The streets of Milwaukee after dark

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Photo by Grace Pionek

From Water Street to the Deer District, the list of after-dark activities is endless. 

Once the sun goes down in the city of Milwaukee, the electric atmosphere begins to emerge. For students at Marquette University, the nightlife is just minutes from campus. From Water Street to the Deer District, the list of after-dark activities is endless. 

For Caleb Kwasigroch, an incoming junior in the College of Communication, this is his first summer living in Milwaukee.

“Being in Milwaukee during this summer has been very rewarding,” Kwasigroch says. “I’ve gone to a few restaurants here and there, down to the riverwalk, and down to the third ward. It’s nice to have things open again.”

The city of Milwaukee lifted many of the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place through a Health Department order June 1. This allowed for businesses and restaurants to operate at full capacity without a mask mandate. 

Macie Robinson, an incoming senior in the College of Health Sciences, says she agrees with Kwasigroch that it’s refreshing to return to a new normal.

“It’s really nice to see everyone out enjoying themselves and actually socializing, whereas last summer everybody had to either stay at home or socially distanced,” Robinson says. “It’s nice just being around new people every Friday and Saturday night and just having a lively atmosphere.”

Madelyn Fainga’a, an incoming senior in the College of Communication, says she spent her summer as a cocktail waitress at Buck Bradley’s. Buck Bradley’s, residing on Old World Third Street, is known as the longest bar east of the Mississippi River.

Fainga’a says she immediately noticed a change in nightlife this summer compared to last summer. 

“The atmosphere and the people who have been coming out are a lot different,” Fainga’a says. “I’ve met a lot more people from out of state than I ever did last summer.”

During the summer of 2020, there were travel restrictions in place that urged tourists to stay home. In an article from the Wisconsin State Journal, it was reported that Wisconsin’s state tourism dropped 28.3% from 2019 to 2020.

This summer, Milwaukee has been hit by a powerful tourist boom. 

“Basically the streets have been filled, people have been out, and you can just really feel the vibrant community that Milwaukee has,” Fainga’a says.  

One place in Milwaukee that has encouraged and built a strong community is the Deer District. The Deer District is one of Milwaukee’s most popular areas, located right outside of Fiserv Forum. Thousands of people have gathered in the Deer District this summer, cheering on the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA championship victory in over 50 years.

“There’s something about the whole vibe of the Deer District parties,” Kwasigroch says. “Just having fun and meeting people, everyone’s so kind there.”

Robinson says that she’s frequently visited the Deer District ever since the third round of the NBA playoffs. 

“Everybody will come out and everywhere was crowded, but it was nice just to see everyone united and just focused on one thing,” Robinson says. “It just made everyone in a good mood.”

Fainga’a experienced the other side of the energetic crowds while working at Buck Bradley’s.

“There were free shots everywhere,” Fainga’a says. “It was just a free for all basically, but in a fun way.”

A few blocks east of the Deer District, you’ll find Milwaukee’s prime spot for nightlife, bars, and entertainment. Water Street has become a fan-favorite amongst many students on Marquette’s campus.

Trinity Three Irish Pubs is just one of the bars on Water Street that has seen an influx of Marquette students. 

“I’d be lying if I said Trinity wasn’t a classic favorite for this summer,” Fainga’a says. “It’s really been where so many people have gone and cheered on the Bucks.”

Just around the corner is Brothers Bar & Grill, a modernized corner tavern known for their cocktail pitchers and lively dance floor. 

Robinson says that she’s only been to Brothers once, and the place was filled to the brim with Marquette students.

“It was really fun because everyone was on the dance floor, the DJ was really good and knew what he was doing, and it was after a Bucks game,” Robinson says. 

If you’re looking to get a bite to eat after a night-out, Ian’s Pizza is the place for you.  

“You can never go wrong with Ian’s Pizza,” Kwasigroch says. “That’s always been a fan-favorite of mine.”

While the Deer District and Water Street have become Milwaukee’s iconic hot spots, there are some other ‘hidden gems’.

Fainga’a shared that she’s excited for Central Standard Craft Distillery to open up near the Third Ward. The new three-story Downtown location is set to open late this summer. 

“There’s going to be a rooftop, so I’m really excited to experience that,” Fainga’a says.

Robinson recommends wandering around Milwaukee to find a trendy bar. That’s how she came across Shakers Cigar Bar in Walker’s Point.

“If you’re bored, just take a walk around somewhere new and try to find a random bar,” Robinson says. “My friend and I did that in Walker’s Point and ended up coming across a really cool, unique cigar bar that does ghost tours.” 

While many students tend to get their fix by heading downtown, Marquette’s campus offers its own sense of nightlife at Caffrey’s Pub and Murphy’s Irish Pub.

“My friends and I are notorious for taking one of those lime scooters right down to Caffrey’s and Murphy’s to enjoy a night-out if we don’t want to take a trip to Water [Street],” Fainga’a says. 

No matter where Marquette students choose to spend their night-out, there are plenty of options throughout Milwaukee. With the Milwaukee Bucks becoming NBA champions and COVID-19 restrictions loosening, the summer nightlife of 2021 will always be remembered.

This story was written by Aimee Galaszweski. She can be reached at aimee.galaszwski@marquette.edu or on Twitter @aimeegalsMU.