Take Ten: thrifty shopping

The adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is attributed online to the Great Depression, the Amish, pioneers and evangelists. The words are a partial solution to surviving hardships, but don’t underestimate the thrill of the hunt, regardless of income or circumstances. Underwear and socks are about all that(…)

Is everybody happy? Metrics matter

We love to rank things, especially in the travel biz, but reader beware: Metrics matter, and we don’t like to pick the same winner over and over. Sometimes we aim to surprise or shock. Consider Stoughton, population 12,670 and 20 miles southeast of Madison. WalletHub.com this year declared it one of the nation’s top 20(…)

Reader mail: Megabus, Chicago, Door County, postcards

Readers, it’s time to lighten the mailbag by sharing your travel feedback, ideas, challenges and questions. Keep those email, Facebook and snail-mail notes coming. — “You are a great bus traveler,” writes Jack Handley of Chicago. “I am thinking about taking a bus from Chicago to Indy for a football game this fall. Do you(…)

Two cookbooks that tantalize beyond their recipes

Someone occasionally approaches me about writing an endorsement for a new book, and it’s an invitation that I don’t take lightly. I politely decline unless the project truly catches my attention. That is how I was introduced to “Life in a Northern Town: Cooking. Eating. And Other Adventures Along Lake Superior.” The newly published book(…)

Take Ten: Autumn’s vast bounty

Before the first hard frost come the fruits of farm labor. Wisconsin’s bounty seems especially plentiful this year, thanks to long-lasting, agreeable weather that even makes me look like a master gardener of tomatoes. The harvest is one big reason to celebrate and appreciate autumn. Changing leaf color is another. In the Badger State is(…)

Meat this: Most stops rural on Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail

It’s not yet noon when we pull into Wellsburg, Iowa, curious and hungry for lunch. We wonder why the village, population 700, needs a one-way street downtown. We wonder why Town House Supper Club, our destination, opens at 6 a.m. And we wonder what one of us, a vegetarian, will find to eat. The pork(…)

Wandering Iowa: Villages of Van Buren, covered bridges

“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.” The quote belongs to Grant Wood, the Iowa artist whose “American Gothic” pitchfork couple and other paintings freeze scenes of rural life in what outsiders not-so-fondly refer to as “flyover country.” How easy it is to dismiss what we don’t know. Explore rural Iowa if you(…)

Take Twelve: Comedy in Wisconsin

In case you think Wisconsin could show a better sense of humor, I have two words for you: Very funny. No need to factor in those cheddar-colored Cheesehead wedges. We have a reputation beyond that. For example: You don’t know Ben Karlin from stage performances, but the University of Wisconsin grad is leaving a huge(…)

ArtPrize puts Grand Rapids, Mich., on the map for wild, wonderful art

Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, finds unusual ways to gain attention. It has produced high-quality furniture for more than a century. It is a nationwide leader in environmental sustainability. On the city’s Beer City Ale Trail are at least 60 microbreweries, including Brewery Vivant, in a former funeral home. Grand Rapids brews so much beer(…)

De Pere’s 4th generation Union Hotel quietly begins 100th year

Closing time at the Union Hotel’s restaurant is 9 p.m. in downtown De Pere. Decades ago, that was because of the butcher, who worked halfway down the block. If a customer wanted a steak, you’d call for a fresh cut from the butcher, then send somebody to fetch the order. The butcher shop closed at(…)

DMZ: wildlife refuge, tourist attraction, war reminder

Nearly 6,500 miles separate most Wisconsinites from South Korea. Among the exceptions, for now, are around 270 airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing of the state’s Air National Guard. These troops and one dozen F-16 aircraft this month were deployed to Kunsan Air Base on a four-month assignment to help stabilize and secure the region.(…)

The lifelong value of a same time, same place vacation

The older I get, the more I notice two extremes among travelers. One seeks a new destination for every trip and rarely returns to the same locale. The other gravitates to the same spot, year after year, developing a strong and deep connection to one part of this very wide world. Of what value are(…)

Rural Missouri B&B operates inside Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

Within the hills and dales of northeast Missouri are far fewer miles of paved roads than rivers and creeks. Signs at one-lane bridges warn of flooding, and roadside markers are positioned to measure high water, foot by foot. These are not comforting details to notice when driving under a flash flood watch. The occasional farm(…)

Bay City Chef Shack: fine dining in down-home location

Follow the Mississippi along the Great River Road (Highway 35, in Wisconsin) for no shortage of woods, bluffs, curvy waterfronts and pastoral landscapes. Common are riverfront hamlets with historic charm. Rare are restaurants with a discerning menu that changes often. One big exception is Chef Shack in Bay City, population 500, where the co-owners are(…)

Alto Fair: smallest in Wisconsin, big respect for tradition

In the community center are tables with handicrafts, bakery, veggies – typical fair fare – but one thing seems obvious pretty quickly: Attached to an easy majority of entries are blue ribbons. You won’t see that at the average county fair, but this is Alto – AL-to, not ALL-to. The Fond du Lac County township(…)

Take Ten: sky-high Madison views

Plop me near water on a pretty, warm day, and I’m content for hours. When in Madison, that means Memorial Union Terrace, known since 1928 as the living room of the University of Wisconsin. We settle in to yak, listen to free music, watch the sun set and indulge in Babcock ice cream (make mine(…)

Croatia’s Dubrovnik a hot spot for ‘Game of Thrones’ fans

As clock tower bells chime at high noon, I stand 80 feet above ground with a wide and clear view of medieval architecture and history. Ahead are signs of modern living: sailboats, speedboats, ferries and a cruiseship or two. Below are hints of the past: terracotta rooftops, laundry on clotheslines and people on the move(…)

Natural thrillers: Glacier, Waterton parks

Feeling a little overheated? Let’s talk snow. My guy and I missed by one measly day the opening of Going to the Sun Road – the 50-mile-long, steep and winding Glacier National Park thruway of hairpin turns. Known as one of the most thrilling and beautiful roads in America, it requires at least two hours(…)

Take Ten: summer sizzlers

Beat the heat with these Wisconsin destinations that have something new or novel to offer summertime travelers. Actor’s Craft, Kenosha: Find your inner Bogart at acting camps and classes with a certified coach whose technique is used by professional actors, including Academy Award winners. Topics range from one-night scene studies to five-day immersions in acting.(…)

Lac du Flambeau upgrades Ojibwe cultural sites

Peace Pipe Lane. Wild Rice Avenue. Tomahawk Circle. The Lac du Flambeau street signs hint at pride of heritage, and soon a rebuilt cultural space emerges for ceremonial dancing and other centuries-old traditions. It will give the average resident a new retreat and the average traveler a new reason to visit. On an ordinary weeknight,(…)

Mackinac Island: land of fudge, lots of it

Mackinac isn’t the birthplace of fudge, but the 3.8-square-mile Michigan island in Lake Huron may well be the nation’s epicenter for it. The island kinda smells like fudge, thanks to exhaust fans strategically positioned near the ferry dock. About 10,000 pounds of fudge are carted away daily, usually in half-pound slabs. An annual fudge festival(…)

Green Bay gallery treats autos like fine art

To most of us, a car is a necessary form of transportation that keeps us independent. Our vehicles are sometimes flashy but more times simply practical. To William “Red” Lewis of Green Bay, the automobile is beauty in motion, art on wheels. Now the dozens of vehicles he has collected and restored are his legacy(…)

Tune in: Paisley Park, Motown tours; Rolling Stones show at Navy Pier

Every artist needs a studio – someplace to inspire and motivate, concentrate and create – and it can be as simple as a nook, spare room or loft. Occasionally it’s more. Much, much more. For the man who would be Prince, musical masterpieces were conceived and mounted at huge and multifaceted Paisley Park, the superstar(…)

Food trends: more ethnic flavors, less artificial ingredients

The largest buffet that I try to sample every spring is at the National Restaurant Association’s trade show, which shows off what’s new in every aspect of the industry. That means food concepts with “Shark Tank” exposure and lesser-known, chocolate-flavored hummus. Strawberry ricotta ice cream and multi-grain naan bread. Hemp seeds for salad and hemp(…)