3 Unique Milwaukee Hotels and Awesome Attractions Within Walking Distance

Three distinctly different hotels and cool venues offer visitors win-win choices

The evening sky and reflections of river light create photo-worthy views – Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

Milwaukee’s wealth of diverse attractions and distinct neighborhoods may surprise some visitors. The town’s history is rooted in blue-collar manufacturing, not to mention beer and sausage, which many people still think. There’s pride in those roots, but Milwaukee also has stunning contemporary architecture (the evocative Milwaukee Art Museum, for example), a vibrant gallery and street art scene, and great restaurants (book a table at Odd Duck). It all adds up to a rich culture that reflects a wide spectrum, from early German, Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants to new international transplants and young professionals arriving today looking for a livable city with assets and opportunities.

An asset: practicability. Explore the city on foot for an intimate view and discover sights you might otherwise miss. (Save yourself the rental-car madness for a 55-mile drive north to the exquisite design center of Kohler, Wisconsin’s famed kitchen and bath company.)

Milwaukee hotels are as varied as the city. Here are three favorites, each excellent in their own way and each within walking distance of notable Milwaukee attractions.

County Clare Irish Inn and Pub

Cozy Standard Queen Room at County Clare Irish InnThe comfortable Queen Standard room at the County Clare Irish Inn — Photo courtesy of County Clare Irish Inn & Pub

Welcoming, unpretentious County Clare is located on a leafy street on the Lake Michigan side of the East Town neighborhood. It brings a definitely Irish vibe to Milwaukee with its 29 charming, old-fashioned rooms and bustling pub where everyone seems to know everyone’s name. A visit to the pub and they knew mine too.

Much of the artwork is from Ireland, and Irish sayings fill the walls of the pub – befitting a place where Guinness and Irish whiskey flow and the food turns into shepherd’s pie (this being in 2022, yes there is a vegetarian version). Although the feel is Old World, rooms have modern amenities, including double whirlpool tubs.

The hostel won’t break the budget and you won’t face countless extra charges either; Wi-Fi, parking and continental breakfast are free. If a stay here makes you want to experience the old country, sign up for the company’s guided tours in original County Clare on Ireland’s west coast. Or just hang out here soaking up all the Irish authenticity that the hostel and pub exude.

Milwaukee's evocative art museum adds architectural freshness to the city's skylineMilwaukee’s evocative art museum adds architectural freshness to the city’s skyline – Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

Nearby tourist sites within walking distance:

  • David Barnett Gallery – Collection features local and emerging artists, among others. Walking time: 4 minutes.
  • Jewish Museum of Milwaukee – Jewish culture through the lens of Greater Milwaukee. Walking time: 6 minutes.
  • Brady Street – Eclectic neighborhood of ethnic restaurants and lively bars. Walking time: 10 minutes.
  • Milwaukee Art Museum – A glorious architectural ode to art that overlooks Lake Michigan and houses stellar collections. Walking time: 14 minutes.
  • Water Street – First part of nightlife, bars and entertainment. Walking time: 14 minutes.
  • “Dos Pueden Ganar” Mural – Local mural artist Mauricio Ramirez brings fascinating art to the streets of Milwaukee. Walking time: 14 minutes.

The Iron Horse Hotel

Iron Horse Hotel's industrial-chic lobby is a tribute to local historyThe Iron Horse Hotel’s industrial-chic lobby is a tribute to local history — Photo courtesy of Mike Miller, courtesy of Iron Horse Hotel

Industrial-chic at heart, the iron horse is housed in a renovated mattress factory in Walker’s Point, Milwaukee’s historic factory and manufacturing district. Today, Walker Point’s past is still evident in preserved factory buildings and Queen Anne residences, but the area is now known for its galleries, restaurants and bars – and as the heart of the LGBTQ community in Milwaukee.

Mixing sophistication with a rough philosophy, The Iron Horse is succinctly described on its website: “Independent and unapologetic”. Cream City brick (yellow brick used in early Milwaukee buildings), exposed beams and pipes, wood, and leather define the look of the hotel. Added elements in my spacious room included massive wooden doors and heavy iron hinges reimagined as works of art.

The hotel has 100 rooms and its proximity to the Harley-Davidson Museum makes it a favorite with Harley riders. The best place to have a drink: the vintage-rustic bar or the patio with comfortable seats amidst the greenery.

Nearby tourist sites within walking distance:

  • MobCraft Beer Brewery & Taproom – Participatory beer here. For real. Fans submit ideas and vote on future beers. Walking time: 3 minutes.
  • Movida at Hotel Madrid – Enjoy Spanish cuisine and make your own sangria in a “Sangria Lab”. Walking time: 4 minutes.
  • Great Lakes Distillery & Tasting Room – Tours include spirits sampling. Walking time: 4 minutes.
  • Harley-Davidson Museum – You don’t have to love motorcycles to be fascinated here. Walking time: 9 minutes.
  • Milwaukee Kayak Company – Learn the history of the city while paddling the Milwaukee River. Walking time: 11 minutes.
  • Historic Third Ward – Trendy neighborhood packed with must-see sights, including the Milwaukee Public Market, the Marshall Building’s art galleries, and eclectic shops (check out Retique, Goodwill’s “upscale boutique” full of fun finds like designer items designers at attractive prices). Walking time: 17 minutes.

Saint Kate – The Hotel des Arts

One of Saint Kate's five unique canvas bedroomsOne of Saint Kate’s five unique canvas bedrooms – Photo courtesy of Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel

St. Kate is nothing if not cool. On the west side of East Town and near the river, it draws a sophisticated crowd, especially at the trendy lobby bar where cocktails are sipped to the sound of live jazz. Art is everywhere, including a well-curated gallery on the lobby level. It informs the hotel’s aesthetic but isn’t highbrow, with pieces ranging from serious to quirky humor. You don’t need an art degree to enjoy it, but take a tour of the art of champagne for some interesting insights.

The 219 rooms are also centered on art. Bathrooms are accented with stylish Kohler design cues, and playful amenities add pizzazz, like the turntable, old-fashioned vinyl records, and a bright red ukulele that I didn’t play but loved. loved watching.

Some arts are functional. A lamp in my room was visually intriguing but how to turn it on remained a perplexity (perhaps the guest was the weakest). Saint Kate is a dazzling collision of immersive art experience and upscale hotel – a treat for art lovers, sure, but everyone else too.

Local artist Mauricio Ramirez has seven vibrant murals in Milwaukee and more across the country.  (Learn more at mauriciopaints.com)Local artist Mauricio Ramirez has seven vibrant murals in Milwaukee and more across the country. (Read more at mauriciopaints.com) — Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis

Nearby tourist sites within walking distance:

  • Pabst Theater – Opened in 1895, this is still the perfect place to catch a performance. Walking time: 2 minutes.
  • SafeHouse – This spy-themed cocktail requires a password. Don’t ask locals to tell you; they won’t. Walking time: 3 minutes.
  • Milwaukee RiverWalk – Take a walk along the river; find the bronze statue of Fonz. Walking time: 4 minutes.
  • Old World Third Street – Trendy hub of Milwaukee nightlife with music venues, sports arenas and hip bars. Walking time: 5 minutes.
  • Deer District – A bustling sports and entertainment area that includes the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks. Walking time: 10 minutes.
  • “Heart & Sol” Mural – Another work by Mauricio Ramirez that makes Milwaukee more colorful. Walking time: 14 minutes.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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