Birthdays and anniversaries that end in a zero tend to generate more attention than average in our personal lives. The start of a new decade seems to represent the beginning of new possibilities.
For a travel destination, the start of a new decade represents the pride of longevity and perhaps a relief to have survived past challenges. I think it’s a sign of character too.
These places reach major milestones in 2019. Thanks to researchers at TravelWisconsin.com for planting the idea to pay attention.
150 years – Cana Island Lighthouse, Baileys Harbor. Wear waterproof footwear to reach this grande dame, or take a free wagon ride to get there. Then climb a 97-step spiral staircase at the lighthouse tower, where the reward is gorgeous lakeshore views.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, through October, as weather permits. The annual Door County Spring Lighthouse Festival, June 7-9, also celebrates the 150th for the Baileys Harbor Range Lights (a birthday party is 3-6 p.m. June 7 at The Ridges Sanctuary). dcmm.org
80 – Cave of the Mounds, Blue Mounds. Speleologists call the cave a “jewel box” because the formations are exquisite: colorful, delicate, varied. That all makes the cave a National Natural Landmark. It is open all year.
Take a one-hour tour to the Cathedral, Centennial, Gem and other underground rooms where it is always 50 degrees. Plan a birthday party for the kids there. Or show up for adults-only “Cave After Dark” events, where adult beverages and live music figure into the spelunking experience. Hours vary during the year. caveofthemounds.com
70 – Al Johnson’s, Sister Bay. Goats play, graze and butt heads on the sod roof of this restaurant and shop for all things Swedish. Staff wear authentic Scandinavian attire. On the menu are Swedish pancakes (with lingonberries!), Swedish meatballs, Swedish roast beef hash, limpa bread, pickled herring and lots of traditional comfort foods. Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A birthday party is 7-11 p.m. June 1 at the Stabbur (beer garden) of the restaurant. Owners welcome all former and present employees – plus the public. aljohnsons.com
70 – Musky Festival, Hayward. The wily and feisty fish gets its own big party every summer, and this year’s is June 20-23. Look for the Musky Queen in the Musky Parade, and buy handmade musky tchotchkes in the arts and crafts show.
What you won’t find is musky on menus: This fish is caught for mounting, not eating. But Dilly Bar and watermelon eating contests, fishing and casting contests, a learn-to-fish pond, carnival and live music are part of the weekend. muskyfest.com
60 – Circus World, Baraboo. No place has a larger collection of circus wagons (at least 260). Until Sept. 1, this destination that preserves the artifacts and spirit of old-time circus productions also presents themed shows. That means elephants, tigers, clowns and acrobats.
See the wintertime Ringlingville quarters. Pursue a gallery of vintage circus posters. This attraction exists because of the work of the Ringling brothers’ attorney, who aimed to preserve circus history. The theme is “Summer of Love Under the Big Top” this year, so expect groovy outfits and other references to the 1960s. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 on Circus Anniversary Days, June 28 to July 1. circusworldbaraboo.org
60 – Lumberjack World Championships, Hayward. Log rolling. Boom running. Ax throwing. Pole climbing. Sawing. Chopping. These aren’t your average sports events, but each has a world record just waiting to be broken.
Hayward is just the place to do it. International competitors are drawn to this Northwoods community for this competition. The big anniversary rounds happen Aug. 1-3 at the Lumberjack Bowl, one of the few places to see the difference between an underhand, springboard and standing chop. lumberjackworldchampionships.com
50 – EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh. Busiest airport in the world. That’s what little Wittman Regional Airport turns into when more than 10,000 aircraft – most privately owned – land in Oshkosh for this annual event, July 22-28. It’s the golden year for the Apollo 11 mission too, and astronaut Michael Collins, the commander, will attend as a featured guest.
Homebuilt, vintage and aerobatic aircraft land here. So do hot air balloons, military planes, seaplanes, ultralights and more. Show planes dive, spin, loop and synchronize during daily airshows, a marquee event. Of the 601,000 people who attended last year, 87 nations besides the U.S. were represented. eaa.org/airventure
50 – Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc. This destination is best known as the home for a restored World War II submarine, but additional exhibits explain local shipbuilding to Lake Michigan’s historic shipwrecks.
SubFest, July 12-14, is a citywide birthday party for the lakefront museum. Expect submarine veterans to assist with tours, floating submarine models and a “tolling of the boats” ceremony to honor submariners who lost their lives while on duty. A lighted boat parade, music and fireworks are scheduled too. wisconsinmaritime.org
40 – Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells. It’s billed as America’s largest waterpark because of the 50-plus rides on 70 acres. That means many choices to thrill or chill: lazy rivers, bumper boats, wave pools, a near-vertical looping waterslide and daredevil rides with names that include Black Anaconda and Scorpion’s Tail.
Expect retro T-shirts, the return of 18 holes of miniature golf, debut of a 40th anniversary beer and anniversary sweepstakes. Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Admission is $19.79 on May 25-27, but only when tickets are purchased online. noahsarkwaterpark.com
40 – American Players Theatre, Spring Green. Shakespeare – performed in the woods, especially at sunset – is an idyllic way to spend a part of summer. Add a picnic with a bottle of wine, and you’re set. Productions at the outdoor, Up the Hill theater bring the spotlight to other playwrights too. In this season’s lineup are “Twelfth Night,” “She Stoops to Conquer,” “Macbeth,” “August Wilson’s Fences” and “The Book of Will.”
The smaller, covered and open-air-when-weather-is-good Touchstone theater extends the APT season into mid November. APT’s 40th birthday party, 1-4 p.m. July 21, adds a retrospective look at the theater’s history. Expect music and an auction too. americanplayers.org