Chicago overnight: a frugal mix of spontaneity, research

Where to next? My reply to that frequent question inevitably prompts this follow-up: For business or pleasure? “Both” is almost always my answer. Almost all trips fit in time for discoveries, and some roads have dead ends. Here’s how a quick overnight in Chicago unfolded this month. 12:30 p.m. Thursday – My Van Galder bus(…)

U.S. Bank Stadium: Athletics meets art meets Vikings

A 17-inch December blizzard tore the puffy roof of the Minneapolis Metrodome in 2010, and three years later the Teflon-coated dome would collapse for the fifth and last time. It was hard to feel much sorrow for the loss in Packerland. The bubble of a sports stadium, open since 1982, smelled like sweaty gym socks(…)

Take Ten: Biking rails-to-trails, events

Fifty years have passed since abandoned railroad tracks were converted into the 32.5-mile Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first U.S. rail-to-trail project, and now at least 1,900 of these recreational paths crisscross the nation. A new guidebook, “Rail-Trail Hall of Fame: a Selection of America’s Premier Rail-Trails” (Wilderness Press, $17), recognizes Elroy-Sparta and 28 other trails(…)

Holy Hill, Trek Travel, Dorf Haus, historic hotel news

Running out of ideas about how to spend precious leisure time during these waning days of summer or beyond? My “in” box contains no shortage of ideas. Take a peek. — The 70-acre Holy Hill Art Farm, a 160-year-old homestead near Hubertus, is hosting one more dinner in the farm’s barn this summer. A ticket(…)

Meet State Fair’s competitive bakers, recipe makers

In the world of competitive cooking, baking and recipe making, Patti Flaker of Wausau is a bit atypical. She had never attended the Wisconsin State Fair until this year, when she made the drive to enter the fair’s first-time Old Fashioned cocktail recipe contest. Then she didn’t simply make the recipe. She added accessories –(…)

Summer camp for adults a rugged nirvana

Before morning yoga begins, the teacher asks for introductions. On the sand and facing Little Hills Lake are a chemist, investment counselor, engineers, lab workers. Elsewhere are at least one gynecologist, agronomist, hospice nurse, baker, computer programmer, accountant and many other walks of life. We are in our 20s to 60s, and no one answer(…)

Take Ten: supper club nibbles

Ask who is responsible for the revival of interest in Wisconsin supper clubs, and I’ll point a finger toward Ron Faiola, a multimedia entrepreneur in Greendale whose “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” film (in 2011) and book (in 2013) started the snowball of momentum. The book is in its seventh printing, and now(…)

Wolfenbuttel, Kenosha: sister cities since 1970

The GPS has us driving in circles, so we park and approach the first person we see. Yes, she speaks English. Yes, she knows where we are trying to go. Yes, it is within a walk but, no, she won’t simply provide directions. This friendly stranger insists on accompanying us on a brisk, 10-minute trek(…)

Germany’s natural world: Spreewald, Hainich

Our captain maneuvers us like a gondolier, standing as a pole propels his flatboat through a maze of canals that gingerly pass tree canopies, tiny towns, flower beds, thatched roofs, haystacks and orchards. Between each row of blanket-covered seats is a table with fresh flowers. We have much of the waterway to ourselves, if you(…)

German brewers still abide by 500-year-old beer purity law

First in a series. About 44 percent of Wisconsin residents, the highest percentage of all states, reported German ancestry on the 2000 U.S. Census. (The 2010 census omitted ancestry questions). — If you love beer, this is the year to visit Germany and immerse yourself in its sudsy history, regional specialties. The Reinheitsgebot – German(…)

Lake Geneva mailboat tour has practical purpose, too

With three blasts of the whistle, to signify that we’re backing up, downtown Lake Geneva’s most unique boat tour begins. For the next 2.5 hours, about 160 passengers get acquainted with Geneva Lake as Capt. Neill Frame slowly navigates the waterway counter-clockwise. He is at the helm of Walworth II, built in 1967. The vessel’s(…)

Take Ten: Beyond UNESCO with Frank Lloyd Wright

Wisconsin is Frank Lloyd Wright country, and more of the world may realize this as early as next month, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets in Istanbul, Turkey. Ready for a vote is a 2014 nomination to designate 10 of our native son’s most internationally significant architectural works as a World Heritage Site. This(…)

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,(…)