The annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism is a fine reminder that Wisconsin tourism is an ongoing project. Consider these discoveries, gleaned from conversations and observations.
Hard-working innkeeper Susanne Soltvedt, who operates Sunnyfield Farm Bed and Breakfast near Camp Douglas, is getting ready to open another inn, which will include a restaurant. Fountain Chateau, in Hustler – population 116, was a hotel in 1902, when the little town had a train stop and highways routed through it. Then the building became a home for senior citizens but closed in 2008.
Fountain Chateau today has easy access to excellent bicycling. The Omaha, 400 and Elroy-Sparta state trails all are near. So are Amish farms and the unusual rock formations of Mill Bluff State Park. The distance between Susanne’s two inns is less than two miles.
Stay tuned through www.sunnyfield.net and 888-839-0232 for more about the 160-acre Sunnyfield Farm (which rents out three bedrooms) and the new, eight-room inn, set to open during Memorial Day weekend.
Development of Wisconsin’s newest state park, near Luck in Polk County, won’t be finished for at least another year, but you already can hike or row in it. The 2,780 acres of Straight Lake State Park, says Dan Schuller, director of state parks, will be different in character than what is typical in Wisconsin.
That’s because much of the acreage likely will be devoted to silent sports – kayaking, canoeing, hiking, bicycling, fishing, rustic camping. The Ice Age Trail meanders through it. Nesting trumpeter swans consider this home. So does a high concentration of cerulean warblers.
The park is 3.5 miles east of Hwy. 35, following 270th Avenue north of Luck. Monitor park progress at www.dnr.state.wi.us.
Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee, has begun offering tours and product tastings. The company manufactures small-batch vodkas (one includes lemon and Wisconsin honey), gin (with nine botanicals, including Wisconsin ginseng) and brandy.
Next to come: absinthe, the anise-flavored liquor that generated controversy globally because of its chemical makeup. Commercial production in the U.S. resumed in 2007, after researchers determined the liquor that gotten a bad rap and was no more harmful than others.
Distillery tours begin at 6 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Groups of at eight people or more may arrange a tour at other times.
For more about Great Lakes Distillery, 616 W. Virginia St., Milwaukee: www.GreatLakesDistillery.com, 414-431-8683.
Organic Arts Ltd., a relatively new nonprofit organization for grassroots artists and educators, is making a debut at targeted events throughout the state. This is a new, nonprofit arts cooperative that works as one entity to gain exposure and work for its individual members.
Participants include professional storytellers, puppeteers, musicians and other types of entertainers. For more about the Milwaukee-based effort: www.organicarts.info, 414-486-1694.
Mississippi River Sculpture Park, Prairie du Chien, unveils its newest addition – “Voyageur” – at 3 p.m. May 30. More than two dozen bronze, life-size statues – to be sculpted by Florence Bird – will be teachers of local history while providing an aesthetic presence.
“Voyageur” joins statues of Chief Black Hawk, a Victorian woman and Dr. William Beaumont with son Israel. Florence has created models of the other sculptures that eventually will take their place in the park.
“Each sculpture introduces another person who came this way,” she explains. “This is our story, and it continues as we live it today.”
For more about the park, next to Lawler Park on St. Feriole Island, consult www.mississippiriversculpturepark.com, 608-326-7333. The project is funded with private contributions.
Four wineries in southwest Wisconsin are collaborating to present the Great Chocolate and Wine Trail, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23-24. Each winery will offer complimentary tastings, plus special tastings at a nominal fee.
Burr Oak Winery, N5873 Hwys. 12/16, New Lisbon; www.burroakwinery.com, 608-562-5271.
Weggy Winery, 30940 Oak Ridge Dr., Muscoda, www.weggywinery.com, 608-647-6600.
Spurgeon Vineyards and Winery, 16008 Pine Tree Rd., Highland, www.spurgeonvineyards.com, 800-236-5555.
Bauer-Kearns Winery, 19245 W. Mound Rd., Platteville, 608-348-7700.
Relatively new to the lodging market is the Cabin at Whispering Ridge, a sweet-looking, two-level log cabin that sleeps eight. It looks rustic on the outside but contains several modern amenities. Think wrap-around deck and gas grill, fully equipped and modern kitchen, fireplace and Jacuzzi. Big windows and lodge-like décor also set the mood.
The property is isolated enough to attract a diverse assortment of birds. The location is good for a group, or a couple in need of a quiet, romantic getaway. Cabin rental rate begins at $200 per night.
For more about Whispering Ridge Retreat, 35103 Nature Lane, Prairie du Chien: www.cabinsatwhisperingridge.com, 608-306-0681.
Fans of holistic approaches to health are a good match for Aquarian Garden, near New Lisbon, a new wellness center that provides spiritual counseling and various therapies to improve mental, spiritual and physical health.
Overnight lodging, a labyrinth, meditation gardens, events and a café that serves organic food are a part of this endeavor. For more about Aquarian Garden, W8741 County B, New Lisbon: www.theaquariangarden.org, 608-562-5433.