Stay or go? Japan plans remain in place

One of my toughest deadlines lately had nothing to do with writing. Less than two days into the war with Iraq, 12 women in Wisconsin each had to decide how much we wanted to participate in a sister-state cultural exchange to Chiba, Japan. The 10-day trip will happen in May. Until last week, we could(…)

Expect shorter trips, last-minute decisions

WISCONSIN DELLS – I hear that you want to stay closer to home, and that’s understandable, but a lot of people hope you don’t barricade yourself until war talk ends. Their livelihood, and the state’s economic health, depends on your decision to leave home once in a while. About 1,000 tourism industry leaders were here(…)

Funjet just one part of Mark Travel Corp.

Here is an incredible journey that had a humble and noble beginning, more than 70 years ago in Kenosha. That’s when Edmund La Macchia began to reunite families, arranging their transport by steamship from Italy to America. Now La Macchia Enterprises, based north of Milwaukee in Bayside, is a several billion dollar entity that is(…)

State tourism to tout arts, eco-friendly sites

It looks like an emphasis on eco-tourism and arts/culture will make Kevin Shibilski, the state’s new tourism secretary, different than his predecessor. “I love the Packers, but there’s more to us than cheering them on and wearing cheesehead hats,” says the former Stevens Point senator, who this month will host his first Governor’s Conference on(…)

Arizona in spring: Catch Cactus League play

A new catch phrase for the Milwaukee Brewers is “It’s coming together,” and that expresses a hope for renewed vitality from the fans as well as the team. Well, I’ll do my part in a couple of weeks by heading to Phoenix and watching the major leaguers in spring training. The season opened this week(…)

Reader mailbag: what to do during winter

Janey Kimpton knows there is beauty in rural Wisconsin – and in Rural, a picturesque village on Highway 22, a couple of miles from King and four miles south of Waupaca. “The Crystal River winds through the little town, which has bed and breakfasts, craft shops and mid-1800 buildings,” writes Janey, who lives in Warrens(…)

B&B owners know how to enhance romance

The romance of Valentine’s Day is history, for this year, unless you want to fuel the passion, in your own home or that of another. How? Some of the softest hearts around are operating Wisconsin’s bed and breakfast inns, and they are quick to offer advice. We got more than 50 responses after asking: What(…)

Tourism rep: vacation, getaway not the same

Minnesota wants to replenish what the rest of the world takes away. That is a marketing theme for the state, the heart of one effort to drive tourists north and westward – from Wisconsin – as impending war and a weak economy hover menacingly. “Send ’em over here,” says Jim Keller of Itasca State Park,(…)

Sundara rides to top of spurt in spa choices

I have lain naked on a bed of hot stones, and under a 105-degree canopy of steam. I’ve been wrapped in foil, oiled up to smell like cinnamon, rubbed down to feel like limp spaghetti. Strangers have worked on my feet to get kinks out of my back. They have pulled on my limbs, massaged(…)

Oconomowoc: 39 lakes within half-hour drive

I’ve driven the 77 miles between Madison and Milwaukee at least a couple of hundred times, usually while preoccupied and rarely at a leisurely speed. So it’s been easy to ignore Oconomowoc, one of the state’s few five-syllable cities and probably the only one with five Os. In the shadow of Wisconsin’s two largest metro(…)

Riding the rails, literally, or through exhibits

I wonder if our lack of easy access to train travel has much to do with our desire to romanticize that particular era of transportation. Here are the few of the ways we pay homage to railroads, trains and our heritage. — In Minneapolis, an ice skating rink is a part of the newly restored(…)

Wis. Dells makes splash with waterpark wars

It’s been one big surge of development after another in the Wisconsin Dells, because of its indoor waterpark wars. About 1.1 million of the Dells’ 2.5 million visitors per year come from September through April, says Bonnie Sierlecki of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau. Since 1993, visitor spending has grown 305 percent during(…)

Architecture rich at Chicago Cultural Center

One of Chicago’s finest architectural gems provides visitors with a cheap way to sample the city’s history, art, music, dance, films and drama. The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., has been nicknamed the “People’s Palace” because there is no admission for most exhibits and events. Mayor Richard Daly dedicated the building in 1991(…)

For New Year’s Eve: retreats to hoopla

I suspect that you may want more than bad champagne and squeaky paper horns to ring in the new year. Rest up, Wild One. Here are a few options. — Chandelier Ballroom, Hartford (Washington County) – This historic and grand ballroom is making a comeback. Spend New Year’s Eve here and a part of the(…)

New travel books for holiday gift giving

  Your days are numbered, fretful holiday shoppers. If you’re “to buy” list remains annoying, consider these travel book titles. “Moon Metro Chicago” edited by Grace Fujimoto (Avalon Travel Publishing, $16.95) – If you need help navigating the Windy City but don’t want to look like a dork, here’s help. This is a practical guidebook(…)

Brainstorms to hike tourism promotion dollars

Tourism industry leaders early next year will propose a new way to fund Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism, and it is based on a Missouri model that sets aside a percentage of tourism-generated tax revenue for tourism promotion. Bill Otto, who chairs the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, has called it a “sustainable tourism funding model that(…)

Four gifts geared toward girlfriend getaways

How about a little self-indulgence before getting lost between cookie sheets, holiday card lists, blinking lights and check-out lines? Consider pampering yourself, or a woman you love. — 

”Women of Wings” is the title of a sister-state cultural exchange program that will be May 15-24, 2003, to Chiba, Japan. Organized by Wisconsin-Chiba Inc., a nonprofit(…)

Local history museums protect our roots

Perhaps you think that your dearest possessions – a locket, a family picture, a love letter, a child’s toy – are of little value to anybody else. That’s not necessarily true. Hundreds of local historians in Wisconsin are passionate about rescuing and preserving pieces of the past for their museums, research centers, historical archives and(…)

Mall of America, at age 10, ready to expand

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Ten years after the opening of Mall of America, spokeswoman Monica Davis certainly knows her competition. It’s not your favorite neighborhood shopping center, and it’s not simply the only mall in the world that’s bigger (5.3 million square feet at West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, Canada). When execs think about competitors, they’re watching(…)

Chippewa Falls: wood chips to microchips

CHIPPEWA FALLS – Water, be it a pounding falls or sparkling river, seems to command respect here – regardless of the season. This is an old lumber town, birthplace of Seymour Cray’s supercomputers and home of the nation’s seventh oldest working brewery. At population 12,925 and about 10 miles north of Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls(…)

Reader mailbag: best supper clubs in state

Location, location, location … for some of you, it seems to matter as much as the quality of food when recommending a supper club. Readers from Holmen (LaCrosse County) to Bristol (Kenosha County) mentioned places from Appleton to Wausau when we recently asked for advice about supper clubs. This is a collection that I want(…)

Lessons learned while driving 3,000 miles

People who love to travel might not care that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless it’s after sunset and there are no motel vacancies in sight. This fall, I put more than 3,000 miles on the odometer by taking a hunch on a few unknown side roads. I winded around(…)

Halloween: haunted houses, caves, woods

If your county is like many in Wisconsin, you expect it to get pretty scary during this time of year. The business of producing Halloween haunts can involve an odd range of people: Jaycees, firefighters, campground operators, Optimists, disc jockeys, farmers, high school students, professional stagehands and actors. There are haunted barns and hayrides all(…)

Inside Breitbach’s, Iowa’s oldest restaurant

I took the long way to the Twin Cities this month, first heading to Dubuque and then hugging the Mississippi River while meandering north. Around lunchtime, I was in Balltown, Iowa. Population is 73, or 37, depending upon the source. The town’s tourist lure is Breitbach’s Country Dining (319-552-2220), which is the state’s oldest restaurant.(…)