Wauwatosa remains one of the hottest real estate markets in southeastern Wisconsin, with an eclectic mix of gracious older homes and outstanding resale values. “Tosa” features walkable neighborhoods and unspoiled green spaces – yet it’s just minutes away from downtown Milwaukee’s corporate headquarters and cultural attractions.
With roots dating back to 1835, Wauwatosa is named for the Potawatomi Indian word for firefly. Now a bustling community of nearly 50,000 residents, Wauwatosa is still home to the fireflies it’s named for, which light up the landscape on summer evenings. It’s truly a place where you can “glow boldly.”
Homes and Neighborhoods
Known as the “city of homes” and named a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation, Wauwatosa offers lovely, tree-lined neighborhoods with charming homes. Architectural styles range from turn-of-the-century Victorians, Craftsman bungalows, elegant Colonials and stately Tudors to mid-century ranch-style homes.
Wauwatosa is also home to one of the first planned communities in the United States. The Washington Highlands was designed in 1916 by renowned city planners Werner Hegemann and Elbert Peets, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. It features homes in a wide variety of sizes and styles on curving streets that follow the natural features of the former hops and horse farm owned by the legendary brewer Federick Pabst.
Since 1994, the rest of the city has been divided into neighborhood associations according to geographic location. These associations offer wonderful opportunities to get to know your neighbors through clubs, activities and special events. In addition to the Highlands, numerous neighborhoods are an easy walk to shops, restaurants and parks: Tosa East Towne, Pabst Park, Inglewood, Olde Hillcrest, Tosa Village, Quarry Heights, Historic Heights, Lowell Damon Woods, Pasadena and Charles Jacobus Park. All of these associations offer lovely homes dating from the 1920s and beyond.
Parkway Estates, Swan Park, Greenwood Estates, Sheraton Lawns, Currie Park Estates, Park Ridge and Lovers Lane Estates are all within walking distance of Menomonee River Parkway, one of Milwaukee’s most desirable green belt areas for recreation and getting back to nature. If a ranch or cottage-style home is more your style, you’ll find plenty in Jennings Park and Ravenswood, on Tosa’s south side, or in the suburban west side neighborhoods of Mayfair Park and Fisher Woods.
Shopping and Dining
Wauwatosa boasts five major commercial areas: The Village, East Tosa, Midtown, Mayfair Road and The Mayfair Collection.
The downtown “Village” offers pedestrian-friendly shopping and seasonal outdoor dining that’s reminiscent of a European village. Classic buildings have been renovated to accommodate boutiques, galleries and restaurants. You’ll find clothing and accessories at Salamander and The Flannel Fox, gift items at Flower Lady and Mooi, and unique items for the home at Studio Ric Rak and Swan Interiors.
The Village offers organic and locally grown produce and casual dining at its popular Farmers Market, held each Saturday morning from the end of May through the middle of October. Try yoga there or at one of the studios nearby, but don’t forget to treat yourself afterwards at Black Twig Bakery, Niemann’s Candies or one of several coffee shops.
Dining options in the Village include Le Rêve, an authentic French bistro; Café Hollander, a Benelux café; Buckatabon, a north woods-inspired supper club; and fine continental dining at Ristorante Bartolotta. Family-friendly favorites include Hector’s A Mexican Restaurant, Noodles, Pizzeria Piccola and two poke restaurants.
After hours, gather with friends for wine at The Ruby Tap, grab a beer at Draft and Vessel or enjoy a craft cocktail at Lucky Joe’s. Each September, the Village and Hart Park come alive with music and great food of all varieties as the entire city celebrates Tosafest.
North Avenue in East Tosa is a veritable United Nations of restaurants, including continental fare at Il Mito, fresh pasta at Ca’Lucchenzo, Hué Vietnamese Restaurant and Mexican fusion at Belair Cantina. Enjoy casual dining at Ono Kine Grindz, Cosmos Café and North Avenue Grill. People drive from miles around to grab donuts at Cranky Al’s, croissants at Rocket Baby Bakery and a movie on the comfy couches at Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse. Meet new friends and old for drinks at Wauwatiki, up-north-inspired Camp Bar, The Fermentorium and Stockhouse Brewing.
North Avenue is also home to the annual Chili’in on the Avenue, Milwaukee’s only nationally sanctioned CASI chili competition, and East Tosa Gran Prix, the final stop on the Tour of America’s Dairyland pro-am bike race. In 2019, artists from around the world gathered in East Town to create six giant murals as part of the North Avenue Mural Arts District, or “NoMAD.” You’ll want to walk from 65th to 69th Street to see them all.
Midtown is Tosa’s newest business district, with a vibrant retail area, health-related stores and services and fun restaurants. Running from Wauwatosa Avenue to the Menomonee River Parkway, Midtown includes hot spots such as Thai-namite, Midtown Grill and Ray’s Growler Gallery. Watch for more development in the next couple of years!
Mayfair Road provides easy access to major national retailers as well as the upscale Mayfair Mall. Anchored by Nordstrom and Macy’s, Mayfair offers 180 stores, including Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, plus 18 movie screens. Destination restaurants include The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s and Maggiano’s.
Mayfair Collection, on Burleigh Road west of Hwy. 100, is a live/work/play mixed-use development that features apartment living, hotels, regional eateries, and national retailers offering clothing, sporting goods, homegoods and groceries.
Points of Interest and Recreation
Wauwatosa is home to several interesting attractions, including the highly regarded Milwaukee County Zoo and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Just across the southern boundary you’ll find the Wisconsin State Fair Park and the Pettit National Ice Center, which is home to a 400-meter Olympic speedskating training track.
The city’s oldest home, the Lowell Damon House, was completed in 1847 and is a classic example of Colonial architecture. The Wauwatosa Historical Society owns and maintains the Kneeland-Walker House, a meticulously restored Queen Anne Victorian dating from 1875. The house, coach house and gardens are used for educational programs, artifact display, archival storage and neighborhood events. The first weekend of August, the Victorian gardens are home to the Firefly Art Fair, a juried art fair featuring nearly 100 artists. At the end of September, don’t miss Prosit Tosa Oktoberfest, a family-friendly celebration of German gemütlichkeit.
Schools, Health, Transportation
Wauwatosa’s public schools have about 7,200 students in 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools and the Wauwatosa Virtual Academy. Two charter options include Wauwatosa Montessori and Wauwatosa STEM.
In 2017, the Washington Post named both of Tosa’s high schools to its “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” list. The U.S. News and World Report has repeatedly recognized Wauwatosa East High School as one of the Top 25 High Schools in the state and the district routinely receives “Exceeded Expectations” on state Report Cards issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. In 2019, Wauwatosa West opened the $1.3 million Wauwatosa Center for Design and Innovation, which is designed to help students be creative, problem-solve, develop solutions, innovate ideas and collaborate, all in preparation for high-paying jobs in the trades.
Tosa’s very dynamic Recreation Department offers dozens of classes and organized teams for all ages, from swimming and gymnastics to cooking and foreign languages.
Milwaukee County’s Regional Medical Center is located in Wauwatosa. The complex includes the Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital, one of two level-one trauma centers in the state.
The City of Wauwatosa has easy freeway access as well as convenient public transportation to downtown Milwaukee. It is a short drive to the Mitchell Field International Airport.
Events & Locations
Wauwatosa is an active and vibrant community that offers events and spaces for year-round fun. Numerous parks and golf courses dot the city, including an extensive green belt that runs from Hart Park on the east through the Menomonee River Parkway to the Milwaukee County Grounds, where high-tech medical facilities are surrounded by a nature preserve and butterfly sanctuary. Hart Park offers miles of trails for biking and walking, tennis and volleyball courts, a football stadium, quarter-mile track and softball diamond. It’s also home to the Tosa Skatepark and Rotary Performance Pavilion, which hosts the Tosa Tonight summer concert series and various festivals. Other seasonal fun abounds at the TOSA Pool at Hoyt Park, which features a zero-depth entry for toddlers and seniors, a lap pool, slides and more. Next door is The Landing at Hoyt Park, a family-friendly beer garden that’s open from May through October.
When things quiet down in winter, don’t forget to take part in Tosa’s All-City Read, a community reading program presented by the Neighborhood Association Council and Tosa Library. The committee distributes free copies of the book in late summer and prepares a variety of events for all ages throughout the month of February.