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(…)

Take Twelve: Cool custard stops in Wisconsin

Culver’s, kingpin in the frozen custard world, introduces six new flavors this year. That hasn’t happened since 2012, and all of the Prairie du Sac company’s 650 restaurants in 24 states are simultaneously introducing one newcomer per month as a Flavor of the Day. Cappuccino Cookie Crumble, which mixes chocolate and sugar cookie chunks into(…)

Sometimes little luxuries make one great memory

One of my favorite names for a specialty shop is Little Luxuries, on State Street in Madison. In the offbeat inventory are fancy hair clips, crazy socks, clever games, artsy reading glasses, unusual toys for kids. It’s a place to pamper yourself or someone you love without selling the farm. When price means everything, the(…)

Kentucky destinations, for horse lovers, extend beyond the Derby

Horse lovers know the arrival of May brings the grace and thrill of high-stakes thoroughbred racing. It all begins with the Kentucky Derby in Louisville but need not end there. This winning trifecta of equine adventures in the Bluegrass State are within 100 miles of Churchill Downs and open all year. — What happens to(…)

Showtime nears: High hopes for new Milwaukee Bucks home

East of the river: That’s where most of downtown Milwaukee’s modern-day growth and revitalization have occurred, but one massive exception is emerging. The $524 million bet ($250 million of it with taxpayer money) is that the burgeoning Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center project will generate excellent and enough new reasons to visit and linger. Construction(…)

Reader mailbag: Quilt retreats, snowball vs. snow cone, awards

Time to take a dip into the mailbag. A belated, public “thank you” to those who sent notes about quilt retreats. Two were sent a copy of my book “Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers” (Itchy Cat Press, 2012). The last time I corresponded with Karen Brunsell of Janesville, she was leaving(…)

Cheese, please: Regional traditions turn into others’ trends

Count our squeaky and deep-fried curds, plus the South’s pimento spreads, among the beloved cheese traditions that are gaining attention far away from home. Classic pimento cheese spread – known as the “caviar of the South” – is a chunky blend of shredded cheddar, mayo, cream cheese, chopped pimentos, salt, pepper and maybe a kick(…)

Plot your next getaway while waiting for spring to truly arrive

“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” The quote belongs to writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Change is business as usual during this time of year, so while waiting for weather to settle and blossoms to sprout, plot both the garden and your next(…)

Take Ten: Running with accessibility, beyond the basics

State tourism embraces accessibility in a new marketing campaign, and the star is a four-time Paralympic athlete. Matt Scott, a 2016 gold medalist in wheelchair basketball, talks up why and where he returns to the Badger State for annual summer vacations. “A million ways to have fun and no reason not to” is the slogan.(…)

Milwaukee Art Museum’s “Road Trip” photos remove the filters

Smart phones and digital cameras make it possible for almost anybody to take a good picture, on purpose or by accident. Gone are the days when shutters fly sparingly and each frame is composed painstakingly: The cost of developing film no longer is a worry. Also vanishing is the photo album that you can hold:(…)

Wisconsin film fests: Entertainment is one part of their value

The worth of a well-crafted film goes way beyond entertainment, in little and large ways. A good movie helps us walk in somebody else’s shoes. Or helps us temporarily escape the tribulations of life. Or lets us know we are not alone. Or inspires us to make a change. Or widens our world through global(…)

Where to find Danish hygge – contentment – in Wisconsin

What sets the stage for a happy life: Joy through toys? Lack of stress? Unconditional love? Popularity? Achievement? Money? Denmark boils the correct answer into one word: “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-ga”), a sense of contentment and coziness that Meik Wiking says is hard to explain precisely – but you know it when you find it. Now(…)

Pagel legacy challenges farm-to-table assumptions

The plump bacon cheeseburger, weighing in at one-third pound, was a blend of ground chuck, brisket and short ribs. The cheese: a medium cheddar. The bacon: pecan-smoked. You could trace the source of those key ingredients to farms within 60 miles of my plate. And that beef? You could track it back to the specific(…)

Trendsetters in lodging: Yotel, Kinn Guesthouse

Hands off, and hands on: We apparently want it both ways while traveling. We want memory-making vacation experiences that are immersive and personal, in groups small enough to get behind the scenes and up close. We want to eat with a local, cook with a chef, volunteer to make a difference, tackle once-in-a-lifetime adventures. EatWith.com(…)

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?(…)