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Lodging Costs Skyrocket for Harley 110th Anniversary

The rooms at the Iron Horse feature murals of Wisconsin women

In just a few weeks, more than 100,000 people will converge on Milwaukee. They’ll come from across the world to celebrate 110 years of Harley Davidson. An important part of any trip is having a decent place to stay.Perhaps some motorcycle enthusiasts consider the Iron Horse Hotel the perfect lodge. The transformed old warehouse sits just across the river from the Harley-Davidson Museum. Plenty of wrought iron hangs in the hotel; it even has a place to wash bikes. Michael Falkenstein is general manager. He says the hotel also offers guest, high-end amenities.

“As one person said, I want to feel as comfortable in high heels as I do in my riding boots,” Falkenstein says.

Rooms at this boutique hotel usually start at $250 a night.

But special packages for Harley’s 110th will cost you just under $9,900. Yep, you heard right. For $9,900, two people can stay here for seven nights. You can upgrade to a corner Alcove for $2,500 more. The breakdown - $1,771 a night.

By now, you’re probably wondering what else you get, besides a room.

Falkenstein says the price does include food, drinks and entertainment. Yet he says the real reason people are buying the packages is for the experience.

“I’m a big believer in that when you layer in experiences rather than just a room to go sleep in, that’s how you create a better experience,” Falkenstein says.

Part of the experience next month may simply be being surrounded by other Harley adventurers.

Certainly hundreds will stay at other Milwaukee hotels.

Room rates range from $300 to $700.

Hotels won’t be the only lodging option. Some residents are renting out their homes.

“We’re only doing it for the anniversary at this point in time.”

That’s Becky Lehman. She and her fiancé hope to get $1,200 for his house on Milwaukee’s northwest side.

It has three bedrooms and one bath. The couple is using a site called Air BNB to find an interested traveler.

If you check the site, you’ll notice dozens of Milwaukee residents offering up a room or entire house.

Lehman says so far the couple hasn’t had any bites.

“It’s not like we’re high end you know, (a) lake house, which I could see more. You know, we’re just in the city. Nothing overly spectacular,” Lehman says.

For homeowners with more amenities…

“People were charging $4,000 for theirs, it was a full lake house down in the Lake Geneva area,” Lehman says.

There’s a reason some people are willing to dole out a lot of money to stay in Milwaukee later this summer, according to Parush Papatla. He’s a marketing professor at UW-Milwaukee.

“Clearly, the Harley brand is one that customers have a strong bond and affinity with. That’s what Harley’s positioning has been all about. And given that, customers are obviously willing to spend quite a bit in order to participate in the whole experience of interacting with Harley,” Papatla says.

Papatla says value is in the eye of the consumer.

“Pricing is not just about what the actual value that a product delivers, it’s more about what value the customer perceives,” Papatla says.

So, how much are you willing to spend?

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.