Winter in Riverwest: Our Neighborhood is Alive

by Belle Bergner

As a recent transplant to Milwaukee, a self-described outdoor fanatic, and a not-so-frequent bar-goer, the thought of making recommendations about what to do in Riverwest in the winter is, well.. a little intimidating. But the truth is, there is a wide range of activities to keep us occupied during the cold, gray winter months — even the most staid of Riverwesters (if there are any out there). In search of assistance from more knowledgeable Riverwesters, I asked around to see what others like to do. Of the people that I asked, most said they don’t frequent the bars very much in the winter. Many said they like to read, rent movies, or just get together with friends during the cold winter months. Here are my suggestions for things to do this winter, largely biased by a strong affinity for being outside in any and all types of weather. Step one: Turn down the heat to save money and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. Step two: Put on your Mukluks, hat, mittens, and long underwear and get outside! Yes, I did say outside. Although most of the living world is in hibernation, we need to keep burning off those holiday cookies. Aside from fitness, there are a number of reasons to go for a walk around the neighborhood and especially to check out the Milwaukee River. See if you can spot a hibernating fish floating calmly near the river shore, hear the call of a Barred Owl at dusk (sounds like: “Who cooks for yoooouuuu…. who cooks for yoooooouuuu”), or the “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call of the Black-capped Chickadee. Look for the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Hint: it’s between Locust and Capitol, near the river on its west bank. Give your feet a break from asphalt and find some easier walking on the natural trails along the river. With the leaves fallen, you can see the abundance of land that is preserved for us to enjoy — a lot more than most urban dwellers have in other cities. Listen to the rapids and feel your worries evaporate as you let them drift downriver with the fallen leaves. Be a good community member and gather the trash along the way. Pick up the trail along the west bank of the river from the northwest side of the North Avenue bridge, southwest side of the Locust Street bridge at Gordon Park, or a few other spots on the blocks adjacent to the river, and follow the trail north all the way to Capitol or south to North Avenue. Come back the same way or meander through the neighborhoods and admire the steady progress our neighbors are making in beautifying their homes — and our neighborhood. Or hike down the Beerline Trail (still in progress) from the Holton Street bridge, through the new condos and townhouses on Commerce Street, up to Locust along the former railway 100 yards east of Humboldt Boulevard. On your way back home, rejuvenate your olfactory bulbs in Kellner’s Greenhouses (3258 N. Humboldt Blvd) with the abundance of potted life there. Owner Paul Mueller has enough species of cacti, tropical plants, and gorgeous geraniums to suit any mood. Buy a lily for springtime, a potted plant for your house, or get inspired for your spring planting! Sports your game? On Sundays, a pick-up soccer league plays at noon, rain-snow-or-shine, at Gordon Park. Or join the fledgling Riverwest Runners group and pound the pavement, trails, or grass for a few miles. The conversation and the company will help get you out the door even on those bitter cold days (for more info, e-mail ). Jessi Knop, a Fuel Cafe patron, suggests going bowling at the Polish Falcon on Wednesday nights or sledding at Reservoir Park, “as long as there is snow.” Emily Evans suggests buying ice cream and settling in with the movie “Thelma and Louise.” Want something other than a chick flick? Check out the new releases or old classics at Riverwest Film and Video, across from Garden Park. Warm up at any time with a cuppa joe and local culture at Bremen Cafe on Clarke and Bremen, Closet Classics Caffeine and Clothing on Weil and North, or Fuel Cafe on Center Street, followed by a trip downtown to the “Slice of Ice” Rink at Red Arrow Park, 920 Water St., across from the Marcus Center for Performing Arts. The newly restored, outdoor refrigerated rink is open from December through February — even when temperatures reach as high as 50 degrees. You can rent skates for $3.75. For more info, call 414/289-8791. Finally, rumor has it there is a hot tub club somewhere in Riverwest. I asked around but nobody would tell me either where it is or if it exists at all. I dare you to find it… and let me know if you do!