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Milwaukee Attractions: Calatrava and the Art Museum, and Harleys and the Harley Davidson Museum

Milwaukee has long been known for America's own motorcycles, the legendary Harley-Davidson, but the city's reputation has expanded into the arts with the stop-you-in-your-tracks architecture of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

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Milwaukee Art Museum

Starting with the eye-popping design of Santiago Calatrava, and continuing inside to jaw-dropping spaces, I happily explored the thoughtfully designed building, created to highlight views, sculptures, and a unique visual experience. Oh, yes, it had some great art as well. I'm partial to sculpture and the space created by Calatrava is perfect for the display of some of MAM's art, but also included nooks for quiet contemplation of the gorgeous view of the lake.

For a visual thrill, come at 10am, noon, or at closing time to see the huge wings -- Burke Brise Soleil -- furl and unfurl over the 90-foot high glass-walled reception hall.

The Milwaukee Art Museum prides itself on the breadth of its collection which includes 19th- and 20th-century American and European works, German Expressionist, contemporary art, American decorative arts, excellent American and European folk art and an intriguing Haitian art collection. There was even a piece by one of my favorite artists -- Duane Hanson.

Fans of Georgia O'Keefe will want to see its Georgia O'Keefe collection, one of the largest in the world. Although associated with New Mexico where she painted so many of her well-recognized scenes, she was actually a Milwaukee native.

And do bring the kids. The Kohl's Education Center is a delight for children and their parents, with lots of hands-on art making.

Harley Davidson Museum

The world's only Harley-Davidson Museum dominants 20 acres of land along the Menomonee River. There's a whole lot to see here, from historic displays, a procession of H-D motorcycles past to present, a recreation of a 1920s board track, as well as limited time exhibits. And, for those wanting a photo-op The Experience Gallery, provides plenty of Harleys to sit astride and have someone snap your photo -- ready to ride.

Some personal highlights: I loved the tank wall - a whole wall filled with tanks as art. Stunning. There's a chronological procession of more than 450 legendary Harley-Davidson motorcycles including such famous bikes as the 1956 model Elvis Presley purchased just days before he became famous with the single "Heartbreak Hotel," a 13-foot long motorcycle with two engines known as the "King Kong," and the famous Serial Number One -- dating back to 1903, this is the oldest bike in the Harley-Davidson collection. Human interest abides in The Celebration Wall filled with photos of people and their Harleys. From one end to the other, this is a fun exploration.

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: June 26th, 2013

Updated: August 7, 2016

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