Midwest rural art parks: a smooth blend with nature

When fall colors hit their peak, we hit the road in search of the most brilliant blaze of hues. That part is expected. What adds surprise to the awe of autumnal landscapes? Plan it right, and rural sculpture parks pop up amidst the flaming oaks, maples, birches and sumacs. These unusual destinations, with typically free(…)

Grand Hotel: How to save money while savoring the landmark resort

Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel – unusual because of its appearance, architecture, attitude and location – soon goes into hibernation for six months. The Michigan summer resort, a National Historic Landmark, is among the Midwest’s most precious getaways. It’s among the pricier, too, but there are exceptions if you know how to time a visit. Schedule(…)

Rural artists at work in Northwoods to Driftless studios

Outside are the tools and materials of a welder. Inside is the precarious pirouette of a dancer, the menacing glare of a warrior. The unusual combination of what you see is as unexpected as the story of how Sara Balbin leaves her mark in the Northwoods, between Drummond and Cable in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. She(…)

Fermentation Fest: making beer, kraut, yogurt, bread, art-farm bonds

What, besides corn and cows, might you find in farm fields near Reedsburg in October? A. A woodwind quintet and ballet dancers. B. A place to paint silage bags. C. Sock puppets pondering morals and logic. Hah! The correct answer is all of the above. When you talk about culture in this part of south(…)

Squeezebox Night: monthly Swiss tribute in Monroe

Once a month on a Tuesday night, the basement at Monroe’s Turner Hall fills. Fans of all things Swiss devour Schublig sausages, potatoes with melted Raclette cheese, Hasli-filee pork medallions, cheese pie, fondue and more. Diners linger because of the music, a jam session where accordions dominate. Each of the 10 or more performers takes(…)

Danish kringle bakeries: who makes the best, most?

In the world of pastry production, Danish kringle ranks among the most difficult and time-consuming of challenges. To do it right takes three days from start to finish. That’s because of the number of times dough is rolled, folded with butter and set aside to rest. “The best quality kringle require patience,” notes a Food(…)

Odes to rock ‘n’ roll in Clear Lake, Iowa

The half-mile walk between northern Iowa cornfields leads to a pinwheel of copper Jell-O molds and, lower to the ground, stainless steel cutouts of a guitar and a pair of wings. People who make this fence-line trek tend to leave a little something behind: loose change, notes, scarves, ribbons, flags, beads, needlepoint, necklaces, flowers. The(…)

Garmisch Resort: Old World, backwoods mix near Cable

When I think about classic summer resort design in the Midwest, Old World architecture isn’t the first thing to come to mind. That is a part of what makes the Garmisch Resort, eight miles east of Cable, unusual in Wisconsin. Consider some of the lodging options at this 65-acre Bayfield County property, on the south(…)

Inside a $4,000 suite at Potawatomi Hotel

The Potawatomi this month open a new restaurant and 19-story hotel in Milwaukee, and the project is remarkable for more than one reason. In each of the 381 hotel rooms and suites is at least one wall of windows to reveal city landscapes. The higher the floor, the more you see from these floor-to-ceiling panes.(…)

B&B is retired tugboat on Mississippi River shore

Around the time Jonathan Lucroy hit his second RBI double during the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, I sat 15 miles east, without a television, clue or care in the world. In front of me was an exquisite, peaceful and 360-degree view of the Mississippi River as sunset neared. Below me, since it was a Tuesday(…)

Red Wing museum gains $1.5 million pottery collection

Red Wing, a Mississippi River city on the Minnesota side, has been home to a pottery museum for years – but now it’s billed as home to the nation’s largest pottery collection. The donation of a Nebraska couple’s private stash, 5,000 pieces worth around $1.5 million, motivated the all-volunteer Red Wing Pottery Foundation to successfully(…)

In Kenosha, this car show is a homecoming

A 1977 Gremlin van soon will be moved into the Kenosha History Center, and the timing is deliberate. The van (an American Motors Corp. prototype that never went into production) and Jeeps from five decades will be in place in time for Kenosha Homecoming: Great Cars on a Great Lake, July 22-26. The homecoming, an(…)

Pizza farms: Drive in, dine out, stay til sunset

Pizza.com declares 93 percent of Americans ate pizza in the last month, and each of us averages 46 slices per year. Dustin Booth and Emily Fradenburgh are among a growing number of rural Wisconsinites who smelled opportunity because of conclusions like these. They live on Polk County farmland with a former sawmill that his parents(…)

Great American road trips: where to find them

I have a weakness for old postcards that show how summer vacations and destinations have changed. We remain ever-eager wanderers, but our expectations sure have evolved. Consider the messages on a fat stack of 1940s postcards that I found at a garage sale: “Continuous flow of hot water to spigot.” “State Health Board approved water.”(…)

Frank Lloyd Wright sites likely to gain UNESCO status

Savvy international travelers pay attention to UNESCO World Heritage Sites because on this list are the planet’s most awesomely significant destinations. What makes the cut? Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. China’s Great Wall. Cuba’s Old Havana. Egypt’s Giza Pyramids. India’s Taj Mahal. Peru’s Machu Picchu. Add the Banks of the Seine in Paris, Acropolis in Athens,(…)

New cooking contest for Native American cuisine

Wild rice and cranberry dishes show up on many restaurant menus, especially in autumn, but rare is the restaurant that regularly serves fry bread or venison in Wisconsin. I dine at many types of ethnic and specialty restaurants but have yet to see one devoted to Native American cuisine. Is this a gaping hole in(…)

Lodging where music is taken seriously

It’s pretty easy to find lodging and live music under the same roof, especially on weekends or in metro areas, but rare is the business whose music is a higher priority than overnight accommodations. My four examples start close to home. Read more at Travel2Connect.

June Dairy Month: a prime time to mark 4-H centennial

My first bank deposit was winnings from county fair entries in the 1960s. I was a kid who accumulated many more pink ribbons than blue, but that never – for long – dulled my enthusiasm to keep trying. As I recall, even a plate of pathetic brownies was worth a quarter in prize money back(…)

Chicago’s Eataly: easy immersion into all things Italian

On the last day of our first trip to Italy, in 2008, my priority was a two-hour bus ride from Milan to Turin and the birthplace of Slow Food International, whose worldwide efforts protect food heritage. That visit was a couple of weeks before the area’s Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto – the massive,(…)

Upper Mississippi jewels: good food, wine, retreats

I am always learning something new about roads that I’ve already traveled. Sometimes it’s just a matter of doing a little homework or sharing the miles with curious friends who are on the lookout for something new. Here are favorite discoveries from a recent road trip that looped the Upper Mississippi River for at least(…)