“The way Chicago views Milwaukee can best be compared to how we as a nation view Canada. It’s extremely cold way, way up there. The people, who are refreshingly friendly, talk funny and smile too much. It’s basically the miniature version of us, right?” – from 48 Hours in Milwaukee.
Chicago is an amazing city, but shopping is more enjoyable and affordable in Milwaukee. Not easy to admit but it’s true – irrefutably. Consider the evidence.
First, our parking meter system here is ridiculous. No institution embodies the “time is money” mantra better than this hangover from the Daley administration. It’s nearly impossible to find a spot. If you do, it’ll cost you an arm and three legs to fill it. The sour cherry on top is a sales tax that come January will be the highest in the nation at 10.25%.
On the other hand, Milwaukee’s got spacious parking lots and a sales tax that beats ours by almost half. Oh, and they’ve been secretly making friends with a few big names (hello, J. Crew Mercantile) to provide an exclusive shopping experience for budget conscious style hunters.
I was graciously invited back to my hometown by Visit Milwaukee. Instead of music and museums, the mission this time was but one – shop. Challenge accepted.
Where to shop in Milwaukee: An Ultimate Guide
I recommend beginning your day in Wauwatosa, a town that resembles what would happen if all the hipsters in Wicker Park got real jobs and started families. This is a good thing, by the way.
Fuel up for your workout (shopping is cardio, right?) at Blue’s Egg, where it is always brunch-time. We arrived Monday morning and the place was packed with a rapidly growing line threatening its way out of the door. It’s easy to understand why; a modern American menu featuring fresh bakery, mouthwatering dishes, all served beautifully and Instagram ready. Tip: Try the Very Stuffed Browns and Monkey Bread. Amazing! (Blue’s Egg, 317 N 76h, Milwaukee, WI 53213)
Support small businesses by shopping the vintage stores and boutiques of Wauwatosa. A quaint village of cobblestone streets and scenic pathways provides the backdrop for one-of-a-kind artisan goods and contemporary wears. Tip: Visit Luci Boutique for modern dresses, accessories and friendly customer service. (Luci Boutique, 706 N. Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202)
Mayfair Mall is where you’ll start becoming BFFs with Milwaukee’s low sales tax. The difference is noticeable when compared to the same items (and same ticket prices) back home. For a choice group of discount stores like Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth, and soon J. Crew Mercantile drive a short distance from the mall to The Mayfair Collection. Tip: If you can hold out, come to Milwaukee for your big department store and chain store buys. Because of the low tax, you’ll feel like everything’s on sale even if it isn’t. (Mayfair Mall, 2500 N Mayfair Rd, Wauwatosa, WI 53226; Mayfair Collection, 11500 W Burleigh St, Wauwatosa, WI 53222)
Finish the day in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, a personal favorite. Here you’ve got Anthropologie, West Elm, plus privately owned chic boutiques like Lizzibeth, and Lela. Have lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market and decompress when it’s all over at Neroli Spa. Tip: Try the African Peanut Soup at The Soup & Stock Market located in the Milwaukee Public Market. It’s life changing! (Lela Boutique, 321 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202; Lizzibeth, 550 E. Menomonee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202; Neroli Salon & Spa, 327 E. St Paul Ave, Milwaukee WI 53202)
Try to fit in …
Lunch at Pizza Man. For details on their imaginative dishes, included pizza decorated with dollops of cream cheese, check out our first review of Milwaukee here. (Multiple locations including one new location at The Mayfair Collection)
Dinner at Le Reve Patissereie & Café. Fine French food in Wauwatosa? It’s happening. Try their french onion soup and chocolate mousse. (7610 Harwood Avenue, Wauwatosa, WI 53213)
Chocolate and wine at The Ruby Tap. Self-service wine machines are the future. Grab some friends, a vending card, and sample from their wide selection of vino. Pair with amazing chocolates, cheeses, and charcuterie. (1341 N. Wauwatosa Ave, Wauwatosa, WI 53213)
Bacon and scotch at The Rumpus Room. Regionally sourced ingredients and a dedication to culinary technique make their entire menu worth tasting. The bacon, though, is worth devouring. (1030 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202)
All photos are taken by Kari of Chicagoings.com unless otherwise noted. Be sure to contact each company before your visit for current information and prices. A big thanks to Visit Milwaukee for facilitating accommodations, meals, and excursions. All opinions expressed here are those of Kari Herrera and are not indicative of those held by Visit Milwaukee or any other entity.