Amber Flanagan's grandparents moved to Milwaukee from Mississippi in the 1960s, bringing with them their culinary heritage and their firm belief in the importance of good eating. Today, Amber carries on their passion for gastronomical traditions by leading walking food tours of the Silver City District and the Historic Third Ward. Milwaukee’s history as a hub for immigrants from all over the world is reflected in the city's diverse ecosystem of restaurants: tours may bounce between Vietnamese, Peruvian, Thai, and Mexican cuisines on their journey. Some restaurant outings incorporate cooking demonstrations, which could otherwise only be glimpsed after donning an elaborate busboy disguise.
Completed in 1892 as the private home of the Pabst family, Pabst Mansion stands as the last bastion of more than 80 mansions built for Milwaukee’s elite during a booming, bygone era. Since its construction, the estate has housed archbishops, priests, and sisters and was saved from near-demolition during the 1970s. The Flemish-Renaissance-Revival home has since been awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places for its bounty of architectural intricacies.
Today, on-staff docents conduct a range of tours for public groups, private parties, school groups, and well-behaved rugby teams through the fortress of halls, opulent rooms, and verdant grounds, each restored to their original condition.
The Pabst Mansion’s impressive art collection includes works from the 1640s through the 1900s by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gaetano Trentanove, and Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven. The emporium of excess also features Pabst Beer Pavilion, the pavilion built for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the glass-covered conservatory where tropical plants and beer trees continue to flourish.
The mansion gift shop holds classic Pabst drinkware and memorabilia as well as antique photos, books, and former employees' original finger paintings.
Passengers on the Iroquois, Vista King, and Voyageur cruise ships have passed under century-old raising bridges and laid eyes on history-rich chunks of Milwaukee skyline. However, they've also sat under squadrons of F-18s performing barrel rolls over Lake Michigan. Licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to perform tours and charters on the lake, Jake Chianelli and his captains offer their passengers a unique perspective on the city's waterside events. They also partner with the nonprofit organization Historic Milwaukee by using their trained docents to lead history tours, which include facts and anecdotes from the arrival of the first fur traders up to modern day.
With kitchen facilities and a full bar on board, each of the three double-decked ships are equipped for tours as well as a range of corporate events, wedding-rehearsal dinners, and Moby Dick-themed improv shows. Climate-controlled lower decks give passengers shelter in all weather, and open upper decks house a stage space where local indie-rock bands play during a summer concert series.
The 74-foot tower of North Point Lighthouse stretches to meet the neighboring trees of Lake Park. Attached to it are two-and-a-half stories of wood-frame keeper's quarters that once housed historic figures such as Georgia Stebbins, keeper for thirty years.
Renovated in 2007, the bright, airy building now acts as home to artifacts and lighthouse-related curios, including an original 1928 Fresnel lens that helped guide seafaring vessels. Additionally, a Chadburn telegraph, recovered from a sunken ship, pays homage to the orders that went to and from the ship's bridge and engine rooms.
Guests can browse both the quarters and the lighthouse, and explore the site's more than 120 years of history by perusing the artwork and photographs displayed throughout the galleries. Dedicated volunteers are also on hand to dispense fascinating information and history, and to give limited guided tours that lead visitors to the top of the tower, where they can catch views of the surrounding park and lakefront.
As the bartender looks up from his stool, he sees the world around him has started to spin. But drinking on the job isn't to blame: the scenery shifts around him as the mobile Pedal Tavern rolls down the streets of Milwaukee, powered by the cycling feet of up to 15 of his friends. Ten seats with bicycle-style pedals, plus five seats for non-pedaling passengers, circle up around the wooden bar-in-the-round where the “bartender”—actually one of the passengers—leads the carousing and doles out snacks the group has packed. A flat roof shades passengers as a Pedal Tavern employee steers the craft around corners and curves. Though there's no alcohol onboard the Pedal Tavern itself—in line with current legislation—the bars and taverns along routes in the Third Ward and Walker's Point pour beers and cocktails, including perpetual happy-hour specials for Pedal Tavern riders.