2008: best dining-lodging combos

Rare is the destination that offers lodging and dining that are both distinctive and outstanding in quality. Here are six places that were delightful surprises in 2008. — Most noticeable is the dinnerware, an odd but lovely assortment of colorful, antique styles. It goes well with the mismatched furniture, tucked into intimate, shadowy nooks and(…)

2008: top lodging encounters of the year

Deep discounts for lodging are commonplace during this time of year, so it’s easier to afford lovely vacation accommodations. Here are my top six experiences of 2008. — When my brother and I travel, it is highly unlikely that we’ll book a bed and breakfast for our overnight stay. Comfortable as these surroundings might be,(…)

2008: fine, unusual dining experiences

The world is full of wonderful ways to add calories in interesting places. Here are my top six dining experiences of 2008. — A $10 ticket buys all you can eat at the annual World Championship Chuck Wagon Roundup in Amarillo, Texas, where up to 40 teams cook outdoors over an open fire, using cast(…)

American Girl Place thoughtful, excessive

Here are three little secrets: I pay $16 for a haircut, $20 if you include the tip. I rarely shop anything but sales racks and resale shops. I make lists for the grocery store but routinely substitute meats, based on what is on sale. So forgive me for comparing Chicago’s newly expanded American Girl Place(…)

Reader mail: food, fairs, finding treasures

Reader mail is plentiful, especially since “Hungry for Wisconsin” book events have begun. The good people of Wisconsin are full of fabulous ideas about their favorite destinations. For example: “You asked for places to see and try,” wrote Pat Tesar of Edgerton, after my recent appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio. “I really hesitate to do(…)

Floods challenge state historic site resilience

Mary Cary is proof that new careers can take hold late in life. She is 87 and has been working at the Wade House in Greenbush for 28 years. We discovered her helping dozens of children carve pumpkins – and turnips! – this month during an autumn activities day at the former stagecoach inn, which(…)

Wisconsin cuisine more than brats, beer

Foodies know and care that authentic Champagne and Parmesan come from specific parts of France and Italy, respectively. Now the International Culinary Tourism Association is developing a website that will help travelers distinguish cities, states and countries by uniqueness of cuisine. When your prospective customers (and critics) are the world, it’s daunting to decide what(…)

Fonz statue upholds ‘Happy Days’ image

Two reminders: What you see in the mirror is a distortion of reality, and growing up doesn’t mean throwing away the past. Milwaukee this month adds an iconic structure to its downtown – an $85,000 bronze, life-sized statue of “Happy Days” television character Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, better known as the Fonz, long portrayed by Henry(…)

South Dakota road trip: It’s a rite of passage

For many of us, a road trip of 600-some miles into South Dakota, the Badlands and the Black Hills is a rite of passage. It is the most classic of summer vacations, especially for families, who follow typically flat and easy-to-drive I-90 for a taste of the Wild West. They encounter Shady Brady hats and(…)

SATW Traveling Teddy: Weston rides along

The interviewers – almost 20 of them – had done their homework, taken notes, made a few judgments and were pleasant but relentless. “Where will you go next?” “Why do you like to travel?” “What is your favorite place?” “Can you find anything in your office?” Patrice Pierce’s spunky class of first graders at Mountain(…)

Survey determines state’s small-town gems

Whenever there’s an election, you hope for fair play. No stuffing of the ballot box, no heavy-handed grandstanding, no bullying to unduly sway the results. Earlier this spring, we asked you to go to and vote for your favorite small towns (population less than 15,000) in 20 categories. We’d wince when hearing rumors that(…)

Kohler champions outsider art environments

“Think like Nick,” the teacher advises her students, in kindergarten to grade 6. About 235 children will bring their treasures and stories to school May 16, and at 1 p.m. begin walking – one mile west, all uphill – to give up the material goods and cement the memories. “If we don’t get rained out,(…)

Reader mail: trip ideas, chocolate, resources

The reader mailbag is pleasingly plump, so let’s digest a bit of it. — I read your article about BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) and noted the reference to the outdoor bathroom issue. The book “How to S!!! in the Woods” by Kathleen Meyer (Ten Speed Press) is full of funny anecdotes of mishaps in(…)

What makes the map? Travelers can decide

You are unlikely to seek Hulls Crossing at all, but especially as a vacation destination. It is the farming community in northwest Sheboygan County where I was raised, and little more than a road sign exists today. Things were a slightly different when Hulls Crossing had a railroad stop long ago, but now the tracks(…)

2007: the year in review, regarding lodging

We didn’t pack snow gear when visiting Oregon’s Mt. Hood in early October because the ski season doesn’t kick in until mid November. So we were astounded to watch, on the morning of our drive to the mountain, befuddled TV newscasters reporting on an untimely 16-inch snowfall there. Driving on I-84 and following the Columbia(…)

For the good of one: A flight takes a detour

Lunch in Munich. Dinner in Glasgow. Breakfast in Chicago. This is how the trip ended, but it was not as thrilling as it sounds. There are many reasons for delays and deviations in flight plans. One of the rarest occurs when a passenger’s medical condition becomes life-threatening. That was the case less than two hours(…)

The value of parades: Everybody has a role

Autumn means homecoming, and it’s easy to go home when you feel welcome. Watching thousands of Penn State fans whoop and applaud during their homecoming parade this month helped explain why the university, despite its mountain valley location, has no problem filling its stadium, whose capacity of 107,282 is second largest in the nation. The(…)

Reader mail: on lighthouses, burgers, B&Bs

More lighthouses than any other county in the country: Door County promotional materials included this assertion for years. The state Department of Tourism still mentions this tidbit in its online list of tourism facts. The state Department of Natural Resources’ magazine has used the description in its articles. The Door County Board of Realtors repeats(…)

Summerfest at 40: My, how you’ve grown

Young man, when I was your age, gasoline stations didn’t stay open all night – not even when you were driving around Milwaukee. We learned that the hard way, by coasting into a parking lot, below empty and after midnight. It was during Summerfest, a time of year when it was easy to get caught(…)

SATW Traveling Teddy: mascot back in Lena

The school year is over for Beth Zingler’s two dozen kindergartners at Lena Elementary School (Oconto County), and the teacher always selects a lovely place for her final class field trip. It was easy to appreciate and painless to learn while exploring Green Bay Botanical Garden on a sunny spring morning. Not all lessons were(…)

Reader mail: trips worth a gas tank

Time to get reacquainted with the pulse of our readers. Here are excerpts from recent mail: “I am disabled and have no car, but I wish you would write about Itasca State Park, the gateway to the Mississippi River headwaters,” writes George Wagner of Fond du Lac. “I was there in 1973 and 1976. It(…)

People’s choice: 22 Wonders of Wisconsin

Almost 3,500 of you have voted to designate 22 Wonders of Wisconsin. This first-time people’s choice poll has resulted in a fine mix of classic, lesser-known and well-deserved attractions. Drum roll, or polka intro, please. Here are the winners and finalists, the cream of the 244 nominees that made it onto the ballot. Go to(…)

Destination spas: What is the perfect setting?

One of the biggest surprises, when visiting Tucson’s Canyon Ranch in 2003, was that a basic Swedish massage was the most popular spa service. Why pay all that money, I asked, to get something good but basic? Our tour guide shrugged. “We’re not trendy,” she said, but more concerned with “empowering people to take care(…)

Door County: Turn on to the ‘off’ season

Somewhere between the first glimpse of coastline through barren birches and maples, and the first sip of Spotted Cow at Sister Bay Bowl, I was convinced that enough was enough. Heading into Door County at this time of year, between snowfall and orchard blossoms, can be a deliciously private adventure. It is too soon for(…)