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(…)

Family reunion advice, sites wide-ranging

Some of you are fighting winter by planning for summer. Smart strategy. This is the time to snag your first choice of location for a family reunion. I’ve been asked to recommend good places for Wisconsin reunions, and much depends upon your budget, interests, need for privacy and the composition of your group. Go to(…)

2006: Excellent restaurant experiences

No one will ever mistake me for a serious restaurant critic, but I know a special and unusual dining opportunity when I see it. Here are some of the best places where I accumulated calories in 2006: Sabor Brazilian Churrascaria, 777 N. Water St., Milwaukee – To call this new downtown restaurant a Brazilian steakhouse(…)

2006: Our roundup of good, unusual lodging

It is time to stow away another stack of notebooks and prepare to explore a new year, but not without reviewing a few highlights from 2006. This week, the topic is notable lodging. Next week, it’s a recap of exceptional meals. If “Roads Traveled” already has mentioned a great place to sleep or eat, you(…)

Reader mail: Great but lesser-known lodging

Time to dip into the reader mailbag. Thanks very much for taking the time to be in contact. — Kellie Williams writes to rave about “a lovely weekend” spent at Village Green Lodge, Ephraim.  “The innkeepers were so hospitable, food was great, and the rooms were well-kept, with a country décor,” she says. It is(…)

Lena class lends Slinky as a travel mascot

I have a new traveling companion for the school year, and you can call him Slinky. We just got back from Ohio and soon will head to Iowa. Before winter, we’ll explore Chile and Patagonia, around the time that summer is about to arrive in South America. My new buddy’s adventures will be followed by(…)

Staying “Sidetracked” with Ben Logan

I am in the uncomfortable position of wanting to tell you about the first book that I’ve written, but not wanting it to seem like a blatant advertisement. “Sidetracked in Wisconsin: A Guide for Thoughtful Travelers” (Itchy Cat Press, $23) is about some of the less obvious people and places that I think make Wisconsin(…)

Teachers’ field trip: close-to-home immersion

This eight-day field trip was for teachers – 26 of them, from Arena to Waukesha – and the destination was Wisconsin, more than 1,000 miles of it. The itinerary was a study of geology, culture, history and geography. Now each participant will take her impressions and knowledge into classrooms, kindergarten to adult special ed. Much(…)

How to save big money during big-city trips

Recent visits to a couple of the nation’s most expensive places – New York City and Chicago – motivated me to figure out how to live it up while saving a few bucks. Among the strategies: — Buy an Entertainment coupon book for the metropolitan area that you plan to visit. These thick guides contain(…)

Farm markets, indie restaurants have value

Summer has yet to arrive, but hundreds of farmers in Wisconsin already have begun their harvests. This is our good fortune, and I hope it continues this way. It seems like just about every little town has a summer farmers’ market, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is aware of 114 in our state. Nationwide,(…)

Reader mail: Memorials, cheese, gay rights

Time to dip into the mailbag for a few fine observations from our readers. — Regarding U.S. 51 tourism development: “You did not mention the $600,000 Wisconsin Korean War Veterans Memorial, situated on an island in Plover’s Lake Pacawa and reachable by a memorial causeway,” writes Cliff Borden, a retired Army colonel who lives in(…)

More cities aware of gay-friendly travel value

It has taken only one year for Philadelphia to document positive results from a $1 million campaign to make itself known as a gay-friendly city. “Get Your History Straight, and Your Nightlife Gay” is one slogan; “Let Freedom Ring” is another. For each marketing dollar, there has been $153 in consumer spending. Now Wisconsin’s biggest(…)

Touring the Yucatan, after Hurricane Wilma

Waiters in the U.S. aren’t likely to make a sign of the cross while slipping a $1 tip into their pocket. That is one difference about being here. The quick, silent, subtle gesture was an indication of greater gratitude – especially this year. It happened as I had lunch in Mexico recently, in high-end lodging(…)

2005: Best places to spend the night

I was away from home 88 nights during 2005, with a tremendous variety in lodging. The settings were plush to rustic, in urban to remote areas. Accommodations were extravagant to bare bones, including a bunkhouse, a drafty old farmhouse and a Vegas mega-hotel that is too excessive to be memorable. You’ve already heard about some(…)

Indie businesses define neighborhoods

Racine’s Jerome Boulevard was an average neighborhood two decades ago. Our bungalow was a good starter home, with not much – besides the lime green basement walls and floor – to set it apart from others on the block. But I’ve yet to live in another place where neighbors left plates of homemade bakery on(…)

Luck and resilience matters, home and away

So much of what happens in life is a matter of timing, and so much of it is out of our hands. It would not have taken much, during our recent 10-mile hike into the Grand Canyon, for laughter to turn into agony. While absorbing – literally and visually – an isolated waterfall, our group(…)

Reader mail: places to see before you die

We’re frantic and between grand excursions that you’ll hear about next month, so let’s simply dip into the reader mailbag. First: Two responses regarding the recent, three-part series about Native American tourism. “My work as a documentary photographer has taken me out to the Great Plains to live among (and between) the Lakotas of Pine(…)

Don’t let gas cost, hurricane hits kill travel

A few days after Hurricane Katrina, I started digging around the basement for a box that hadn’t been opened for a dozen years. It was bulging with memories of other lives, from other places. Then came a hunt for the photo album. The pages used to tell sweet stories; today there are pockets of empty(…)

Reader mail: favorite diners, kid getaways

A soaring heat index, then buckets of much-needed rain, made it a fine time to take a cool dip into the reader mailbag. Here are excerpts: Jean Sweet of Madison writes to let us know about Ron Lukes’ “Toft Point: A Legacy of People and Pines” (Nature-Wise, $24.95), the story of Emma Toft, whose family(…)

Advice about how to take good travel photos

I have albums that are full of postcards from trips of a lifetime, taken when my only camera – if it was packed – was a cheap 1970s Instamatic. Then my equipment got slightly more complex, but the composition stayed predictable: friends or family squinting or blinking in front of something famous. It wasn’t until(…)

Grandma’s Christmas tradition: a gift of travel

Lu Ann Williams begins her holiday shopping months before Christmas, but it’s not about filling a closet with toys for her two grandchildren. She’s doing research online, but it’s not with eBay. She’s collecting shopping materials, but they are about cities, not catalogs. What she and husband Gary, who live in Madison, end up with(…)

Reader mail: favorite churches, getaways

Between Plain and Loganville, in southwestern Wisconsin’s Sauk County, is hilly terrain that seems idyllic and never-ending. The coulee area is magnificent – yes, even in these last few days before the trees and groundcover green. Highway 23 zigzags up, down and around clumps of woodland and fields of cattle. There are horses with sun-kissed(…)

Apathy, lazy advice drive tourists away

Not all that long ago, in the gift shop at an upscale Wisconsin resort, a friend asked whether there were any antique stores nearby. “I don’t know,” was the reply. “I’m not from around here.” There was no offer to find out more, and no clue about the impression that had been left with her(…)