Wisconsin

Cornucopia, Bayfield County, buffing it up?

Thanks to a “road closed” sign, my route into town changes abruptly. First it’s farmland, then woods, while navigating from roads of concrete to dirt and gravel, sometimes under tree canopies dense enough to cast a solid blanket of shade during 15 puzzling miles. I am barely north of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, passing an(…)

Enlarged Madison Children’s Museum opens

When people see a part of themselves in a project, it creates a sense of ownership, and that sure seems like a sturdy foundation for building loyalty. The Madison Children’s Museum soon opens at a new location, a 1929 Montgomery Ward department store. The move triples museum size and allows staff to wow a larger(…)

Stone Barn, Nelson: pizza on the farm

“Build it, and they will come,” I think, while climbing the hilly roads that dance with the creeks and curves of northwest Buffalo County. They come from neighboring farms and as far away as China, but are most likely to head here from Eau Claire, La Crosse and various Minnesota cities – Wabasha, Rochester, Minneapolis(…)

Tiny Stockholm big draw for summer tourists

The too-quick darkening of sky near twilight means a storm is approaching, but most of the dozen fishermen don’t seem to notice. A stocky guy with multiple piercings and a deep pink Mohawk is an exception. He totes ashore his catch of the day, a 31-inch northern pike. Not a bad way to end a(…)

Farmstead ice cream shop near Fond du Lac

Karen Kelley has long wanted to open a home-based business on the family farm, and three years ago she got serious about pursuing that dream. “I love to cook, bake and create,” she explains, so she studied value-added agriculture. Should she spin wool? Learn how to make cheese? The farm wife chose a sweeter path(…)

Leopold Shack: newest national landmark

Preserve and protect, or expand and improve? How hard it is to do all in the name of progress. Call it human nature to take cherished places for granted until we feel their survival is endangered, but sometimes real or perceived threats become excellent catalysts to nurture and nudge plans into positive directions. Forty places(…)

Inside Ridges Sanctuary, Door County

Twenty-two years. That’s how long the dwarf lake iris has sat on the federal list of threatened plants, but I know where it grows like a weed during this time of year. Hundreds of the tiny blue-purple flowers, most no bigger than a thumbnail, mingle among junipers and pop through sand at The Ridges Sanctuary(…)

Braise on the Go: truly field-to-fork cooking

The thrill of the hunt, at this time of year, refers to careful walks through forests, in search of rotting wood, dead elms in particular. The winner’s trophy carries great bragging rights and value, weighing in at $3 – or more – per ounce. The hunter’s weapon of choice is a sharp pocketknife, accompanied by(…)

Down to Earth Tours study state’s northwest

One of the first things Dave Thorson does, when he stops his 14-passenger bus, is take out a pouch of tobacco and talk about a ritual that goes back thousands of years. We are at the wild and unblemished Totogatic Flowage in northwest Sawyer County, and Dave tosses bits of tobacco in four directions, as(…)

Green Leaf Inn, Delavan, sets eco-bar high

If you presume that sustainable living requires a high degree of personal sacrifice, listen to the developers of eco-serious lodging near the tourism-rich Lake Geneva area. “We want to show people that they don’t have to eat granola bars and camp out to be green,” says Catherine McQueen, who with husband Fritz Kreiss plan to(…)

Milwaukee: Lakefront Brewery makes history

Russ Klisch decided to ferment beer after brother Jim gave home brewing a try. “It wasn’t the worst thing I ever had,” Russ deadpans, but he figured he could do it better. That was 1982, and Russ (schooled as a chemist) today operates an unconventional laboratory in a former Cream City brick power plant. His(…)

Casino slots add more interactive elements

When Potawatomi Bingo Casino tripled its size in 2008, the Milwaukee gaming emporium added 1,300 slot machines, so the total exceeds 3,100. What began as a bingo parlor in 1991 today attracts upwards of 4 million visitors annually – the biggest in Wisconsin and among the biggest in the Midwest. Replacing visions of gray-haired widows(…)

Sap on tap: More of us running for the gold

Time for a tap, and we’re not talking about Spotted Cow or Sprecher Amber. Even though the Olympics have ended, Wisconsin has begun another run for the gold. The annual transformation of maple sap to syrup has started statewide, and Gretchen Grape of Holcombe (Chippewa County) cautiously predicts a strong tapping season. She is executive(…)

Wisconsin introduces roadside culture stands

Consider the phrase “roadside culture stand.” It is more than a place to sell fresh veggies, less imposing than the average art fair booth and all about a new way to elevate the unique bounty that defines Wisconsin. Picture a farm stand on wheels, but one that blends art and agriculture. It functions as a(…)

Full steam ahead for Wisconsin tea lovers

When Katrina Isaacson says “you’ll never see me bring a latte in here,” you sense a level of determination that belies her gentle smile. Johanna May’s Fine Teas, near Wausau, is named after her mother, a much-loved coffee drinker who died at age 46. The proprietor is the mother of four boys, “so this is(…)

Bump-a-thump: Madeline Island’s windsleds

Here’s the question: What happens if you and your brother want a vacation? Answer: Everybody leaves the island. Har, har. Just joking, says Arnie Nelson. Fact is, he and brother Ronnie don’t take off much time during winter. Only about 250 people live on Madeline Island all year, and they rely on the Nelson brothers(…)

GPS + Northwoods + winter spells trouble

Serene Northwoods scenery. Mild winter weather. Leisurely timetable. GPS set. What’s wrong with this picture? The GPS – and our assumption that a road can be driven just because it looks cleared. Two friends and I veered onto lesser-traveled roads because there was no reason to rush during a 325-mile trip from Bayfield to Madison.(…)

L’Etoile, Madison, expands ‘go local’ mission

Chef Tory Miller buys not steaks and chops but whole cows and pigs from local farms, using as much of the animals as possible in his fine dining menus. Such practices are not uncommon for a well-trained chef who truly wants to lessen unnecessary waste while supporting the work of local farmers. Tory is among(…)

Vegetarian dining: Dells, Manty, Brookfield

I am a lifelong meat eater who for years has dined out once a month with vegetarian friends who routinely share their entrees. So I respect and appreciate a no-meat diet. We have many veggie-friendly menus in Madison, including the newly opened Green Owl, 1970 Atwood Ave., which is a 100 percent vegetarian café that(…)

Winter in Wausau: Ice fishing, skiing, bird art

Dave Torkko is rearranging snow when we meet in Wausau, and I tell him about wanting to get to Weston before dark. It’s my hunch that I should use country roads to proceed most quickly, and he agrees, offering directions that begin one block away. Then he eyes my puny car and seems to reconsider.(…)

Boutique bowling, tiny alleys, new museum

Is bowling about to take on a new attitude in Wisconsin? Opening this month are the first boutique lanes in Madison’s downtown campus area. “Boutique,” in this case, means leave your bowling bag, wrist brace and blue-collar vibe at home. Neon lights and glow-in-the-dark pins don’t describe the unconventional intentions of proprietors Michael Hierl and(…)

Places full of holiday spirit in Madison

In search of the holiday spirit? Head to Madison, but don’t let mall Santas, early-bird specials and tinsel-tinged storefronts saturate the day. When I need a yuletide boost, these six places provide it in a one-of-a-kind way. — Holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin-Turville Park, entrance at John Nolen Drive and Lakeside Street: Drive into(…)

New book examines 10 grand opera houses

Turn back the clock 80 to 100 years, and a night out meant dressing up for a brush with opulence, refined entertainment – or both. Our ancestors imported crystal and marble to marvel each other on a grand scale, creating opera houses that defined and later challenged a community’s commitment to the fine arts, vaudeville(…)

Wild rice theme of B&B recipe contest

At least 8,000 lodging units accommodate visitors to Wisconsin Dells, and the sea of beds includes mega resorts, multi-bedroom condos, standard motel rooms – and the country quiet of what David and Nancy Bowman offer. The innkeepers since 2003 have operated Bowman’s Oak Hill Bed and Breakfast, two cabins and three rooms in their home.(…)