Chicago Detours: Get to know the neighborhoods

One way to get to know a city is through its attractions – the monuments, museums, biggest and best local marks of distinction. We seek out the “talkers” and will wait in long lines to take selfies to prove we were there. That’s fine, fun and logical for a first-time visit, but then what happens?(…)

Take Twelve: Halloween haunts, carnival to saloon

Time for another ghoulishly good time as the approach of Halloween brings out goblins and gore galore. Haunted houses aren’t the only option for scaring yourself silly this month. Consider this range of terrifying settings. Several are all-volunteer efforts whose proceeds help local charities. Haunted carnival – A former millwork factory in Merrill began earning(…)

Detroit auto tours: from Model T to modern-day robotics

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, but he gets credit for putting the world on wheels and Detroit on the map as a leader in car manufacturing. Much began in the long-ago industrial neighborhood of Milwaukee Junction, near the intersection of interstates 94 and 75, just north of downtown. Consider it the cradle of automotive(…)

German-born master chef takes over Black Forest, Three Lakes

As most U.S. teens were just learning to drive, 15-year-old Marcel Biro was a world away, navigating culinary school. The year: 1988. The place: East Germany. Within five years, the student was certified to teach others to cook and moonlighted at Michelin-starred restaurants. By age 24, he earned the title of master chef and already(…)

What’s new: arts venue, football show, red panda cub, more

As weather cools and beaches close, there is little reason to stay home and be bored. Check out these enticements for close-to-home travel. — Pablo Center at the Confluence, a major arts venue, has opened in downtown Eau Claire. It is near the meeting of Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. In the new structure are(…)

Archie’s Waeside in Iowa: citadel of American beef cookery

In a modest residential area – near farmland, railroad tracks and tall grain storage silos – is an almost-full parking lot at 5:30 p.m. on an average Thursday. When doors open at 5, sometimes the lineup of customers is as long as the driveway. Especially on weekends. To say that Archie’s Waeside has loyal patrons(…)

Two Take Tens: for Green Bay Packers fans

We are high above ground and just below the signature “G” that looms 40 feet tall and 60 feet wide. No point in Green Bay is loftier, and what feels simply gusty during summer would freeze the bone in January. That spells exhilaration, if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, because little beats this sky-high(…)

Coming soon: Great River Road Trips

My nine-part series about Great River Road Trips is being turned into a mini e-book, and I will point you to details when it’s ready. Thanks for your interest!  

New books: Great Lakes biking, Chicago fun, Iowa food

On my desk is a growing stack of recently released books, and I crave time to delve into them. The arrival of summer should make that easier: Here is an introduction to what I consider the best. “The Great Lakes at Ten Miles an Hour: One Cyclist’s Journey along the Shores of the Inland Seas”(…)

New: Geneva Lake app, Shake Rag classes, APT shows

One of the prettiest waterfront walks in Wisconsin is the 21 miles around Geneva Lake, and now a new, free phone app helps explain what to expect and where as you hoof it. About 85 percent of houses surrounding the lake are summer homes, and more are mansions than simple cottages. All lakefront property owners(…)

Thrill for gearheads: Tesla rental at Mall of America

Summer is an easy season for fun and fantasy, but Minnesota’s Mall of America in Bloomington knows how to trump it up all year. This is where youngsters bring dolls to lunch at American Girl, walk among bigger-than-life superhero figures at Legoland and watch what they color come to life on screen at Crayola Experience.(…)

The American Club turns 100: from immigrant housing to luxury lodging

A better life: That is what Old World immigrants sought when leaving European homelands and taking a treacherous ocean voyage 100 years ago. They arrived in America with big dreams but certainly no guarantees. History books and museums explain what happened next, but close to home is a powerful rags-to-riches illustration that is especially pertinent(…)

Now is the season for open-air dining in rural Wisconsin

About 65 scenic miles separate two Wisconsin restaurants that serve pasta, brick-oven pizza and wine from around the world. The classy Italian menu at both is pretty much the same. So is the setting: open-air dining, in the middle of nowhere, with fabulous views of rural America. “A place where you come for the experience,(…)

Taliesin ‘learn-by-doing’ philosophy extends to restaurant

The panorama is rarely less than stunning at Riverview Terrace Café, inside the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center near Spring Green. Diners gain wide and head-on views of the Wisconsin River, curvaceous Wyoming Valley, occasionally eagles and other wildlife. Now the restaurant’s menu and philosophy realign to match the architect’s legacy of honoring the close-to-home(…)

Take Twelve: Cool custard stops in Wisconsin

Culver’s, kingpin in the frozen custard world, introduces six new flavors this year. That hasn’t happened since 2012, and all of the Prairie du Sac company’s 650 restaurants in 24 states are simultaneously introducing one newcomer per month as a Flavor of the Day. Cappuccino Cookie Crumble, which mixes chocolate and sugar cookie chunks into(…)

Sometimes little luxuries make one great memory

One of my favorite names for a specialty shop is Little Luxuries, on State Street in Madison. In the offbeat inventory are fancy hair clips, crazy socks, clever games, artsy reading glasses, unusual toys for kids. It’s a place to pamper yourself or someone you love without selling the farm. When price means everything, the(…)

Kentucky destinations, for horse lovers, extend beyond the Derby

Horse lovers know the arrival of May brings the grace and thrill of high-stakes thoroughbred racing. It all begins with the Kentucky Derby in Louisville but need not end there. This winning trifecta of equine adventures in the Bluegrass State are within 100 miles of Churchill Downs and open all year. — What happens to(…)

Showtime nears: High hopes for new Milwaukee Bucks home

East of the river: That’s where most of downtown Milwaukee’s modern-day growth and revitalization have occurred, but one massive exception is emerging. The $524 million bet ($250 million of it with taxpayer money) is that the burgeoning Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center project will generate excellent and enough new reasons to visit and linger. Construction(…)

Reader mailbag: Quilt retreats, snowball vs. snow cone, awards

Time to take a dip into the mailbag. A belated, public “thank you” to those who sent notes about quilt retreats. Two were sent a copy of my book “Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers” (Itchy Cat Press, 2012). The last time I corresponded with Karen Brunsell of Janesville, she was leaving(…)

Cheese, please: Regional traditions turn into others’ trends

Count our squeaky and deep-fried curds, plus the South’s pimento spreads, among the beloved cheese traditions that are gaining attention far away from home. Classic pimento cheese spread – known as the “caviar of the South” – is a chunky blend of shredded cheddar, mayo, cream cheese, chopped pimentos, salt, pepper and maybe a kick(…)

Plot your next getaway while waiting for spring to truly arrive

“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” The quote belongs to writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Change is business as usual during this time of year, so while waiting for weather to settle and blossoms to sprout, plot both the garden and your next(…)

Take Ten: Running with accessibility, beyond the basics

State tourism embraces accessibility in a new marketing campaign, and the star is a four-time Paralympic athlete. Matt Scott, a 2016 gold medalist in wheelchair basketball, talks up why and where he returns to the Badger State for annual summer vacations. “A million ways to have fun and no reason not to” is the slogan.(…)

Milwaukee Art Museum’s “Road Trip” photos remove the filters

Smart phones and digital cameras make it possible for almost anybody to take a good picture, on purpose or by accident. Gone are the days when shutters fly sparingly and each frame is composed painstakingly: The cost of developing film no longer is a worry. Also vanishing is the photo album that you can hold:(…)

Wisconsin film fests: Entertainment is one part of their value

The worth of a well-crafted film goes way beyond entertainment, in little and large ways. A good movie helps us walk in somebody else’s shoes. Or helps us temporarily escape the tribulations of life. Or lets us know we are not alone. Or inspires us to make a change. Or widens our world through global(…)