Metro Milwaukee Guide

The go-to guide for activities in the greater Milwaukee area

Sightseeing on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan

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Our household recently celebrated a fabulous day. No, not the day I put on Clueless and ate an entire container of gelato (although that was incredible). It was our first anniversary! Look, here’s a picture of the bouquet I made for our wedding, even though it’s mostly unrelated to this post.

Okay, okay, Kyle helped. But isn't it AWESOME??

Okay, okay, Kyle helped. But isn’t it AWESOME??

Anyway, we had a great day in the city. The highlight of the day—aside from the glory Kyle felt from putting up with me for an ENTIRE YEAR—was the Edelweiss Historic Milwaukee Boat Tour down the Milwaukee River.

It started out a little rocky. The tour attendees met at Port of Call to wait for the boat, and we were the first ones there. They said they would make an announcement when the boat arrived and was ready to board. Experts that we are at killing time, we tooled around the river walk for a bit, watched the lift bridge let a boat go through, looked at old maps, sat at the bar… and eventually went back outside to wait, until a scrawny guy came running up to us to tell us the boat was here.

This is Acqua Grylli, by artist Beth Sahagian, on the Riverwalk. The statue is considered a guardian or gatekeeper.

This is Acqua Grylli, by artist Beth Sahagian, on the river walk. The statue is considered a guardian or gatekeeper.

Here’s the problem: two boats were leaving from the same place on the dock. We asked Random Guy #1 with a clipboard about the sightseeing tour and he told us to wait where we were. So we did. And then I noticed our boat quietly slipped away behind the other one—without us. We spurred a worker from the other boat into action, who radioed the other boat, and then we had to run across the street and catch our boat on the other side. When we boarded, who do you think we saw? That’s right. Random Guy #1. Who swiftly apologized and then disappeared.

Anyway.

The boat tour was fantastic. It was windy and a little chilly, but we sat outside the entire time. We learned about the bridges, old mills, architecture, and businesses along the Milwaukee River, then swung out into Lake Michigan to discuss the shoreline, downtown buildings, parks, and the art museum.

This is a swing bridge for two rail tracks. It's no longer in use but is permanently swung out into the river. We heard it still works, though.

This is a swing bridge for two rail tracks. It’s no longer in use but is permanently swung out into the river. We heard it still works, though.

My favorite part was learning about the Gas Light Building. If you’re from Milwaukee, surely you know the glowing flame on top forecasts the weather—but just in case you’re not sure how, our tour guide taught us this little rhyme:

When the flame is red, it’s warm weather ahead. When the flame is gold, watch out for cold. When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view. When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

Hey, downtown, hey!

Hey, downtown, hey!

As we headed back in the afternoon, the Milwaukee Art Museum flapped its wings and shuttered its windows while we floated by—a perfect end to the afternoon. On to a delicious dinner at Mo’s Irish Pub (expect a post on this gem another day!).

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Author: Jennifer Billock

I am the co-owner and editor of Metro Milwaukee Guide. I'm also a freelance writer and editor! Check out my website at www.jenniferbillock.com.

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