36 hours in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes.” -unknown

I met my best friend, Michelle, on our first day of college at Husson University in 2007, and for a long time, we were inseparable. We had all the same classes, friends, and were attached at the hip. Life has a funny way of stepping in sometimes and making relationships a little more complicated, but we’ve made the friendship work.

Nearly 12 years later, here we are: PA school for me, medical school/residency/marriage for her and even after moves to different states for both of us, we still manage to match our crazy schedules up for one weekend a year.

Last year, we met up for a girls’ weekend in Chicago for my birthday, but this year Dave and I decided to hop back in the car and road trip north to see her, and her husband Reed’s, new house in Milwaukee. As usual, we packed the weekend full of adventure.

Big things, small town – exploring Casey, Illinois

Michelle had an event Friday evening which didn’t finish until late; however, this worked out perfectly as I was the middle person at work (more on this later) and likely would be in the OR until mid-afternoon. Dave and I intended on leaving as soon as I escaped to begin the 6.5-hour journey to their house. Low and behold. . .we didn’t have any surgeries that day, and I managed to get out reasonably early! Instead of waiting around, we decided to make an #offthebeatenpath stop in Casey, Illinois to check out the “Big things in a small town” items they boast about.

While being a town of fewer than 3,000 people, Casey, Illinois has managed to keep their town afloat by drawing tourists to see their Guinness World Record structures. We made a 45-minute detour to check out things like “The World’s Largest Rocking Chair” and the “World’s Largest Wind Chimes.” There are eight items in the Guinness Book of World Records and several other pieces that are enormous but do not meet the criteria for being the largest. The majority can be seen near the main square, but others require a little driving and can be discovered using this map. For a complete list click here.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on a bench downtown and hopped back in the car to finish out the drive. We always go through Rockford, Illinois and driving into Milwaukee from the west side–this avoids the traffic which always plagues Chicago. Since Michelle and Reed were still busy when we arrived, we grabbed some food and beer at The Explorium Brewpub near their house. They had an orange creamsicle beer, which was fantastic! After eating, we headed to the house to unpack and catch up.

Milwaukee Public Market

Saturday was packed with activities. We started the morning at the Milwaukee Public Market to get breakfast poutine made with Milwaukee’s famous cheese curds. I accidentally got just the regular poutine, but can you really go wrong with french fries, cheese, and gravy? The market is packed with different stalls offering everything Milwaukee has to offer: foods, spices, beer, and cheese. You can order food and take it upstairs to eat while overlooking the bustling market.

Clock Shadow Creamery

We left the market and headed to Clock Shadow Creamery to see how the curds were made. The creamery is one of the few urban creameries where the cows are offsite and the milk must be transported to the factory. Unfortunately, they were not making fresh cheese that day. But for $3 you can tour the factory, learn about the cheese-making process and even sample some of the goods.

The view from the top of the creamery

Polish Fest

After the factory, we made our way back toward the waterfront to attend Milwaukee’s Polish Fest, the largest celebration of the Polish culture, food, and music in the United States. We ate delicious Polish food including pierogis (dumplings filled mashed potatoes and cheese) and placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes with applesauce). There were multiple stages where people were singing and dancing, as well as Polish Tatra Sheepdogs for petting. We wanted to stay longer, but it was too windy and cold (55 and windy in mid-June felt like early fall), so we headed back to the house to warm up before our next activity: Ax throwing!

AXE MKE (Milwaukee)

AXE MKE is a newer ax-throwing place in Milwaukee which also has a bar inside. It seems crazy that somebody would try to combine alcohol and sharp objects, but have no fear! There are a lot of rules which are reviewed before you are even able to get your hands on the axes. The staff members are always walking around to make sure everybody is doing this correctly, and safety is a top priority. We had an hour and a half to complete as many rounds as we could and even managed to a few bullseyes! We all did pretty well, considering it was our first time (and by well I mean no one was impaled with an ax)!

Food Options

After ax-throwing, we worked up quite an appetite. We popped into Merge, a bar with games for a quick snack and to figure out where we were going to eat dinner. We nibbled on boneless chicken in a spicy gochujang sauce and truffle tots. After much discussion, we finally settled on dinner at Merriment Social because. . .brussel sprouts.

Potawatomi Casino

As if we hadn’t already packed the day activities, after dinner, we headed to Potawatomi Hotel & Casino to try our hand at gambling, again. This time we were a little more successful and even managed to win some money! Gambling stresses me out though so I cashed out immediately after. Ha!

Packing up and heading home

The next morning we slept in, enjoyed a fantastic breakfast made by Reed and Michelle, then headed back home. Of course, we couldn’t leave the state without picking up some beer from New Glarus Brewing and some cheese curds for the road!