Wauwatosa is tucked just minutes from the big city of Milwaukee with many local hotspots! Wauwatosa is rich in history beginning in the 1830s, is home to the original framework of the old swimming hole, and holds prehistoric treasures. Today, Wauwatosa still holds trending treasures such as prized local shopping, to delicious dining with some Wisconsin flair!
Do you know how Wauwatosa got its name? It was actually in the 1830s when Native American tribes including Menominee and Potawatomi populated the area around the village. The head of these tribes was called Chief Wauwautaesie. Translated from the Ojibwe language, wau wau means slash, tae means fire, and sie means fly. When you put it together, it means firefly, the roots of Wauwautosa’s name.
Not only is the town name rich in Wisconsin’s native history, but the Landing at Hoyt Park is also quite historic as well. In 1926, local firefighters created a hole and filled it with water for swimming. In 1930, an initial pool was built! Both of these structures were the framework for the pool house that stands today.
Not long from the landing, there is a scenic walking trail to see Hoyt footbridge overlooking the Menominee River that both Potawatomi and Menominee tribes fished. Or, travel alongside the Menominee river by bike on the Menominee Parkway, a 3-mile-long trail that connects to Hartung Park, another historic destination.
Another park with a bit of history in Wauwatosa is Hartung Park which is home to prehistoric fossils! They are scientifically known as trilobites that have been identified as extinct marine arthropods that once lived in the low-energy, warm ocean, allowing them to be easily discovered. There are 20 different types of trilobite fossils found in the park! Just to add to the history, Hartung Park used cobblestone from Milwaukee streets to create a labyrinth, for photos and family fun!
If you’re looking to shop, indoors or locally, check out the Mayfair Collection, one of Milwaukee's premier shopping destinations. If you’re looking for indoor shopping, head over to the Mayfair Mall. Or, if you’re feeling like making a stop at a local shop, visit the village and stop at a few famous places!
To name a few, The Flannel Fox carries local items such as jewelry, leather, metal crafts, loungewear, and hand-crafted wooden trees to mirror the beauty of Wisconsin’s nature. At the bottom of each tree, the crafter notes what kinds of wood he used to create his works of art. The Flannel Fox is also proud to carry Jetty, a clothing brand devoted to using recyclable materials in their fabrics. They use materials such as oyster shells and recycled plastic bottles retrieved from the oceans.
Cream City Soap is another must-stop while shopping in the village! This shop started as just soap makers but added more products throughout the years such as candles and bubblers. Cream City Soap focuses on keeping things as natural as possible, such as using vegan soaps and essential oils to scent their products. In addition, they strive to use more natural packaging!
And, iconic to Wisconsin, be sure to check out The Village Cheese Shop! You won’t regret it! The Village Cheese Shop is a cut-to-order cheese and specialty wine shop that bends local and European products together for a delightful combination! It is a friendly, approachable atmosphere where you can enjoy nice wine and cheeses at any time. There are 80 kinds of cheese in the case with a variety of all styles. Many of the cheeses, wines, and products are from small producers that are shared, cherished, and passed on that will keep you coming back for more!
While you’re exploring the shops at The Village, admire some of the beautiful works of art and see the murals on the sides of the buildings all along North Avenue! A few noteworthy pieces are Eric Ricks’s, “Taste the Sweetness” on The Nobleman Barbershop, Christina Persika’s, “What Blooms is Us” on The Heartland Information Research Building, and Dan Leonard’s, “Roan the Raccoon” on Cranky Al’s building, featured in the full Discover Wisconsin episode, ‘Touring Tosa!’
Looking for some fine fresh cuisine? Stop by Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe famous for their desserts and excellent entrees! This restaurant was originally the first bank in Tosa and was one of the three buildings in the village that survived a huge fire over 100 years ago. They take pride in their desserts made with a french technique from scratch, made with real butter and real homegrown Wisconsin ingredients. For entrees, they cook local pheasants harvested from the state and some other famous menu highlights include a fondue sauce made from Gruyere cheese from Saxon Creamery.
If you have a sweet tooth for baked goods, Rocket Baby Bakery is a must-stop shop! Rocket Baby Bakery is known for its danishes, fresh croissants, and sourdough bread made from Wisconsin-grown flour. The sourdough bread is even made from scratch and baked fresh daily. They also freshly brew roasted anodyne coffee to compliment the sweet treat of your choosing!
Dreams of visiting Italy? Get prepared for transport and dine at Ca’Lucchenzo, a restaurant based on tradition with a piece of the home atmosphere known for their Italian cuisine! Since the opening day of this restaurant, they have served their magical goat cheese crostini. Delicious! And in addition, they craft other delightful dishes like their zesty Pork Ragu.
Lastly, the nearly 3-decade-old Ristorante Bartolotta represents all regions of Italy from their menu. They work to create authentic, traditional dishes such as their famous for their woven ravioli with a creamy egg yolk in the center and braised beef.
Discover Wisconsin host Eric Paulsen got to explore the historic side of Wauwatosa in the full episode, ‘Touring Tosa’. Hear from him about his thoughts on the production and his favorite parts:
"Wauwatosa - locals call it 'Tosa' - is a really cool place. A suburb of Milwaukee, but a city unto itself that has some fantastic neighborhoods, gorgeous parks with a lot of amenities, plenty of big and small shops and restaurants, some good bars, and easy access to and from just about anywhere. It was very cool to share this place where I lived for several years with everybody.
Personally, it's one of my favorite shows because I also got to bring people special to me. My four godkids, my fiance, and her lil' guy, who we got to strap a GoPro to and let him loose in a toy store. Those shots turned out fun!
Wauwatosa has a long and unique history. The fact I got to discuss that with a local historian in a beer garden at Hoyt Park made it come alive that much more. The pizza helped, too."
After learning about the local treasures of Wauwatosa, you’ll have to add them to your list of places to visit! From their ancient native history of its beginnings to the fossils that still can be discovered today in Hartung Park! Wauwatosa is not just booming with history, but booming with must-stop malls and local shops! And if you’re hungry, there are many phenomenal restaurants from French cuisine to Italian cuisine! There is something for everyone here in Wauwatosa!
Watch one of our newest full Discover Wisconsin episodes ‘Touring Tosa’ now and learn more about the fascinating history of the town, shopping hotspots, and unforgettable dining restaurants that you can visit today:
Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.