A combination of cabin fever after a long Wisconsin winter and the home stretch of spring semester has students and community members flocking outdoors to enjoy the first fresh breaths of fresh air and summer freedom. Milwaukee is peppered with dozens of local parks that weave a natural landscape against Milwaukee’s cityscape for the perfect urban plus rural love child. There are a couple standouts that are a must visit as the school year ends and the summer season starts.
The three top contenders establish the park trifecta of Milwaukee’s river paths, Eastside, and Shorewood areas surrounding campus. There’s Riverside Park, then the Best of Milwaukee’s 2012 award winning Lake Park, and finally Estabrook Park. Good news for the biking community, all of these parks are accessed by local bike trails, namely the Oak Leaf Bike Trail.
Perhaps one of the more underrated parks is Riverside Park along the Milwaukee River. This area is also home to the Urban Ecology Center, which focuses of urban habitat reconstruction, citizen science research and environmental education for all ages. The bike trail runs under the trees along the river, preserving a strip of nature amongst an urban jungle. It’s a great stretch to run your dog on, take your kids, or delve into a novella at a quiet place near the rushing water. It may not be the cleanest river in the world, what with the occasional decorative shopping cart, but it’s the scenery that counts.
The Best Public Park of Milwaukee 2012 winner, Lake Park, overlooks Lake Michigan and is often the favorite destination of students and families alike. The Oak Leaf Trail takes you from the scenic lake view, past historic North Point Lighthouse, and over a bridge guarded by watchful stone lions. Eventually you pass Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, popular wedding reception destination and afternoon outing area.
The interweaving trails, like Locust Street Ravine Trail, burst with color in the summer. Tiny yellow bell-shaped flowers with orange specs line the start of the trail while monarch butterflies fly amongst living layers of nature growing together like the interlocked scales of a dragon, in a 1,000 shades of green. With soccer fields, picnic areas, and a small golf course, it’s no wonder Lake Park is busy from sun-up to dusk.
Last but certainly not least is Estabrook Park, off of Capitol Avenue. This park touches all the bases of Milwaukee good time basics. Being the first truly public beer garden in nearly 100 years alone would be enough to put Estabrook on your map, but it is also a popular destination for man’s best friend with an expansive dog park. Whether tossing a regular Frisbee or driving and putting through the disc golf course, Estabrook is a great place to get your drink, dog, or “frolf” on.
Hit up any of these three spots to shake off the school year and step into summer officially.