By Jessica Steinhoff | Photos: Travel Wisconsin (bottom right), Visit Milwaukee
New attractions sprang up over the past year in several Wisconsin communities, and a variety of historic sites received visitor-friendly updates. Here are a few to check out.
INTERNATIONAL CRANE FOUNDATION, BARABOO
This conservation nonprofit touts itself as the only place in the world that has living exhibits of all 15 crane species, many of which are threatened or endangered. The Baraboo site closed in 2018 as it undertook a $10 million renovation, reopening in 2021 with a number of revamped exhibits, more space and water access for the birds, and seven hand-painted murals for the humans in attendance. These updates encourage the cranes to behave like they would in the wild, allowing visitors to observe their mating dances and the loud, distinctive calls ecologist Aldo Leopold described as “high horns, low horns, silence and finally a pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks and cries.”
AMERICA’S BLACK HOLOCAUST MUSEUM, MILWAUKEE
Founded by James Cameron, an author and lynching survivor, this museum in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood fosters racial justice by exploring the legacies of American slavery and Jim Crow laws. After a decade of being entirely virtual and lots of work by community volunteers, the museum re-opened in a new physical space in February 2022. Here you can take a chronological journey from 1619 to the present, learning about Africans’ lives before enslavement, their kidnapping and journey to the Americas, the Reconstruction era, the Civil Rights Movement and more.
3RD STREET MARKET HALL, MILWAUKEE
Located in the former Grand Avenue Mall, this new hub for cuisine and recreation is also a prime spot for people-watching. Hit up Dairyland for frozen custard, Hot Dish Pantry for pierogi and Mid- Way Bakery for cream puffs worthy of the State Fair, or choose from several other local food purveyors. Wash down your meal with one of the bar’s brandy-based cocktails, then snap photos at the Photoverse Selfie Museum, which offers 27 photo stations with backdrops and props created by Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design students. Round out your evening with a game of golf at one of two TopGolf Swing Suites (must be reserved in advance for a fee) or some shuffleboard, bags or Giant Jenga.
ABC SUPPLY STADIUM, BELOIT
The decision to build this one-year-old stadium helped Beloit save its Minor League Baseball team when it faced elimination in 2019. Now called the Beloit Sky Carp, this affiliate of the Miami Marlins brings loads of excitement to the 3,500-person space along the Rock River, which also hosts wintertime ice skating and events such as family movie nights and a craft beer festival. With a 360-degree walkable concourse, a right-field party deck and a kids’ playground — complete with an inflatable, bouncy castle — there’s fun to be had in every corner of the facility.
YERKES OBSERVATORY, WILLIAMS BAY
Following a major renovation, this stargazers’ paradise has a brand-new roof with 83 solar panels, ADA-compliant restrooms and 50 acres of fresh landscaping that reflects the Olmstead family’s 1897 and 1906 plans for the grounds. Look closely and you’ll also find lovingly restored pendant lights, terrazzo flooring and Carrara marble walls, plus a lecture hall and a pollinator garden. Before you go, be sure to admire the world’s largest refractor telescope.
JIM KRESS MARITIME LIGHTHOUSE TOWER, STURGEON BAY
Part of the Door County Maritime Museum, this new landmark has 10 floors of interactive exhibits exploring shipwrecks, underwater life, boating and more. Start in the first-floor maritime theater, where you’ll learn how water has shaped the area’s people and industries, and finish on the rooftop deck (weather permitting), which offers panoramic views of both the Lake Michigan and Green Bay shorelines.