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(…)

New kayaking, birding, ballet events surface

Looking for an unusual twist for your next quick getaway? Consider these ideas, gleaned from people and materials at the recent Governor’s Council on Tourism convention in Green Bay. — If you love sea kayaking and want to improve your skills in scenic surroundings, consider the June 17-20 Inland Sea Kayak Symposium in Washburn and(…)

Real-life vacation strategies, challenges

Interesting things are happening as I wait for spring and contemplate ways to favorably alter reality. — My guy and his buddies went to Mississippi recently, for a little golfing near Biloxi, and I found them reasonable vacation components online. Cost was about $560 per person for air from Milwaukee, four nights of lodging and(…)

The Big Six: Grand Excursion to PGA events

State tourism staffers are predicting an exceptional year for revenue and visitors in Wisconsin, so big that a half-dozen events/attractions will be hyped at the beginning of this year’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The conference, which will be in Green Bay next week, attracts about 1,000 people who are affiliated with tourism. It is(…)

Johnson & Wales students pamper travelers

OK, here’s your next exam: Make an elaborate sculpture out of candy, and make each component from scratch. This isn’t about frosting a piece of cardboard, then pressing a bag of gumdrops into it. It is one of the tests that preoccupy many of the 5,600 culinary arts students at the five Johnson & Wales(…)

Boutique hotels personalize service

Traveling in style is getting easier to do when close to home, thanks to the slow but steady opening of boutique hotels that provide much more than a predictable place to stay. You no longer need to book a room at a W Hotel in a major metro area to experience the personalized service and(…)

Italian fare authentic at Tenuta’s, Kenosha

A gallon of virgin olive oil was one of the oddest holiday gifts that I’ve ever given, and it was bought on a whim while shopping in Kenosha a few years ago. The city’s downtown lakefront has improved remarkably since I worked for the Kenosha News in the 1980s. The shoreline has gone from an(…)

Mohegan Sun redefines ‘casino resort’ image

Consider this phrase: casino resort. It is not just a place to gamble or roast in the sun. It is not anything like the gaming facilities in Wisconsin or on the Mississippi. Most Vegas strip and Atlantic City boardwalk choices don’t come close either. To find the world’s biggest casino resorts, go to a part(…)

Say mush: Dog sledding blankets Wisconsin

A new blanket of snow is heaven when you’re a skier, a snowmobiler, a skater or a sledder. Sledder? Make that a musher. Dog sledding – as a hobby and as a business, through the racing of dog teams or the offering of dog sled rides – is gaining visibility in Wisconsin, sometimes in the(…)

Diverse ethnic fare: Eat Street, Minneapolis

To my left was a sturdy, red-shuttered German restaurant, the Black Forest Inn. To my right was the simple but cheery-looking Pancho Villa, serving Mexican food. Next door to it was the Tibet Lotus Flower Shop. Such ethnic diversity, within a block, certainly is not unprecedented in the Midwest. But this melting pot stretches for(…)

Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame: the archives

A $7,500 pair of shoes caught the eye of Tom Murphy last April, and he got them – for free. That kind of thing is pretty special, but not unprecedented, in his line of work. Tom is chief archivist for the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, and the shoes were donated by Judy Russell(…)

Vacation condo growth spurts

Was it all that long ago when a respectable vacation getaway meant a modest lake cottage – heat and indoor plumbing optional? Or a patch of land big enough to put up a tent, or park a trailer, so you could watch the stars and tend a campfire? Times indeed are changing, not just in(…)