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Just 90 miles past Chicago and yet few travelers continue past the Windy City to appreciate this gem on Lake Michigan. Yes, it is an industrial city, known as the "machine shop to the world", but the influence of generations of immigrants has given this city flavors and textures that are missing from newer cities. Ethnic diversity is the cornerstone of this community, with the influences of many cultures evident in the architecture, entertainment and food.
The downtown area is under construction - always. Constantly renewing the infrastructure, cleaning the buildings, improving the streets, but still maintaining the architecture and feel of Downtown Milwaukee.
To the East - Lake Michigan - the endless expanse of blue water that draws native Milwaukeeans - to the beach, to their boats, to the fish. Lake Drive, starting at the easily recognized Milwaukee Art Museum and extending to the beginning of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, passes the primary lakefront.
Looking back toward the downtown buildings from the lake, you are looking up to Milwaukee's Eastside, long the center of the arts in the community. Modern glass buildings stand juxtaposed to ornate office buildings from the 1800's.
Traversing downtown, the Milwaukee River separates east from west. Wisconsin Avenue separates north from south. The city is easily navigated by a system of east-west and north-south streets, with buildings numbered to correspond to the north-south streets. Example: 1415 West Wisconsin Avenue would, therefore, be between 14th and 15th Streets on Wisconsin Ave. west of the river.
The Milwaukee Natural HIstory Museum has long featured diaramas that have thrilled children and The Streets of Old Milwaukee which have fascinated adults. The museum is across the street from the very large main public library, which is worth visiting just to admire the architecture.
Traveling west from the downtown area, a jog to the south (left once you get to 76th Street) will take you from Wisconsin Ave. to Bluemound Road. Take a right turn, continue west, and you will find the spacious Milwaukee County Zoo. The rolling landscape will carry you through the exhibits, both indoors and out.