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(…)

Chicago Restaurant Week: From the Farmhouse and beyond

Downtown Chicago might seem about as far away as you can get from rural America, but think again. At Farmhouse Chicago restaurant, an antique tractor grill covers the hostess stand, steel pipes are stairway handrails and simple cotton kitchen towels are napkins. On display are collectible toy tractors, walls are whitewashed and accouterments include a(…)

Valentine’s Day ideas: cave, art, chocolate, wine, spa getaways

What cracks the deepest freeze of winter? A warm heart, and February is just the time to stoke up a little romance. Here are a dozen ways to woo your Valentine. Cave of the Mounds, Blue Mounds, opens its Cathedral Room and more to couples from 5-7 p.m. Feb 14. This by-reservation opportunity is only(…)

Early O’Hare flight or layover? Check out Rosemont, Ill.

I am a fickle consumer when it comes to airline transportation and spend way too much time weighing fares and gateways. I favor no airline but repeatedly head to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport because of often-remarkable price differences compared to Wisconsin options. When a deep discount means spending a night in the area because of(…)

Paralympics’ best Nordic skiers in Hayward for world championships

If you look at winter as a season of limitations, head to Cable and Chequamegon National Forest in southern Bayfield County for a profoundly different perspective. I’m not talking about the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski races in February, held since 1973, although the demonstration of athleticism, endurance and grit is bold. What the area hosts(…)

“1,000 Places” author: thankful, curious, loves long-haul flights

Patricia Schultz was raised in Beacon, N.Y., a Hudson River town with some of our nation’s earliest settlements and the late folkster Pete Seeger as a hometown icon. She calls the city “a real Norman Rockwell corner of the world.” “I had a lovely childhood, but it wasn’t quite enough for me,” says the author(…)

Major Nuremberg brat exhibit opens in Germany

You say you love bratwurst? Germany’s Bavaria is centuries ahead of us in that regard, and now a new exhibit in Nuremberg’s local history museum is devoted to the sausage. The show about Nuremberg Rostbratwurst fills the first level of Stadtmuseum Fembohaus and is a first step toward deciding whether the city should open a(…)

Unexpected gems: Bay Motel, Leg Lamp Lodge, Molly O

Little luxuries and surprises are a part of what makes travel a joy, and this applies to my wanderings throughout Wisconsin in 2014. Remember that what you take for granted in the back yard indeed might earn ovations from out-of-towners. Here is a glimpse of what impressed me unexpectedly. Bay Motel and Restaurant, 1301 S.(…)

Green Fountain B&B in Waupaca serves other meals, too

Booking a bed and breakfast at the Green Fountain Inn could mean lunch or dinner, too, if you time it right. Accommodations at the Waupaca B&B, a roomy Victorian-style house built in 1908, are more about comfort and affordability than excess and luxury. Room rates stay well under $100, which includes a continental breakfast with(…)

Where the locals go in Madison during winter

Dreams of a white Christmas usually come true for us in Wisconsin, but there’s a quick skid of difference between picturesque wintry weather and an avalanche of discontent. A new exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, gently reminds us that the modern-day pleasures and pitfalls of winter are gentle when compared to what our(…)

Chicago gangster tours delve into bullet-riddled history

Mobster Al Capone was released from federal prison 75 years ago and sent home to Chicago. He was 40 years old and in bad health, mentally and physically, because of advanced syphilis; he refused treatment because he didn’t trust people with needles. That’s how Johnny Three Knives recounts it, and he’ll tell a lot more(…)

New museum exhibits: neon, androids, photos, fibers, history

Art, history and other museums in Wisconsin offer ongoing opportunities to learn and appreciate the world and home. Consider this sampling of special exhibits that will carry us into the new year. – “Changing Currents: Reinventing the Chippewa Valley” addresses at least 350 years of local history through a diverse array of local figures (including(…)

New Midwest cookbooks with wassail, apple, locavore recipes

With colder weather comes the inclination to cook more, if for no other reason than to add warmth to the kitchen. This new trio of cookbooks, each associated with a destination to visit, just might add ideas for holiday gift lists or inspiration to your own recipe repertoire. – Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. recently(…)

A few pros, cons of river cruise vacations

Living out of a suitcase usually is an irritating necessity when a trip involves multiple cities, states or countries. You can stay in one place to avoid a jumble of hotels, but that means renting a car or riding trains to and from home base, which can eat up a lot of time. Cruising is(…)

Reader mail: shrines, art, lodging, dining

Time to sort through the reader mailbag. ’Nuf said. – Some of you share my enthusiasm for Clear Lake, Iowa, and its rock music heritage. “We were impressed with the way the Surf Ballroom has been preserved, and the community spirit behind the preservation,” write Dick and Sharon Rayborn of Wausau. The couple also especially(…)

Atlantic City: going beyond the casinos

My bet is that Atlantic City isn’t on the radar of football fans heading east to watch Wisconsin play Rutgers on Nov. 1. Atlantic City, 100 miles south of New Jersey’s largest university, is quickly losing its reputation as a gaming mecca. Four of the city’s 12 casinos closed this year, and a fifth (Trump(…)

Better than trick or treat: Riding a New Orleans parade float

One visit is enough for some places, but that’s not how I view New Orleans. The city has a flashy array of personalities, none boring. If I could be anywhere in the country as this month ends, it would be The Big Easy, and the Oct. 26 Packer-Saints football game is just one reason why.(…)

Food on the farm: Restaurant ingredients truly local

Lots of chefs develop farm-to-table menus to showcase local ingredients, but these restaurants go one step further. Each is on a Wisconsin farm and open all year. North Star Homestead Farms, 11077N Fullington Rd., Hayward: A trio of women – Ann Berlage with daughters Laura and Kara – operate a café, market and creamery on(…)