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(…)

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(…)