Topnotch Twelve

Trust names annual Dozen Distinctive Destinations

By Salvatore Deluca

Milwaukee,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Credit: Carol Highsmith

For the past six years, when the Trust named its annual Dozen Distinctive Destinations as a way of promoting tourism to unique communities, the list invariably included a collection of towns and smallish cities. On the 2006 list, announced in March, places like Philipsburg, Mont., with 900 inhabitants, and West Chester, Pa., with 18,000, were typical. However, this year’s roster set a precedent by including Milwaukee—population nearly 600,000—among the honorees. "The jury has traditionally leaned toward smaller destinations," says Jeannie McPherson, a Trust spokeswoman. "This year, however, it felt that Milwaukee fit the criteria and had so much to offer that it should be listed."

Winning destinations demonstrate well-managed growth, a commitment to historic preservation, and exceptional architecture as well as cultural diversity, activities for families with children, and a sizeable base of locally owned small businesses. "We offer these destinations as a truly authentic slice of America, as non-Disney-like places to vacation," McPherson says.

Milwaukee is celebrated for its beer history, of course. Visitors can drop by the Miller Brewery, to tour the caves where Frederick J. Miller made beer in 1855, and the 1892 Pabst Mansion, built for the maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and renowned for its elegant furniture, intricate ironwork, and art collection. But the city on Lake Michigan also offers the Milwaukee Art Museum, the county zoo, and the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, which houses a tropical rainforest and a desert beneath its signature beehive glass domes. And historic neighborhoods like the Third Ward, Old World Third Street, Brady Street, Walkers Point, and Lincoln Village show the best of urban rebirth, luring travelers with many places to eat, shop, and stroll. Says David Fantle, a city visitors bureau spokesman: "There are very few cities that are committed to blending the old with the new like Milwaukee is."  

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