In January, on a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan just south of the art museum, a new complex devoted to water themes will open. The so-called Pier Wisconsin Center will include two aquariums, one for fresh-water and one for salt-water creatures, a theater and educational center focusing on the Great Lakes, and a science and technology museum with lots of hands-on activities for kids. The pier also will be the new home of the three-masted schooner, the S/V Denis Sullivan.
Motorcycle enthusiasts will have to wait until 2008 for the opening of the Harley- Davidson Museum, which will showcase the history of the vaunted motorcycle developed in Milwaukee. Enough outdoor space is planned to allow for motorcycle rallies.
And I'm hoping, as Art Altenburg is, that America's only concertina bar will continue to have a home in Milwaukee for years to come.
GETTING THERE: Northwest offers nonstop flights to Milwaukee from Reagan National, United offers nonstop service from Dulles, and Midwest Airlines flies nonstop from National and BWI. Other airlines offer connecting service. Current Web fares start at about $168 round trip. I combined a tour of Milwaukee and Chicago, which are 93 miles apart. Amtrak costs $18 each way and takes 1 1/2 hours.
GETTING AROUND: Public buses and $1-a-day trolleys are available to transport tourists around town. Many but not all of the city's attractions are within easy walking distance of one another. Given the relative ease of driving and parking in the city, though, I found myself wishing I'd rented a car.
WHERE TO STAY: Milwaukee offers a large selection of brand-name chain hotels, older family-owned establishments and bed-and- breakfasts. The Pfister Hotel (424 E. Wisconsin Ave., 800-558- 8222, www.thepfisterhotel.com) is Milwaukee's landmark property. Double rooms in the genteel, Victorian-style hotel, which has a great restaurant, 23rd-floor pool and antique treasures, begin at about $169 a night.
I was happy with my stay at County Clare (1234 N. Astor St., 800-942-5273, www.countyclare-inn.com). My room was pleasantly decorated in the style of an old Irish inn, and at $119 a night was a bargain. However, if you retire early, you might be bothered by the noise of other guests in high spirits returning to their rooms after enjoying the Irish food and grog in the hotel's ground-floor pub restaurant. The hotel is on a leafy street of lovely old brick homes but is nearly a mile walk to the heart of downtown.
WHERE TO EAT: Mader's Restaurant (1037-41 N. Old World Third St.) is such an institution that you can hardly say you've been to Milwaukee if you haven't eaten there. Pictures of dozens of famous guests who have dined there, including the Three Stooges, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, John Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Van Halen, cover the walls. Plus, it's like a museum of German artifacts. Entrees -- typical German dishes, including meat, fish and one vegetarian offering -- begin at $17.
A Serbian refugee opened Three Brothers (2414 S. St. Clair St.) just after World War II, choosing the name in hopes that her three missing sons would eventually turn up and take over. Today, it's operated by one of those sons -- and his kids and grandkids -- and he'll likely come by your table to make sure you're happy. The dining area's old formica kitchen tables give no hint about the kind of food you'll be served: Serbian dishes good enough to win awards from Zagat and James Beard. Entrees begin at $12.50.
For gourmet dining, Sanford (1547 N. Jackson St.) is widely considered Milwaukee's best. Entrees, with a French and Mediterranean flare, start at $27. Alternately, the same owners operate Coquette Cafe (316 N. Milwaukee St.), with French-influenced fine food at lower prices. Entrees begin at $10.95, sandwiches at $7.50.
INFO: Visit Milwaukee, 800-554-1448, www.visitmilwaukee.org.
-- Cindy Loose