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“Do you want a David Lynch experience?”

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Knickerbocker on the Lake
Ranked #42 of 56 Hotels in Milwaukee
Pekin, Illinois
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Do you want a David Lynch experience?”
Reviewed 24 October 2010

This hotel is not for everyone. In fact there were times during my very long one-night stay when I wondered if the Knickerbocker Hotel in Milwaukee was for anyone at all. I was creeped out the moment I stepped into the room I had been assigned, No. 314. The publicity touts the individuality of the decor (that's an understatement) along theme lines. I couldn't detect any theme at all in my room aside from perhaps 1930s down and out skid row prostitute or laid off WPA worker that had been tarted up with a coat of paint to cover up, possibly, a room fire or something. There was a sinister stain on the ceiling over the big tv screen looming in the corner of the small 'efficiency' condo that bespoke any number of sources. it could have been a blood stain for all I know that had seeped down from the floor above.

The room also had two very unfortunate features. The first was a depressing kitchenette, but I improved the ambience by closing the folding doors on that; the second was tile floors more suitable to a Florida motel. The floor made an already drab north-facing room very cold and austere. I think most of the rooms used for hotel guests face on the rear and stare at another drab apartment building with a huge dumpster in between.
The only climate control was the window which I had to leave open all night in order not to be suffocated by the odor of old burnt Dinty Moore stew from another room that permeated mine. Or it might have been the fried fish and chips from the Irish pub on the other end of the parking lot I overlooked.

The furnishings fit no scheme at all other than being cheap rejects from Rent-A-Center. There were some original wall sconces that were probably cheap when they were new decades ago. They were singularly depressing and suicidal.

The bathroom was okay, but it was old with six-sided tiles with ingrained stains in the corners of the room. The tub was old and narrow and short and deep, like a foreshortened coffin. But the water pressure was good and lots of hot water. The bath I took made me feel slightly less disoriented.

The 'beautiful' lobby was not to be found as far as I could tell. This is a typical early 20th century monolithic broad-shouldered kind of structure that covers the Lake shore in Milwaukee and Chicago. They are nothing special and this particular hotel would not have come even close to gaining historical status in Chicago because there are so many of them there filled with ancient old ladies who've lived there since 1937.

The entry level of the Knickerbocker Milwaukee is enlivened by two glitzy over-priced (but busy) restaurants, one Italian the other... something else, urban trendy, something like that, wine. We didn't go to those.

A large rambling hair salon takes up all of the foyer space which is graced by execrable portraits of Southern belles. This echoing, penny-plain drab marble corridor leads to the little box where the concierge sits with a hand-held walkie-talkie phone, like the military in the heat of combat. Alicia, the young woman on duty, was extremely helpful and upbeat. She was the only staff I saw, though someone must have come along in the night to slip the printed out receipt under my door. There was, by the way, a 3/4" gap between the bottom of the room door and the tile floor. Fortunately there were no drunken parties going on that weekend to make this a big problem.

The biggest problem with the Knickerbocker are the wafer thin walls. I had the presence of mind to bring good earplugs and slept well (the mattress was good though the pillows had an aura of dried sweat about them). My friends, without earplugs, were kept up until about 3 am by the resident neighbor's television tuned, as it had been all day, to ESPN.
This person kept his door ajar all day and night, by the way. Was he open for business, dead? We never investigated.

The Knickerbocker is some kind of realty scam. I cannot believe the owners of these horrible efficiencies would deign to spend a single night in them themselves. It's a money-making racket. I only paid $102.00 but that was too much, in my opinion. for the oppressive, cheap and disturbing atmosphere of my room. I've stayed at the Madonna Inn near Santa Barbara which is along similar lines, every room being based on a decorative and FUN theme. The Knickerbocker is not fun.

Milwaukee is a very enjoyable city with many excellent restaurants (don't miss the Bistro on the Lake for fabulous French food and no pretensions, but it costs). I will go there again soon but I will not ever be staying at the sombre and weird Knickerbocker again.

My friends and I tried to make a joke about it but it wasn't easy because the pall of the experience wouldn't lift until I got back home and took a long shower.

  • Stayed October 2010, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank Jeffrey_Sarver
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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141 reviews from our community

Traveller rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    3 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (19)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Belleville, Illinois
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 24 October 2010

I also had a bad experience with the front desk. I was trying to ask questions about parking and the person was very negative. All I asked was if parking was on the premise because I had read that you may have to park on the street. There is parking on the premises, maybe that was changed after the review. I ran in to people that actually live at the hotel down the hall. Lots of cooking and opera singing. Once I arrived in my room, the room was done in a southwest theme (which seems outdated to me). I did call to get my coffee pot replaced and they were right on it. I did like the fact that they had a wonderful restaurant and got my haircut while staying there. Would I stay there again? probably not, the carpets were very dirty and I didn't really like the smells of food and opera singing. The price lured me to stay here even though it was for business, I wanted to be adventurous and wanted to stay somewhere a little historic. I did like the door - it was shaped in an arch. If I were the owners, I would stay with the old style and make it romantic looking. Maybe complementary wine and chocolates. Even though I am traveling for business, that would have been a plus. Just a thought

  • Stayed July 2010, travelled on business
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Lauralouakalucy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Birnamwood, Wisconsin
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 3 October 2010

After reading other reviews I wondered what to expect. I found that what I read was not what happened. Our experience was great. The hotel has a unique atmosphere and was very welcoming. Our room was very clean and decorated tastefully. I found staff to be most helpful. This is a place you must visit so you can see the beauty that is really there. Thank you to all who made our visit a memorable experience.

  • Stayed September 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank BJandJJ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2 reviews
Reviewed 28 September 2010

We expected to get a reasonably attractive room with accommodations at least as equal to a Hampton or Marriott Courtyard. Instead, we felt like we stayed in the city of Hampton IN the courtyard. The rugs were dirty, the utensils were very dirty, the bathroom was SO old that the pipes were NEXT to the commode and sweating! I felt like we were staying in my Great Grandmother's house. The POWER went out in the room and when we called the front desk, they acted like it happened all the time and had to come up and reset it outside the room. We were on the back of the hotel near the dumpsters!

WORST of all, when we complained in email upon our return, the Proprieter did not have the descency to respond. DO NOT STAY IN THIS HELL HOLE!!!!!

  • Stayed September 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank maineump
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers are raving about these Milwaukee hotels

Knoxville, Tennessee
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 July 2010

The hag at the front desk immediately sets the tone for a bad experience. I made a same day reservation with her and she proceeded to hit me with all the negatives. "Don't even think about cancelling because you are within the cancellation policy." I wouldn't be making a same day reservation if I had any intent of cancelling. "Don't even think about checking in before three." I don't want to check in, I just want to store my bags.

In any event, I show up at the hotel and she won't get out of the chair to deal with me. Once again she tells me that my room isn't ready. Once again, I tell her that I just want to park and store my bags. She then proceeds to tell me she is sold out of parking and she can't store my bags.

I am on the hook for $160 per night (non-refundable) and I don't have a parking spot?

It gradually went further downhill from here. Stay far, far away from this place.

  • Stayed September 2010
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank HIWFP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Owatonna, MN
Level Contributor
12 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 21 March 2010

The room/apartment was a little strange. The location is excellent. You can't get any closer to the lake. You should definitely have brunch at the hotel. I would stay here again. Just don't expect a true boutique hotel feel.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
Helpful?
Thank sail2peace
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WI
Level Contributor
23 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 February 2010

The website for this hotel was deceiving. We thought we were getting a suite that would be tastefully decorated like some of the photos. Maybe some of the rooms are nice, but we were in someone's apartment. Yes, it felt like we were intruding in an old great aunt's apartment. The decor was mismatched, not stylish, and old. Some stains were on the carpeting and furniture. Most of the light fixtures didn't work. The clocks didn't work. The bed was comfortable, but the linens and bedspread were worn. I wish we had asked for another room, but shortly after check in we had to leave to meet people. When we got back to the room late that night, there was loud music coming from the next apartment. We planned to stay two nights, but checked out early the next morning. I can't believe we stayed that one night. It felt weird to be there. They charged us for 2 nights of parking. It was way over priced for the quality of the room. The location is not bad, but we couldn't see the lake from our room. The front desk person wasn't friendly to my husband in the morning when he asked for change to buy a paper. Find another place to stay! Milwaukee has better choices.

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank ValeryWi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Knickerbocker on the Lake

Property: Knickerbocker on the Lake
Address: 1028 East Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone Number:
Region: United States > Wisconsin > Milwaukee > Downtown
Amenities:
Kitchenette Restaurant Spa Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#5 Spa Hotel in Milwaukee
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3 star — Knickerbocker on the Lake 3*
Number of rooms: 160
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Knickerbocker On The Lake Hotel Milwaukee
Knickerbocker On The Lake Milwaukee

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