Badger beaches: Expect multiple personalities

The arrival of summer means it’s time to hit the beach, and we have a lot of choices in Wisconsin. In the state are about 15,000 lakes, plus shorelines for the Mississippi River, St. Croix River and Great Lakes of Michigan and Superior. Much of what makes Wisconsin beaches different from those in Waikiki is(…)

Water-loving Ephraim about to shake its dry history

Much distinguishes Ephraim, population 288, from other hamlets in tourist-friendly Door County. The local yacht club – organized in 1906 – is one of the oldest on the Great Lakes, but the actual structure is tiny. Membership totals about 480, anyone can join, and children begin sailing lessons at age 7. Ephraim’s annual Flying Scots(…)

Shopping within Wisconsin’s Amish landscapes

Friends near Cazenovia (Richland County) always invite us to their farm during this time of year, and it is a joy to simply follow the quiet, twisty backroads to their home on a hill with an unobstructed, panoramic view of farmland, wildlife and cloud formations. About one dozen of us gather for a potluck and,(…)

Green Lake B&B honors rich resort heritage

The Winnebago tribe knew of the lake as Daycholah, a beautiful, mysterious and magical body of water that seemed to have no bottom. It was a place of spiritual pilgrimage centuries ago, and Native American burial mounds dot the lakeshore. Green Lake, at 236 feet, is the deepest natural inland lake in Wisconsin. On the(…)

Baraboo additions deepen attention to circus history

A note from Dave SaLoutos ends this way: “May all your days be circus days,” and he means it. The ringmaster for Circus World just introduced another performance season in Baraboo. No other Wisconsin city maintains a richer circus history than Baraboo, and now the city of 12,000 is undergoing a significant renaissance. An 1883(…)

Reader mail: polka, accordions, Vietnam, dinner

Readers, let’s empty the mailbag! — Fans of polka music sure seem passionate about this style of music. Jim Lueneburg of Menasha says his dad worked six days a week as a barber, then played drums in a polka band at weddings, anniversary parties and other events. “I would go along with him when I(…)

Take Ten: Women-owned farms to visit

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Lisa Kivirist and husband John Ivanko of Browntown have earned national recognition for their farm and renewal energy work. By Lisa Kivirist This Mother’s Day, celebrate the women championing Wisconsin family farms when traveling. We women in agriculture are increasing in number: In Wisconsin, the number of women-owned farms increased over(…)

Hot Springs: smallest national park, historic spa setting

The average spa treatment in this country involves low lights, soothing music, a heated massage table and complete privacy (unless booking a massage for two). The more celebrated the facility, the more likely that services command three-digit prices, plus a tip for the therapist. Buckstaff Bathhouse, open since 1912, breaks all those rules. The location,(…)

Some pets go to work with their owners

Back when I was a newspaper features editor in Madison, which seems like a lifetime ago, one of our most popular weekly items was “Look Who’s Minding the Story,” a photo and caption about a business where a pet lived or regularly visited. Shopkeepers who sold yarn, flowers, bakery for dogs, insurance, consignments, hemp goods(…)

Wisconsin Dells gives downtown artful uplift

Roger Brooks of Arizona is a tourism branding expert who helped shape Wisconsin Dells as Waterpark Capital of the World. End of story? Hardly. Brian Landers was a Dells police officer for 18 years before his election as mayor in 2011. So, no more bad-guy roles? Hah. Kelli Trumble found room for adults-only Sundara Inn(…)

Polka festivals: a sure sign of spring

Almost all states with an official dance choose the square dance, but not Wisconsin. Not by a longshot. We picked the polka in 1993, as a nod to ethnic heritage, but the dance doesn’t acknowledge just German ancestry. “Polka Heartland: Why the Midwest Loves to Polka” (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $30) by folk music historian(…)

New brews, awards, dishes, events for 2016

Spring is a time for renewal, and my notebooks are fat with snippets of new and new-to-me gleanings from annual state tourism and Midwest FoodService Expo conferences. — A few of Wisconsin’s best-known beverage makers are experimenting with new flavors. Wisco Pop! in Viroqua uses whole fruit to add strawberry soda to its all-organic lineup(…)

Boutiques for bowser: Seven pet-friendly hotels

Dog lovers who don’t want to leave their pet at home might think campgrounds and the occasional cabin are their only options for full-family getaways, but a few of Wisconsin’s boutique hotels welcome four-footed travelers too. How pet friendly is Wisconsin? Friendly enough for the state tourism department to emphasize travel with pets as a(…)

Best cheese in the world? Wisconsin’s Grand Cru Surchoix

Best in the world. An award out of U.S. reach since 1988. Almost 3,000 entries, the most ever, from 23 countries. The big cheese in the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest, judged this month in Madison, is the Grand Cru Surchoix made in Monroe by Emmi Roth USA, whose parent company is a specialty cheese(…)

Radio show tickets: Where to watch broadcasts

Wisconsin Public Radio’s decision to end the “Whad’Ya Know?” show concludes an on-air era of quick wit and timely humor by Michael Feldman, the host for 31 years. His weekly and nationally syndicated schtick of comedy, conversation, music and current events has made the Midwest a little less anonymous, a little more endearing. The final(…)

Hamilton Wood Type Museum: Words carry weight, literally

Sometimes I refer to my freelance writing business as The Word Factory because that is what I churn out from one day to the next. If those words had weight, literally, they’d have filled my office many years ago. It wasn’t all that long ago that words, to the letter, carried weight every day and(…)

Las Vegas weddings: Getting hitched is all you imagine, and more

This is a leap year, so it is officially fine for women to propose marriage on Feb. 29. Maybe the nuptials should be unconventional, too. The average U.S. wedding costs $26,444 without the honeymoon, concludes costofwedding.com, whose researchers say 40 percent of couples spend less than $10,000 and 16 percent spend more than $30,000. Las(…)

Pizza lovers know where to find the perfect slice

Pizza lovers, you have spoken. Dozens of you have made your allegiances clear, often using more exclamation points that pepperoni on the average slice. Who makes the best pizza in Wisconsin? We sought your opinion in 50 convincing words or less. Ann Schnuck of Pleasant Prairie wins for this entry: “Wells Brothers restaurant in Racine(…)

Take Ten: Where to go overnight for dinner and show

When in doubt about how to structure your next big date night, start with dinner and a show. Sometimes you can even park just once and not worry about driving again until the next morning, which is especially convenient when wintry weather turns wily. For example: Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W. Canal St., Milwaukee: Inside(…)

Lodging, events, other Valentine’s Day ideas for lovers in Wisconsin

Valentines, this is your month. Here are a few ways to pamper yourselves in style. — We have no shortage of luscious chocolates in Wisconsin, but only one chocolatier in Midwest – Anette Righi DeFendi – makes the cut in Dessert Professional magazine’s 2015 list of Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America. The head chocolatier(…)