Triathlon Tour Guide: Milwaukee

Headed to USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals this weekend? Get ready with advice on where to eat, sleep, play and train.

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Don’t call it cheesy—Milwaukee, Wis., is a cosmopolitan city that works as hard as it plays.

Go: In summer, when the city comes alive with races, festivals and patio dining on the waterfront.

Stay: At the Iron Horse Hotel, a 1907 mattress warehouse turned boutique hotel ( The loft-style rooms pay homage to the city with murals painted by local artist Charles J. Dwyer and vintage Harley-Davidson memorabilia on display (the famed motorcycle company was founded in Milwaukee in 1903).

Dine: Start your day with breakfast at Café Benelux, where you’ll be surrounded by equal parts Benedicts and bicycles. At lunchtime, traverse to the hip and eclectic Bay View neighborhood for a sandwich and Pabst Blue Ribbon at The Palomino Bar, known for old-school pub fare (the diners are second only to the Milwaukee Public School District in their consumption of tater tots). Braise is a must for dinner—owner/chef David Swanson offers a new made-from-scratch menu daily, based on fresh offerings from local farms and purveyors (

RELATED: Milwaukee To Host USAT Age Group National Championships

Half-Day City Adventure
The Third Ward

This historic neighborhood just south of downtown Milwaukee is making a big comeback, thanks to developers revitalizing the area’s cream-brick buildings ( Take a stroll through the district’s many art galleries and boutiques, sample artisan cheese at the Milwaukee Public Market, and grab a salted caramel cupcake from Milwaukee Cupcake Company. Follow the lakefront path to the Milwaukee Art Museum, an architectural marvel with a moveable wingspan equal to a Boeing 747. Kids in tow? Visit Discovery World, a 120,000-square-foot science and technology museum with loads of hands-on activities (

Work It Out
Lovely Lakefront

The city’s lakefront serves as a bustling hub for the active crowd. Lake Michigan offers ample open-water swimming opportunities, flat and fast cycling routes, and endless paved and dirt trails for runners. Ride the 100-plus mile Oak Leaf Trail through the woods, or follow the Hank Aaron Trail, with multiple historical markers, public artworks and wetland preservation areas.

A Night Out
Barley and Hops

Milwaukee is known as “Brew City” for good reason—the metropolitan area is home to more than a dozen breweries and 1,000 bars. With so many intoxicating options, you’ll definitely want to leave the car keys at the hotel. Grab your training group and combine debauchery with cross-training—the Pedal Tavern ( is powered by your pedal strokes while an employee steers the wagon from one happy hour to the next. For a real taste of Milwaukee, ask your bartender for an order of cheese curds: fried bites of Wisconsin cheddar that pair perfectly with any cold local brew.

Each summer, music, food and traditions from around the world draw hundreds of thousands to the Henry W. Maier Festival Park along Lake Michigan. Nearly every weekend brings a new cultural experience filled with art, history and entertainment for all ages to enjoy:

PrideFest (Early June)

Polish Fest (Mid-June)

Summerfest, The World’s Largest Music Festival (Late June to July 4)

Festa Italiana (Mid-July)

German Fest (Late July)

African World Festival (Early August)

Irish Fest (Mid-August)

Mexican Fiesta (Late August)

Indian Summer Festival (Early September)

Race It! The USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships will be held in Milwaukee for the first time Aug. 10-11, an exciting addition to the area’s full calendar of endurance events. “The endurance scene is very well organized here,” say Bob and Wendy Hanisch, local coordinators for USA Triathlon. “Coaches and groups have been key to developing a very successful nucleus of athletes” including Milwaukee native, ITU champion and Olympian Gwen Jorgensen.

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