Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Outdoor Ice Rinks 2016

The weather has been cold enough for ice to form in the past week, so you can get out the skates for the season. Slice of Ice on Water Street has been open since mid December. With the best groomed ice and convenience for toilets, hot chocolate and snacks, this is often my first choice. If you have your own skates, it's free to use the ice.  If you need skates, you can rent them there.  This is a popular place for lunch time skaters, so during February, you can only rent skates during the lunch hour (11-2) and on weekends. Skates are $8 for adults and $7 for kids. Skate sharpening is $6.

Here is the county park link for all the outdoor ice spaces. For specific information on each park, there is a link on that page to the friends group that manages volunteers for the rinks.

The Friends of Center Street Park have a bigger and better rink this year at Center Street Park funded in part by Waterstone Bank.   This rink is free.  Skates will be provided by the Pettit Center at NO COST on weekends from 12-6. They are always looking for volunteers to help with ice maintenance.

LaFollette Park in West Allis just reopened their land rink for the fourth year.  The building will be open on weekends and evenings (4-10), provided there is someone there to supervise.  The rink is lit at night. You need your own skates here.  There is no rental facility. This is another fine example of how a friends group has been able to provide recreation in conjunction with the Milwaukee Parks Department.

Klode Park in Whitefish Bay has a rink with warming house and toilets.  Bring your own skates.

My favorite outdoor space is at Washington Park Urban Ecology Center.  There you can borrow ice skates and walk just outside the door to the ice.  You may have to help with shoveling if there's been a recent snowfall.  If you tire of skating, they also have sleds, snowshoes, and skis available to members.  This is a bargain for anyone not wanting to purchase and store lots of cold weather gear.  Annual membership begins at just $30! This weekend is their Winterfest where you can try a variety of winter fun activities.

The Hales Corner Ice Rink will not be open at all this year due to construction delays.

The Washington Park Urban Ecology Center has chairs and skate rental for first time skaters

If you prefer indoor ice, you can always check out  Wilson Ice Arena.  A calendar of open skating times is available, but it seems they have not updated the year.  The information is good though.  You can rent skates ($3) and skate for a fee of $3.50-6 depending on age.   The Glow Skate sessions are  lots of fun.  Follow the County Parks weekly update for more information on when those will occur in 2016.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter at the Zoo

I've really enjoyed the monthly gifts given by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation this year.  It will be sad to see the program end, though they are certainly going out with a huge finale.  Starting the day after Christmas until New Year's Eve, THE ZOO IS FREE!!! Even parking is free! This is a great opportunity to get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and enjoy the animals.  Many will be in their indoor habitats. Others that can't tolerate the cold will not be on display, but there are few.  To find out what animals are where, take a look at the animal list.  I have never been to the zoo during winter, but in fall the animals were full of energy- more so than summer.  We really enjoyed it.  I hope you'll get over to see the animals and the winter decorations.

So what can you expect?  Open hours are 9:30-4:30.  You can plan your visit using the Milwaukee County Zoo website.  

I've copied this from the announcement page.


  • Animal Talks – Zoo Pride volunteers at various exhibits will make special presentations to visitors, explaining animals’ daily care, interesting facts and answering questions.
  • Animal Enrichment – Zookeepers will demonstrate the art and science of animal enrichment, the necessary activities to keep Zoo animals engaged and healthy.
  • Ice Carving – Professional ice carvers will demonstrate their unique talent in this seasonal artistic medium with custom sculptures featured throughout the grounds.
  • Craft Projects – Children and guests of all ages are invited to create animal-related crafts and projects
  • Kohl’s Wild Theater – The Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s award-winning theater act will present two live entertaining and educational performances per day.
  • Post-a-Hope – The Foundation invites guests of all ages to offer their hopes for the future of the community by participating in a unique “Post-a-Hope” project available at the Zoo at various times throughout the week. Inspiration and aspirations are welcome!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Milwaukee Treasure Hunt

Back in 1982, The Secret was published, and a treasure hunt began across North America for keys hidden in ornate boxes in public spaces.  The keys were meant to be traded for gems from the author. Unfortunately only 2 of 12 treasures were ever found before the author was killed in a car crash.

There have been a few articles written about the treasures, called the Byron Preiss treasures.  Urban Milwaukee did a feature in 2013. Probably the most complete place to search for information might be at Wiki, where it's called The Secret (a treasure hunt).  The page is being updated, and if you find clues you can add to what is there. The book is no longer in print and our library system doesn't have a copy, but what you need is on the Wiki page. Here's the painting that they believe is a clue to the Milwaukee treasure, and you can find a poem which goes along with it.. The symbolism has been somewhat decoded at the wiki page, though I disagree with some of it.  The castle= city hall. The balls look like lawn bowling balls (though they say golf), mill stone (there is one at the ravine), and the cloak has what appears to be a birch grove. Inside the box is a key, so therefore a picture of a key.  This led some people to believe the treasure was buried in Lake Park somewhere.

I had never heard about the treasures until I was contacted by a Milwaukee resident this summer who was looking for information about Lake Park. He asked about a grove of birch that might have been standing more than 30 years ago.  Unfortunately, birch don't tend to live very long and there is no indication of a birch grove now. I didn't think too much about it until I came across a photo last week at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.  They have boxes of old photos from every nook of Milwaukee. You have to pay $5 to use the research library, located upstairs.  If you find something you'd like to have copied, it's 25 cents.  Here's the photo I had copied.

None of the bridges look exactly like this anymore.  It was a photo taken by an instructor at UWM during the 70s, and those clearly are birch trees.  I went to Bridgehunter and discovered that this is the footbridge over the ravine- north of Lake Park Bistro.  That's a great website with photos of nearly every bridge over time.  You can waste a lot of time there if you're looking for something to do this winter.  Ha!

So now it appears the clues have indeed led us to a specific place in Lake Park.  The question remains whether anyone will find it.  If you do, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What's New with the Door County Sled Dogs?

Some of the Door County Sled Dogs

It's no secret I'm in love with the team of sled dogs and volunteers who visit our lakefront in the snowiest weather and give rides.  Now they've made national news!  In the December issue of Woman's Day magazine, you'll find a nice article about them, with more about how Rick and Bonnie got started dog sledding in Milwaukee.  In the years since they started, the team has grown and now they have a lot to be thankful about...and they are sharing it with you.  They have their own website, where you can follow their activity around the midwest. Or follow them at Facebook. They post lots of dog photos and let you know where they are for fun meet & greet opportunities.

Woman's Day December 2015
There's also a newsletter that just started this fall.  You can read the first issue and see more photos of the dogs, as well as get information about the new education center that was purchased, thanks to a generous donation.  Now the dogs can make guest appearances at the education center and you can visit the next time you are in Door County. It's located on Hwy 42 in Ephraim.
Holiday dogs at the new Education Center in Ephraim
During winter (when we have enough snow), you'll find them at McKinley Park or Whitnall Park giving dog sled rides on Sundays from January 17- late February, 11-1.  If you are interested in finding them, you should call their automated line for any up to date messages. (414)967-9677
Rides are $15 for kids and $20 for adults, which includes photo ops, a cuddle with the dogs, and the ability to ask questions of the volunteer mushers.  No one gets rich at this gig.  Everyone is a volunteer.  With this many dogs, you can imagine what it might cost for food and vet bills, as well as transportation costs.

Would you like to help the dogs?  The easiest way is to sign up for Amazon Smile- a part of Amazon that sends a portion of proceeds to charity.  On the top left side in the menu, you'll see the word "supporting" and that's where you can put in your choice of Door County Sled Dogs, and from that point on you will help them every time you log in and make purchases.  Even if you have Amazon Prime, you can use Amazon Smile. All of your preferences should transfer from the main amazon site.  They even make it easy to add a bookmark to your computer.

The other thing you can do is check out the dogs' wishlist on Amazon.  You can purchase anything on the list and it gets sent to them. If you have prime, there is no cost for shipping either. You'll notice some books on the list for the new education center. There are dog treats, cleaners, toys, and much more.  When you do your gift giving this year, it doesn't cost much to add a few items for these lovely dogs.  Santa knows they have been very good!

Lastly, consider sponsoring a dog for a year.  Or make a donation using paypal or credit card. Click on the DONATE button on the Door County Sled Dogs web page at the lower left side.  You can read much more about the dogs at this site too.

Let's all hope we get some snow later this winter so we can see the beautiful dogs in action!

Musher Joe at McKinley Park in 2014 with us and the team

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Outdoor Art under North Avenue Bridge

A friend of mine is an artist and she mentioned that last Friday had been a day to share art with the world- Free Art Friday.  Apparently artists all over were encouraged to make something and give it away.  With that in mind, I thought I'd look for art in parks or outdoor spaces.

Have you been to the Rotary Centennial Arboretum lately?  It extends from Locust Street to North Avenue along the Milwaukee river.  Take a short hike along the river and you can take a moment to enjoy the new artwork painted on the pillars under Norh Avenue Bridge.  Of course, if you're not really into the cold weather hike, you can park on North Avenue and just take the steps down below the bridge.  There are people living under the bridge, as evidenced by sleeping gear, but I've never seen anyone there during the daytime.  There's a nature theme featuring local birds.  See how many birds you can identify.

There are also a few additional artworks added that can't really be classified as graffiti.  They are a bit more polished. This is a pleasant change to what had been there just a few months ago.  I love the movement to add public art to the outdoors!

This is a good week to learn about graffiti.  Central Library is having a program Monday evening, December 7 with a lecture at 5:30.  Then on Saturday, December 12 at 1, you will learn how to make graffiti yourself.  Registration is required.  You can see the flyer here, or go online at www.mpl.org.

If you enjoy looking for more outdoor art treasures, check out the Milwaukee Mural Map.  This is an interactive map that includes all the murals known to date with photos and information about who created them. There is even a bike tour you can take with the creator of the mural map- though she does this in summer.  Look for the Bublr bike locations on the map too.   What is your favorite outdoor art?

Holiday Display at the Domes

Mondays are free for Milwaukee residents, so a friend and I went to the Domes to see the new Gingerbread Land exhibit.  It never disappoints.  Always warm, welcoming, and fragrant, the show dome changes several times a year.  If you're still looking for a place to do your Christmas photos, the showdome has a sea of poinsettias in many different shades and makes a good backdrop, not to mention the natural lighting since the roof is made of glass.

The enormous Christmas tree on display has a special story behind it.  My friend Melanie Ariens, a local artist, was married in Milwaukee in 1993 and tiny pines were wedding favors for the guests.  Melanie's mom took home 4 of these and planted them in their yard.  Last year one of the trees was cut for the county courthouse.  This year, another of the beautiful trees is here at the Mitchell Park Domes. Talk about a gift that kept on giving!  Happy Anniversary to Melanie and thanks very much to her parents for the gift of such a beautiful tree!
The huge Christmas tree was a wedding favor in 1993
There are also a couple of historic pieces which were in the county park greenhouse before the Domes were built.  Be sure to walk around the edges and take a look at the lion head and the beautiful wrought iron gate.  They included a photo of the original greenhouse.

 The other domes have holiday decorations as well, though not nearly as many as the show dome.  This exhibit continues through January 3.  There is a break of 2 weeks before the next exhibit, "Attack of the Giant Monsters Train Show" begins.  The train show is always a community favorite and I have no doubt that this one will entertain with its unique theme.

If you go to the Domes:
Admission is $7 for adults/ $5 for students.  Milwaukee residents are free until noon on Mondays with proof of residency (driver's license with a current address).  There are some vending machines in the lobby for snacks.  The gift shop has original nature themed gifts and is a good place to do your holiday shopping.

On Saturdays all winter long, go to the greenhouse at the Domes for the weekly Milwaukee County Farmer's Market. Admission to the market is free, but you will have to pay to gain entry to the Domes. You'll find many wonderful offerings such as coffee, pancakes, veggies, soaps, cheese, jams, and even entertainment. When the days are short, this is a great place to warm up.  Parking is available behind the greenhouses on Saturdays.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bring on the Christmas Season!

Today is the start to the Christmas season as far as I'm concerned, though many holiday decorations have been up for weeks and the Christmas parade for Milwaukee has gone by.  If you want to experience all the area has to offer, you need to make a plan.

I'll start with a list put out by Calie Herbst, of Miltown Moms.  Her list of 10 local holiday traditions and celebrations includes several in parks, as well as a few others that we enjoy every year.  Be sure to check out the new BMO Harris bank display.  You get a free candy cane and the bears are adorable.

Local First is hosting their second buy local fair on Sunday November 29 from 9-4 at the Domes.  If you are buying gifts this year, it's a great place to find unique goods. You can print a coupon for $2 off admission at the link. Be sure to walk through the Domes to see the gingerbread display that Calie mentions. If you really like gingerbread, make a stop at Milwaukee Public Market and see the MATC gingerbread houses too- December 4 -15.

Next Sunday, December 6, there's a holiday pop up shop at Schlitz Audubon from 12-4.  This is a good chance to take a hike, climb the tower if you've never done that, and find some interesting outdoor themed gifts.  Steph Davies from The Waxwing will have a variety of bird themed gifts.  I'll be there with Milwaukee County park maps and copies of my books, "The Milwaukee Bucket List", and "101 Things to do in Milwaukee Parks".  Stop by and say hi!

Thinking of a holiday lights drive?  Be sure to visit the Bayview neighborhood that does Nightmare Before Christmas. The most comprehensive list of holiday lights I've seen is from Just Add Kids.  They include Racine, Waukesha, the Milwaukee parks, Candy Cane Lane, the Holiday Train, Miller Coors, and even walking food tours in the city.  Take a look to see if there's something you haven't been to yet.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train comes to Milwaukee December 4

You can see the full schedule of events for the holiday lights festival, which includes decorations in parks, the jingle bus, and Cocoa with the Clauses December 12 at Cathedral Square, which is already decked out in upcycled ornaments. If you have kids that want to make their own holiday upcycled ornaments, go to Homemade Holidays at Wehr Nature Center. Stop by Pere Marquette Park, home to the Milwaukee Historical Society, which is a beautiful building all decked out for the holidays.  Santa will be there for photos December 6 from 10-3.

Upcycled ornaments at Cathedral Square

Whitefish Bay has their holiday stroll tonight from 5-9 which includes the Door County Sled Dogs making an appearance with their bus.  You can find them at Yellow Wood on Berkeley after the parade, which kicks off at 6.  This is a pretty darn cool event if you've never experienced it.  This year will include a storefront with dancing ballerinas.  Santa will be there to visit with kids and of course, the usual pony rides.

The Urban Ecology Centers are also buzzing with outdoor activity.  Participate in the 2015 Candlelight Walk or join in to count birds for the annual bird count.  Check their calendar for many more events. Most require advance registration.

We have a lot to do in Milwaukee this holiday season.  Get out and enjoy!