ColdCache, Native American, Dells tourism

Five newcomers to notice this year: You’ve heard of geocaching – treasure hunts for families or adults that require little more than a GPS and tips from geocaching.com. Now work has begun to develop a ColdCache program along the Ice Age Trail. ColdCache refers to geological treasures – barrens to swales – that are found(…)

Wisconsin in labor: work museums, tours

A lot of us in Wisconsin are seeing red or feeling blue because of this winter’s legislation and citizen protests about collective bargaining rights for state workers. To understand the deepest hues of work, head to Milwaukee, where hundreds of paintings and sculptures show the sweat, hazards and triumphs of manual labor. The Grohmann Museum(…)

Port Washington Inn tops state B&B contest

Atop Sweet Cake Hill, four blocks from Lake Michigan, sits a bed and breakfast with five guest rooms near downtown Port Washington, an unassuming community of 11,000 that does little to brag up its attractive lakeshore. Book the Port Washington Inn’s third-floor Top of the World Suite, and accommodations include a sitting area with a(…)

Tourists assist at Apostle Isle sled dog races

We know we are in the right place because tire tracks over fresh snow lead only one way, to the Echo Valley gravel pit, and because the howling is incessant. It’s the sound of impatience and high energy. Fifteen miles from Bayfield, near the northern peak of Wisconsin, dozens of eager dogs and their mushers(…)

Distil, Merchant mixing craft, classic cocktails

While you’re nursing that Bloody Mary, mimosa or screwdriver during Sunday brunch, I’m discovering Milk Punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz and Corpse Reviver No. 2. The three cocktails are a study in history, and you’ll find them on the brunch menu at Merchant, a new place to dine and imbibe in downtown Madison. At the(…)

Finding Elvis: impersonators all hail The King

The guy in front of us is shaking his hips so hard that he almost loses his fringy belt of macramé. The gyrations remind me of a washing machine gone awry during the spin cycle. Is this a good thing? I sneak a glance to my right, before filling the score sheet. My colleague seems(…)

Valley of the Kings: exotic animals’ last stop

I have not met Jill Carnegie, but I know what’s on her wish list: blankets, office supplies, wheelbarrows, lumber, fly traps, chest freezers, straw and many other items. She needs food, too, about 1,500 pounds every day. Send money, and you’re officially part of a family with Chelsea, Jasmine, Shera, Nadia, Bruno and dozens of(…)

Oshkosh studies deer hunting history, habits

As weather cools, so does the desire to stay indoors. That’s not the same as wanting to stay at home: Consider this trio of recently opened exhibits as a good reason to bundle up and head out. — You don’t have to shoot a gun to appreciate the many history lessons that “Deer Hunting: Wisconsin’s(…)

Inside Madison’s Underground Kitchen

When I met Jonny and Ben Hunter three years ago, they were rebel caterers keen on cooking adventurously with locally grown food, but without the trappings of tradition. Their work was fine art, but customers wouldn’t know the exact menu until the day of delivery. That’s how serious the brothers were about using in-season ingredients.(…)

Georgio’s: Perfecting the recipe for pizza

USA Today readers know by now that Georgio’s in Milton, a Rock County community of 5,100, is my Wisconsin recommendation in a nationwide roundup of great pizza places. The owners of this cozy, little Italian restaurant – George Rakidzich and Cheryl Ryan – have Serbian and Irish roots. They discarded corporate careers 13 years ago(…)

Reedsburg thinks food, Fermentation Fest

Everybody has a story, including the guy who shows up at Donna Neuwirth’s place with an odd contraption just before closing time. The device looks like a thick and makeshift set of wooden tongs that sits atop sturdy arcs of attached metal. “Bet you don’t know what this is,” the unannounced visitor teases. The antique(…)

Wisconsin Feargrounds: frightful fun

Tim Gavinski’s livelihood depends upon what happens during 14 days of frightening work this month. He has built a production that requires 152 paid actors and 12 makeup artists, plus dozens of other support staff. The stage is 58,000 square feet of the Waukesha Expo Center. The theme is fear and suspense. During the duration(…)

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(…)