Milwaukee is like Philadelphia with some of the rough edges sanded down — a manageably sized city populated by fun-loving locals, with a dollop of Midwestern wholesomeness stirred in for good measure. But Milwaukee isn't lacking excitement: The city has matured nicely since the days when breweries and manufacturing ruled, with smart riverfront development and a slate of things to do to quench most tastes.
Milwaukee is a collection of villages. A historic district packed with trendy shops and cafes on Brady Street is just a few miles south of Harambee, an up-and-coming African American neighborhood whose name means "let's all pull together" in Swahili.
Once the sun sets, older singles tend to steer away from the youthful exuberance of downtown for more, um, demographically friendly venues like Kiko's on West Bluemound Road, where live bands fuel the dancing on weekends, or one of the dozens of corner bars dotting Milwaukee's neighborhoods.
This metro area of 1.75 million covers four counties in southeastern Wisconsin. The center of Milwaukee (population 594,833) hugs Lake Michigan about 80 miles north of Chicago. As the local economy has been forced to relinquish its reliance on manufacturing, most job growth now occurs in services and health care.
Thanks to its excellent public schools and unusually large number of higher educational institutions, Milwaukee enjoys a well-educated labor force. The largest schools are the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (enrollment 30,000) and Marquette University (11,000). The city also has a large and well-funded public library system.
Milwaukee County's Grand Necklace of Parks, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, has grown to encompass 15,000 acres, linked in a chain by the 108-mile Oak Leaf Trail.
The extensive local and regional transit systems offer connections to Chicago and Minneapolis. The many miles of Lake Michigan coastline provide oodles of recreation opportunities.
Milwaukee's French and German heritage helps explain its tradition of supporting classical music. A Beethoven Society was founded even before the city was incorporated, and the local symphony maintains an active schedule. The city has a large theater district and multiple museums, including the striking wing-shaped Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Santiago Calatrava) and Harley-Davidson Museum.
The concentration of physicians and specialists is high, but so are rates of obesity and diabetes. But the people here are comfortable with themselves, and that makes it easy to find good conversation and dance partners.