Religion, Travel, Vacation Planning, Wisconsin

A Milwaukee Day Trip

Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill is located at 1525 Carmel Road in Hubertus, Wisconsin.

Last weekend, my parents were in town for a quick visit, and we decided to take them on a scenic day trip around the Milwaukee area. We started off at The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill, which is located just a few miles north of Milwaukee. I lived in Milwaukee for six years, but it wasn’t until moving out of the city that I discovered this gem. This was the first chance I’d ever had to take my parents to see it.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about being challenged to climb an endless supply of rickety stairs to breathtaking heights,) the scenic tower was closed for our visit. But, the view from the balcony in front of the main chapel is still amazing, even if you don’t make it up to the top of tower. 

You can see the steeple at Holy Hill from miles around, but you lose sight of it as you draw near. A scenic trip up a winding driveway reveals the awe-inspiring basilica at the top of the hill, where you may attend mass, visit the stations of the cross, or stop in at the cafe or gift shop. I’ve been to Holy Hill a few times now, but I never get tired of it. It’s beautiful any time of year, but you should especially check it out in fall when the surrounding woods are in their full color.

Peter Sciortino's Bakery on Milwaukee's East Side
Peter Sciortino’s Bakery is located at 1101 E. Brady Street, in Milwaukee, WI.

After leaving Holy Hill, we headed into the heart of Milwaukee to make a stop at Peter Sciortino’s Bakery on the east side. My partner grew up in this old neighborhood, located on Brady Street, and Sciortino’s Bakery always brings back childhood memories for him of picking up long rolls and ham for Sunday afternoon sandwiches. I’ve been hooked on those hard rolls myself since he first introduced me to them about a year ago and welcome any excuse to swing by Brady Street to get some. I wanted to also try some of their cookies this trip, but at almost $10 a pound, I decided they were a little too rich for my blood. Maybe after I sell my first book!

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Bayside Wisconsin Milwaukee
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is located at 1111 E. Brown Deer Rd. in Milwaukee, WI and includes 185-acres of untouched land along the shore of Lake Michigan.

From the east side, we drove north along Lake Michigan, past Milwaukee’s mansion-lined Lake Drive, and all the way up through Fox Point and into Bayside. My older son used to go to school in Fox Point, so we made a quick pass by his old school before heading out to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for a hike down to the lake.

There are plenty of Lake Michigan beaches in the Milwaukee area, but the beach at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is by far my favorite. It’s possibly the cleanest beach in all of Milwaukee and is far away from the hustle of downtown. Getting to the beach itself requires a bit of a hike, but I’m a hiker, so that’s part of the draw.

We dragged our 2 dozen hard rolls and deli meat from Sciortino’s Bakery down the hill trail with us, along with a blanket and various other picnic accoutrements I’d brought along for our lunch. We found a nice, shady spot right on the beach (pictured above, left) where we could spread our blanket and have a relaxed lunch before playing in the sun and sand.

Gulls at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Bayside Wisconsin Milwaukee
I had to warn my family not to feed to gulls to keep us from being attacked. Seriously, DO NOT feed the gulls!

My kids love to sort through the smooth rocks that line the shore, and apparently so does my mom. Between the three of them, they must have come home with several pockets full of rocks for their respective rock collections. (My youngest was later heard to exclaim from his bedroom, “Mom! I have 37 rocks!”) Some rocks, like one that appeared to hold part of a fossilized lizard head, were cool enough to keep, while others were flat enough to skip across the lake’s surface between waves.

Our beautiful, relaxing afternoon on the beach soon came to an end, and it was time to head back home. We attempted a side trip to Cabela’s on the way home, but some of us (who shall remain nameless) had reached our limit for the day. My parents and children were like kids in a candy store and could probably have spent several hours in that place, but some of us in the middle generation just don’t seem to have that same energy. Maybe next time!

Have you ever visited Milwaukee? What are your favorite attractions? Please comment below.

~Mandy Webster

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