Take Ten: Best of Marshfield

Near the geographic center of Wisconsin is Marshfield, population 19,000 and unusual because the city sits in both Wood and Marathon counties. The long-ago railroad town’s ancestors include a former governor, William Upham, whose 1880 Victorian mansion is the local history museum. Here you will find the world’s largest round barn, whose construction was completed(…)

Water-loving Ephraim about to shake its dry history

Much distinguishes Ephraim, population 288, from other hamlets in tourist-friendly Door County. The local yacht club – organized in 1906 – is one of the oldest on the Great Lakes, but the actual structure is tiny. Membership totals about 480, anyone can join, and children begin sailing lessons at age 7. Ephraim’s annual Flying Scots(…)

Baraboo additions deepen attention to circus history

A note from Dave SaLoutos ends this way: “May all your days be circus days,” and he means it. The ringmaster for Circus World just introduced another performance season in Baraboo. No other Wisconsin city maintains a richer circus history than Baraboo, and now the city of 12,000 is undergoing a significant renaissance. An 1883(…)

Hayward food diversity: Jimmie’s BBQ, farm-to-table cafe, excellent pie

When Dave Anderson opened a little barbecue shack in 1994 on Sawyer County’s Round Lake, the waterfront business gained a quick and strong following. In two decades, those efforts grew into a web of almost 200 down-home restaurants in 34 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Now Famous Dave’s and the founding father are going through(…)

Algoma: oldest winery, formal wear, fishing, fine dive-bar fare

In the shadow of beautiful Door County, the 70-mile-long peninsula that attracts two million visitors per year, is Algoma on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The beguiling little city of 3,200 is less than 20 miles south of Sturgeon Bay, and Highway 42 cuts through the core of downtown. Often-overlooked Algoma is worth a quick detour(…)

National pie champs have rural roots

Twenty years ago, Caroline Imig’s world started crashing. Her husband was killed in a farm equipment accident, leaving her as a single mother with five children. She tried to sell 350 acres and a herd of 120 cows, only to have a land contract buyer abandon the property without her knowledge. “They left me in(…)

Where the locals go in Madison during winter

Dreams of a white Christmas usually come true for us in Wisconsin, but there’s a quick skid of difference between picturesque wintry weather and an avalanche of discontent. A new exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, gently reminds us that the modern-day pleasures and pitfalls of winter are gentle when compared to what our(…)

Many cheese courses exist in America’s Dairyland

It’s business as usual in Wisconsin, which produces the most and best cheese nationally, but the culture is growing in new ways. America’s Dairyland this month won 47 of 81 categories at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, whose 1,700 entries came from 30 states. Next in line: Vermont and New York, each with six gold(…)

Wisconsin’s rich circus history: a vanishing act?

I wonder if anybody still dreams about running away with the circus or knows just what that would involve. Consider the consequences of such high-stakes work and fleeting fame, the glamorous perceptions and gritty realities of shilling for survival, owning only what you carry and having no ties to any town. To live a transient(…)

A Woman’s Touch: doc, social worker run erotica shop

Down a quiet hallway, tucked near the back of a small Madison strip mall, owners of a unique boutique since 1996 have aimed to tickle, tantalize and stimulate all of the senses. Think feather boas. Silky lingerie. Chocolate pasties. Fragrant teas, candles and massage oils. Explicit books, movies and games. Devices that vibrate and tease.(…)

Wisconsin winter getaways for families, friends, couples, athletes

Call it the winter blues, cabin fever or simply the restlessness of being too cooped up. There’s no single formula for quelling this season of discontent. Larry Meiller and I talked about winter getaways on Wisconsin Public Radio this month, and that got me thinking about the range of definitions for a satisfying cold-weather break.(…)

‘Hotel Impossible’ tries boosting Telemark Resort beyond Birkie

What makes an event or place legendary? Longevity counts. So do excellence, uniqueness and a fondness that grows into deep loyalty with the passage of time. Soon thousands head to Northwoods Wisconsin for the annual American Birkebeiner, cross-country ski racing between Cable and Hayward. The Feb. 21-23 event, a tribute to Norwegian history that began(…)

Milwaukee Food Tours: whiffs of bakeries, ethnicity

Aboard the designated “yellow limousine,” which looks an awful lot like a school bus, Sandy Oliver adjusts her elf’s hat and advises us to pace ourselves. Then her holiday and ethnic history lessons begin. What do Irish families eat on Christmas? Spiced beef, served hot or cold. Who stretches the yuletide season into a three-week(…)

Much to cluck about in, near tiny Paoli

Tis the season to talk turkey and shop for everything, but the conversation, décor and merchandise are all about chickens just nine miles south of Madison. Cluck: the Chicken Store recently opened in southwest Dane County, a response to the surge of interest in raising backyard chickens, especially in urban areas. Ordinances in Kenosha to(…)

Cranberries: winning recipes for all courses

Wisconsin farmers harvested about 4.5 million barrels of cranberries this year, which makes us the nation’s leading producer of the berry for 18 consecutive years. Once a year, during the last weekend in September, little Warrens – population 350, in Monroe County – presents a festival that is the largest of its kind. No other(…)

Beer here: Much a-brew in Wisconsin pubs, restaurants

The Brewers Association, which represents 1,900 small and independent brewers nationwide, says most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery and that Wisconsin had 75 breweries at the end of 2011. The total doesn’t include new breweries being planned in Algoma, Hales Corners, Madison, Mequon, Orfordville and Waldo. The association also says the nation’s(…)

Lake Geneva shoreline walk: free, 21 miles

The path is clear but ever-changing. Being aware means being alert. Some surprises remain mysteries. What sounds like fortune-cookie prophecy are a few observations from walking seven miles between Lake Geneva and Williams Bay at the best time of year, before the air’s nip turns biting. Surrounding Geneva Lake in Walworth County are millions of(…)

Laue House, Alma: retro decor, honors-system B&B

Last in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. The state contains 300-plus licensed B&Bs, including this one. — Open the front door of the Frederick Laue House in Alma, and the first thing you see is an old easel that props up a chipped, embellished frame with a(…)

Canyon Road Inn B&B: woodsy retreat near Turtle Lake

Third in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. The state contains 300-plus licensed B&Bs, including this one. — How appropriate that we’re following the Sunset Trail as a sunny day nears its end, and the path leads us to a bench that overlooks quiet Skinaway Lake. Newlyweds already(…)

Raccoon Den B&B on Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary

Second in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. Many innkeepers include breakfast for overnight guests but are not among the state’s 300-plus licensed B&Bs. That is the case with this property, which is licensed as a tourist rooming house. — The most unusual thing about Raccoon Den Bed(…)

Brambleberry B&B: Stay for local-food farm dinner, too

First in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. The state contains 300-plus licensed B&Bs, including this one. — Pregnancy. The Blue Angels. Winemaking. Running vs. lawn mowing. Good books. Home ownership. Heirloom vegetables. Conversation, in the company of strangers, shifts often and effortlessly on a Saturday night at(…)

Ode to Green Bay: Packer passion runs deep all year

We fly Badger and Packer flags in Madison, but I know of no one who decks out the lawn in bright gold and green, complete with fake goalpost and hand-printed signs declaring absolute allegiance to the home team. When I saw this during a summer visit to Green Bay, it wasn’t game day attire. I’d(…)

New food book also works as guide for hungry travelers

Cooking with nutritious and locally grown ingredients is easy at this bountiful time of year, and a new book offers a glimpse about which Wisconsin chefs make it a priority and habit during all seasons. The 2013 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal ($17.95, Ginkgo Press) is a self-described guide to sustainable eating, but it is also(…)

Family-owned Alpine Resort, Door County, stays true to its 1922 roots

Ping-pong. A private beach. White wicker furniture. A screened porch. Rowboat access. A bonfire pit. Shuffleboard. Time-stand-still décor. Loyal, repeat customers. All this is what separates the classic Wisconsin resort from other summer lodging options. Let’s add a house band that dares to play waltzes, an airy dining room with pastel slipcovers on hardback chairs(…)