The month of love has arrived, and for some of us it will look remarkable different this year.
Our tolerance level for an in-restaurant meal or romantic overnight getaway is all over the map, thanks to the pandemic, but hopefully these options contain a little something that works for you – or gives you a new idea about how or where to celebrate.
Back to Nature, Winter Edition, Dodgeville: Spend 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 13 at Bethel Horizons, on 548 acres next to Governor Dodge State Park, for all things outdoors: ice fishing, snowshoeing, bird watching, sledding, building igloos and snowmen. Tickets to the family-friendly event are $12 per person. Pre-register: Space is limited. bethelhorizons.org
Candlelight hikes, Saukville: Gone, because of Covid-19, are events by candlelight at state parks but lesser traveled destinations are hosting something similar. Count Riveredge Nature Center, north of Milwaukee, among them. The 379-acre refuge in Ozaukee County offers candlelight hikes – strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis – from 4:30-8 p.m. on Fridays in February. Pre-registration recommended. Call before making the trip because weather affects these gatherings. Or plan a daytime excursion. There is a trail fee. riveredgenaturecenter.org
Fire and Ice Weekend, Sturgeon Bay: Much of this annual festival on Feb. 12-14 happens outdoors. Think snow and ice sculpting. Fireworks on the bay. Candlelight hiking (at 125-acre Big Creek Nature Preserve). Help create a park full of snowmen, if conditions are right. Yuk-it-up headliner Charlie “Manitowoc Minute” Berens performs at a virtual event that also has a silent auction. sturgeonbay.net
J. Henry and Sons, Dane: Sip award-winning, small-batch bourbon on the farm where the key ingredient – an heirloom red corn – is grown and the liquor ages in barrels. Small-group tours and tastings end in a comfortable, converted farmhouse near Madison. Linger with a craft cocktail afterward. Reservations required. jhenryandsons.com
Lodge Kohler, Green Bay: Next to Lambeau Field is boutique lodging with outdoor, see-through domes for dining and spa services, a part of the Titletown development. Book a dome for “Apps, Taps and Toes” for two, $99 per person; that means pedicures, a flight of cocktails and appetizer to share. Or pay $104 per couple for a day of steamy spa lounging indoors, the hotel pool, taste of champagne and chocolates. lodgekohler.com
Madison Mini-cation: Nineteen lodging outlets in the capital city are offering getaway packages from Feb. 12 to April 12. Examples: game night getaways, beer and cheese tastings, ice fishing intros. Visit Feb. 12 to March 7 and, weather permitting, an additional diversion is Winter is Alive, a winter carnival with large-scale art installations outdoors and live-streamed entertainment. Much of this happens on Madison’s frozen lakes. visitmadison.com, winterisalive.org
Milwaukee Food Tours, Milwaukee: Splurge on a themed box of locally produced goodies for Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s, to treat a special friend). Choices pamper chocolate lovers to people who appreciate breakfast in bed. At the high end: Heart Poppin’ Love for $240, six pounds of Milwaukee-made chocolates in a two-foot-wide box. Any Valentine’s package includes access to a virtual tour called Milwaukee’s Greatest Love Stories. Prices include shipping. milwaukeefoodtours.com
Milwaukee Pretzel Company, Milwaukee: Add tasty twists and nibbles with a gift pack of soft, heart-shaped pretzels that each weigh up to one pound and are reminiscent of Bavarian fare. Add nacho cheese and Nutella dips for savory and sweet dunking. Or buy a jar of Sprecher Root Beer Mustard. Pretzel prices start at $10, plus shipping (free on orders of $25 or more). milwaukeepretzel.com
Walker House, Mineral Point: Truly private dining – in a room with restroom all to yourselves – continues. Coming Feb. 13 is a six-course meal for $35 per person, served at 5 and 7 p.m. with candles and low lights. Skittish about eating in? Then save $5 and pick up the same meal for heating at home. Or make it an overnight in quiet but scenic and historic Mineral Point, home to unique lodging options. (A $25 per person meal on Feb. 14 begins with croissants, ends with a peach pasty and includes 14 ounces of lasagna in the middle. For pickup only.) thewalkerhouse.org
Wisconsin Love: OK, shameless plug. One curated offering at Wisco Boxes is a $125 gift box for the Valentine who is a supper club fan: It includes my Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, for inspiration to make a special meal that is based on our proud culinary history and heritage. Lots of other gift box themes too: cheese to bloody Marys. wiscoboxes.com