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Milwaukee landmarks invite the city indoors this weekend

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Ever just want to walk into that beautiful building down Wisconsin Avenue? Well, this weekend is your best chance.

Photo via doorsopenmilwaukee.org

Photo via doorsopenmilwaukee.org

For the third year in a row, more than one hundred of Milwaukee’s buildings, arenas, museums and landmarks will open their doors for two days this weekend, revealing the stories and people behind the buildings we pass as we move through the  city.

Sponsored by Historic Milwaukee Inc., Doors Open Milwaukee takes advantage of the city’s urban structures, public and private. The event will include public tours of the courthouse, a biking through Milwaukee event and a food and city tour bus shuttle for easy transportation from place to place.

Doors Open initially started in the downtown area but has gradually grown to encompass more of the city and accommodate thousands that come for an inside look.

The event has doubled in size since it began two years ago drawing ten and then fifteen thousand people  from southern Wisconsin and surrounding states. “It just keeps growing. We’re hoping for twenty thousand this year,” Amy Grau, program manager of Doors Open, said.

The list of buildings has also grown this fall, introducing interesting new additions.

Milwaukee has many brewery tour, but this year Doors Open offers the unique opportunity to tour the brand new Brenner Brewery. Owner Mike Brenner will lead visitors through the building as it’s converted from a cinder block parking garage into Milwaukee’s newest producer of micro-brews.

A slew of other breweries are also opening their doors to the public this weekend including Lakefront Brewery, and Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery.

If beer isn’t your drink of choice, stiff drinks can be found at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, the oldest cocktail lounge in Milwaukee and one of the best preserved in the country.

Beyond booze establishments, Doors Open encompasses everything from restaurants like the spy-themed Safe House, to business buildings like the U.S. Bank Center with its 41st floor observation deck.

Buildings like the U.S. Bank Center and the Gas Light Building provide visitors with outside views of the entire city seldom seen.

Photo via flikr.com

Photo via flikr.com

This year the historic Gas Light building, located near the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and North Van Buren Street, is joining the throng of participants. Built in 1929, the art deco building was originally used as a navigational tool for sailors on Lake Michigan but is now a Milwaukee icon. During the energy crisis in 1973 the flame was turned off and not reignited until 1985. Visitors will be able to go up to its 17th floor and enjoy views of the city and lake admist the history.

Many of the Doors Open locations are near, and even on, Marquette’s campus. This year, four of the university’s buildings are part of the event: Eckstein Hall, St. Joan of Arc Chapel, Raynor Memorial Libraries, and Engineering Hall.

Students should take advantage of this event to venture outside the campus and explore some of Milwaukee’s hidden gems.

“You get to experience the city of Milwaukee as a student in a way that you don’t often get the chance to the rest of the year. This city has a long history that is well worth exploring,” Sam Schultz, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and MUSG president, said.

Doors Open helps tell the story of a city that has re-purposed buildings as it continues to evolve in the 21st century but is also something fun and interesting for a day exploring Milwaukee.

 Two-time attendee Robert Machado, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, recalls his first encounter with Doors Open his sophomore year.

“We were walking back from CoCo (Cobeen) when we saw a bunch of seemingly random people walking into the Wisconsin Club and decided to follow them. We ended up getting a tour of the gazebo.”

“I like getting the opportunity to not only tour famous landmarks around the city but also to see things you don’t usually get to see,” Machado said. “It’s definitely a great thing, especially for people new to Milwaukee, just because they get to see the city.”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System-Built Home Model B-1 and many of Milwaukee’s churches like the impressive Basilica of St. Josaphat are on display for architecture enthusiasts.

Turner Hall, Pabst and Riverside Theaters, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts will allow visitors to get a peek behind the scenes with a backstage look at their favorite venues for performances in the city.

A full (and much longer) list of buildings opening up this weekend is available on the Doors Open Milwaukee website. Anyone interested can get free tickets at City Hall or just wander around and see what they walk into.

Whether you end up learning some history, taking in a Milwaukee view or just grabbing a beer, this weekend is the perfect time to get to know a little more about Marquette’s hometown.

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