By WMM Contributor: Melissa Feldmeyer
I am not a native Milwaukee-an. I didn’t even grow up in the Midwest! But living here since college- I have found my way around and have been lucky enough to live in a few different neighborhood in the Milwaukee area- each with their own wonderful identity. I started my adventure on the East Side- close to school (Go Panthers!) and the lake. I then ventured down to the Bay View area- just as it was getting popular with new local restaurants and stores springing up every other day.
When it came time to look to buy a house, we wanted to stay in Bay View. But as we toured the homes, everything we saw in our price range was either teeny tiny or needed so much work (and with a 9 month old- a house/construction zone wasn’t ideal).
We expanded our search into other communities in the Milwaukee area- ones I really didn’t know much about or had really had felt a reason to venture to. We started looking at homes is West Allis, because they had so many homes that checked off every mark on our list- and it was located between my husband’s work in Brookfield and mine closer to downtown Milwaukee. Soon we found a gorgeous cheery yellow bungalow that we fell in love with the moment we walked through the door and put an offer on the very next day.
To be honest- there were some people who gave us looks and opinions about this. Opinions that, when I asked more pressing questions to find out the reasons behind them, seemed to be based more in biases developed from growing up in the area more than actual experiences or facts. As someone who grew up in an often misunderstood city that I adored (I moved here from Reno, Nevada WHILE Reno 911 was still on the air…. come on!) I didn’t let that sway my feelings.
It has been almost exactly 5 years since we’ve made the move and not only do I feel like me made a great choice, we also made it at the perfect time. Since we’ve moved here it has been a city on the rise, with new restaurants and activities popping up all the time. Both residents and community leaders are putting in so much time and strategic effort into shaping West Allis into a community we want to both live and play in. And what can be better than that? As we’re heading into the summer, my absolute most favorite season to live here, I wanted to share with you some of the gems we enjoy here in West Allis and where you’ll be seeing us around! I ALMOST didn’t want to share, because I don’t want my favorite places to be too crowded- but I also want people to see what a family friendly place West Allis can be.
So Many Parks……
Cool Waters- Located in the huge Greenfield Park, right on the border of West Allis and New Berlin (which is home to more than one playground, a large pond, and a part of the Oak Leaf Trail) is one of the best places to stay cool in the hot summer. This water park features slides for all ages, included Milwaukee County’s tallest waterslide. Plus- they have evening swim hours from 6-8pm Monday through Thursday- perfect for us working moms!
Lafollette Park- The entire playground was replaced last year and is really fun and interactive- plus they have a wading pool for the younger ones! The best part about this park is that the Friends of Lafollette Park group puts on so many children’s events every year- including Easter egg hunts, pancake breakfasts, music in the park, and “drive in” movies. Follow the group on Facebook, which I linked above, to keep up to date on all the upcoming events!
McCarty Park- If you’ve ever been to a West Allis park, this is probably the one you’ve been to! With a large pond/lake you can fish in, a ton of ducks to feed, a toddler and older kids playground, a few baseball fields that almost always have a game going AND a pool there is always something to see and do here. Plus- lots of clear space to fly a kite or just let your kids run free! It is also a part of the Oak Leaf Trail- as are many parks through West Allis! Check out all of West Allis’ awesome bike paths here!
Events for Kids and Families Galore!
1-Fire Department Open House- This is an annual event- this year taking place Saturday June 15th. Your kid can do basically everything a firefighter does, except be around open flame. Try on gear, try the obstacle course, fire hose challenge.
2-Summer Jam Concert Series- Held at Veterans Memorial Park each week of this free concert series, put on by the City AND Peanut Butter Jelly Deli (more about them later), has a fun theme like Hawaiian or Polka and the West Allis Rec Department will be on hand to do activities with the kids. Each concert starts at 7pm and you eat before or enjoy food from the food trucks that will be in attendance! There is also a playground here in case your kid’s attentions aren’t long held on the music.
3-West Allis Farmers Market- This farmers market is turning 100 years old this year! In addition to an incredible vendor line up, there are 2 really unique features to this market over some of the others in the area. 1) It is partially covered- so if the rain rolls in, no worries- the show will go on and 2) They have more “farmer friendly” hours- open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-6pm (7pm the Thursday of each month). The location also hosts Food Truck Fridays throughout the summer, which will feature music and kids activities!
4-The BIG Latch On- Also taking place at the West Allis Farmers Market grounds- this event will take place Friday August 2nd from 9:30-11:30 am. While it’s not the best time of day for us working moms, it is a part of a global event where women gather to breastfeed and offer peer support to one another. Anyone who supports breastfeeding is welcome! There will be exhibits, prizes and refreshments. No Facebook event listed yet- but follow the West Allis Health Department for more information!
5-State Fair (obviously) - If there is one event that gets people to West Allis- it is the State Fair. Taking place August 1st-11th, there is something for everyone. We like to go in the first few days so we can see all of the animals (they tend to go home after their competitions) but there are activities and entertainment every single day! We’re big fans of the milk barn with their many flavors, giant slide, and Farm and Family building. Children 5 and under are free and adults are $14- but if you buy tickets before June 30th- only $8! The grounds and attached Milwaukee Mile Speedway are also used for so many other wonderful, and sometimes free events throughout the whole year that we like to attend- including the West Allis 4th of July fireworks and the Milwaukee KidsExpo!
Places to Eat
Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli- Something for the WHOLE family! Boasting as the world’s largest peanut butter and jelly shop- they have the original and standard for your family’s picky eater, plus some really cool spins on the classics like a peanut butter quesadilla and the “Crunch and Punch” featuring raspberry jalapeno jam. They also sell peanut butter and local jellies there- so you can take some home with you. One neat feature here- their building (which is hard to miss with its large space themed mural painted on the side) is available to rent for private events!
Grebe’s & Aggie’s Bakeries- If you need to stop for a sweet treat- both of these West Allis locations are sure to hit the spot and I love both for different reasons! Aggie’s has an amazing daily selection of pastries- including elephant ears, cinnamon buns, cannoli, and so much more. Plus they make delicious custom birthday and wedding cakes. It’s a cute store inside as well- everything you envision a bakery being!
I am a fan of Grebe’s because they also have a great selection of baked goods- but the best donuts and crullers and hot ham and rolls. Plus they open at 5am everyday- which has come in handy a few times when you need to grab an early morning breakfast after your kid wakes you up soooooo early and you know there’s no going back to sleep before you have to get up again. I especially love going there around sports events because they have themed decorated cookies- like the Brewer’s racing sausages or the Bucks that my kids go crazy for. Because they only this better than a sugar cookie is a sugar cookie with MORE sugar on top of it in the shape of something cute.
Chef Paz- I am the luckiest- because this is literally down the street from me. I can smell the food cooking from my backyard. Ceviche, empanada’s, paella, beef stew with cilantro sauce. Every single thing I’ve ever had there has been off the charts and very reasonably priced. If you brought this food to the heart of downtown Milwaukee- you’d be paying a lot more. Though their staple items might not appeal to all children they DO have a children’s menu and you can order to carry out- which I know sometimes we just need as a parent at certain ages where it is just too much to expect you kid to sit in a chair for an hour and a half, and that is much appreciated. You don’t have to sacrifice food quality for convenience here!
Public Table- Site of this week’s WMM meet up, this newer to West Allis restaurant serves delicious, affordable, locally sourced food along with a beer garden with music on selected Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. Bonus- for every meal they serve a donation is made to the Hunger Task Force to provide formula to moms and babies who need it.
Kegel’s Inn- All about the German food and the Friday Fish Fry (with the most incredible selection of fish options). They have your wursts and your stuffed pork chops, schnitzels and goulash. Plus- new this summer they have a section of street blocked off all summer long for a beer garden!
West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe- You may have visited their 2nd location in the Milwaukee Public Market, but fewer have ventured to where it all started. Not only can you choose from Simma’s French Toast, Nueske’s BLT, biscuits and gravy and potato pancakes, there is a shop attached where you can stock up on the very best in Wisconsin cheeses, beers and spirits and bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. The space is smaller so you want to get there early, which I know isn’t an issue for most of us parents, but they do have some outdoor seating in the summer and coming soon- a beer garden as well!
Wild Roots- One of the newest, and most eclectic West Allis restaurants with a seed to table concept- could really go in both the date night and brunch category- but their brunch offerings are just so particularly dreamy. Cinnamon French toast crunch, braised curry butternut squash eggs benedict, wild mushroom omelet with goat cheese. All the yums are here!
I could go on and on about the reasons I love living (and obviously eating) here. But I think you get the picture. The Milwaukee area really comes alive in the summer, and there is so much to do and experience-especially when you start exploring the offerings of attached cities and towns like West Allis. I hope something on my list of West Allis treasures will make YOUR “to-do” summer list and I’ll see you around the neighborhood!