Call it the winter blues, cabin fever or simply the restlessness of being too cooped up. There’s no single formula for quelling this season of discontent.
Larry Meiller and I talked about winter getaways on Wisconsin Public Radio this month, and that got me thinking about the range of definitions for a satisfying cold-weather break. Here are ideas that might inspire you.
What: Madison for families.
Eat: A 12-page dessert menu (grilled pound cake, many sundaes), hundreds of animated characters (inside glass tables, suspended from ceilings) and kosher deli fare (matzo ball soup, chopped liver, pastrami) make Ella’s Deli an unusual destination. Look for the 1927 outdoor carousel (rides resume in spring). ellasdeli.com, 608-241-5291
Stay: A suite with bed and sofa sleeper at the flashy Hotel Red overlooks Camp Randall and is a gateway to the many specialty shops and indie-owned restaurants of Monroe Street. hotelred.com, 608-819-8228
Play: Fun at Madison Children’s Museum stretches to the rooftop, where chickens, homing pigeons and other critters live. Rooftop roaming is encouraged at any time of year, the Capitol view rocks and a 3,400-pound bird sculpture anchors this roost. madisonchildrensmuseum.org, 608-256-6445
Pamper: Unusual, affordable toys and trinkets at Little Luxuries, on State Street, make it relatively painless to surprise and treat yourself. littleluxuriesmadison.com, 608-255-7372
Splurge: Scoop up a cone or three-gallon tub of Orange Custard Chocolate Chip or the oodles of other ice cream flavors made and sold at Babcock Hall Dairy Store on the University of Wisconsin campus. Production tours offered, by appointment, on weekdays. babcockhalldairystore.wisc.edu, 608-262-3045
Save: Vilas Zoo is one of the nation’s rare accredited zoos with free admission. On 30 acres live alpacas to wallabies, giraffes, lions, polar bears, bison, bats and much more. vilaszoo.org, 608-266-4732
Also: On most Saturdays, free science workshops engage all ages at the UW Space Place, which is a part of the astronomy department. spaceplace.wisc.edu, 608-262-4779
For more: visitmadison.com, 800-373-6376.
What: Wisconsin Dells for girlfriends.
Eat: Dine early (as in 4:30-5:45 p.m.) and save a few bucks while savoring the classy vibe at The Del-Bar, whose business as a roadhouse began 80 years ago. Frank Lloyd Wright fans will love the architecture at this steaks-to-seafood restaurant. del-bar.com, 608-253-1861
Stay: Split the cost for an elegant Lifestyle Villa, which sleeps up to eight, at Sundara Spa. Defray the cost by making pots of soup, sipping wine that you bring, watching DVDs and yakking while it snows. sundaraspa.com, 888-735-8181
Play: Buy a part-day pass to Kalahari Resort‘s indoor waterpark for as little as $25. kalahariresorts.com, 877-525-2427
Pamper: Soak in Sundara’s steamy outdoor pool, regardless of weather. Indulge in indoor “purifying bath” spa areas or bask in a robe and silence. Villa rates include access to these tranquil areas.
Splurge: Designer fare from Amsterdam to L.A. fills Alpha Beta Karma, whose inventory is hand-picked by owner Kelli Trumble, Wisconsin’s former tourism secretary. alphabetakarma.com, 608-254-8880
Save: The thrill of the hunt at Tanger Outlets, a roofed but open-air mall, involves many sales racks. tangeroutlet.com/wisconsindells, 800-409-1603
For more: wisdells.com, 800-223-3557
What: Appleton for couples.
Eat: Get acquainted with the ghost of a legendary Green Bay Packers coach while dining fine at Lombardi’s Steakhouse, where almost all décor comes from Vince Lombardi’s estate. That means high school yearbooks to letters of congrats from celebrities. vincelombardisteakhouse.com, 920-380-9390
Stay: Add champagne or chocolates to the homelike setting at CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel, where roomy accommodations include comfy waffle-weave robes and down comforters. Suites are equipped with an electric fireplace. copperleafhotel.com, 877-303-0303
Play: The slogan at Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern is “it’s always a holiday” because twinkling lights and other decorations – for Christmas, St. Pat’s and more – stay up all year. Order the Dirty Snowball, similar to a White Russian cocktail. 920-739-2288
Pamper: BenMarNico’s Spa, adjacent to the CopperLeaf, offers excellent value. The 2.5-hour Spa Sampler includes a pedicure, manicure, facial and masage for $136. spabenmarnicos.com, 920-968-3399
Splurge: Order tickets to a Fox Cities Performing Arts Center show. On the playlist is “The Addams Family,” a wacky musical, Feb. 26 to March 3. foxcitiespac.com, 920-730-3760
Save: All of what’s been mentioned is within an easy walk from Lawrence University, which presents free art exhibits, concerts and other artistic performances that often are open to the public. lawrence.edu, 920-832-6749
For more: foxcities.org, 800-236-6673
What: Lake Geneva for sports buffs.
Eat: For breakfast or lunch, keep it Simple, a downtown cafe with healthful fare and many vegetarian choices. That includes vegetable and tofu burritos, although the adjacent Sweet House of Madness bakery tempts with cakes, tortes, cream puffs and eclairs. simplecafelakegeneva.com, 262-248-3556
Stay: Packages at Timber Ridge Lodge at Grand Geneva Resort include a Splash and Ski deal with waterpark, ski hill and trail access on the property’s 1,300 acres. For an extra fee, scale the 35-foot-tall indoor climbing walls at the resort’s fitness area. grandgeneva.com, 800-558-3417
Play: Skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing (with 20 buffered lanes, to prevent crashes) make Wilmot Mountain, 18 miles southeast, a versatile outdoor sports space for children to adults. This is Wilmot’s 75th year of business, which means special promotions. wilmotmountain.com, 262-862-2301
Pamper: Order a vodka-spiked snow cone at the Fire and Ice Lounge outside of Baker House 1885; the outdoor bar is chiseled out of ice. Sip and snuggle on fur-covered benches, in front of firepits that overlook Geneva Lake. bakerhouse1855.com, 262-248-4700
Splurge: Burning off calories means less guilt when indulging in a slice of Big Turtle (chocolate pecan and caramel) or another treat from Lake Geneva Pie Co. lgpie.com, 262-248-5100
Save: A four-footed life while snaring a good deal on designer duds and jewelry to antiques and housewares at 9 Lives Boutique, a resale shop whose proceeds benefit homeless animals. lakelandanimalshelter.org/shop, 262-248-3122
For more: lakegenevawi.com, 800-345-1020.