The Blue Jays—and presumably many Blue Jays fans—are headed to Milwaukee to play the Brewers on June 24–26. As someone who is not afraid of difficult assignments I spent a weekend in the Cream City earlier this month, testing the water to provide Toronto fans this travel guide.
Getting to Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport’s IATA code MKE is a big part of the city’s brand even though it is a rather small international airport. Air Canada’s direct service from Toronto Pearson was suspended during the COVID pandemic, but is being restored the weekend before the Jays’ series. United Airlines offers a connecting service through Chicago O’Hare (ORD) which features a ~20-minute flight between ORD and MKE, one of the shortest regularly scheduled commercial flights in the United States. The United States recently rescinded the order requiring a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test for air arrivals, so that is one less thing for travelers to worry about.
The Blue Jays play the White Sox right before the Brewers, so a bunch of fans might be travelling to Milwaukee from Chicago. Greyhound provides a two-hour bus service that costs around $25 per person, but the same 150 km journey can also be taken on a 90-minute train service for a similar price courtesy of the Amtrak Hiawatha, which would probably be the more comfortable option.
American Family Field
Formerly known as Miller Park, American Family Field is the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Its retractable roof guarantees that travelling fans would not have to deal with a weather postponement. Fans can bring in their own food in a small package (like a sandwich bag) and factory-sealed bottles of non-alcoholic beverages but they must be placed inside a transparent bag with only one compartment.
Getting to the Ballpark
The ballpark features several large parking lots and is a 10-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. There is a big tailgating tradition in Milwaukee, so drivers can consider packing some food and beverages to enjoy in the parking lot ahead of the game. It’s a great way to meet local fans!
For those without a vehicle, instead of taking an Uber or Lyft, consider patronizing an establishment that offers free shuttles to the ballpark for customers. Besides saving you money, these shuttles also drop you steps in front of the stadium’s main gates whereas rideshare vehicles’ dropoff point is around a 300-metre walk away. Remember to bring some cash to tip the driver (they also accept Venmo transfers). (Shoutout to Nicole Haase for providing this tip!)
American Family Field Shuttles
|Balisteri's||McBob's Pub & Grill|
|Brewski's / MKE Steakhouse||Mo's Irish Pub|
|Dugout 54||O'Brien's Pub|
|J&B's Blue Ribbon||Rounding Third|
|Jack's American Pub||Saz's / Spitfires on State|
|Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub||Thirsty Duck|
|Kelly's Bleachers||Who's On Third|
|Liquid Johnny's||Wisconsin Club|
|Magoos on the Mound||Wurstbar MKE|
Eats & Drinks in the Park
For a ballpark that used to be named after Miller, it should not be surprising that there a lot of Miller / Molson-Coors beer at the ballpark. This is not the park where you will find a wide selection of independent craft beers. While I am not generally a Miller Lite fan, it seemed right to me to have one of those while at the stadium—plus you get this special Brewers-themed can! There are also cocktail stands around the stadium. There is a robust recycling program at the ballpark: bottles and cans are sent to the regular blue bin stream, but plastic cups are sent to an SC Johnson plant to be turned into bottles for their products.
Tater Tots are one of my few weaknesses and American Family Field offers a variety of topped hot dogs, including the Badger State Vienna Beef Hot Dog that is topped with Merkt’s Wisconsin cheddar, chopped bacon, a cranberry jalapeño ketchup, and a handful of tater tots. It will set you back $10.49. For dessert, try a frozen custard (basically an ice cream with eggs) in a helmet for $7.49.
There are also all-inclusive areas around the park where the price of admission includes complementary food and drinks. The Aurora Health Care Bullpen area has table seating at field level right beyond the right field chain-link fence.
For the Kiddies
American Family Field offers quite a lot of activities for children who might not want to sit and watch an entire baseball game. A large playground can be found in the right-field corner on the Terrace level, equipped with batting cages, a tunnel that measures pitch speed, a 90-foot basepath that times sprint speed, slides, and more.
Places to Eat, Drink, and be Merry
Breakfast / Brunch / Lunch
Blue’s Egg is not in downtown Milwaukee—in fact it is west of American Family Field—but it is absolutely worth the trek out to the ‘burbs. Beyond the traditional breakfast offerings, they also offer specialties like a shrimp scallop and calamari scramble. I had their daily special, a breakfast risotto with pulled ham, cherry tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and two poached eggs (be sure to ask for them to be made easy) for around $17. The meat, vegetables, and cheese were sourced from Wisconsin farms. Trust me: go eat here.
Whether you want to just grab a coffee, buy some souvenirs, or have a meal, the Milwaukee Public Market will likely satisfy you. The Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. is somewhere where you can grab a coffee to kick off your morning (you can also check out Colectivo Coffee right across the street). Brew City Brand Apparel really highlights the slick brand of this city on the shores of Lake Michigan, with a lot of good looking t-shirts and mugs. If you want to pick up a souvenir, do it here—you will pay a slight premium at their outlet in the airport.
There are a lot of different places to eat, but for lunch one day I went to The Palapa at the St. Paul Fish Company, a tiki bar in a glassed-in extension of the main market building that serves island-themed drinks as well as seafood entrees. The Palapa is visually rich with random knick-knacks from around the world and may be less busy than the seating area inside the market. Their grilled fish dinner platters come with a selection of around 10 different fish fillets and a side of vegetables and rice. I enjoyed a blackened mahi mahi with a delicious mango salsa for around $18. They also serve a ridiculous-looking Bloody Mary that has a whole lobster tail dunked inside.
As mentioned above, a number of establishments offer free (and frequent) shuttles to the ballpark. I visited Who’s On Third right before the game for a blackened chicken wrap with fries ($16), eating the fries there (they were surprisingly good) and saving the wrap to have at the park. It’s not spectacular food, but it gets you a ride to the park and back. If you’re up for some vitamin C in the morning, try the Bloody Mary here too—you can bring it on the bus to finish if you’re in a rush.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I had the best crab cakes in my life at Shaker’s Cigar Bar. If you don’t mind cigar smoke (there is also rooftop and outdoor patio seating) then I highly suggest stopping by this Milwaukee icon in the Walker’s Point neighbourhood. The building it sits in was once an Al Capone-owned speakeasy-cum-brothel during the Prohibition era and the bar was also frequented by Jeffrey Dahmer in the ‘90s. They conduct guided tours to fill you in on its history as well.
Owner-chef Bob Weiss is a foodie and he provided our group with a custom seafood feast with extremely fresh sea scallops, Oaxaca shrimp tacos, the aforementioned crab cakes, and grilled trout. It was not a cheap meal but it was an exceptional experience. Call ahead to inquire about daily specials. Their wine list is not extensive (and quite a few on their menu were not available that day) but their cocktails and specialty rum were fantastic.
There is no shortage of places to grab a drink, two, or three in Milwaukee. I did not personally visit, but I have heard nothing but great things about Lakefront Brewery. If you decide to get a crowler to go, be sure to ask for the special “Putin is a Dick” label, proceeds go to a Ukrainian humanitarian fund.
I would say my favourite bar in Milwaukee is the Old German Beer Hall, which primarily serves German beer (duh) from Hofbräu München. You can also get German classics like giant Bavarian pretzels, schnitzel, and bratwurst at very affordable prices as well as participate in a game of Hammerschlagen. As you down your beer (which come in litre and half-litre sizes), go to the bar to ask for Kleiner Feigling fig liqueur shots and ask them to teach you the proper way to take them (it’s fun).
If trivia is more your type of bar game than hammering nails into lumber, then head to Hooligans for Buzztime trivia and good brews. I have been there three times and have twice led the bar to a first place finish in North America—please continue my work.
Get a good sense of Milwaukee’s architecture on a river/lake boat tour. You can pick a company with a small boat but I think the larger ones, like from the Edelweiss Cruises and Boat Tours, are more fun because the lift bridges over the Milwaukee River go up to allow you to pass through.
At some point on the trip you’ll have to work off the calories from your consumption. From downtown, walk towards the lake towards the Milwaukee War Memorial (which is next to the Milwaukee Art Museum). You can visit the two sites, then take a refresher in the biergarten in their parking lot. From there, follow the lake to visit Veterans Park and walk around the lagoon towards the Oak Leaf Trail - Lake Line pedestrian bridge. That will connect you to East Brady Street which has a string of pubs and restaurants. One place to stop at is the Peter Sciortino Bakery, an Italian joint with fantastic cream puffs. Huh: I just realized that I started this paragraph with burning calories. I guess you can walk back to burn off that beer and creampuff.