Snow Fun in Minocqua

By Brian E. Clark | Photos Courtesy of Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce/John Noltner
This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.


When Wheaton residents Willie and Kathy Beshire wanted to learn how to skate ski last winter, they made a bee-line for Minocqua in the far northern tier of Wisconsin. In early February, they figured there would be plenty of snow. And they’d heard good things about Minocqua Winter Park, a premier cross-country skiing facility about 10 minutes west of town.

But it’s not just cross-country skiers who flock to Wisconsin’s Northwoods in the winter. snowshoers, ice fishermen and women, snowmobilers and many more come here for adventure.

“We’re busiest in the summer, but we get all kinds of folks in the winter, too,” said Dan Hoehn, with the Pointe Hotel and Suites ( in Minocqua. “The biggest group is snowmobilers, but lots of snowshoers and nordic skiers come and stay with us, too. There’s a lot to do up here in the cold months, you just have to have the right clothes and gear.”

The Beshires spent four days at Minocqua Winter Park ( — which offers more than 50 miles of groomed trails, plus a snow tubing hill and lift, and trails for skijoring and snowshoeing — after their drive up from Wheaton. On the first day, just to get warmed up a bit, they did some classic cross country skiing. On the second day, they had their skate ski lesson and then spent the rest of their stay practicing.

“We’ve been traditional skiers for many years,” said Willie, a retired management consultant who has fished around Minocqua in the summer. “We’d seen people skate skiing and thought we should give it a try. It’s not easy to learn because your balance is different. But all in all, it went well.”

“I figured if we wanted to learn it correctly, we should spend three days practicing. So we worked at it around four hours a day. I had a few hard spills, but after the second day, I was getting comfortable and relaxing. on the third day, I was actually feeling pretty good. My wife did well, too, though we know we have a lot of room for improvement.”

I met the Beshires at the park last winter, just as they were about to buy new skis and boots. They wished me luck as I headed out the door for a lesson with Tim Collins, who manages the park and also teaches.

I, too, had come north to see what I could learn about skate skiing. Though I’ve been doing traditional cross-country skiing for years, skating was something new for me.

Collins was patient with me. Fortunately, when I flailed (which happened more than a few times after I lost my balance), I never poked him with my poles.

There were a few times when I actually felt like I had my balance under control and was able to skate using what Collins called the v2 skate skiing technique, which involves a double-pole push with every outward kick.

“It’s the most powerful top gear,” he said, encouragingly.

Next, I tried the v2 alternate, in which you use a double-pole push and then skate on both sides before poling again to save energy. For good measure, Collins tossed in the v1, a staggered poling technique for climbing hills, and what he called the v1 half, where you pole and glide on opposite sides.

Collins said it’s common to struggle during an initial skating lesson. “If you are unaccustomed to narrow skating skis, it can be quite a challenge,” he said. “The key is to focus on balance and shifting your weight from one ski to the other. It takes practice.” After a break to warm up in the lodge, Collins and I went for a tour on the resort’s extensive trail system. We skied through some tall pines where Yukon Creek runs through the property and then out to the squirrel river.

Many novices, he said, ski the 5.5-kilometer Cookie loop; there are miles of routes for intermediate and advanced skiers. For those who would like more of a back-country experience, Minocqua Winter Park has 15 kilometers of wilderness trails that aren’t groomed very often. But Collins says most skiers come to the resort because of its longtime reputation for having well-groomed trails.

If we had more time, we could have skied out to the park’s tea house, where you can rest, warm up and have a cup of tea.Minocqua506

In addition to Minocqua Winter Park, there are a half-dozen other cross-country skiing routes around Minocqua, including 20 kilometers of trails at the North Lakeland Discovery Center near Manitowish Waters and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The next morning, after a breakfast of french toast and hash browns at the Black Bear Bar, I drove to the shore of Lake Minocqua and met up with Chad Bierbrauer, who runs Adventure North Snowmobile Tours ( Soon, Bierbrauer and I were zooming over the frozen lake on our sleds past ice-fishing shacks and shuttered boat houses.

Over the next hour, he led me deep into the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest on trails groomed by the Cross Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club. (there are thousands of miles of snowmobile trails, all maintained by local clubs.) We zipped up and down hills toward the towns of Lake Tomahawk and St. Germain.

The best part of the trip was when we stopped our machines, shut off the engines and looked around at a large stand of tall, 300- to 400-year-old white pines.

“That section of trees was left behind from the big logging period of the 1880s to 1920 or so in this area, though I’m not certain why,” Bierbrauer explained. “I like to pause here and show people what the northern forests looked like before Europeans arrived.”

My Minocqua winter adventure wasn’t over yet. South of town I stopped at Northwoods Zip line (, where guides Andrew Warner and Guy Posielenzny gave me a rundown on proper zip-lining technique and took me for an abbreviated tour on a couple of the outfit’s eight lines. It was nippy, but because I’d been dressed for snowmobiling, I wasn’t cold as I flew through the air under the cables with a big grin on my face.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Lake Geneva for Two

By Rhonda Mix

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Everyone deserves a break now and again and what better way to reconnect with your partner than to escape the craziness of everyday life for a quick getaway? Just a few hours north, you’ll find one of Wisconsin’s best treasures — Lake Geneva

This picturesque community, nestled along the shores of Geneva Lake, is the perfect location for your next couples retreat! Here are a few ways to heat things up in Lake Geneva!


Heart-Racing Fun
Fancy a date in the treetops? Lake Geneva Canopy Tours & Outdoor Adventure Center offers a number of zip lining adventure options for lovebirds seeking an adrenaline rush. The facility, open year-round, sits on 100 acres and also features nine miles of trails for biking enthusiasts to enjoy as well as a high ropes excursion.2015-05-23 15-46 4

There are several different zip line tour options available. Some of the most popular for couples are the evening tours, which run 2½ hours in length; the famous fall Pumpkin drop — where participants race down a dual zip line and attempt to drop a pumpkin on a bull’s-eye for a prize; and a special tour package on Valentine’s Day.

Eric Wood, facility manager, says zip lining is a great date activity and he has witnessed several proposals in the trees. What makes a zip lining date so special, he says, is the uniqueness of it. “You are participating in a pretty unforgettable experience together… It will be something you both will remember for a long time.”
lakegenevacanopytours. com

Take Your Relationship To The Next Level
A hot air balloon ride with the Lake Geneva Balloon Company may be the perfect way for couples to get a little closer.

Company owner and chief pilot John Trione, who has worked in the ballooning business for 17 years, says balloon rides are available until the end of October, or, weather and schedule permitting, the first couple of weeks in November.

The breathtaking sunrise and sunset balloon tours are a good way to rekindle the romance. Guests will enjoy gazing out across the picturesque scenery as they float across gently undulating farmland or Geneva Lake. All rides end with a champagne toast at the Lake Geneva Pie Company.

Wine And Dine Your Date
With secluded nooks and crannies, cozy booths and a dimly lit and romantic atmosphere, Tuscan Tavern & Grill is perfect for first or 50th dates. It also has been the site of a number of marriage proposals, according to Manager Rob Gurske.

The historic atmosphere of the Baker House lends itself to a romantic evening, as you dine and enjoy cocktails seated in wingback chairs, beside a glowing fireplace. For a special evening, reserve a private chef’s dinner where you can dine on four or five-course prix fixe dinners in the mansion’s parlour.

Romance Beneath The Stars
Explore distant galaxies with a visit to Yerkes Observatory, located nearby in Williams Bay, just steps from Geneva Lake. Terkes is home to the largest refracting telescope in the world. Visitors can enjoy free tours (donations are encouraged) on Saturdays, in addition to special events throughout the year. Arrive early and explore the 77- acre grounds and take note of the beautiful architecture, including the 90-foot dome, dating back to 1897. yerkes/index.html

Relaxation For The Senses
Heat things up with your partner when you book couples massage treatments at the Well Spa + Salon at Grand Geneva Resort. You will share a treatment room where you can customize your massage therapies and even add aromatherapy for a deeply relaxing escape. Embers Terrace, outside the Geneva Chophouse (located on the Grand Geneva property), is a great place to grab a glass of wine and unwind further after your treatments. Come back the following day to enjoy a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride, or sleigh ride (weather permitting) at Dan Patch stables, located near the entrance of the resort.

Serene Setting
For couples looking for a unique and secluded hotel stay at the end of the day, Lazy Cloud Inn is a welcome retreat. There are two locations of Lazy Cloud properties, Lazy Cloud Inn along Highway 50 in Lake Geneva, and a Lazy Cloud Bed and Breakfast located in Fontana.

The inn is unique in a number of ways – from the enchanting twinkle lights adorning the feminine-yet-rustic individually themed accommodations, to the double whirlpools in each room’s sitting area.

Owner Carol Tiffany says her properties offer one extra charm. “Most other hotels don’t allow bubble baths, but Lazy Cloud Lodge does,” she says. “We even provide the bubbles.”

Each room at Lazy Cloud Inn features a fireplace and most include private decks and patios, which beckon guests to partake in romantic dining under the stars or enjoy calming views of the woods or gardens. Tea candles, complimentary chocolate dipped strawberries, champagne and raspberry meltaway chocolates also add to the inn’s appeal.

With few TVs and a no-kids-allowed policy, couples will find the peace and solitude that may be absent from their typical routines.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Casino Powwows

By Tina Chovanec

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Flash … Lights … Cha-Ching! Thrill seekers take note: Whether you’re looking to get your game on, take in a live concert, or tempt your taste buds, Wisconsin casinos are just a drive (or quick flight!) away. and what happens in Wisconsin’s casinos doesn’t necessarily stay there. the luckiest of visitors bring home extra cash, and everyone brings back lingering smiles and fond memories of tailor-made adventures.

Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Milwaukee

No list of casino-variety powwows is complete without Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Wisconsin’s largest casino offering some of the highest payouts in the area. Five minutes from the sights and sounds of bustling downtown and celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Potawatomi is open 24 hours and boasts over 3,000 gaming machines and more than 100 table games.

“Since its opening in 1991, the facility has gone from a 46,000-square-foot bingo hall to one of the largest casinos in the Midwest, welcoming nearly six million visitors annually,” says Ryan Amundson, Communications Manager. In addition to the tremendous number of gaming options, the casino features four great restaurants, a food court and a 500-seat theater that welcomes legendary performers like Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson and Jay Leno, in a truly intimate setting. (Some major football games are even viewed there, and former Packer greats have been known to stop by.)

What will undoubtedly surprise first-time visitors? “The sheer size of the casino, as well as the number of entertainment options we have, will blow people away,” says Amundson. In fact, in 2008 the casino tripled in size from 250,000 square feet to more than 780,000.

Patrons can enjoy award-winning dining at dream dance, with signature dishes like Lobsterwurst and Wisconsin root beer venison rossini, in addition to a variety of steak selections. A wine list of over 600 retail-priced wines is available to perfectly pair with your meal.

Ho-Chunk Casinos
With six locations, Ho-Chunk Casinos have your Wisconsin road trip covered: Wisconsin dells (Baraboo), Black River Falls, Tomah, Madison, Nekoosa (formerly Rainbow Casino, in Central Wisconsin), and Wittenberg (Ho-Chunk North, also in Central Wisconsin near the four larger communities of Antigo, Shawano, Steven’s Point and Wausau). Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells, for example, is open 24 hours (except December 24- 25) and is home to the state’s most slot machines (2,400), along with a large hotel and conference center and five restaurants. Another Ho-Chunk venue, Ho-Chunk gaming Madison, houses over 1,000 gaming machines and two restaurants.

Oneida Bingo &  Casino, Green Bay
Green Bay is not just the home of the reigning Super Bowl champions, but also Oneida Bingo & Casino. On the summer’s live concert docket is Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal tour, with special guests the Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker. Oneida Casino is sponsoring the event at Lambeau Field and is hosting a free pre-event party in its Casino Lounge, where just about any night brings a variety of music, often free, including genres like blues, country, rock and swing.

Oneida Casino’s gaming complex includes a hotel and convention center, a high stakes bingo hall seating more than 800 players, blackjack tables, slot/reel video machines, craps, live poker, roulette and off-track betting.

“Repeat guests frequent Oneida Casino due to the exceptional fun Club benefits we offer,” says Mary Wasurick, Assistant Marketing Director. “It offers cash back, dining and hotel discounts, exclusive member promotions and specialized tournaments.”

Wasurick points out that Austin Straubel International Airport is located directly across from the casino, and Lambeau Field and shopping are also nearby. “Shuttle service is offered to Thornberry Creek at Oneida Golf Course, which features 27 holes, 18 at championship level.”

Dining options are many, including the Standing Stone Gourmet Buffet, a snack shop and noodle bar, the Elegant Pine Tree Grill, Mason Street Lodge, and Fry Bread Heaven. the latter, located just off the bingo hall, specializes in Native American cuisine.

Wasurick suggests some additional to-do stops to check off your list on the Oneida reservation, like the Oneida National Museum, the Buffalo Ranch, and the Oneida Apple Orchard where you can buy Black Angus Beef and organically grown produce. Oneida’s Tsyunhehkwa (pronounced Joon hay kWa) store features traditional foods, natural teas and essential oils.

Menominee Casino, Keshena
The northeastern part of the state is also home to Keshena’s Menominee Casino with nearly 900 gaming machines and 20 table and poker games. Two restaurants and a hotel and conference center are also located on the property, which got its humble start as a simple bingo hall in the early 1980s. in 1987, a Las Vegasstyle Casino was added and expansions continued throughout the ‘90s. Its most recent renovation includes the addition of a 121,000-gallon swimming pool, whirlpool, steam room, cabana bar, and fitness center.

Mohican North Star Casino, Bowler

Known as “the Midwest’s friendliest casino,” the Mohican North Star Casino is in Bowler (between Green Bay and Wausau) and has featured entertainers like tom Jones and BB King over the years. The resort boasts its high standards, touting that it “overlooks the Wisconsin Northwoods, not the details.” Golf lovers can tee off at the nearby Pine Hills Golf Course, also set against the beautiful Northwoods landscape.

Others Not To Be Forgotten
Last but certainly not least, outside sports enthusiasts are as attracted to snowmobiling or muskie and walleye fishing as they are to the thrill of gaming in northwest Wisconsin. The Lake of the Torches Resort Casino is in Lac du Fambeau and St. Croix Casino is in Turtle Lake.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

The Wisconsin Summer Camp Experience

By Betty W. Stark

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Wisconsin’s vast forests, sparkling lakes and fresh pine-scented air make it the perfect place for a summer camp experience. As such, it’s not surprising that the tradition of residence camps for kids has been going strong in the state since the early 1900s.

What is the magic that has helped these summer camps endure, some of them for more than 100 years, often serving several generations of campers?

Almost anyone who has had a Wisconsin summer camp experience will joyfully tell you it’s the simple things: Sharing stories around a crackling campfire. Hearing crickets for the first time. Walking at night with a flashlight. Pushing away from shore on a first canoe trip. Counting fireflies, singing camp songs, laughing at silly skits in the dining room.

And, they’ll add, in their grown-up voice, it’s about lifetime friendships, personal growth, developing leadership skills, and learning the importance of teamwork.

Summer camp works its magic, in part, because children are away from their parents, learning new skills, meeting challenges and accomplishing goals that are theirs alone. Guided by well-trained counselors, campers achieve life markers through fun, high-energy activities that build confidence, teach self-reliance and encourage personal growth.

Wisconsin’s summer camp experiences that are based in long traditions offer carefully crafted residence programs with a wide range of activities for anywhere from one- to eight-week sessions. The application process can begin as early as the fall/winter following the close of the summer program, so it’s important to plan well ahead for the following summer. Most camps offer downloadable application forms on their websites, and many have videos available too, either online or by request.

Minocqua: Camp Agawak

Camp Agawak, a 120-acre girls camp, first opened in Minocqua on Blue Lake in 1921. The camp offers a full seven-week session and two three-and-a-half-week sessions. Early enrollment is encouraged, as many campers return annually. at Agawak, options range from land and water sports (including soccer, softball and volleyball, plus waterskiing, canoeing, sailing and more along the camp’s 1,500-foot waterfront) to theater and dramatics, jazz dance, group musical productions, and “a lot of singing.”

Mary Fried believes that summer camp encourages children to grow away from their parents in a good way, to let their guard down and discover who they really are.

“This self-discovery process helps them blossom because they are allowed to make their own choices. it’s very empowering,” says Fried, who has a master’s degree in educational psychology and is owner and director of Camp Agawak.

Like most summer camps, lifetime friendships at Camp Agawak are a big bonus. in August 2013, the camp will hold a reunion for past campers (23 years old and up); Fried expects hundreds to attend. At a well-attended reunion six years ago, an 87-year-old alum from England was in attendance, and another traveled from Barcelona, Spain, to join the gathering.

“We have generations of women who share a sense of belonging to our legacy. Earlier, as campers, they all had basic needs that were met; that’s powerful, and it’s why so many return year after year to reconnect,” says Fried.

Boulder Junction: Camp Manito-Wish

In this age of nonstop reliance on electronics and constant contact through social media, it’s surprising to learn that the concept of empowerment at many Wisconsin summer camps includes the exclusion of cell phones, texting, Facebook and the like. At Camp Manito-Wish in Boulder Junction, campers are not allowed to bring these distractions with them, says Ellie Orbison, Director of Development and Alumni Relations.

“We’re very retro here. Once they’re at camp, they recognize what a treasure it is to unplug, to not be ‘required’ to text or tweet or comment on Facebook postings,” Orbison adds.

“We want them outside, in the fresh air, burning energy, learning new skills. At day’s end, many campers journal before bedtime, recording the day’s experiences in handwritten form. It’s a reflective process and a great memory-keeper. Parents can send e-mails to the campers through staff, but when campers respond, it’s by handwritten letter.”

Because summer camp is such a positive experience for many, it often becomes a family tradition, handed down from father and mother to son and daughter, and beyond. Todd Allen of Wilmette, Illinois, was a regular at Camp Manito-Wish in the 1970s, just like his father before him. His brother and two sisters spent summers there too, and his own children have done the same. Now a member of the Manito- Wish Board of Directors, Allen looks forward to the launch of the 2011 season.

“The traditional season begins with the Memorial Day work weekend,” he says. “We cut firewood, put in the piers, open the buildings, wash the windows, and train the staff. A lot of alumni show up to give back; it’s a great weekend.”

Another board member, David May of Barrington Hills, Illinois, agrees that the benefits of the camping experience are significant. And he should know. A former Manito-Wish camper himself, David’s sons are now campers. His daughter met her husband at camp, and their cousins attended the camp; all have experienced Camp Manito-Wish, some as staff. “

As parents, it took a while for us to recognize the benefits,” May says. “But then we saw our kids becoming better, growing, becoming leaders, and it dawned on us. We credit the camp experience; it’s a special place with a wonderful mission.”

Delafield: St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy

The summer camping program at St. John’s northwestern Military Academy in Delafield between Madison and Milwaukee takes place over a four-week period on the academy’s traditional campus (founded in 1884), but the weekly sessions offer a contemporary twist.

Four seven-day sessions for boys ages 11 to 16 are specially designed to motivate campers through a structured program. The Week One program emphasizes military adventure skills training such as self-defense techniques, rope bridging, marksmanship, obstacle course, water survival, wall climbing and paintball. Through St. John’s Navy Adventure Camp, Week Two participants learn about SCUBA diving, experience sailing on Lake Michigan and tour a WWII submarine. Aviation Adventure campers (Week three) build a rocket, learn about hot air ballooning and helicopters, and spend a full day at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Airventure Convention in Oshkosh.

Camp_St_Johns_Northwestern_3Junior detectives will find plenty to investigate during the Week Four CSI/ Criminal Justice Academy, where they’ll analyze handwriting and break secret codes, use invisible ink, analyze their own teeth impressions, dust for fingerprints, cast shoe prints, and then use their newly acquired detective skills to solve a crime.

Boys attending the summer camping sessions stay in on-campus barracks; campers are not required to be enrolled in the academic school year program to attend. During the summer session, which employs a platoon structure, boys are assigned to squads and compete against other squads for end-of-camp awards.

According to Lt. Colonel Jim Kebisek, U.S. Army (ret.) who developed the summer camp program, over 30 percent of the cadets attending the academy go through the summer camp program, too. “The summer program lays the groundwork for future accomplishments. Even kids who never got off the couch before they come to camp can be transformed by the discipline and our high-energy program,” says Kebisek, who also oversees the academy’s ROTC program.

“They share experiences. it’s all about teamwork. in the end, they’re all heroes … and they’re all friends.”

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Door County: A Midwest Treasure

By Mary Bergin
This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

It’s barely 9 a.m. as I lean on a surfboard and let the water lull me while waiting for breakfast. Afterward, I’ll dampen a toe while pondering the tough question about whether to hike, bike or boat the morning away.

My locale is far from the tropics or West Coast beaches. This shoreline, all 298 miles of it, belongs to Wisconsin’s Door County, a mere 250 miles from Chicago, where the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan lap up to sandy beaches, wildlife-filled wetlands and craggy rock outcroppings.

The surfboard? it’s a tabletop at Good Eggs in Ephraim, a scruffy eatery with a cult-like following and a beach view. Good Eggs opens at 7 a.m., and the specialty is an omelet wrap. The basic version — eggs, cheese and potatoes inside a flour or cilantro tortilla — fills me for less than $5.

Owner Joel Bremer, a Minnesota native, flips eight orders at a time on his grill. Try a Mountain Bar, similar to granola, only with peanut butter and dried cherries.

Mmmmm, cherries. they show up everywhere in the Door County Peninsula: B&B muffins, restaurant pies, locally made wines and product samplings (barbecue sauce to salsa). Chef Terri Milligan at the Inn at Kristofer’s, Sister Bay, is known to slip cherries into all courses of her fine dining menu. That includes sautéed quail with cherry sauce, an entree that caught the Food Network’s attention.

00410061.ashxDoor County loves cherries because they grow plump and easily here. The county’s nearly 50 orchards produce 5 percent of the nation’s cherry crop, which makes Wisconsin the fifth-largest U.S. cherry producer. The climate is most agreeable for tart (Montmorency) cherries; during an average year, these trees bloom in May and the fruit is harvested in late July to August.

A few pick-your-own options exist, including Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market, near Fish Creek. The business began as a roadside food stand in 1975 and today covers 100 acres of trees and vines that bear fruit; inside a century-old barn is a wide range of food and beverages made with cherries. That includes wines named after the three youngest Lautenbachs, children who are the family business’ fifth generation.

The bounty that defines temperate and fertile door County covers more than cherries. At the tip of the mainland near gills rock is Bea’s ho-Made Products, a simple, four-generation homestead whose canned goods and baking earn raves.

On shelves are pickled veggies, savory relishes, fruity jams and even dandelion jelly. Expect 15 kinds of pies, including the Patchwork (raspberry, apple, cherry, strawberry and rhubarb), during summer, all made with hand-rolled, lard crusts.

While in this neighborhood, consider a day trip — or more — to Washington Island, a 30-minute ferry ride from Northpoint Pier at the end of Highway 42. on the 35-square-mile, bicycle-friendly island are museums, beaches, art galleries, dining and lodging.

Choices include the Sunset Resort, whose affordable lodging has been around since 1902. The family-owned business also is a popular breakfast spot; on the menu are Swedish limpa bread, crepe-thin Icelandic pancakes (with cherry sauce), and Norwegian grilled toast, which has a crumb coating and is eaten with cherry-rhubarb jam.

Fiber artists and homespun hobbyists make a pilgrimage to Sievers, which for decades has sold looms and arranged multi-day classes in quilting to felting. All thumbs?

Head to the gift shop, where an assortment of works by former students is sold.

Hop a second ferry to explore Rock Island State Park, the least visited state park in Wisconsin because of its remote location. it’s a 15-minute ride, tops.

On Rock Island are rustic campsites, hiking trails, a beautiful beach, Pottawatomie Lighthouse (the state’s oldest, up since 1836) and quaint cobbled buildings that used to be the summer estate of a wealthy Chicago man, Chester Thordarson. Profits from electrical inventions financed his purchase of the island for $5,735 in 1910. Elaborate, hard-carved oak furniture and a truly massive fireplace are among the furnishings of Viking Hall, where exhibits explain the park’s history.

Back on the Door County mainland, charming communities provide a wealth of shopping options, especially for lovers of antiques and the visual arts. Much of this is found in towns that dot Highway 42; the other shoreline option is to follow Highway 57, which takes visitors along Lake Michigan, the quieter side of the county.

The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s oldest nonprofit nature preserve, is 1,400 extraordinary acres where endangered and threatened species thrive. The sanctuary name is a reference to the new ridges that form every 30 to 50 years as the Great Lake shoreline recedes. The oldest ridge is estimated to date back 1,200 years. Guided hikes occur all year; a visitors’ center explains the area’s history and diversity of species.

On the opposite side of the peninsula is a wondrous segment of the Niagara Escarpment, the 1,000-mile ancient sea bottom that stretches from Wisconsin to Niagara Falls and New York. Hike the two-mile Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park and look up at the often-steep ledges, cliffs and outcroppings.

Peninsula, dubbed Wisconsin’s most complete park, also is unusual because it contains an 18-hole golf course, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse (one of 10 lighthouses in door County) and American Folklore Theatre, which presents family-friendly productions at a park amphitheater. Opening June 15: “Bing! The Cherry Musical.”

That’s not to be confused with Peninsula Players Theatre, the nation’s oldest professional resident summer theater, in operation since 1935. The open-air theater overlooks the bay, in a cedar forest near fish Creek, and is home to a mix of comedies and musicals. among the 2010 choices: “A Little Night Music,” the Tony Award winner.

Although cloudless skies make for a great vacation, indoor pursuits are abundant when weather doesn’t cooperate. two sites rise to the top.

The Door County Maritime Museum, Sturgeon Bay, explains the history, myths, lighthouses and longtime commerce associated with lakeside life. See models of ships built locally for commercial fishing, the military, the mining industry and high-end recreation.

At Hands On Art Studio, near Fish Creek, children and adults spend an hour (or a day) to craft their own masterpieces. That might mean making a mosaic-rimmed mirror, a set of glazed dinnerware, a pair of earrings, or a single sculpture of welded metal. This creativity is housed in a funky, revamped barn and other former farm buildings. Friday night hours are for adults only; think lively music and adult beverages.

If learning is more of a longing than a convenient diversion, head to The Clearing, a folk school for adults, established by landscape architect Jens Jensen, known for his passion for conservation.

One-day to week-long workshops in a private, pristine setting near Ellison Bay offer a reconnection to nature in a retreat setting. Week-long gatherings include lodging and family-style meals; topics range from poetry to chair caning, gardening or hiking with contemplation.

Yes, the mix is eclectic, but that also is the nature of Door County, the Midwest’s answer to Cape Cod in landscape and spirit.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Lake Geneva: A Great Golf Destination

By Glen Turk

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Golf ranking lists are as prevalent as the latest swing tip guaranteed to change your game. We’ve all seen rankings for the best public, resort, casino and even university courses in every major golf publication. These checklists drive debates and when looked at in totality, create a who’s who ledger of golf properties throughout the world.

But of all the rankings available, the one I give the most credence to is Golf Digest’s Annual Buddies List, a collection of golf-rich destinations sure to provide your traveling golf group a memorable experience. According to the list, Lake Geneva ranks as the no. 24 finest buddies golf destination in the nation, going head-to-head against such notables as Las Vegas (no. 19), Hilton Head Island (no. 21) and even besting the greater Chicago area (no. 26).

Lake Geneva’s high ranking is a head-turner for sure, as oftentimes small cities never receive their proper due when stacked up against warm-weather metro areas. This phenomenon can be likened to forgetting to be a tourist in your own town even though thousands of people visit an attraction that’s right in your backyard.

So the next logical question to ask is how does a city of only 8,000 full-time residents crack the top-25 golf buddies destination list when it is a good hour from any large metropolitan destination? To begin with, it starts with the fact that Lake Geneva is home to a trio of the finest multi-course properties in the Midwest: Geneva National Resort, Grand Geneva resort and Hawk’s View Golf Course. Combine that with single course gems such as Abbey Springs and Majestic Oaks Golf Course at Lake Lawn Resort, and it’s no wonder Lake Geneva boasts a lineup that’s hard to beat.

Jesse Seykora, Geneva National’s Director of Sales and Marketing, offers his opinion on why Lake Geneva is so highly thought of by the readers of Golf Digest. “What makes Lake Geneva so noteworthy is the ability to plan a completely different golf itinerary for as many days as you want,” begins Seykora. “As a golfer, you are offered such a variety of courses. You can visit as a beginner and ease your way into the game with the plethora of novice courses in the area. On the other hand, a serious golfer will be continually tested with the numerous world class tracks built by some of the most legendary figures in the game such as Palmer, Player, Trevino, Nicklaus and Dye,” concludes Seykora.

Matt Boesch, head golf professional at Hawk’s View Golf Course, expands upon Seykora’s position. “Another reason that makes Lake Geneva the perfect Midwestern golf destination is the fact that there is a lot more to do than just golf. With a multitude of hotels and resorts located on or near one of the many lakes in this area (including Geneva Lake), the golfing vacationer can take a day or an afternoon away from the links and still have a blast. …And in my opinion, maybe just as important as the quality of the courses, is the service and hospitality in Lake Geneva. The friendly Wisconsinite staffs have a genuine pleasantness and enthusiasm to serve that I have not seen in any other part of the country,” states Boesch.

So with all those pleasantries aside, let’s look at Lake Geneva’s golf scorecard and what the traveling golfer can expect when visiting this palatial destination.

Geneva National Resort
Geneva National Resort is home to a collection of arguably the most iconic signature courses in the Midwest, let alone Lake Geneva. Three 18-hole championship layouts grace the 1,600-acre property, one each designed by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. Another facet that makes Geneva National Resort so unique is the fact it’s both a private and public facility at the same time. Having a three course rotation allows members to always have one private course while the public is allowed to play the other two on any given day.

img_0658A buddies trip just became more memorable thanks to Geneva National Resort’s acquisition of the nearby Geneva Ridge Resort (now known as The Ridge) and the Inns of Geneva National in 2013. the 146-room resort, which overlooks the Palmer Course from high above Lake Como, is the perfect complement to GNR as now guests will be able to take advantage of an all-inclusive Stay and Play experience. “The opening of Geneva Ridge places us into a completely new category,” says Geneva National Resort owner Garth Chambers. “Coupled with our acquisition of the Inns of Geneva National, it puts us among the leading resorts in this region.”

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
The 1,310-acre facility is highlighted by two stunning designs, the Brute and the Highlands. In fact, the Highlands is the only course in the state to be co-designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus and is a tribute to the great inland links-style courses of Scotland. The 600-plus room resort was renovated in 2010 and is replete with a full-service spa, five on-site restaurants and their adjacent Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark.

Copy of 1302“In my opinion, our property sets itself apart from our competition with service, course conditions and history,” explains Kyle Kunash, head golf pro at the resort. “Our staff is known for going above and beyond to create a grand experience. Our grounds crew does a great job not only keeping the courses perfectly manicured but the entire property as well. The history of this property speaks for itself, originally designed as the Playboy Club, we have many guests that come back to our property with great stories and memories. It is our job to create new experiences and memories that will last.”
grandgeneva. com

Hawk’s View Golf Club
The final multi-course property of excellence is Hawk’s View, located just north of downtown Lake Geneva off Highway 120. Opened to the public in 2001, Hawk’s View utilizes all of its 312 acres to create a breathtaking experience for the novice to the Tour Pro alike. Matt Boesch, head golf professional, explains what sets his property apart from the competition. “We are so blessed to be equipped with two distinctly different 18-hole courses; Hawk’s View has something for everyone. Como Crossings, our five-star rated championship course named for Como Creek that meanders through the course, boasts tremendous changes in elevation, including two par-3 holes with 100 feet of drop from tee to green,” states Boesch.

Hawk’s View’s other course, Barn Hollow, is a unique 18-hole, par-3 course that is named for the abandoned nostalgic barn that overlooks the course. “Don’t let the term par-3 fool you into preconceived notions,” begins Boesch. “Built at the same time and with the same standards as its big brother, Barn Hollow is one of the best par-3 courses anyone will ever play. With yardages ranging from 106 to 222 yards, you’ll use just about every club in the bag.” 

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


River Town Adventures

By Molly Rose Teuke

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

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Viewed from Buena Vista Park, high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the river town of Alma has the picturesque quality of a child’s toy set. Tiny houses and storefronts ordered along Main Street, toy trains clacking along tracks on a narrow strip between river and town, and miniature barges making their way toward Lock and Dam No. 4. The only thing that doesn’t look miniature is the Mighty Mississippi.

The Mississippi River — “Great River” to native Ojibwa — is the fourth longest river in the world. It flows through or borders 10 states and drains all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces before emptying into the gulf of Mexico. It is the inspiration for much poetry, prose and song, including “Old Man River.”

Native Americans lived along the Mississippi for centuries — hunter- gatherers, herders and the agrarian mound builders. Though much evidence of Native American life on the river has been obliterated, a few mounds remain at Perrot State Park, where the remnants of native American activity date back at least 4,000 years. Several museums along the route have artifacts and tell some of the Native American story.

In the 1500s, Europeans arrived as explorers, fur traders and immigrants who settled communities of Swiss, German, French, Italian and Swedish heritage. In the 19th century, the Mississippi and its tributaries helped spur westward expansion. During both peacetime and wartime, the river served as a vital transportation and communications route. Capture of the river by union forces was a turning point in the Civil War, because the Confederacy relied on it as a trade route.

The Great River Road was established in 1938 by FDR to pay tribute to the scenic, cultural and historic appeal of the Mississippi and its environs. In 2000, a four-state segment of the great river road (including Wisconsin’s Highway 35) was designated a national scenic byway, placing it in the company of such iconic byways as Historic Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Santa Fe trail. It’s been voted “prettiest drive,” more than once, most recently by the Huffington Post.

“While the modern river has been transformed by humans, the most visible being a system of locks and dams, its geologic history is still evident,” says UW-LaCrosse geomorphologist Colin Belby. The real story of the Mississippi River landscape, he says, began with shallow tropical oceans that spread over the area some 550-450 million years ago. Sediment that was deposited in these seas and exposed as the seas gradually disappeared forms the bedrock of today’s landscape. Fast forward to just a few million years ago. During the past 2.5 million years, glaciers repeatedly advanced across much of Wisconsin and Minnesota, abrading the land in some areas and depositing thick layers of sediment in others. Glacial action buffed the high points and filled in the low points, forming the subtle undulating topography of Northwest Wisconsin.

During the most recent glacial advance, the ice reached its most southerly extent in Wisconsin about 18,000 years ago. From then until 10,000 years ago when the glaciers completed their retreat, glacial meltwater formed rivers and streams, which occasionally got dammed up by ice and debris. Every time one of those natural dams broke loose, a massive outpouring of water caused more erosion in some places and deposition in others, shaping the path of the Mississippi as we know it today.

The Wisconsin Great River Road runs along Highway 35, beginning at Prescott in the north and passing through 33 towns, 50 parks, beaches, recreational areas and water access sites as it wends 250 miles south to its southern gateway town of Kieler.

The route’s 33 river towns are the heartbeat of Wisconsin’s Great River Road. This is where you’ll find the festivals, markets, museums and historic markers that give the route much of its character and romance.

Prescott, the route’s northern gateway has a Welcome and Heritage Center housed in a circa 1885 bank building. Two rivers join at Prescott, the clear waters of the St. Croix churning into the muddy Mississippi. Just down the road, Diamond Bluff is named for distinctive dolomite bluffs that rise above town and serve as a landmark for river traffic. A memorial plaque at sea Wing Park tells of the tragic sinking of the Sea Wing, a pleasure barge that capsized during a summer storm in 1890, killing 98 of its more than 200 passengers.Outdoor Patio at Historic Trempealeau Hotel 2 (1)

The historic town of Bay City lies at the top of lake Pepin, the first of four towns on this shallow lake. Lake Pepin is formed by a natural dam that occurs where the Chippewa river flows into the Mississippi river floodplain. “The Chippewa river carries a large sandy sediment load, forming a delta where it joins the Mississippi,” says Paul Reyerson, another UW-LaCrosse geomorphologist. “That causes the Mississippi to back up, essentially damming the river and creating lake Pepin.” This popular recreational lake is the naturally widest point on the Mississippi river, with a surface area of 40 square miles.

Stockholm, also on the shores of Lake Pepin, was settled in the mid-19th century and in recent decades has become an artist’s enclave. for over 40 years, the juried Stockholm Art Fair has been held the third Saturday in July. This year, more than 100 artists will showcase their creations.

Next stop is Pepin, birthplace of one of America’s best-loved storytellers — Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House Wayside, seven miles north of town, has a replica of the log cabin that was the “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first of Ingalls Wilder’s “Big House” books. In town, Pepin Village Park has a Laura Ingalls Wilder memorial, the Pepin Depot Museum and Pepin Historical Museum.

As we pass Nelson, where the Chippewa River flows into the Mississippi, the topography is older than the glaciated landscape to the north. This part of Wisconsin, known as the Driftless Area, was never covered by glaciers, resulting in bluffs that are craggier and more pronounced. Over several million years, rivers throughout the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin carved the landscape, forming the spectacular coulees and bluffs we see today.

Picturesque Alma is just two streets wide, much of it terraced between bluff and river, with 10 stair-stepped streets running perpendicular to the river. Farther downstream, in Fountain City, you can glimpse a bit of modern geology: a 55-ton boulder crashed into a small house, coming to rest in a bedroom; for a modest donation, you can see it for yourself. You can also visit Seven Hawks Vineyard, one of six Wisconsin wineries on the three-state Great River Road Wine Trail.

At Trempealeau, you can hike Perrot State Park and see the few remaining burial mounds, have lunch at the historic Trempealeau Hotel and watch river traffic make its way through lock and dam no. 6. At Holmen, explore the 4,000-acre Van loon Wildlife Area. From foot trails or from rustic road 64 (7 bridges road), you can see historic MacGilvray bridges, seven steel arch truss bridges built in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. The 7 Bridges Road is just one of 24 designated Rustic Roads within an easy drive of the Great River Road.

The La Crosse Riverside Museum and Great River Road Interpretive Center are worth a visit, along with the Mississippi River Archaeology Center at UW-La Crosse. Here you can even get out on the river for a cruise, aboard the La Crosse Queen.

At Genoa, take a tour at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and visit a thousand-gallon aquarium of Mississippi River fish species. At Lynxville, the spring and fall migration brings tens of thousands of canvasback ducks to the pool above lock and dam no. 9. As much as 75 percent of the canvasback population in the U.S. gathers at this pool.

Wisconsin history is much in evidence at Villa Louis at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin’s second oldest community. Nelson Dewey State Park commemorates Wisconsin’s first governor, who lived at nearby Stonefield. both Villa Louis and Stonefield are Wisconsin Historical Society museum sites. And nearby Cassville once competed to become capital of the Wisconsin Territory.

Wyalusing State Park overlooks the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, with miles of hiking trails and many scenic views. Just south, Potosi has the longest main street in the world, and is home to the historic Potosi brewery, complete with beer garden, national brewery Museum and the great river road Interpretive Center.

The Dickeyville Grotto is an impressive exhibit of outdoor art, created by a parish priest and his congregation between 1925 and 1930. The collection of shrines and monuments were turned into mosaics, creating an eye-catching display in spiritual and patriotic themes.

Wisconsin’s Great River Road is a satisfying blend of history, quirky attractions and countless recreational opportunities from biking and hiking to canoeing and birding. Along the way, the people of Wisconsin welcome visitors to their towns with classic Midwest hospitality.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Plenty of Play

By Lesa Knollenberg

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”  – Plato

Plato’s quote, screened on the wall of Madison Children’s Museum, proves to be quite true.

Wisconsin is host to some of the country’s best children’s museums, where children tend to absorb rather than just learn. a day spent in one of Wisconsin’s great hands-on educational centers is a day full of discoveries.

Madison Children’s Museum
Taking children to Madison Children’s Museum isn’t so much an activity as an adventure. Walking into the atrium, adults are drawn to stop and take it all in, while kids are propelled to explore. “Look at this!” and “Check this out!” echo through the airy atrium. The smell of pizza entices from the on-site café, a locally based concept that is catching on in other museums across the country. Madison’s chic Roman Candle Sparkler serves Roman Candle Pizza, Chocolate Shoppe ice Cream and nutritious snacks.

The Madison Children’s Museum is layered with activities for children of all ages, from infants to age 12. the drop-in art Studio and Rooftop Ramble are favorites for all. With a stunning view of downtown Madison, the Rooftop is a playground in the sky and open year-round. explorers experience nature and its treasures: a pond, waterfall, gardens and paths. animal lovers will be thrilled to see the chickens and homing pigeons outside. Inside the clubhouse, they’ll find chicks, frogs, turtles, a snake, and binoculars and microscopes to learn even more.

For the younger set, the Wildernest is designed for sensory appeal with all-natural materials. youngsters enjoy dramatic play in the Music Hut, Heart Hut and the popular farmers’ Market Cart and planting area. the Bone Bridge and tree House are an immediate draw, where climbing through a series of wooden structures puts children high above the tallest adult.

One of Madison Children’s Museum’s most popular exhibits is the gerbil “Wheel,” a human-sized version of a gerbil wheel. it’s also a hit with adults during the museum’s quarterly adult Swim events, where an adults-only crowd can explore for an evening. Possibleopolis is an interactive area where older explorers enjoy the Wayback Machine (an interactive electronic playground), the Hodgepodge Mahal (a two-story climber made of reclaimed materials) or the Punch Buggy (a must-see). the Brand Log Cabin, an authentic historical structure, gives pioneer wannabes a chance to do chores and activities they might have done in the 1830s.

The Building for Kids, Appleton
Step inside the Building for Kids in Appleton, and you’ve entered a new world. a three-story tree house rises from the building’s entrance, with five individual forts and varying degrees of climbing difficulty. Designed by kids for kids, the museum is geared to children 10 and under, and the energy created in the lively environment exemplifies the museum’s mission: “Build children’s imagination, creativity and confidence.”

Imagination soars when kids step inside the gulf stream Jet. A full-sized airplane — complete with cockpit and control tower — allows the curious to imagine being a pilot or control engineer. If fighting fires is more like their thing, children can sit in the driver’s seat of Station 99 fire truck and learn about fire safety at the same time. In the Doll Hospital, they don doctor scrubs and care for dolls with life-like characteristics.

Make-believe continues at the Kids Town Diner, where kids create and serve meals to pretend diners. The Kwik Trip convenience store is a replica of the adult version, where scanners beep, purchases are made, and cars are washed. The nearby town exhibit features a hospital, grocery store and pet shop, giving children the experience of a realistic work setting. Learning is fun in the DaVinci Studio, an extensive art and science center where kids can participate in (sometimes messy) hands-on science and arts-related activities (aprons provided). The Move-it exhibit features levers, tubes and baskets that allow kids to learn basic engineering concepts.

The Building for Kids also hosts the Amazing Heart, an exhibit for children to climb up and slide down the ventricles and arteries of a 10-foot human heart. Traveling exhibits keep the museum bustling during busy summer months.

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
Betty Brinn, a Milwaukee businesswoman who spent the majority of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages, dedicated her adult life to helping women and children in the Milwaukee area improve their lives.

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is a fitting tribute to Brinn’s spirit as the museum is teeming with possibilities. Its artistic exhibit lets children experience being the conductor for a performance of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony orchestra. Kids generate their own musical sounds using a climbing structure (with a talking drum, walk-on keyboard, giant chimes and a 10- foot percussion cascade). They can engineer music and produce it in a recording studio. If dance is their passion, they’ll learn a dance choreographed by the Milwaukee Ballet or put on a puppet show with moving curtains and backgrounds. Parents are encouraged to watch, with theater-style seating for the finished product.

One of Betty Brinn Children’s Museum’s biggest draws is Home Town. This child-sized town gives kids the chance to try out the world of adults. Aspiring adults can use an ATM, be an anchor or producer for a news studio, run a grocery store, work in a post office or on a construction site or a shipping dock. Phone lines connect between the buildings, and curiosity and cooperation are the currency.

Combining activity and learning, a giant interactive board game called It’s Your Move helps children learn more about a healthy lifestyle. They’ll learn about activity versus rest, safety and personal care; they also learn about nutrition by learning the difference between “whoa” and “go” foods. It’s learning and fun at its finest. Similarly, two companion exhibits, Raceways and on a Roll, combine the love of curiosity with the thrill of physics.

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is geared for children up to age 10, and younger children will be thrilled with the exhibit called Let’s Play Railway, a large-scale replica of the famous BRIO train. The engine, cattle wagon and caboose are just like the miniature versions kids have grown to love. Young ones also love Betty’s Busy Backyard. Toddlers use the waterfall, leaves, tree stump drums, sandbox and vegetable garden to stimulate math, language, motor and cooperative learning skills.

A trip to any of Wisconsin’s innovative children’s museums inspires curiosity. Museums spark childrens’ creativity and inspire them to be imaginative at home. After a day of discovery, perhaps that’s the best souvenir of all.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Get Away With The Girls

By Barbara Sanford

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Life is Busy.
Whether it’s driving the kids’ team to soccer practice, working at home on a last-minute report or trying to keep the house clean, it’s difficult to find time to connect with your best friends. If this is you, it’s time to get away, so grab your girlfriends and head north. Wisconsin offers two destinations perfect for a relaxing escape with friends.

For a short trip north, the charming resort community of Lake Geneva offers fabulous options. If you drive just a few hours more, you’ll find the entire peninsula of Door County welcoming you with its spectacular shoreline, quaint communities and relaxed atmosphere.

Lake Geneva
In the Lake Geneva area, check into your two-bedroom condo at the iconic Abbey Resort ( in Fontana, the only full-service resort on the shores of Geneva Lake. Enjoy the indoor pool, live music on weekend nights, and choice of games. The Fontana Grill offers fine dining and the Waterfront casual meals.

Get a glimpse of the lives of Lake Geneva’s rich and famous as you walk the Geneva Lake Shore Path. The Wrigleys, Rockefellers, Swifts and Maytags are among the many Chicago industrialists who built fabulous estates along the 21 miles of Geneva Lake shoreline. You’ll see french chateaus, tudor lodges and turreted Queen Anne mansions. Originally a Native American footpath, the public access right-of-way around the lake is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the area. Printed guides are available. Select a portion of the path that most appeals to you.

In the morning, play a round of golf at the Geneva National Golf Club (, featuring three championship courses designed by Masters winners Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino, each with three sets of tees rated for women. Enjoy the natural surroundings of the Wisconsin countryside. The Hunt Club Steakhouse offers fine dining, while healthy, light menu choices are featured at the clubhouse and on the courses.

If you’re feeling adventurous, ride the zipline at Lake Geneva Canopy tours ( This unique, fully guided eco-adventure tour takes you high above the forest floor to experience the exhilaration of zip-flying from tree to tree where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of nature, and Skyguides share interesting information on the area’s ecology, biology, geology and local history. Enjoy spectacular views of the forest, Lake Como and surrounding countryside. Afterward, reinvigorate yourself at the WELL Spa & Salon at Grand Geneva Resort ( Whether you have a massage or facial, you’ll forget your cares and feel the tensions of daily life melt away. Use of the fitness center is included with every spa service.

Your getaway wouldn’t be complete without shopping in downtown Lake Geneva. I Love Funky’s features three floors of clothing, accessories, jewelry, antiques from around the world, furniture, and funky, weird stuff. Refined Rustic Studio & gallery offers vintage finds, unique decorative accessories, one-of-a-kind found objects and unique lighting. the Cornerstone Shop & gallery has handmade jewelry and ceramics, hand-blown and stained glass, candles and books. Global Hands is a fair trade shop offering gifts, clothing, jewelry, home furnishings, coffee, tea and chocolate. The handcrafted items are made from natural materials by artisans in over 35 developing nations. And Min’s is a clothing boutique that carries natural and organic fabrics along with an interesting mix of gift items.

For dinner, sign up for a gourmet cooking experience at the Lake Geneva School of Cooking ( With owner/chef John Bogan, prepare dinner together with your girlfriends and enjoy a great meal. Offerings include an entertaining “Julia Child” class and “Dinner time, Wine time,” which features a menu celebrating the season’s regional cuisine with matching wine pairings.

End each day toasting fireside s’mores on the Abbey’s Waterfront Restaurant’s patio and relaxing around your fireplace with a glass of wine.

Door County 
In Door County, check into your two-edroom suite at the Landmark Resort ( near Egg Harbor, the peninsula’s largest resort. Your lofted waterside suite has a stunning view of Green Bay, a balcony and an electric fireplace. Resort amenities include an indoor pool that’s open 24/7 and a fitness center, and the Carrington Pub & Grill offers casual dining. Located on 40 wooded acres atop a bluff, the resort is centrally located, only minutes away from all activities on the peninsula. It’s a casual, comfortable place, exactly what Door County is all about.

Take a walk along the beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park ( org/land/parks/specific/whitefish/) near Sturgeon Bay. The park has three miles of rugged Lake Michigan shoreline, a natural sand beach and huge sand dunes. Hike out to see the view from old Baldy, the tallest sand dune in the state. Then stroll along the lake, watch waterfowl at Clark Lake, use the boardwalk to discover wetlands, or relax on one of the many trails throughout the forested sand dunes and beech forest.

In the morning, enjoy a round of golf at the historic 18-hole Peninsula State Park golf Course ( With spectacular views of eagle Harbor and the village of Ephraim, the course is set in a majestic forest. You may see some of the park’s birds and wildlife as you golf. Of historic note is a 40-foot memorial pole dedicated to the Potawatomi nation along the ninth fairway. Amenities include a restaurant, pro shop, putting green, equipment rentals, practice range and lessons.

Popular shopping destinations abound on the peninsula. The Blue Dolphin House near Ephraim is a renovated 1860’s farmhouse filled with gifts, gadgets, décor accents, furniture, home and garden accessories, and fine arts and crafts. Surrounded by towering pines, its perennial gardens are filled with unique outdoor sculptures, birdbaths and wind chimes. Chelsea Antiques, with fine english and french antiques, home accessories and gifts, and the Blue Willow Shop, featuring english and french décor, gifts, accessories, books and gourmet foods housed in a 100-year-old log cabin, are located in the countryside near Sister Bay. And the Magic Jacket in the top of the Hill Shops in Fish Creek features art wear clothing, jewelry and accessories.

If you’re up for an adventure, try a tandem dive at Skydive Door County ( you’ll experience the rush of freefall from two miles above the earth at speeds of 120 mph or more, then a relaxing canopy ride down. Don’t worry: you’ll be securely attached to a qualified, licensed tandem master who will guide you every step of the way. The views are breathtaking and think how amazed your family will be!

Tucked away in a peaceful wooded setting is the Spa at Sacred Grounds ( in Ephraim. Pamper yourself with a massage or facial. then walk through the gardens, have tea on the patio, or enjoy a book by the library fireplace.

A cooking class at the Savory Spoon Cooking School ( in Ellison Bay is a fun and creative way to spend an evening with your girlfriends and have a wonderful meal. open June through October, the school is housed in a restored two-room village schoolhouse built in 1879.

Enjoy some down-home Wisconsin humor and song in an American Folklore Theatre’s ( original musical comedy. The theater’s fall season shows, “Guys on Ice” and “The Spitfire Grill,” are presented at the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek through mid-October.

End each day recounting and toasting your adventures around a fireplace.

Great accommodations and food, wonderful shopping, luxurious spas, high adventure, fun cooking classes, scenic hikes, lively theatre and historic golf courses … everything you need for a perfect girls’ getaway. you’ll come away with great memories, high spirits and renewed friendships.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Wisconsin Dells

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Many decades before the bumper boats, water slides, wave pools and wet-wild rides, a lazy lake and winding river astounded vacationers as much as any man-made thrill of today.

About two dozen water parks lure families to Wisconsin Dells during all seasons, but don’t limit your adventures to a wristband purchase. Although some of the area slumbers when winter begins, constant and awesome examples of what defined the Dells as a spectacular vacation destination long, long ago are everywhere.

Your child may know the Master Blaster and tanzanian twister at Kalahari Resort, but how about Devil’s elbow and Witches gulch, attractions of the natural world and a part of Dells Boat tours? Excursions via jet boat, double-decker vessels and Wisconsin Dells army Ducks (amphibious World War ii vehicles) venture onto the Wisconsin River until waterways freeze, typically in early November.

Even then, outdoor explorations don’t need to cease. Within Mirror Lake and Devil’s Lake state parks are miles of hiking trails — easy to strenuous, gentle loops to steep climbs — to introduce to or remind you of nature’s miracles, diversity and elegance. A 13.7-mile hiking loop in Devil’s Lake is part of the national ice age Scenic trail, which offers 1,200 miles of trail in Wisconsin that follow unusual geological features left behind by glaciers thousands of years ago.

Many of these footpaths turn into cross-country and/or snowshoe trails when the blankets of white stuff inevitably arrive, and it is the same with the greens of some Wisconsin Dells golf courses — some have abbreviated down time between seasons. Downhill skiers head to Christmas Mountain Village or Cascade Mountain, each about 15 to 20 minutes outside of town.

Even zip-line tours continue, by appointment, during fall and winter; participants might be given snowshoes with ice grips to safely ascend to the starting point. Add sledding, ice fishing and — for the hardiest of souls — winter camping in the state parks for a full appreciation of the area’s beauty and bounty during all seasons.

Seeking a warm-up or history lesson? Venture downtown to the H.H. Bennett Studio, an official state historic site, to view the area’s waterways, cliffs, bluffs and craggy sandstone pillars and outcroppings, just as they captivated photographer Bennett more than 100 years ago. The adventurer, eager to document what he saw, quickly earned the respect of local Native American inhabitants and the attention of media as far away as Chicago.

“Who does not know of the Dells?” the Chicago Herald asked, rhetorically, in 1891. Thanks to Bennett’s photos, the area already was on its way to becoming a magnet for curious tourists and lovers of nature.

Bennett’s preserved photo studio is open until late October, as are two other nearby attractions that pay homage to the natural world: the international Crane foundation (the only place in the world where all 15 species of cranes live) and guided tours of the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center (where the father of wildlife ecology pursued some of his most significant research). Both are between the Dells and Baraboo. Self-guided tours of the Leopold Center are possible all year. En route, look for the weathered Leopold Shack and its tranquil acreage, upon which Leopold’s book “a Sand County almanac” is based. The shack and farmland is a National Historic Landmark.

Celebrate the arrival of autumn during the Wisconsin Dells’ annual Wo-zha-Wa Days, which is Ho-Chunk language for “a time to have fun.” the family-friendly September festival includes a parade and carnival rides.

Confront winter during the annual January flake out festival, which is anchored by a snow-sculpting competition and other outdoor activities.

Illusions are abundant in the Dells, from Rick Wilcox magic and comedy shows to tours through top Secret, a topsy turvy replica of the White House where what should be up, points down. Wizard Quest whisks adventurers through secret indoor passages and unusual obstacles, accompanied by dozens of fantasy game characters. Look for it adjacent to a four dimension, special effects movie theater, the 4-D fX.

Also open year-round is the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, named after the longtime entrepreneur who was nicknamed the P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney of the Dells. His cerebral attraction began in 1982 as the House of Tomorrow, a futuristic look at what daily living might involve with robots and androids at our disposal. It soon morphed into a science center and study of outer space after a replica of the Soviets’ MIR Space Station was purchased from a Moscow museum. Subsequent acquisitions, including full-size replicas of Sputnik and the Mercury Space Capsule, astronaut suits, an ejection seat and much more, also play up the space theme. Elsewhere, about 150 other exploratory exhibits test logic, tease with illusions and demonstrate scientific principles. The maze of mental gymnastics is meant for preschoolers to teens, but they also won’t disappoint adults.

It is the same with Ripley’s Believe It or Not, one of 31 such museums in the world named after Robert Ripley, a 1920s lover of exotic travel. When people failed to believe his travelogues, Ripley began supplementing his vacation movies with odd souvenirs.

Like what? Think shrunken heads from Ecuador, a two-headed calf from Wisconsin, a flute made of human bone, a necklace made from snake vertebrae, an Elvis portrait made of butterfly wings. That’s just a sample of the amazing to mildly horrifying artifacts on display.

Over the top? Sometimes, but, hey, this is the Dells, where few things seem ordinary.
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This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

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