Take Ten: Wisconsin river, lake cruises

With the arrival of summer comes our urge to take to the water, if not on the beach or with a fishing pole, then on a boat that traverses urban or remote shorelines. Instead of maneuvering your own watercraft, let someone else do the navigating and narrating. Public tours are plentiful and include these excellent(…)

County fairs: tracking trends, popularity, what’s new, unique

If you think county fairs are stuck in time and all pretty much the same, think again. Many go way beyond corn dogs, cotton candy, thrill rides and midway games of chance. All but one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties hosts at least one fair (Menominee County is the exception), and about 85 percent of these(…)

New visitor center hikes visibility of The Ridges

A longtime but quiet force on the quiet side of Door County gains wider visibility this month. The opening of a unique visitor center at The Ridges Sanctuary moves the work of researchers and naturalists from obscure quarters to busy Highway 57 in Baileys Harbor. The Ridges is the oldest nature preserve in Wisconsin and(…)

Algoma: oldest winery, formal wear, fishing, fine dive-bar fare

In the shadow of beautiful Door County, the 70-mile-long peninsula that attracts two million visitors per year, is Algoma on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The beguiling little city of 3,200 is less than 20 miles south of Sturgeon Bay, and Highway 42 cuts through the core of downtown. Often-overlooked Algoma is worth a quick detour(…)

Rural chefs redefine country cooking, farm-to-table dining

Farmers used to pitch in as a neighborhood to rebuild a barn or harvest grain, one humid acre after another. Their end-of-day reward was a hearty spread of homemade pickles to pies, enough to feed a threshing crew, as my father used to say. That obsolete reference to the communal meals of threshing crews, whose(…)

Family-run carnivals: decades of fun for community festivals

During the Great Depression, Scott Lake made a living one penny at a time, and his business has grown to modestly sustain a fourth generation of the family today. Penny arcade games – pinball, hands-on table hockey and other challenges of quickness or deftness – were affordable entertainment for beleaguered families in the 1930s. Soon(…)

Take Ten: Fun farmers markets in Wisconsin

When trees bud and bulbs blossom, the arrival of fresh asparagus and morels can’t be far behind. Hoop houses and greenhouses hike the likelihood that locally grown spinach, tomatoes and more will ripen all year, but now is the time for farmers markets to move outdoors, rain or shine. Count these among my favorites. Dane(…)

Fiber arts trail shows off quilts, history, art, supplies, more

Lots of people say a picture is worth 1,000 words; fewer acknowledge the value of 1,000 stitches. Wisconsin’s first poet laureate was among the exceptions. Ellen Kort of Appleton, who died recently, noted this in her preface to the 2008 book “Wisconsin Quilts: History in the Stitches” (Krause Publications, $34.95): “There is something powerful about(…)

SC Johnson’s Fortaleza Hall displays Wright lithographs

Near Lake Michigan, at the Indiana-Illinois border, is 800-acre Wolf Lake and an unincorporated town best known for its August Onion Days Festival. If Frank Lloyd Wright had his way, Wolf Lake would have gained a grand amusement park with “lagoons for boating, promenades for strolling and concessions for consuming” – but real estate developer(…)

Kentucky bourbon trails big on distillery diversity

During a much younger life, I was introduced to horse race wagering, earthy bluegrass music and long-simmering stews called burgoo while living in western Kentucky. So when Wisconsin met Kentucky in the NCAA Final Four this spring, I could not resist the urge to place a bet on the outcome with former work colleagues Chuck(…)

National pie champs have rural roots

Twenty years ago, Caroline Imig’s world started crashing. Her husband was killed in a farm equipment accident, leaving her as a single mother with five children. She tried to sell 350 acres and a herd of 120 cows, only to have a land contract buyer abandon the property without her knowledge. “They left me in(…)

Sub Fest, celeb centennials, Manticore new in tourism

Some Wisconsin destinations – like Summerfest in Milwaukee or the EAA AirVenture in the Oshkosh – become annual traditions because of their magnitude and ever-fresh approach, but these one-time or first-time events and attractions also aim to earn your attention. — Centennial celebrations for two native sons happen this year. Orson Welles (responsible for the(…)

Food truck cuisine: sammies, pizza, ethnic specialties

Maybe we should count the return of food trucks and food carts right up there with robins as sure signs of spring. “Mobile food is not a new concept in the United States,” notes PasteMagazine.com. “From the chuck wagons of the Old West to the hot dog stands of New York City, quick, inexpensive food(…)

New in Wisconsin food: Got2HavPie, Sartori, Nueske’s products

Much of what happens during the annual Midwest Foodservice Expo is insider advice and networking for the hospitality industry and others whose work involves the preparation and delivery of good food. Vendors hawk food trucks to chef uniforms, digital advertising systems to slush machines. Also in the mix at this Wisconsin Restaurant Association event are(…)

Machu Picchu pilgrimage: a study in engineering, miracles

When pelting rain wakes me at 4 a.m. on a Monday, about all I can do is listen and wonder. The closest weather forecast online is for a city 70 miles away and 3,300 feet higher in elevation. This is the day. There is no rain date. Our train leaves in mid afternoon. What sounds(…)

How to deal with the unexpected during travel

I sometimes welcome the unexpected in travel because that’s the foundation for fond and lasting memories, even though you might not think so at the time. An overnight at a Buddhist temple north of Busan, South Korea, had us fumbling with chopsticks, in fear of an order to swig a slosh of wasted food, then(…)

Reader mail: River cruises, Holyland churches,

Time to lighten the reader mailbag – thanks for taking the time to write with your questions, ideas, critiques and praise about destinations close to home and abroad. — I certainly am not the only one whose Danube River cruise was interrupted by flooding. Kathy Thomas of Pleasant Prairie says her trip was rescheduled from(…)

Eagle watch: Mississippi River, Raptor Center

Up to 2,500 bald eagles winter near the Mississippi River’s locks and dams because open water makes it easier to fish for dinner. That’s why we consider this the time of year to seek out the once-endangered raptor. The population estimate comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and most bald eagles head north(…)

Frommer’s travel advice: Bali, Europe, Nashville are good value

So many travel stories concentrate on exotic and extravagant destinations that have huge budgets for marketing and promotion. We all know they are off-limits to average people because of the excess and expense. Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel columns, magazines and books are a longstanding exception. His guidebook “Europe on $5 a Day,” published in 1956,(…)

Cooking with beer, brandy at Schlitz campus, Appleton brewery

Cooking with alcohol used to mean little beyond a splash of beer in a crock of cheese soup or tub of simmering brats. Now ales, stouts and spirits show up in almost all courses, if you know where to look. — The Brown Bottle, a tasting room and tavern for Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewing Co. since(…)