Hikers, weavers love Washington Island

As autumn nears, let’s plan an island vacation, one that doesn’t require airfare. The laid-back pace and varied moods of Washington Island, a 22-square-mile parcel at the tip of Door County, tend to get ignored when summer ends. Let that be your gain. Locals say the weather tends to stay warmer longer in this part(…)

Bomber, butterfly aerial displays in harmony

Just outside of Babcock, population 218 and near the Wood-Juneau county line, are two spectacular aerial displays that co-exist amicably despite their huge differences. You can’t see one, and can’t miss the other. Both are reminders of the frailty of life, and the extent to which protection of it is a priority. In Sandhill Wildlife(…)

Millennium Park: Chicago wonder to wander

The city whose name came from a Native American phrase for “smelly onion patch” has a new air of distinction – one that builds upon an already strong architectural identity. Millennium Park, a $475 million project on 24.5 acres off of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, is an amazing place to wander. Its bold flourishes(…)

Republicans in Ripon: What’s the scoop?

In recognition of this month’s Republican National Convention in New York City, let’s poke at a few myths associated with the GOP. We’ll keep the spotlight on Ripon, a city of 6,800 in Fond du Lac County that has long called itself the Birthplace of the Republican Party. The Little White Schoolhouse, designated a National(…)

Huh … Farm Aid never makes it to Wisconsin

Back in 1995, friends and I hopped on a plane to Louisville for the 10th annual Farm Aid concert, a sold-out event that brought 47,000 farm advocates and music fans to Cardinal Stadium. It was a fun getaway with an amazing lineup. And as the daughter of a dairy farmer, it was satisfying to know(…)

Woodstock, Ill.: ‘Groundhog Day’ film site

Imagine the chords of Mozart, not the chortling of Janis Joplin. A place made for passing time, not a joint. There is a tidy town park, not a muddy farm field, and an air of order, not rebellion. This isn’t your mother’s Woodstock, the one with its 35th anniversary today, the one where the crowd(…)

Sheboygan County: Pro golf to Parnell Tower

My assumption is that almost everybody – from Fairbanks to Miami, at least – will know what a brat fry is by this time next week. Spectators at the PGA Championship, and the event’s worldwide commentators, will devour Sheboygan County from Aug. 9-15. My question is whether they’ll stumble across anything beyond the obvious. This(…)

Suds it up with beer tours, museums, books

My office is full of suds, and it has nothing to do with the laundry that’s clinking around downstairs. Each way my head turns, I am reminded of our state’s great love affair with beer. If you want to do more than drink it at the local sportsmen’s bar, consider these upcoming projects and events:(…)

Irish influence extends to festival, inns, pubs

If I had the time to take a class just for the fun of it this summer, I’d learn how to play the tin whistle and pretend I was Mary Bergin. That’s what happens when you Google yourself. There’s another one of me who is an accomplished tin whistle musician in Ireland, and the country(…)

Tom Uttech’s focus: surreal wildlife scenes

The most interesting time of the day, to Tom Uttech, is around 3 a.m. to sunrise, when the natural world moves as most people sleep. “It’s spectacular,” Uttech says. “Incredibly beautiful and incredibly active.” The longtime and highly regarded artist can take you to places you’ve been but never seen. His goal is to stay(…)

VocationVacations: Find the work you love

After Brian Kurth got laid off in 2001, he traveled around the country for six months, and that’s how he learned something significant about people. It didn’t matter if he was having a beer in Boulder or hiking the Grand Canyon. When Brian asked strangers about their work, a part of the answer tended to(…)

Tours inside of caves: beauty below ground

Take out a ruler, draw a rectangle that’s 12 by 18 inches and imagine crawling through it. That’s the wiggle room you’ll have when touring a part of Mother’s Cave, which is in Ledge View Nature Center, near Chilton (Calumet County). Wisconsin has about 250 caves, but only five sites are open for public tours(…)

Sultry Saugatuck: haven for artists, art lovers

For a town whose population is just 1,065, Saugatuck sure knows how to get around. One way is to ride North America’s only chain ferry, a hand-cranking operation that cuts across the Kalamazoo River, from Wicks Park to the Historical Museum. After the bleat of a horn and the clank of a bell, it’s less(…)

Meet Muskegon: Lake Michigan’s wilder side

Here are signs that you’re not on our side of Lake Michigan anymore: * Billboards advertise blueberry farms and dune buggy rides. * Menus contain yellow lake perch and one-pound marinated pork chops, smoked whitefish dip and sweet potato fries. * “Free sand” signs tilt atop windswept mounds, in the yards of beachfront homes. *(…)

Lake Express enters ferry transport market

The sleek Lake Express is crossing Lake Michigan smoothly and more quickly than any other ferry in the lake’s history, but its debut has included procedural bumps. The level of interest is high – so high that potential customers sometimes can’t leave a voice message. The mailbox has been full Sometimes there is no answer.(…)

Maritime museums Maine to Manitowoc

You don’t need sea legs to appreciate the work that gets done in water, be it commercial fishing, cargo hauling or the cruising of tourists. Maritime attractions that show how far we’ve come, and how we got there, are plentiful – both close to home and far away. Here are examples. — I spent a(…)

Waterparks, workshops fit for summer

It’s time to begin making summer vacation plans. Need fresh ideas? We are happy to assist. — The waterpark wars continue in the Wisconsin Dells. Who has the biggest, the best, the most imaginative? There are many ways to measure success, both indoors and out. Kalahari Waterpark Resort, which has an African theme, introduces two(…)

Bicycle trails, tours plentiful throughout state

Maybe you’d love a European vacation but can’t afford the airfare, or maybe you’d like to know Wisconsin more intimately but don’t want to bumble around on your own. If the thought of exercising while vacationing sounds appealing, consider this: Europe in Your Back Yard, an Oct. 3-8 bicycling trip through southwestern Wisconsin. It is(…)

Chefs Collaborative cooks with local food

Back in the 1970s, I spent five summers at the Schwartz Hotel in Elkhart Lake, working as a waitress to pay my way through college. Those are fond memories, even though we’d get only one meal off – not a full day – during the busiest summer weeks. College students from as far away as(…)

Notable bowling lanes, museums, history

At the corner of West Lincoln and South 20th streets are two Milwaukee landmarks, one sprawling and dignified, the other tiny and irreverent. Both attest to Wisconsin’s identity. Forest Home Cemetery is the resting place of the sausage maker Usinger and beer brewer Pabst, actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane, a handful of governors, numerous(…)

Choose a personal retreat to relax, inspire

One event that I’m looking forward to this fall is a women’s retreat that my church is organizing in Green Lake. I know it will be a great way to get to know myself, and other people whom I already respect, just a little bit better. Maybe you also need a place to hide or(…)

What’s new? B&Bs, beer, books, bike ride

OK, that’s it. Time to stay home for a change, and deal with the mounds of press releases that engulf this desk. It’s both spring cleaning and a way to give lots of answers to the innocent inquiry of “what’s new?” Check out these little news flashes, then gas up the car. New digs: There(…)

Food tour introduces Chicago neighborhoods

Baklava is not always made with honey, chocolate-sauce desserts are not always sweet, and tapioca balls are a quirky way to liven up a fruit smoothie. One good way to learn about food, especially ethnic items, is to head to Chicago for a Neighborhood Sampling tour. That’s how I spent about five hours on a(…)

‘Quest for Immortality’ dwarfs King Tut show

It is the most empty exhibit room at the Milwaukee Public Museum that perhaps will pack the biggest wallop from now until August. The 50-foot-long re-creation of a pharaoh’s 15th century burial chamber – its walls filled with the intricate details of a sacred script, but otherwise bare – is a part of what makes(…)