Doors Open Milwaukee to return in-person this year

Public can tour Bradley Symphony Center for first time since opening

The balcony of the symphony center’s 1,650-seat Allen-Bradley Hall. (Photo credit: Scott Paulus)

People will again be able to meander through downtown Milwaukee’s historic buildings and landmarks this fall with the in-person return of Doors Open Milwaukee.

Organizer Historic Milwaukee Inc. announced Thursday that the popular annual event is set for Sept. 25 and 26. Doors Open allows the public to explore dozens of the city’s prominent venues and spaces that otherwise aren’t publicly accessible.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s event was held virtually, with about 80 sites available to tour through photos, videos and 360 virtual reality. Doors Open will again offer a virtual component this year, with on-demand tours and content available online from Sept. 25 through Oct. 3.

In-person tour sites will include the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new Bradley Symphony Center, Milwaukee City Hall, Tripoli Shrine Center, and the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee. The full list will be announced on Aug. 16.

Historic Milwaukee began planning the event in March, when the future of in-person events was still somewhat uncertain. But confidence grew as other groups like Wisconsin State Fair announced a full return, said Grace Fuhr, events director at Historic Milwaukee. She noted that the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County is scheduled to take place the same weekend. 

Overall, the event is a scaled back version of what it had become in years prior to the pandemic — growing to almost 200 sites, drawing tens of thousands of visitors.

“That’s mostly because not all sites are ready to return in-person yet,” Fuhr said.

By late September, many downtown commercial buildings and office towers that typically make the list will have recently reopened to their workforce since the start of the pandemic, so public tours just won’t be feasible at that time, said Fuhr.

One of the most notable additions this year is the Bradley Symphony Center, which has been open since April to select MSO ticket holders for limited-capacity shows. Doors Open will mark the venue’s public debut.

“We’re really excited about this partnership … It’s the first free and open opportunity to go in the building, and they will have members of the orchestra performing throughout the day as well,” Fuhr said.

There will also be a scavenger hunt — in collaboration with local nonprofit Fund for Lake Michigan — for water-related landmarks throughout downtown Milwaukee.

Doors Open will adhere to current CDC and Milwaukee Health Department guidelines for COVID-19, but volunteers and attendees are asked to follow any additional health and safety measures at individual venues.

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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