Deep discounts make wintry travel to NYC, Chicago worthwhile

Hibernating through winter is a good thing unless too much coziness feels like confinement. Thin is the line between peaceful solitude and bleak isolation. One remedy for cabin fever is the sunshine of southward travel, but it may be easier on the budget to break away to Manhattan or Chicago. Deep discounts, easier access and(…)

Take Twelve: new ways to lure you away

Some weeks seem more eventful than others. Look what’s hot during the middle of winter. Anime Milwaukee: Arrive in costume (or not) to indulge in gaming for individuals and teams during three days of dance, masquerade, role playing, tabletop gaming and Asian animation. Activities happen downtown at the Wisconsin Convention Center and adjacent Hyatt Regency(…)

Museum of Broken Relationships: Loves lost, insight found

What becomes of the broken-hearted? Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin turned a song by that name into an R&B hit one-half century ago, and musicians of other genres (Rod Stewart to Martina McBride) have spun their own versions since then. The lyrical lament of love lost still feels universal, especially in February, when the month of(…)

Upper Michigan snowmobile museum dwells on history

The last time I talked to Charlie Vallier, he was hoping for a snowstorm. The longtime snowmobile collector knows it’s good for his hobby and the economy where he lives, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Vallier is chairman of the nonprofit Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway. No Lake Michigan shoreline community is(…)

Native American cuisine: potential exists for sophisticated offerings

In my “in” box is no shortage of annual predictions that involve food trends. Native American ingredients, recipes and culinary traditions never seem to make the cut. Very perplexing. Do you know of a restaurant that specializes in Native American cuisine? What is that kind of food, beyond fry bread, wild rice and maybe venison?(…)

In stitches: Popularity of quilting extends to Millennials too

Quilts cocoon us during winter’s harshest nights, but warmth is only one way to define their value. Homespun quilts cloak us with deep memories of people who matter. Maybe snippets of fabric come from your dad’s well-worn shirts. Maybe your favorite aunt hand-stitched for a gazillion hours. Maybe the design is the creative work of(…)

‘Holy Rover’ finds value in spiritual pilgrimage, near and far away

With the new year comes motivation to begin anew, perhaps with hope for significant change that starts with a public resolution or private vow. Maybe the path seems clear and easy to measure: Stop smoking. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat better. But sometimes we feel compelled to address a restlessness, discontent, ambition, anxiety or sadness(…)

Take Ten: delectable diversions in dining

A meal is worth remembering because of the good company, exquisite taste, price, quantity, artistic flair or unexpected offerings. Splendid settings turn the ordinary into something special. So do smart people who use food to catch and keep our attention in surprising ways. At year’s end, I recollect the source of some of my most(…)

Take Ten: the year’s lovely lodging

I rest my head on dozens of beds besides my own every year and check out many other properties without staying overnight. What catches my attention is the unusual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean uber expensive or exotic. Among my 2017 favorites: Ace Hotel, New Orleans: Count this shabby-chic hotel as an edgy draw, especially(…)

Nassau: sites beyond the Straw Market

Some changes happen on purpose, and some are by accident. That was my takeaway when recently revisiting Nassau, 27 years after getting acquainted during a short cruise to the Bahamas. In 1990, a cruise (on the Mardi Gras, Carnival’s first ship) meant seasickness in a budget room with no porthole and too much rum punch(…)

Chicago exhibit takes “SNL” fans behind the scenes

Matt Foley. The Church Lady. Wayne and Garth. Wild and Crazy Guys. Debbie Downer. Mary Katherine Gallagher. Longtime fans of “Saturday Night Live” know these bizarre but endearing characters, whose home – Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center – draws a television audience of millions each week. No show has earned more (240) Emmy Award nominations.(…)

Downtown Dough: thousands of cookie cutters

Smart cookies. Patrick and Patricia Niles, owners of Downtown Dough in Cedarburg, have a good recipe for separating what they do from other kitchen boutiques, especially during this time of year. The retailers began business in West Bend almost 20 years ago, selling cookie dough for school fundraisers and other purposes. Now they get international(…)

The Maker Movement: DIYers to God and inbetween

The word “maker” applies to everybody from bakers to welders, sculptors to knitters, DIYers to God. They toil or tinker all year, but the holiday shopping and party season is a prime time to notice them. The Maker Movement is harder to define, but it involves a special kind of group determination, product quality, camaraderie(…)

Spy-themed SafeHouse opens in Chicago

Two blocks west of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a red door with understated signage is our introduction to international espionage. Plus lunch. What we step into is an office, whose lone occupant warily sizes us up and begins a peppering of questions. Why are we here? Do we know the password? Are we willing to perform(…)

Alumni Park, Milwaukee zoo babies, APT for 2018

If cold weather and fewer hours of daylight tempt you to stay home, read on. There’s no need to hibernate quite yet. — Open on 1.3 acres between Memorial Union and the Red Gym at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along Lake Mendota, is the new and art-rich Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Alumni Park. Timeless words of(…)

Take Ten: thrifty shopping

The adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is attributed online to the Great Depression, the Amish, pioneers and evangelists. The words are a partial solution to surviving hardships, but don’t underestimate the thrill of the hunt, regardless of income or circumstances. Underwear and socks are about all that(…)

Is everybody happy? Metrics matter

We love to rank things, especially in the travel biz, but reader beware: Metrics matter, and we don’t like to pick the same winner over and over. Sometimes we aim to surprise or shock. Consider Stoughton, population 12,670 and 20 miles southeast of Madison. this year declared it one of the nation’s top 20(…)

Reader mail: Megabus, Chicago, Door County, postcards

Readers, it’s time to lighten the mailbag by sharing your travel feedback, ideas, challenges and questions. Keep those email, Facebook and snail-mail notes coming. — “You are a great bus traveler,” writes Jack Handley of Chicago. “I am thinking about taking a bus from Chicago to Indy for a football game this fall. Do you(…)

Two cookbooks that tantalize beyond their recipes

Someone occasionally approaches me about writing an endorsement for a new book, and it’s an invitation that I don’t take lightly. I politely decline unless the project truly catches my attention. That is how I was introduced to “Life in a Northern Town: Cooking. Eating. And Other Adventures Along Lake Superior.” The newly published book(…)

Take Ten: Autumn’s vast bounty

Before the first hard frost come the fruits of farm labor. Wisconsin’s bounty seems especially plentiful this year, thanks to long-lasting, agreeable weather that even makes me look like a master gardener of tomatoes. The harvest is one big reason to celebrate and appreciate autumn. Changing leaf color is another. In the Badger State is(…)

Meat this: Most stops rural on Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail

It’s not yet noon when we pull into Wellsburg, Iowa, curious and hungry for lunch. We wonder why the village, population 700, needs a one-way street downtown. We wonder why Town House Supper Club, our destination, opens at 6 a.m. And we wonder what one of us, a vegetarian, will find to eat. The pork(…)

Wandering Iowa: Villages of Van Buren, covered bridges

“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.” The quote belongs to Grant Wood, the Iowa artist whose “American Gothic” pitchfork couple and other paintings freeze scenes of rural life in what outsiders not-so-fondly refer to as “flyover country.” How easy it is to dismiss what we don’t know. Explore rural Iowa if you(…)

Take Twelve: Comedy in Wisconsin

In case you think Wisconsin could show a better sense of humor, I have two words for you: Very funny. No need to factor in those cheddar-colored Cheesehead wedges. We have a reputation beyond that. For example: You don’t know Ben Karlin from stage performances, but the University of Wisconsin grad is leaving a huge(…)

ArtPrize puts Grand Rapids, Mich., on the map for wild, wonderful art

Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, finds unusual ways to gain attention. It has produced high-quality furniture for more than a century. It is a nationwide leader in environmental sustainability. On the city’s Beer City Ale Trail are at least 60 microbreweries, including Brewery Vivant, in a former funeral home. Grand Rapids brews so much beer(…)