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. WalletHub.com 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(…)