Bradford beach is place to be

Beach's renaissance is good for city

People Watching


Milwaukee lives at Bradford Beach in Summer

By Kevin Meagher


The more I find myself going to Bradford Beach this summer, the more I realize the hidden glory of Milwaukee. For so many months out of the year there is a vital part of Milwaukee buried under mounds of snow.


Only when the spring begins, does Milwaukee truly start to awaken from its winter slumber as a new born wrecking force of fun.


There is something about the beginning of warm weather that gives a needed shot of adrenaline to our city which is lacking 5 months out of the year; case in point Bradford Beach.


Bradford Beach is without a doubt the place to be for young people during Milwaukee summers. It’s a spontaneous gathering unlike any other in the city.


Sure there is a huge variety of music and other festivals alike during Milwaukee’s summer months, but none are quite as casual and free spirited as a sunny weekend day at Bradford Beach.


Occasionally there are planned events at the beach, but the real fun lies in a spontaneous gathering in which no one is very pressed to do anything. The level of relaxation has a way of demolishing any thoughts of stress and the world outside the beach.


You will almost always find a large crowd on a sunny day at Bradford and that is part of the fun. I’m typically not a fan of large drunken Milwaukee crowds especially in hot weather and close proximity, but something about Bradford diminishes any discomfort.


Most people at Bradford appear more intoxicated off the sun than alcohol. There is much less pushy belligerence than an average night at Summerfest or any crowded bar for that matter, because seriously, who could be angry at the beach?


Despite the volley ball players and other beach competitors the psyche of a sloth is the best comparison to the mood of Bradford. Some might consider that type of laziness a sin, but I would argue that it’s pure bliss.


The new additions to the beach have only made it that much more appealing. I was born on the east-side of Milwaukee and raised near by, and never before has Bradford seemed so foreign to me. I mean that in the best possible way.


While Milwaukee has its perks, it really isn’t a hot bed for exotic excess. I do love the blue-collar, Harley-Davidson culture of Milwaukee, but being raised here I can only bear so much.


The new cabana inspired setting, with tiki-bar, umbrellas, and lounge chairs brings an entirely new feel to the beach. In a few words, it feels more like Miami than Milwaukee. The beach in itself is a vacation.


While this transformation has been in the process for years now, it seems Bradford has finally realized its goal of becoming a small portion of paradise in a very unlikely locale.


Also, considering the lineup of reggae dominating bands scheduled to play at the beach, it’s fair to say Bradford is a full on party of the most laid back kind.


In the past I remember Bradford being somewhat more family oriented. Not to say that families are no longer welcome, but the beach has clearly changed in demographic.


The overwhelming population has most likely migrated from the nearby UWM campus. This of course makes for a dominating group of outgoing, tan, twenty-something’s with little clothing and lots of beer.


Understandably this could intimidate anyone not fitting the mold, but that really isn’t the nature of Bradford. It is a welcoming community before anything else. The sun and easy-going atmosphere makes it nearly impossible to exercise unnecessary modesty.


Also, should Milwaukeeans at any point feel un-easy about Bradford because of some of the negative attention it has received in the past, they should take the step and visit the beach for themselves. With the presence of Milwaukee police on patrol and numerous lifeguards it’s hard to feel in any danger.


Avoiding the Bradford experience because of a few bad apples would be a waste of one of Milwaukee’s best resources.


In the end, I think you have to give some of the credit for Bradford’s success to our horrendous Wisconsin winters.


That boost of life that reveals itself at the beginning of every spring is no accident. Ask any Wisconsinite why summer is so valued in this state and they will tell you it’s because the winters are so cruel.


It would be difficult to think any Floridian or Californian could understand the importance of a Wisconsin summer. Only us northerners can really grasp the concept of a truly unforgiving winter and that makes our summers all the more kind.


If Bradford beach isn’t the best example of this concept in Milwaukee, I don’t know what is. Bradford Beach is summer in Milwaukee.


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