Doors Open Milwaukee offers access to city's hidden gems

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Doors Open Milwaukee offers access to city's hidden gems

By Jesse Ritka. CREATED Sep 18, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep 18, 2013

MILWAUKEE – It’s only been going on for two years, but Doors Open Milwaukee is almost as famous as our summer festivals.  Historic Milwaukee unlocks the doors of popular buildings and hidden gems in the city to give you special access to places that are normally off-limits to the public.

But there is a special ‘Passport Program’ geared toward parents and children.  “A lot of Christmas toys here,” William Skonieczny tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka, pointing out all the fire trucks and old fire equipment at the Milwaukee Fire Museum.

It feels a bit like a holiday with more than 100 buildings to explore during Historic Milwaukee’s third Doors Open event this weekend.  Doors Open Milwaukee Program Manager Amy Grau says they’ve spread out even further this year, "There's 134, there's no way you'll ever get to all of them but you can get to a lot."

To help narrow it down for parents, Doors Open has passports for kids under 18 to pick up at 24 kid-friendly locations.  The passports are free for kids and families but extra adult passports cost one dollar.

The two dozen passport locations all have exciting and interactive fun for the family, at the Fire Museum kids can pull a working fire alarm box and even touch the fire engines.   “Kids especially love it, they love climbing on it, for some reason they are really attached to the fire trucks,” Warren Skonieczny explains, saying that retired firemen will be there to give tours and tell captivating stories.

Another stop on the passport program that many little girls might like is the Jodi Peck Center, home of the Milwaukee Ballet.  Dancers now occupy the space that was formerly the Schlitz Beer Garden.  Visitors can step foot in the studios and get an up close look at where costumes are made and stored for the Milwaukee Ballet season.

Velia Alvarez says stepping into the costume room gives visitors a glimpse into the magic, “People don’t realize all of the work and behind the scenes and that’s why we’re so eager to invite people to get a glimpse of that because really there’s so much more to it than you might see on stage.”

You can explore iconic buildings like the Art Museum; check out a meteorologist's favorite: The Gas Light Building and visit Northwest Mutual's atrium.  The Milwaukee Public Museum is showing two free planetarium shows daily as well.

A popular site for the last two years is the BMO Harris Bradley Center where kids (and adults) can even climb up to sit on the Zamboni.  "A kid favorite and we're also lowering down the scoreboard and getting people to take photos and we'll put their photo on the scoreboard so they know they're going to be on the jumbotron," BMO Harris Bradley Center Marketing Manager Kim Nguyen explains.  But don’t leave the Bradley Center so fast, you get behind the scenes access to the Bucks locker room and other closed doors like backstage dressing rooms where stars get ready before concerts.

Possibly the most popular spot is the US Bank building Observation Deck, Grau states, “You're never going to be able to go up to the observation deck, that's almost a once in a year thing for Doors Open."

You have to take a special freight elevator to get access to the 41st floor but the view may be worth the wait.

Some “doors” may need an advance ticket and not all locations are open all weekend long, check the Doors Open website carefully as you plan your route this weekend.

Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka joined TODAY’S TMJ4 and Storm Team 4 in February 2011 as the “Live at Daybreak” weekend meteorologist. Growing up in Prior Lake, Minnesota, Jesse has always been fascinated by storms.