blocks off Lake Michigan) and pray that you could get back to your car between classes to move it. Others I knew used the park-n-ride system. Park in an off-site parking lot and wait in the cold for a bus to drive you to the campus for a fee. Even if you are so lucky as to live on campus in the dorms almost nothing is connected. You have to go outside to get from building to building.
So get some nice boots, a big heavy jacket, and a massive scarf and good luck.

Milwaukee facts: French missionaries and explorers began visiting there in the late 16th century. “Milwaukee” is an Algonquin Indian term meaning “the good land.” It is the only American city to elect three Socialist mayors.

Thanks Alice!

It has a tremendous art museum on the lake. I was really stunned by how good it is, as good as those in DC, NYC, and Chicago.

Don’t leave out there was bridge burning and such, by settlements on both sides of the Milwaukee River over disputes of their presence. It required intervention by the Wisconsin Legislature. It’s interesting to read about the three men that vied over dominance of their settlement to become the winning one. Milwaukee a brief history

There are really good detailed accounts in the archived material if you want details.

Sauk City and Prairie Du Sac were two other towns next to each other that fought bitterly. You can read about that in The Wisconsin by August Derleth. That particular book covers the earliest settlement of Wisconsin along the Wisconsin river and where some important things originated.

I won’t post more as I really doubt this was the direction meant by the OP.

I can’t speak for UWM specifically, because while I went there for college (MIAD, which is downtown, not the University system) in the 90’s and Milwaukee has a very fond place in my memory, but that may largely be for personal experience.

Milwaukee has a lot in common with a lot of midsize midwestern cities, in that they’re rarely considered as a “destination city” except by people who live in smaller towns in the same general vicinity. They’re always going to feel like a smaller town and a little more provincial compared to the Los Angelesof the world. But one of the things that Milwaukee has going for it that may give it some appeal to someone who has lived on the coasts is the lakeshore. There’s something about the prevalence of water in a community that puts certain cities in a particular class. While Lake Michigan isn’t an ocean, when you can’t see land on the other end, it doesn’t really matter. And Milwaukee has taken great strides in developing not just it’s lakefront, but also the river-facing property that cut through the city.

I find the new art museum architecture remarkably gorgeous.

At the time I lived there, the east side was the destination (gotta love the Oriental Theater) but I get the sense that nowdays, downtown and particularly the 3rd Ward have really gotten to be the place to be.

You’ll get some strong winds off the lake and the temperature will be cooler by the lake year-round.

I loved that both Madison and Chicago were a hop, skip and a jump from home.

The strict-grid street layout, and street numbering make it incredibly easy to find your way to even places you’ve never been before.

Every weekend in the summer is a different festival (and most had fireworks).

If you’re going to live in a midsize midwestern city, Milwaukee is a good one to wind up in.

Having visited Portland (and loved the time I spent there), I could find a few commonalities in the vibes of the cities.

PS: The password phrase is: “I’m looking for a Safehouse.”

Brush up on glacial terms because Milwaukee is along the area where the glaciers stopped and receded. Go to North Kettle Moraine to get the full impact. Wisconsin has flat areas, high bluffs, and large areas of wetland marshes which will be easy enough for you to visit.

You realize they’re going to come hunt you down for giving away the passcode, don’t you?


Milwaukee is like a little Chicago, only about 10ºf colder and about 20% snowier

Given that would give them a chance to come to Los Angeles, I’m sure they’ll let me off with a stern warning. :wink:

Creepy Fonzie statue.

Easist way to learn to drive in the snow is to get thee to an empty snow filled parking lot. Make sure there’s not a lot of light poles or the concrete bumper things (or speed bumps). Then do your damnedest to spin out and do donuts. If the car’s sliding to the right, don’t crank it left and slam the gas, let off the gas and keep yourself facing the direction you want to go. You’ll either get traction again, or crash. Usually you’ll get traction. I loved the snow in Dec of 08! We had that snow for the entire month of December, not just a week. Well except for when my chains got wrapped into my front left brakepad, I didn’t like that. That sucked.

Anyways, that’s my 2¢ since I thought you meant Milwaukie.

One thing that surprised me as a newcomer to Wisconsin was how marshy it is, at least around Madison. There are a lot more wetlands than I expected. Also, I’m used to Midwestern winters, having grown up in Cincinnati and spent the last 8 years in St. Louis and Kansas City, but I’m having a hard time stomaching the winters and late springs here. I was going crazy when April and May came around and the trees had only just begun to bud.

If the coming summers are anything like last summer, you’ll like them. We had a 3-day stretch of mid-90s in June and then it barely cracked 80 for the rest of the summer. I was shivering while watching the 4th of July fireworks.

I can’t speak for Milwaukee, but it’s close enough to Madison that if you’re a single guy looking for a hipsterish, urban scene, you can find it here.

Take the advice above about brushing up on your winter driving skills when you get here. You can’t get away with freaking out over a couple of inches of snow like you do in Portland. :slight_smile: I have an uncle there who called the other night. He was trying to get home to Salem and had gone 40 miles in the 5 1/2 hours he’d been on I-5. As he said, “You guys would laugh at the way people drive out here when it snows.”

Luckily for you as a young, hip person, it’s the one city where you won’t be pressured to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon ironically, by people proud of their awareness that beer is just a social construct.

The University doesn’t have parking garages?!

I actually meant to say something like "everything I know about Milwaukee I learned from Laverne & Shirley and Wayne’s World. :slight_smile:

There’s another thing that boggles my mind - such a large body of fresh water. Do the lakes have beaches? Are there waves?

That’s pretty much what I did, and I think I did ok, I just didn’t like it. Particularly since no effort whatsoever was made to de-ice the roads around here (Tigard/Beaverton).

That snow we had a few nights ago? I was in the mountains of Northern California, trying to get home. Started snowing right as I got to Lake Shasta, and for the next two and a half hours traffic was averaging 25-30 mph. I had to give up and get a motel room when they shut down I-5 near the state line. I did ok, but it was scary.

I loved the Dec '08 snow too, but since I didn’t have to drive in it, I chose not to after a couple of tries. Now I’m kinda sorry I didn’t try harder. I had to leave for California two days before that Christmas, though, and once I dug my truck out of the snow and got chains on it (which I’d never done before), I was fine. Took me two hours to get to Salem, though (about 30 miles for those playing along), and after that there was no more snow.

I’m thinking if I put chains on my tires all winter in Wisconsin, though, there would be much pointing and laughing at my expense. Do you people in the midwest put snow tires on your cars during the winter, or is that another “for pussies” kind of thing? :slight_smile:

Milwaukee? Great sausage makers (Usinger’s, Klements, others) cranking out pretty good bratwurst (not as good as in Sheboygan, though). Decent Serbian and Polish food, good german places (Mader’s, Karl Ratzsch’s), mighty fine pizza at Balistreri’s, Excellent custard! Decent indian and Thai, good options for middle-eastern, too.

Nice Imax, great art museum, good regular museum, great ballpark, nice horticultural domes, top notch zoo, quiet airport which provides pretty good access to wherever you want to fly to, just not directly.

Some good teaching hospitals, average malls (yuck), okay seafood (just not much local seafood anymore), you can still tour a brewery, too. Decent mexican food in on the hispanic south side, a fair number of local theater groups, sport fishing on Lake Michigan for trout and salmon, good college hoops with Marquette U, decent sushi, improv comedy, and lots of AA and NA meetings.

Yeah, one of the Milwaukee summer destinations is Bradford Beach on Lincoln Memorial / Lake Drive.

But while the lake has what can technically be called “waves,” they’re not what you’re thinking. That said… it’s noteworthy to mention there is a somewhat humorous segment in the breathtaking surfing movie Step Into Liquid that features a bunch of Sheboygan surfers surfing the very modest Lake Michigan waves. Also personally noteworthy was that my boss was a diehard windsurfer and our offices looked eastward out onto the lake. When the lake looked right, he would bolt in the middle of the day to catch some waves.



I’m a lifelong Chicagoan and have only been up to Milwaukee once (and recently). This is what I know.

Milwaukee has one cool neighborhood, Bayview, where a lot of students live off campus. You might find this particular neighborhood to be somewhat reminiscent of home. What I liked about Bayview most was that for the type of real estate some of it sits on, you’d expect massive prices on everything from rent to pints, but that’s not the case at all. Testament to what I found to be a ‘modest’ vibe throughout the city, which I liked.

Without consulting a map, I can’t think of two closer cities than Milwaukee and Chicago (save for those up and down the East coast). Weekend or even weeknight trips down to Chicago should be rather easy. Just be sure you have a designated driver. There’s unfortunately no easy rail service connecting the two cities.

Surrounding Milwaukee is primarily flat farmland. I may be wrong about the north, but approaching from the west and south, it’s all just flat, straight driving through dairy farms and the like. It’s windy and boring. You’ll get photogenic days in the summer months full of sun and nice weather, but for the most part the areas between cities in the Midwest are truly ‘flyover’ (or more accurately, ‘drive-through’) country with little to recommend them unless you really want to get into local folklore and oddities.

The weather could be worse, far as I know. Seems like the southern tip and opposite coast of Lake Michigan get hit hardest with weather. Michigan’s western coastline is basically a snowscape from December through February, and Chicago-related real estate in Indiana is %10-%20 cheaper than within the city limits due to the fact that they have to deal with “lake effect” snow and sitting square in the usual jet stream pattern. Chicago is far enough north, and Milwaukee even further, that those freak weather occurrences (beyond ordinarily heavy snow or deep freezes) are not a concern.

Slight nitpick…if you’re within a few miles of the lake (say, 5 to 10) it is a bit cooler in the summer, but it’s a bit warmer in the winter. The lake tends to mellow out the temperature by about 10 degrees. It’s a ginourmous heat sink.