Friday, August 24, 2012

Weekend in Milwaukee: Grant Park, Irish Fest & The Aloft Hotel

I know I have taken a hiatus from writing about Waukesha, but don't worry, I have some great posts lined up all about my town. Enjoy this little venture to Milwaukee in the meantime :)

If you know me, you know that I love to meet new people where ever I go and attending networking events is a great way to introduce myself to all sorts of people and make new friends and acquaintances. Last September, I attended an event held by Newaukee at the Aloft Hotel. Although it was a chilly night and we couldn't enjoy the outdoor patio without standing directly under a heater, the event was still fun and I met some great folks.

Two days after the event, I received a call from the hotel and figured they were doing a follow up survey off of the business cards they collected and now I was going to be on their mailing list forever. Instead, I was pleasantly informed that I won the grand prize giveaway of a free night's stay in the hotel whenever I would like to use it in the next year!

I finally found the right opportunity to use it this past weekend. My friends and I were trying to plan a fun few days and were looking for things to do -  go camping, hiking, festivaling, bar hopping? As my lucky streak continued (almost a year later), I won 2 tickets to Irish Fest from Key Milwaukee, so we decided to hike around Grant Park Saturday morning, grab some lunch and then head to Irish Fest. And why not stay in the hotel room so everyone is safe?

Seven Bridges lookout
I started the day by meeting Tory in Waukesha and then headed down 94 to the East Side to grab Shauna. We then took the "bridge to nowhere"and headed south to Grant Park. We grabbed our waters and headed into the Seven Bridges area. The first bridge was out, as in completely non-existent and resembled a junk pile of branches and stones making a path over the trickling stream. We negotiated it without fault and continued on. We got to the first lookout and decided with the day being so beautiful and in the mid 70s, we should take advantage and head out to the beach.
Grant Park spring

Toes in the water of Lake Michigan
7 tries later I got my toes and the wave in the picture
We took off our shoes and headed onto the beach. We had to put our toes in the lake and it was nice and refreshing. After a few minutes we headed south and stopped at a few different barges (or boat docks) from eras gone-by and climbed out onto them to take in the water and waves. They were a little tricky to navigate at times but no one fell into the water.

Looks like Shauna is gonna jump - don't worry, she didn't
Can't go any further without risking life and limb
Way out on the water
We headed back into the park and walked around a few more of the bridges on our way back to the car. This bridge in particular is really old, yet very solid and we stopped for a few shots.

We were very hungry at this point and I happened to have my CityTin on me so we headed over to Cafe Lulu. It was too beautiful to not sit outside and take in the life of Bay View. It had been almost two years since I had last been in the area and all three of us agreed to get there again sometime this year and enjoy a few of the beer bars.

We ordered some yummy sandwiches; mine in particular was the pressed special made with cappicola ham, creamy brie, basil leaves and olive tapenade. I decided to go all out and get chips and slaw on the side. The sandwich was amazing and I now want to make my own olive tapenade spread for crostinis! (Packer party treat) The chips with the bleu cheese dip were great (Tory even ordered some to go). The Asian-inspired slaw seemed to be missing something, maybe the ginger bite, as it was a little bland.
pressed special at Cafe LuLu
Shauna and Tory both loved their sandwiches as we were all members of the clean plate club. After lunch, we headed back into downtown, dropped Shauna off at her boyfriend's place and headed to check into the hotel.

Unfortunately they do not have a parking lot at Aloft, so it was $15 to self-park at Molly Cool's or $23 to valet. I chose self park and ended up at The Loaded Slate, which was maybe a half block away. We got up to our room and checked it out. I have never stayed in a place so new and upscale before - swanky was the word I kept using. The flat screen and King size bed were calling my name but we had to get ready for Irish Fest.

Aloft King Size room layout
love bowl sinks
Our view of Sidney Hih being torn down
About two hours later, we headed out in search of cheap parking for Irish Fest. I was misguided by a sign once that lead to no parking, and then the car in front of me got the last spot in another lot. So I conceded and paid $15 to park by Riverfront Grill. We headed into the south gate of Summerfest grounds and met up with my friend Ellie. Her family was there to listen to and support Dublin O'Shea. Her brother-in-law is in the band. We stayed for a short bit and then headed off in search of beverage or food.

Beer and wine had to be bought with tickets but food and soda was cash. It was a little bit of a hassle to have to buy tickets but I think it helped cut back on people getting too carried away at the bars.

After we got ourselves some beers (Miller Lite's - sorry we are all on budgets), Shauna got herself a Reuben Pizza from Johnny V's. I'm not a huge Reuben fan but it looked great and she loved it. It was more like a flat bread with the cheese, kraut, corned beef and sauce on it.

We didn't stay too late at Irish Fest as the rest of us were in need of food and Shauna was running the Vihba 10k the next morning. We dropped my car off at the hotel, dropped Shauna off and Ellie, Tory and I headed to Wolski's. Tory and I have never been to Wolski's and going at 9:30 pm does not constitute "closing Wolski's" so we will have to go back, but the bar is cute. The wall artwork in an interesting combination of flags, old pictures of the bar and people holding "I Closed Wolski's" stickers and random maps. The bar wasn't very busy and we were getting hungry, so we finished our rounds and headed off to find food. (Sorry for no pictures.)

We decided to check out Stubby's as none of us had been there. We walked in and immediately I sensed the sports bar vibe, but it was also nice to see natural wood and nice pictures on the wall. The bar is in the round and we chose to sit at one end. We were given large drink and food menus and a few minutes to decided.

A few minutes turned into about ten, and by then we were ready to order and eat. Unfortunately, the bartender could only manage to take our drink orders for some reason. She got the drinks and then walked away. This happened for the rest of the meal (the walking away part). Another bartender came over and took our food order and got our tab going. The female bartender seemed to be preoccupied or overly busy working on, well, we aren't quite sure because it wasn't very busy, while the other bartender seemed very relaxed and chill and able to help us. We stuffed ourselves with chicken sandwiches, burgers and pulled pork, and Tory's deviled egg appetizer, that was really good. All of our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we all took food home with us.

Ellie dropped us off at the hotel and I was very happy to get into that bed after our long day. The hallways of the hotel are a little echo-y and with the number of wedding parties we saw there that night, the hotel was a little loud until after 2 am.
Shower with natural light through a frosted glass wall - Aloft Hotel

I slept soundly until 7:30 and I think my body was just telling me I should get up. So I did. I took a nice shower and got myself ready for the day. I checked out at 9 am with an extremely courteous staff member. She made me feel appreciated which is a excellent touch. If the hotel wasn't so pricey, I would definitely consider staying there more often. It's definitely a hotel for someone my age to stay at.

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