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(…)