Welcome to the first edition of Cultural Exchange, a new irregular feature here where we’ll take a look at the host cities of upcoming Magic tournaments. This week we turn our sights to Milwaukee, Wisconsin which will be the home of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar this weekend. Whether you’re a pro player looking for something to do with their free time, or a visitor checking out the high-level Magic action, you’ll need to know what to do around town.

The Wisconsin Center

Right off the bat it’s important to better understand the tournament venue. In this case we’ll be playing or watching top-level Magic at the Wisconsin Center, a large convention center in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “downtown Milwaukee, what am I going to do there?” It’s true that Wisconsin doesn’t invoke the same excitement as cities like Atlanta, Madrid, Sydney, or Honolulu (2016’s Pro Tour locations) but let’s give it a chance before passing judgment.

Do Your Research

The internet is a wonderful place to research locations before traveling. Here are a handful of sites that should be beneficial should you want to do your own investigating before or during your trip to Milwaukee:

  • Wisconsin Center District – A guide to the area around the convention center and downtown Milwaukee
  • Visit Milwaukee – A general tourist guide to upcoming events and restaurants in the city
  • On Milwaukee – A cultural guide to events, neighborhoods, and shopping in the city
  • Milwaukee Downtown – A guide specific to everything available in the downtown area
  • Milwaukee County Transit System – The official bus system of Milwaukee and the surrounding area
  • TripAdvisor – This is generally a great website to reference for travel tips and reviews
  • Lonely Planet – Another travel site, though Lonely Planet is better known for their guidebooks than their website

Getting Around Town

Odds are that you’re staying one of the two hotels connected to the Wisconsin Center via skybridge: the Hyatt Regency or the Hilton Milwaukee. You may also be staying at the Double Tree which is only a block away. If you’re not at one of those hotels, or if you want to explore the area outside of the convention center, then you’ll want to make use of either the city buses or taxi service.

For bus service you should click on the Milwaukee County Transit System link above. There are a few buses that stop near the convention center including:

  • Route 33 @ North 2nd (Eastbound) or Plankinton (Westbound) and Wisconsin
  • Route 80 @ North 6th and Wisconsin

Route 33 runs east to west and will take you King Park in the west or the waterfront in the east (see below) while Route 80 runs north and south and will take you to the college area in the north or the Amtrak station in the south. Check the bus system for transfers to other areas.

If you’re willing to spend the money or have friends to split the cost, you can look into one of the numerous cab services in Milwaukee. Personally I often stay away from cab service while traveling, preferring to experience the public transportation of a city.

What to Eat and Drink

The convention center has several concessions according to the map, but let’s be honest, no one wants to eat convention center food. It’s a poor way to keep up your energy during a tournament and really you’re traveling to a unique city, don’t just eat the convention center chicken tenders.

Did you know they apparently brew PBR in a castle…

Milwaukee is known for its breweries, most notably Pabst which brews Pabst Blue Ribbon and the Miller corporation which brews the Miller family of beers (Lite, High Life, 64, etc) and Milwaukee’s Best. Here’s a helpful hint: Milwaukee’s Best is not the best beer you can get in Milwaukee. In fact, it’s far from it.

When researching Milwaukee, two microbreweries stand out above the rest. The first is Lakefront Brewery which is about 30 minutes on foot or by bus and 10 minutes by cab. If you end up having time because you scrubbed out on day one of the tournament, you can check out one of the breweries tours offered daily on the hour. Lakefront is open until 9PM on Friday and Saturday including a special Fish Fry menu on Friday night.

The other notable brewery is Sprecher, which was founded by a former Pabst brewing supervisor. Sprecher also offers tours throughout the weekend and is 30 minutes by bus from the convention center or 10 minutes by cab. Technically Sprecher is in the suburb of Glendale, just north of Milwaukee. Both breweries have a solid line of beers and food which you should check out for yourself.

If you’re not into beer halls, or you want to stay closer to the convention center, then you should check out one of the following recommendations:

What to See

The Third Ward is the historic waterfront district of Milwaukee. It is located on the east bank of the Milwaukee river. It’s a 15 minute bus ride from the convention center and then you’ll be in the heart of the historic shopping, dining, and culture-filled neighborhood. I can’t list everything here, so check out the website or just go see it for yourself. This Friday and Saturday happen to be featuring 50 art galleries to explore.

Unfortunately the Milwaukee art museum is closed until November 24th! Hopefully the next time Wizards (or Star City Games) rolls into town we’ll be able to feature it as well.

What to Watch

Baseball season is over for the Brewers but that doesn’t mean sports have completely died down in Milwaukee. If you’re into basketball you might want to check out an NBA pre-season game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the visiting Washington Wizards on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The arena, which is literally two blocks from the convention center, is also home to the Milwaukee Admirals, an AHL ice hockey team affiliated with the Nashville Predators. On Friday night they’ll be hosting the Charlotte Checkers, the minor league affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ticket’s for Friday night’s minor league ice hockey game start at $15 but the best seats in the arena will cost less than $25 each. If you’re more interested in Saturday night’s NBA pre-season game you’ll be able to score cheap seats for under $10 or sit court-side for just under $100. Check out ticketmaster or just go to the box office on the day of the game!

Off the Beaten Path

Believe it or not, Milwaukee is home to the Harley-Davidson Museum. If you’re a fan of Harleys, or motorcycles in general, or just interesting museums then you should try to make time for this one. The museum is a short ride on the 80 or a short walk south from the convention center and it’s open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is $20 for adults or $14 if you’re a student with ID.

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