Egypt, Switzerland, Peru … Milwaukee? 🤔

Our Wisconsin neighbor was mentioned in National Geographic's "25 breathtaking places and experiences for 2023" travel story.
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Waves from the Aegean Sea crash against the rocky shoreline of the Greek island of Karpathos in the aerial shot that leads National Geographic’s “25 breathtaking places and experiences for 2023” story that was published on Oct. 26.

Farther down on the magazine’s annual list is a picture of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where water meets land lined with rows of sun-bathed grapevines from the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyard.

The Peruvian Andes is also mentioned, where Inca temples zigzag the mountainside. Zebras wade through the rippling waters of Okavango Delta in Botswana, also on the list.

Then right after a mention of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece, where women are leading a sustainable tourism charge, the next breathtaking place on National Geographic’s list is …

… Milwaukee?

“Spend a long weekend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a vibrant Great Lakes city that celebrates its cultural community as much as its breweries,” reads the one-line mention of our Wisconsin neighbor.

“It’s sort of mind-boggling when you look at all of the different choices they made,” says Carole Nicksin, publisher and editor-in-chief of Milwaukee Magazine. “We’re in there with these international travel and tourist destinations. I don’t think we think of ourselves that way. But I think it’s well deserved.”

Milwaukee is one of only five places in the United States on the list, which is reported by the publications “global editors” and framed by five categories: community, nature, culture, family and adventure. The other U.S. spots mentioned are Utah; San Fransisco, California; Charleston, South Carolina; and Big Bend National Park in Texas. Milwaukee falls in the “community” category alongside Dodecanese Islands, Greece; Alberta, Canada; Laos; and Ghana.

The 25 spots are touted as “under the radar, ahead of the curve and ready for you to start exploring.”

Nicksin moved to Milwaukee from New York City six years ago, and she says she fell in love with the Midwestern city the minute she landed, even though it was February at the time. “We’re on Lake Michigan, we’ve got beautiful architecture, beautiful parks and then we have wonderful people and amazing things happening in the city. We’ve got a lot to offer,” she says.

Nicksin also notes that she thinks the time is right for medium-sized cities to shine. “They’re so much more sophisticated than they were 20 years ago, ” she says. “And they have so much to offer while they don’t have some of the things that make living in a big city very difficult.” They’re less overcrowded, the traffic isn’t as bad, the prices are more reasonable and the internet keeps us connected to the cultural hubs of larger cities.

“I think that a city with as much physical beauty, architectural beauty and as vibrant a culture scene as Milwaukee is just really well poised for now and the future,” Nicksin says. “I think we’re a city for the 21st century.”

It’s certainly the closest of the destinations on the international travel story list from us here in Madison, so a day trip to Milwaukee might be in order.

Nicksin — and National Geographic — would agree.

Andrea Behling is the editor of Madison Magazine.

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