I often get asked where to stay when planning a trip to Milwaukee. There are actually a lot of downtown hotels to choose from. "Downtown" is a word that usually means high priced with nowhere to park, but as for Milwaukee, it's actually pretty accommodating. My favorite hotels in the city are historic, full of style, and relaxing, have great food and are within walking distance to the best of what Milwaukee has to offer. Sounds like a vacation to me!
1. Hotel Metro
This Historic Art Deco hotel is one of the best boutique hotels in Milwaukee. It's only a couple blocks from the lake, the river walk, and plenty of attractions. The restaurant and bar downstairs is popular with the after work crowd and couples on dates. My favorite part about this hotel is the rooftop deck. Built in is a rooftop garden and patio called "Zen on 7", and is mostly a lounge after dark, but this space is great in the morning for yoga, too.
2. The Iron Horse Hotel
This boutique hotel in Milwaukee just opened a couple years ago but has already received national honors like Boutique Hotel of the Year. Although slightly motorcycle themed (it's right across from the Harley Davidson Museum) it lacks the black leather fringe and hog references. Instead, it can be described as masculine-chic; high-end furnishings, soft, lived-in leather, exposed warehouse fixtures, and gourmet hamburger sliders. And there's motorcycle parking, too.
3. The Pfister Hotel
For a hundred years (and probably a hundred more) this is the premiere place to stay when in Milwaukee. It was built in and boasts almost all original architecture. There are some high end clothing stores off the main lobby as well as a cafe where afternoon tea is served. Adjacent is The Mason Street Grill, my favorite place for martinis and steak.
4. The Intercontinental
The location is about as central to downtown as you can get. If you're in town for a show at the Pabst Theater or a play at the Milwaukee Rep, you're in luck, because the buildings are attached. The artists usually stay here, too. The intercontinental is maybe the best place to stay during the winter months, too, because you don't have to walk very far for anything (there's even an art gallery off the lobby). The rooms are modern with a lot of amenities and highly rated.
5. County Clare
Downtown Milwaukee doesn't claim many authentic or quality bed and breakfasts. However, the County Clare is a perfect substitute. The Inn and Pub on a quiet street on the lower east side is a true gem. The restaurant serves traditional irish fare, plenty of Guinness, and on weekends has live celtic music. The rooms are homey and comfortable like a bed and breakfast and the restaurant serves breakfast in the morning.
This is the newest of the downtown hotels and made the list because everyone in town for my wedding loved it here. It's youthfully modern, close to Water Street bars and the river walk, so a far cry from the regalness of the Pfister. Simply put, this place just looks like a fun place to hang out. And the rooms are the most reasonably priced of any on this list.
Note: Milwaukee has plenty of national chain hotels to choose from. Most are in great locations and have good word of mouth. Above are some of the unique places to stay if you're in town, but not the only options. I've stayed in the Marriott Residence Inn and the Hilton and have enjoyed both. Fortunately, downtown is a pretty compact and walkable area so it's hard to get too far off the beaten path.
Photos: Aloft, Onmilwaukee.com, PreservationNation, Simonk, mrsscott95, the iron horse hotel