A dramatic renaissance is taking place in West Allis, once viewed as a blue-collar town and now a destination for young professionals, young families and business owners. A supportive city development effort has resulted in vibrant new retail and restaurant clusters throughout the city, providing both jobs and entertainment opportunities for local residents and nearby communities.
West Allis is a historic city and one of Milwaukee’s largest suburbs with a population of more than 60,000. The City was founded in 1835 as Honey Creek by three adventurous pioneers from New York who discovered forests full of game, freshwater springs and the creek that gave the town its name. Farming and lumber were its first businesses, and by 1891, the town – renamed North Greenfield – was selected as the permanent site for the Wisconsin State Fair.
Streetcar lines built for the fair could also deliver a workforce, so several companies expanded there, including the Edward P. Allis Company (later known as Allis-Chalmers). The town was organized and named West Allis in 1902. In 1954, the City doubled its size by annexing the western portion of the current city. Today, the majority of land in the city is residential. West Allis residents enjoy a low crime rate, award-winning schools and affordable homes in a convenient location that’s a short drive to just about anywhere in metro Milwaukee.
Homes and Neighborhoods
West Allis has a diverse housing stock, ranging from historic homes and duplexes on the east side to newer homes with larger lots on the west side. You’ll even find homes built from Sears & Roebuck kits or inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style. West Allis has a higher percentage of households where an individual is living alone than many of its peer cities, but that’s because almost one out of every three residents in West Allis is between the ages of 20 and 39.
New building in the city has been occurring in mixed-use developments that integrate a variety of housing with access to shopping, services and transit. West Allis has a “Comprehensive Plan 2030,” a long-term plan that calls for the City to preserve the quality of existing neighborhoods; support the development of quality, life-cycle housing; encourage energy efficient and sustainable housing initiatives; and increase the percentage of owner-occupied houses throughout the City. The government’s commitment to the “complete streets” concept means that there will continue to be upgrades in pedestrian and bicycle paths and better landscaping to ensure safe, attractive and walkable neighborhoods.
The city has been divided into more than two-dozen neighborhood districts, several of which already have active neighborhood association boards. Two of the neighborhoods—Juneau Highlands and Kopperud Park—are on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Shopping and Dining
Shopping in West Allis ranges from large national retailers on Highway 100 and other busy thoroughfares to boutiques and specialty stores in the downtown district along Greenfield Avenue. Watch for these up-and-coming hotspots that the city has targeted for continued redevelopment:
- Milwaukee Mile
- 84th and Greenfield
- Six Points (66th and National)
- 68th & National (former Kearney & Trecker)
- 100 Corridor (at W. Rogers St)
West Allis is home to many of the Milwaukee area’s most popular and cherished restaurants. For fish fries or German favorites in an authentic, old-style beer hall, Kegel’s Inn is the place to go. Crawdaddy’s Restaurant features Cajun specialties and the casual atmosphere of New Orleans. For the taste of Mexico, Latin America and Spain, a visit to Antigua is a must. And Mama Mia’s on Greenfield is one of the area’s most beloved spots for pasta, pizza and garlic bread. Capri di Nuovo and Caterina’s Ristorante have been serving authentic homemade Italian recipes for decades. Singha Thai Restaurant offers delicious Thai food in a casual, unassuming atmosphere.
Other additions to the West Allis dining scene include Al Pastor, which serves Mexican food made from family recipes; bAR wEST, a casual bar and grill; Camino West Allis, a craft beer bar and eatery; Chef Paz, which offers award-winning Peruvian cuisine; Mis Sueños Mexican/American cuisine and Double B’s Milwaukee-style barbecue. Public Table features locally sourced food and craft beers, Wild Roots MKE offers “seed to table” traditional and modern cuisine, and Urban Joe Café offers sandwiches made with sustainably harvested, fair trade products. West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shop is a popular destination for artisan cheeses and meats, as well as delicious breakfast and sandwich items.
You won’t want to skip dessert when you can choose from Aggie’s Bakery & Cake Shop, Carrie’s Crispies, Freese’s Candy, a West Allis tradition since 1928. And for a nightcap, consider cocktails and more at Station No. 06, craft beers at Westallion Brewing Company or fine wines from Corvina Wine Company.
Points of Interest and Recreation
West Allis’ most famous real estate is the Wisconsin State Fair Park, home to the huge festival dedicated to music, agriculture, and Wisconsin products and people each August. It’s also busy year-round with horse shows, dog shows, craft fairs, vehicle shows, a winter farmers market, Greek Fest, and the Home & Garden Show. Check out the schedule at wistatefair.com.
State Fair Park is also home to the Milwaukee Mile, the oldest continuously operating motor speedway in the world, hosting auto races every year since 1903. The 1.032-mile oval has hosted events sponsored by USAC, NASCAR, CART/Champ Car World Series and the IndyCar Series. The infield was even home to the Green Bay Packers from 1934 through 1953. Adjacent to State Fair Park is the Pettit National Ice Center, a U.S. Olympic speed skating facility. Both the oval and two full-size rinks are available for open skating, hockey games and skating lessons.
A summertime staple since 1919, the West Allis Farmers Market is one of the largest open-air markets in Wisconsin. Located at 65th and National Avenue, it operates from the first Saturday in May through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, from 1 to 6 p.m. It’s also open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m. The late start allows farmers to pick produce in the morning for the freshest wares. A flea market is held at the Farmers Market location on Sundays.
Another summer favorite, Cool Waters Family Aquatic Park, is operated by the Milwaukee County Parks system in West Allis’ Greenfield Park. West Allis is also home to several parks, a Milwaukee County golf course and the Honey Creek Parkway. Kids of all ages love IncrediRoll Skate for old-time roller-skating and National Skatepark for skateboarding fun.
Historic buildings in West Allis include the West Allis Log Schoolhouse, a recreation of the first log schoolhouse built in 1843 on the grounds of West Allis Historical Society at 84th and National, and Mitchell Manor, the ancestral home of General Billy Mitchell.
Schools, Health, Transportation
The West Allis/West Milwaukee School District educates more than 8,000 children in 11 elementary schools, three intermediate schools, two high schools, a charter school and an alternative school. In addition to its academic excellence, the district is proud of its fine arts and athletic programs, extracurricular activities and classroom technology.
West Allis is home to the well-respected Aurora West Allis Medical Center and Aurora Women’s Pavilion. It’s also a short drive to the many medical facilities on the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa.
Most of the main arteries in West Allis offer bus service through the Milwaukee County Transit System. For drivers, the city’s central location means it’s a short ride downtown, to the lakefront, to the airport and other important destinations in every direction.
With all of the exciting changes going on in West Allis, it’s easy to see why their slogan is That’s Why West Allis.