Surf’s Up: Explore Milwaukee’s Secret Attractions

Milwaukee is widely recognized as one of the premier beer and cheese cities. Yet, this city has more to offer than just its culinary delights. Hidden amidst its streets are surprising attractions that provide experiences just as satisfying as indulging in cheese curds or sipping a refreshing American lager.

Did you know Milwaukee boasts a vibrant surf scene? At first thought, the icy steel-grey waters of Lake Michigan might not seem like a surfer’s paradise. However, the city’s passionate surf community remains undeterred by the relatively small waves and chilly waters. When the lake isn’t frozen, surfers in wetsuits are a common sight at Atwater and Bradford Beach. And for those looking to dive into this scene, Milwaukee hosts a surf shop named Lake Effect, which provides everything from boards to board wax.

Nestled behind Milwaukee’s ornate Oriental Theatre is the once-desolate Black Cat Alley. Today, this alleyway stands transformed, adorned with vivid murals depicting whimsical subjects like a moustached frog, a psychedelic deer, and a plethora of vibrant flowers. These artworks, produced by 25 international artists, have made the alley a hub for musicians, dancers, and actors. In recent times, Black Cat Alley has sparked an artistic renaissance, morphing the nearby areas into vibrant artist enclaves.

For those who have an affinity for quirky collectibles or are passionate about crafting and inventing, the American Science and Surplus store is a must-visit. Its shelves brim with unique items—be it portable lasers, insects encased in plastic, jars of glow-in-the-dark goo, or classic pocket protectors. Essentially, if it’s something that makes a geek’s heart race, it’s likely found here.

Another gem in Milwaukee’s treasure trove is the Holler House, a tavern that houses the nation’s oldest tenpin bowling alley. Here, the charm of bygone days remains preserved. Human attendants manually reset pins, and scores are noted by hand, devoid of modern automation. For those overwhelmed by today’s relentless digitization, an evening at the Holler House offers a nostalgic respite.

While the winters in Milwaukee might be biting, the city pulses with life, from its dynamic art scene and old-world allure to its unexpected surf community. So, even if you’re someone who avoids gluten or lactose, rest assured, Milwaukee promises an abundance of joy. After all, who needs a beer when you can ride the waves of Lake Michigan with friends?

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