Here's a quick word association quiz that will show how Wisconsin savvy you are: Milwaukee. What comes to mind? If you rattle off architecture, beer, art, baseball, beer, baseball, bowling, beer, canoeing, charter fishing, Harley-Davidson and beer, you can relax ? you may not be born a cheesehead but you're certainly set to tackle the state's biggest urban center ? and live to drink another draft. With a population of 580,000 or so, Milwaukee, graced with vast green parks and a view of Lake Michigan as it shimmers off to some clandestine appointment with the distant horizon, somehow manages to strike a fine mellow balance between happening cultural destination ? there's always something on here, from sports to symphony - and laid back lakeside retreat.
Most of the downtown attractions are best approached on foot, centered, as they are, near the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers just before they sweep off into Lake Michigan. Start with a walking tour along the Riverwalk to get a feel for the general rhythm of things in this Great Lakes city, stopping along the way to investigate the going trend in gallery space and explore the diversionary Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design.
Sniff bratwurst on the breeze when you get close to Usinger's, held to be America's finest in the sausage making business, and admire architectural variety around town ? the Pabst Mansion provides a good look at what inheriting a fortune in beer bucks will buy you, while the Milwaukee Art Museum presents a fa‡ade slightly more avant-garde. The fine art collection inside is a definite must-see, though those with impatient children in tow might want to break a day of sight-seeing up at this point with a side-trip to the Savannah bush or Old Delhi market in Milwaukee Public Museum. There's also an IMAX theater there, and a great hands-on Discovery World Museum that should educate and entertain nicely ?don't overlook the Betty Brinn Children's Museum either, where creative efforts are encouraged.
If you're an avid museum-goer, continue on to the Milwaukee County Historical Center, the International Clown Hall of Fame or the Haggerty Museum of Art on the campus of Marquette University. While you're there, have a peak inside the St Joan of Arc Chapel, brought to the US from France in the early 20th-century.
Those inclined toward birds, bees, and other things botanical won't want to mix a blossom-brightened walk through the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Whitnall Park or the peaceful trails in Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. For wild animals though, try the Milwaukee County Zoo. Bikes are a great way to cover more territory, so get peddling to increase your sight-seeing sweep ? if you didn't haul along your own two wheels you can rent a set (and three-wheel trikes for adults) locally. Anyone with a serious passion for bikes of the motorized kind should by this point be anxiously waiting to learn more about visiting the Harley-Davidson plant; watch an engine come together on a tour down the assembly line, there's talk of a museum to come.
Should the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, a Frank Lloyd Wright creation, start you thinking about making a few structural changes to your own home, head for the Villa Terrace or the Charles Allis Art Museum to get serious decorating ideas.
Last, but by no means least, no trip to the "Beer City" would be complete without tasting a pint or two. Even though this is no longer home to big name brews ? Miller is the only hanger on ? there is a healthy selection of microbreweries taking up the slack, and the interested taster can get up to snuff on the big-time production of this beverage drunk round the world at Miller Brewing.
In this swell Wisconsin city, there's enough to do downtown to keep visitors busy for several days at least, but with time to spare, spend a day out charter fishing, explore charming historic architecture in atmospheric Cedarburg or devote your energies to a boat tour of top microbreweries along the river. Wet, dry, hungry, hung-over, modern art, motorcycles, leisurely nature walks or wild animals, Milwaukee is all about options: the choice is yours.