EAA museum gains astronaut’s treasures

Encased in glass is a two-page letter, neatly typed and labeled confidential. It was written in the 1960s to explain why it was unwise to challenge Russians to a race to the moon. “I have occasionally leveled criticism at some aspects of the space program,” Dwight Eisenhower acknowledged, but that is because he believed the(…)

Take Twelve: All in good taste for 2018

Lots of us have an appetite for the memorable when away from home, and sometimes we quell it with food. We remember – long after a meal ends – unique settings, unusual menus and who shares the experience. What you see and experience matter as much as what you taste. I have numerous new-to-me spots(…)

Take Ten: Alluring lodging of 2018

Sleeping around is part of a travel writer’s job, and the end of a year is my time to review the wide variety of places where I’ve rested my head or at least gotten a peek beyond the lobby. More and more often, much to the consternation of tourism reps, I have spread the good(…)

Sip-n-purr: Cat yoga in Milwaukee

Yogis, I know of a place that will deepen your downward dog with a bunch of uppity cats. Uppity, adorable cats. Sip and Purr, on the east side of Milwaukee, is the city’s first cat café. It opened in June as a spot to spy on and snuggle with a menagerie of spayed, neutered, vaccinated(…)

‘150 Bars’ book: unique places to take a swig

Prohibition ended nationwide 85 years ago, as of this month, so now is a particularly appropriate time to hoist that hot toddy. Comfort and familiarity matter when deciding where to drink alcohol close to home. We seek the “Cheers” effect, the tribal reassurance of being among friends or friendly faces. If everybody knows our name,(…)

Take Twelve: Holiday light shows

Electrifying: That’s one way to describe this time of year. With the arrival of December and dusk comes stupendous light shows to celebrate this season of wonder and generosity. Count these among the most elaborate in Wisconsin. Celebration of Lights, Oshkosh: Menominee Park, on Lake Winnebago, turns into a wonderland of winter. The anchor is(…)

Ultimate Eats: Savoring food as culture

Food is an easy, on-target introduction to a location’s cultural roots, and a new book latches onto must-try dishes when traveling the world. “Ultimate Eats: The World’s Top 500 Food Experiences … Ranked” (Lonely Planet Food, $30) explains pintxos in San Sebastian (Basque-style tapas in Spain) to stinky tofu in Taipei (follow your nose at(…)

New: retreat, fun park, plays, bike trips

Here’s to the new, as in partnerships, transitions, decisions and distinctions in the world of close-to-home travel. — Wild Rice, the fine-dining restaurant near Bayfield, closed about one year ago (after a 16-year run) and is being replaced by Wild Rice Retreat, a haven for art and wellness classes and events. The change of purpose(…)

Safe travels: what to know before you go

I register with the U.S. State Department before international travel to an area whose safety status is unknown to me. The free STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – automatically transmits pertinent advisories and alerts that mesh with my itinerary. That’s in addition to an online map of the world that shows risky areas for(…)

Reader mail: supper clubs, Itasca, custard

It’s been months since we dipped into the reader mailbag. Time to sift and winnow. — The Goldmoor Inn, near Galena, Ill., has gained loyal fans because of a reader incentive offered three years ago. I asked for your short essays on behalf of someone who deserves a peaceful getaway and got 50-some replies. The(…)

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(…)