Going to a Bucks game? Stay at Downtown's fresh and fun SpringHill Suites
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It's an hour before the Bucks game on a Saturday night in November, and the SpringHill Suites Milwaukee Downtown is bumping.
The lively lobby is filled with a diverse and upbeat array of BMO Harris Bradley Center-bound guests eagerly chatting with each other and zipping up their coats over Giannis Antetokounmpo jerseys; the aromatic attached restaurant, Doc's Smokehouse, is packed with happy fans devouring barbecue and watching the pregame TV coverage; encouragingly, there are only two people wearing yellow Los Angeles Lakers gear.
On the way out, I talk to a woman who says she's going to "the game," without specifying that it's a Bucks game, because in a town that's suddenly caught Fear the Deer fever and at a hotel that's literally a three-minute walk from the arena, there is no question.
SpringHill opened in July 2016, making it one of the newest hotels in Downtown's fast-growing hotel landscape, and the centrally located, all-suite establishment – a Marriott franchise but a new brand for Milwaukee – picked a prime time and place to join the city's increasing development and add to Westown's revitalization.
The Shops of Grand Avenue are a block south, the Wisconsin Center is right across the street – and directly connected via skywalk – and the new Bucks arena is 4/10 of a mile north. And while it's undoubtedly convenient for a conference and great for business travelers, too, SpringHill Suites makes a case for being most successful as the spot to stay for a Bucks game.
Besides its excellent location, 744 N. 4th St., SpringHill offers functional (and comparatively for Downtown lodging) spacious rooms, a cool-yet-casual lobby that operates as both a free hot-breakfast area and a sociable lounge – especially before a Bucks game – and one of the best hotel restaurants in the city.
I spent two evenings at Springhill for Bucks games – staying overnight on a Saturday and then returning a few days later to eat at Doc's Smokehouse during a contest against the Pistons, both of which Milwaukee won; all hail Giannis – and each time the environment and experience were fantastic.
I've hung out at Aloft's W XYZ bar before a Bucks game and two years ago stayed at the Hyatt Regency – along with the Intercontinental, Hilton Milwaukee and, if you're a visiting NBA team, The Pfister and Kimpton Journeyman, they are the core Bucks hotels – and, while those also-close places are also good, SpringHill felt the most like where I want to be as a fan/spectator/person on assignment to cover a game and review a hotel.
Springhill Suites was developed by the local Jackson Street Holdings LLC, which bought the historic, six-story Commerce Building – built in 1927 but underused for years – and, with help from state and federal historic preservation tax credits, renovated it in 2015. Fresh and upscale, Springhill looks sleek and feels hip, with a muted interior design that's neither antiseptic nor over-the-top, as many new hotels seem to be. (There are also Springhill Suites locations in Wisconsin Dells and Green Bay.)
All of its 155 rooms are classified as suites, though, it being a Downtown hotel, they are certainly not huge. The units include Wi-Fi and ample work space for business travelers, a pull-out sofa, mini fridge and microwave, ironing board, plenty of outlets and, crucially, 42-inch flat-screen TVs with built-in access to Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services.
There's coffee and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet in the lobby, which sufficiently serves eggs, sausage, pastries, waffles and oatmeal with a toppings bar. For those needing to work off their Doc's dinner, there's a 24-hour fitness center with state-of-the-art cardio equipment.
For those disinclined or uninvited to the Wisconsin Center, Springhill has two meeting rooms totaling around 2,000 square feet. For those who – unlike me – don't live Downtown and need a place to put their car, there are 140 underground and surface parking lot spaces and valet service.
But what really separates SpringHill – both as a hotel and generally as a go-to spot for a Bucks game – is the restaurant. Doc's Smokehouse is massive, relaxed, down-home-chic (if that's a thing) and delicious.
It serves myriad craft beers and cocktails from the white oak-topped bar and bare-meat Southern barbecue at the tables, which are properly equipped with a roll of paper towels that come in (literally) handy for cleaning up the variety of five finger-licking regional sauces – spicy Texas style, tangy Memphis style, vinegary Carolina pepper style, savory white Alabama style and sugary Doc's signature sweet sauce.
Doc's has appealing happy hour and NFL game-day specials, and on a random weeknight before a Bucks game there are about 50 people at the restaurant – some travelers sitting alone, some groups of friends sitting at large tables, many watching sports on TV. On weekends and some other nights, there is live music in a stage area at the east end of the restaurant, otherwise closed off by a door with a gigantic American flag painted on it. The service is prompt and friendly, and the food – well, let's just say the food is quite tasty.
Given its Downtown location and upscale amenities, SpringHill Suites is a perfectly good option for business and convention guests. But, whether for local Milwaukeeans stopping in to get some beer and barbecue or out-of-town visitors staying the night, it's particularly great for Bucks fans.
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