Many large cities have walkways that follow their respective waterways. Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis are just a few that I have seen. Milwaukee is following suit and has so far built about 3 miles of cement filled trail.
In some areas you currently need to walk across a bridge and switch to the opposite side of the river, but there are plans to link both sides starting at the lakeshore and going all the way to the North avenue bridge.
There are also connections to Milwaukee’s north end River Greenway trail system. These are dirt trails that lead through the woods along the Milwaukee river for more than 7 miles from North avenue to Silver Spring Drive. Along these trails are footbridges, art work and some interesting old buildings. There is also a connect here via the Oak Leaf bike trail to the Ozaukee InterUrban bike trail. If you wanted to, you could walk mostly off road from downtown Milwaukee all the way through to Sheboygan county!
But this post is about the urban walk through downtown Milwaukee. Starting at the north edge of town near MSOE and ending at the confluence of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers just south of the Summerfest grounds.
From Cherry street walking on the west side of the river you can walk south through downtown to Clybourn. You’ll have to cross some bridges, some above and some below. Then cross the river and follow the remaining walk to the east end of the Third Ward.
From the end of the walk, you have several options to choose.
You can double back and the return to your point of beginning via the east side of the river, switching to the west side as needed in places where the walk is blocked for construction or you can portage to Water street as needed.
Another option is to walk through the Third Ward to the Public Market area and hop on The Hop trolly that will carry you back to the MSOE area then walk the couple blocks to your car.
One other fun option is to continue on from the end of the Riverwalk on Erie street to the lake. There is a fishing pier along the way and an interesting view of the backside of Summeriest. From there you can walk through the Lakeshore State Park toward the Milwaukee Art Museum campus. Go up the bluff and walk down Wisconsin avenue, or any of the streets through the near east side back toward the river.
If you are interested in lunch, the Public Market is the best option right now. There are a few restaurants now open but with limited seating. It should be opening up more in the coming weeks, but still, the Public Market has many kiosk style counters with many food style options and a lot of outdoor tables.
If you’re looking for a coffee, the only option that I found open was again, in the Market. Hopefully more coffee shops return to the Third Ward and downtown. I walked past a couple coffee shops, one on Water street and one on Erie, that looked as though they are still in business but were not open at 1:00 in the afternoon. So, I have my concerns that they have not survived.
I’ll add an addendum later as I find places reopening or new places moving in. As happens in nature, when something is removed others tend to fill in the open spaces.
No matter the way you choose to walk, there is art! The Riverwalk is filled with sculptures and objects of interest as well as architectural history, new and old. History buffs will find a lot of places of interest and even a plaque or two with historical information.
One of the reasons I enjoy traversing a river is that you get to see the side of a city you couldn’t otherwise see. Everything is different when seen from a different angle. If you don’t have access to a river, try riding a train to a familiar place and if you don’t have a train near by, walk down an alley. You’ll be amazed at how different a familiar place will look.
One more wonderful observation of being on the shore side of an urban river or canal waterway is the unexpected quiet. A person can sit along a river at the halfway point between two busy streets and it seems the water has a way of drowning out the droning sounds of the city.
If you drive to your destination, there is free 2 hour street parking on the side streets of both the north and southeast ends of this particular walk. If you want to be out walking and not worry about getting back to your car before the efficient Milwaukee meter patrol, I suggest paying the fee to park in a lot. Meters are pricy and you still have a time limit with chance for a ticket.