‘Holy Rover’ finds value in spiritual pilgrimage, near and far away

With the new year comes motivation to begin anew, perhaps with hope for significant change that starts with a public resolution or private vow. Maybe the path seems clear and easy to measure: Stop smoking. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat better. But sometimes we feel compelled to address a restlessness, discontent, ambition, anxiety or sadness(…)

Take Ten: delectable diversions in dining

A meal is worth remembering because of the good company, exquisite taste, price, quantity, artistic flair or unexpected offerings. Splendid settings turn the ordinary into something special. So do smart people who use food to catch and keep our attention in surprising ways. At year’s end, I recollect the source of some of my most(…)

Take Ten: the year’s lovely lodging

I rest my head on dozens of beds besides my own every year and check out many other properties without staying overnight. What catches my attention is the unusual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean uber expensive or exotic. Among my 2017 favorites: Ace Hotel, New Orleans: Count this shabby-chic hotel as an edgy draw, especially(…)

Nassau: sites beyond the Straw Market

Some changes happen on purpose, and some are by accident. That was my takeaway when recently revisiting Nassau, 27 years after getting acquainted during a short cruise to the Bahamas. In 1990, a cruise (on the Mardi Gras, Carnival’s first ship) meant seasickness in a budget room with no porthole and too much rum punch(…)

Chicago exhibit takes “SNL” fans behind the scenes

Matt Foley. The Church Lady. Wayne and Garth. Wild and Crazy Guys. Debbie Downer. Mary Katherine Gallagher. Longtime fans of “Saturday Night Live” know these bizarre but endearing characters, whose home – Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center – draws a television audience of millions each week. No show has earned more (240) Emmy Award nominations.(…)

Downtown Dough: thousands of cookie cutters

Smart cookies. Patrick and Patricia Niles, owners of Downtown Dough in Cedarburg, have a good recipe for separating what they do from other kitchen boutiques, especially during this time of year. The retailers began business in West Bend almost 20 years ago, selling cookie dough for school fundraisers and other purposes. Now they get international(…)

The Maker Movement: DIYers to God and inbetween

The word “maker” applies to everybody from bakers to welders, sculptors to knitters, DIYers to God. They toil or tinker all year, but the holiday shopping and party season is a prime time to notice them. The Maker Movement is harder to define, but it involves a special kind of group determination, product quality, camaraderie(…)

Spy-themed SafeHouse opens in Chicago

Two blocks west of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a red door with understated signage is our introduction to international espionage. Plus lunch. What we step into is an office, whose lone occupant warily sizes us up and begins a peppering of questions. Why are we here? Do we know the password? Are we willing to perform(…)

Alumni Park, Milwaukee zoo babies, APT for 2018

If cold weather and fewer hours of daylight tempt you to stay home, read on. There’s no need to hibernate quite yet. — Open on 1.3 acres between Memorial Union and the Red Gym at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along Lake Mendota, is the new and art-rich Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Alumni Park. Timeless words of(…)

Take Ten: thrifty shopping

The adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is attributed online to the Great Depression, the Amish, pioneers and evangelists. The words are a partial solution to surviving hardships, but don’t underestimate the thrill of the hunt, regardless of income or circumstances. Underwear and socks are about all that(…)

Is everybody happy? Metrics matter

We love to rank things, especially in the travel biz, but reader beware: Metrics matter, and we don’t like to pick the same winner over and over. Sometimes we aim to surprise or shock. Consider Stoughton, population 12,670 and 20 miles southeast of Madison. WalletHub.com this year declared it one of the nation’s top 20(…)

Reader mail: Megabus, Chicago, Door County, postcards

Readers, it’s time to lighten the mailbag by sharing your travel feedback, ideas, challenges and questions. Keep those email, Facebook and snail-mail notes coming. — “You are a great bus traveler,” writes Jack Handley of Chicago. “I am thinking about taking a bus from Chicago to Indy for a football game this fall. Do you(…)

Two cookbooks that tantalize beyond their recipes

Someone occasionally approaches me about writing an endorsement for a new book, and it’s an invitation that I don’t take lightly. I politely decline unless the project truly catches my attention. That is how I was introduced to “Life in a Northern Town: Cooking. Eating. And Other Adventures Along Lake Superior.” The newly published book(…)

Take Ten: Autumn’s vast bounty

Before the first hard frost come the fruits of farm labor. Wisconsin’s bounty seems especially plentiful this year, thanks to long-lasting, agreeable weather that even makes me look like a master gardener of tomatoes. The harvest is one big reason to celebrate and appreciate autumn. Changing leaf color is another. In the Badger State is(…)

Meat this: Most stops rural on Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail

It’s not yet noon when we pull into Wellsburg, Iowa, curious and hungry for lunch. We wonder why the village, population 700, needs a one-way street downtown. We wonder why Town House Supper Club, our destination, opens at 6 a.m. And we wonder what one of us, a vegetarian, will find to eat. The pork(…)

Wandering Iowa: Villages of Van Buren, covered bridges

“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.” The quote belongs to Grant Wood, the Iowa artist whose “American Gothic” pitchfork couple and other paintings freeze scenes of rural life in what outsiders not-so-fondly refer to as “flyover country.” How easy it is to dismiss what we don’t know. Explore rural Iowa if you(…)

Take Twelve: Comedy in Wisconsin

In case you think Wisconsin could show a better sense of humor, I have two words for you: Very funny. No need to factor in those cheddar-colored Cheesehead wedges. We have a reputation beyond that. For example: You don’t know Ben Karlin from stage performances, but the University of Wisconsin grad is leaving a huge(…)

ArtPrize puts Grand Rapids, Mich., on the map for wild, wonderful art

Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, finds unusual ways to gain attention. It has produced high-quality furniture for more than a century. It is a nationwide leader in environmental sustainability. On the city’s Beer City Ale Trail are at least 60 microbreweries, including Brewery Vivant, in a former funeral home. Grand Rapids brews so much beer(…)

De Pere’s 4th generation Union Hotel quietly begins 100th year

Closing time at the Union Hotel’s restaurant is 9 p.m. in downtown De Pere. Decades ago, that was because of the butcher, who worked halfway down the block. If a customer wanted a steak, you’d call for a fresh cut from the butcher, then send somebody to fetch the order. The butcher shop closed at(…)

DMZ: wildlife refuge, tourist attraction, war reminder

Nearly 6,500 miles separate most Wisconsinites from South Korea. Among the exceptions, for now, are around 270 airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing of the state’s Air National Guard. These troops and one dozen F-16 aircraft this month were deployed to Kunsan Air Base on a four-month assignment to help stabilize and secure the region.(…)

The lifelong value of a same time, same place vacation

The older I get, the more I notice two extremes among travelers. One seeks a new destination for every trip and rarely returns to the same locale. The other gravitates to the same spot, year after year, developing a strong and deep connection to one part of this very wide world. Of what value are(…)

Rural Missouri B&B operates inside Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

Within the hills and dales of northeast Missouri are far fewer miles of paved roads than rivers and creeks. Signs at one-lane bridges warn of flooding, and roadside markers are positioned to measure high water, foot by foot. These are not comforting details to notice when driving under a flash flood watch. The occasional farm(…)

Bay City Chef Shack: fine dining in down-home location

Follow the Mississippi along the Great River Road (Highway 35, in Wisconsin) for no shortage of woods, bluffs, curvy waterfronts and pastoral landscapes. Common are riverfront hamlets with historic charm. Rare are restaurants with a discerning menu that changes often. One big exception is Chef Shack in Bay City, population 500, where the co-owners are(…)