See the state with us in 2012

At Wisconsin Trails, we are always working on articles about Wisconsin’s great destinations and events. Countless times, we find ourselves thinking, I want to do that or I want to go there. This year, we decided it’s time to get out and do some of those things, so we made our own Wisconsin to-do lists. The challenge: see or do everything on our lists by the end of 2012. The only requirement was at least half had to be outside of a 30-mile radius of our downtown Milwaukee office.

Throughout the year, we’ll be blogging about our progress and posting photos and videos as we check off the items on our lists. Follow us on this blog. And if you have any tips for us before we head to your area or favorite spot, be sure to let us know. What are your Wisconsin resolutions for the new year? Share them here, on our Facebook page or e-mail

Check out the bucketlists of Kristen, Chelsey, Shailah and Jerry.

Kristen, editor

1. Camp at Governor Dodge State Park, Dodgeville

We took our son Charlie camping for the first time in September 2010, when he was two months old. After lurching about in the tent between and on a queen-sized air mattress, a pack-and-play and four bags of baby gear with an infant in my arms, I decided we’d have to upgrade from our six-person tent. Because what family of three can camp comfortably in a six-person tent? Last spring, after about two months of research, we settled on the eight-person Coleman Max Family Cabin Tent. And then we didn’t even go camping last year. We are going this year, and I will plan far enough ahead to reserve a spot atGovernorDodgeState Park near Dodgeville. Two lakes, two beaches, large wooded tent sites. Sounds great to me.

2. Tour the House on the Rock, Spring Green

I have been to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin three times. I have never gone just six miles past Taliesin to see Spring Green’s other architectural wonder, the House on the Rock. I’ve heard mixed reactions to HOTR – kitsch, bizarre, stuffed to the gills with stuff, but I’m still very curious about the place. After all, it is one of the state’s top tourist destinations for a reason.

3. Drop in on Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield

4. Check out Sputnikfest, Manitowoc

5. Bike the Elroy–Sparta State Trail, Monroe County

I love this family-friendly outdoors idea. An easily cruiseable 35 miles long, the five towns along the trail cater to cyclists, and there are two walk-in campgrounds right off the bike path. If the Sparta campground is full or the “steep grade” that leads to the Elroy campground is too daunting at the end of the day, there are about three dozen other lodging options along the route. And, as a former train line (Elroy–Sparta is considered the first rail-to-trail in the country), not only are there three train tunnels to ride through, but the whole route is flat!

6. Take my mom to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion

There are only 10 Vatican-approved cases of Virgin Mary apparitions in the world. Just three additional sites have been approved at the local level. Of all the Marian sites, only one is in the United States, and it is 16 miles northeast of Green Bay in the town of Champion. I want to take my mom there this year. She and my dad took my brothers and me to a tiny mountain village in northernSpain where the Virgin was said to have appeared to several children in the ’60s. Somehow, my dad finagled an overnight stay – for our whole family – with the mother of Conchita, one of the girls. I stayed in the very room where Conchita saw the Virgin. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I expect our trip to Champion this year will be much more relaxing.

7. Go to a Green Bay Packers game, Green Bay

8. Get my fix at ChocolateFest, Burlington

It’s a chocolate festival. I don’t feel I need to explain this, but I will. I haven’t been in the past because it falls on Memorial Day weekend, and like many others, we’ve been out of town that weekend.Burlington, once home to a Nestle factory, was proclaimed Chocolate City USA by Governor Tommy Thompson in 1987 – and then subsequently sued by Hershey, which already laid claim to the moniker. From what I know, ChocolateFest has all that’s great about town festivals – music, food, people-watching – but I also have visions of rivers of chocolate cascading over blocks of chocolate and into cups of chocolate.

9. Tour Ten Chimneys, Genesee Depot

I love historic homes – ever since I went to Old World Wisconsin as a schoolkid, I’ve been fascinated by how real people actually lived in other times and places. I seek them out wherever I travel, but I have yet to get to Ten Chimneys. Home to legendary stage couple Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, the 60-acre estate has a main house and numerous outbuildings, all perfectly preserved with the pair’s furniture, décor and personal effects. (I am that one on the tour who always asks, ‘Is that piece original to the house or is it just from the period?’) The Ten Chimneys guestbook reveals a constant stream of legends from both coasts over three decades.

10. Compete in the Amateur Trapshooting Association State Shoot, Waukesha

Not many people would know this about me: I am a good shot. Rifle, handgun, bow and arrow, crossbow – I’ve shot them all and with remarkable precision. I would never own a gun of my own, but I like shooting at targets with other people’s weapons. I’ve often joked that I could make a living on the tournament circuit. I’ll put that theory to the test in 2012. I don’t know if I can hit a clay pigeon in the air, but I do know that I can shoot the star out of a dangling piece of paper at the fair.
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Chelsey, assistant editor

1. Snowshoe at Wyalusing State Park, Prairie du Chien

The last time I strapped on a pair of snowshoes I was more concerned with enjoying the view of my middle-school crush than the beauty of Wisconsin’s winter landscape. And since I don’t ski, my outdoor activity in winter is usually relegated to sprinting between my office and the parking structure twice a day. This year, I’m determined to get out and enjoy the scenery on snowshoes. After learning about Wyalusing’s Sugar Maple Nature Trail in the November/December 2010 issue, I knew I had to make my way out there and see the bluffs and frozen waterfall for myself.

2. Partake in Milwaukee’s polar plunge, Milwaukee

I’ve done a fair amount of adventurous things in my life, but most people still find it hard to believe I’m an adrenaline junky. My own mother is just beginning to accept it, after I told her I wanted to go sky diving this year with my dad (she quickly verified his life insurance was up-to-date). One bucket-list adventure I haven’t tackled yet is to willingly throwing my 98.6-degree body into the freezing water of Lake Michigan in the winter. This year, that all changes, and I’m dragging one of my adventurous (crazy?) friends along with me. Plus,Wisconsin’s polar plunges raise money for the Special Olympics – definitely a good reason to be freezin’.

3. Sail on the S/V Denis Sullivan, Milwaukee

I’ve been a pirate my whole life. When I was 5, a lazy eye forced me to wear a patch (which has provided my brother with a lifetime of teasing ammunition). My high school mascot was a pirate, filling my closet with pirate T-shirts and hoodies. This year, it’s time to complete the transformation with a trip on a tall ship, the S/V Denis Sullivan. Moored at Discovery World in the summer, the vessel is the world’s only re-creation of a three-masted Great Lakes Schooner and is open for tours and day sails May through September. Aye, it’s time to ditch me lubber ways and finally take to the high seas – of Lake Michigan, that is.

4. Watch the Peninsula Players perform, Fish Creek

Every Labor Day weekend my family crams the SUV with snacks, suitcases, bikes and people (which has become increasingly more difficult as my siblings and I have gotten older and added significant others) and heads three hours north for a weekend in Door County. While my brother and dad would be content to spend the weekend sipping Leinie’s on Gibraltar Grill’s outdoor patio, my mom and I enjoy strongly encouraging them to join us in broadening our horizons, including biking in Peninsula State Park, touring Stone’s Throw Winery and – gasp! – shopping. My mission next year: watch a performance by the Peninsula Players,America’s oldest professional resident summer theater. And for the men in my family, they even have a beer garden.

5. Camp at Newport State Park, Ellison Bay

For most, a weekend in a remote wilderness sounds like pure torture. For me, it sounds like bliss. No bickering roommates, no ringing cell phone, no well-intentioned relatives asking why I don’t have a boyfriend. Like I said, bliss. Newport State Park on Door County’s quieter eastern shore is Wisconsin’s only formally designated wilderness park, offering nearly 2,400 acres of unadulterated nature and 16 backpack campsites for a few days away from everything.

6. Explore Aztalan, Jefferson

The first time I saw a picture of Aztalan State Park, I thought, Wait, that’s here in Wisconsin? How have I never heard of it before? I’ve explored Aztec ruins in Mexico and Incan ruins in Peru, but I have yet to see one of our state’s most important archaeological sites, which is located practically in my own backyard. A National Historic Landmark located just east of Lake Mills, Aztalan was the site of a 10th- to 13th-century Middle-Mississippian village. The history lover in me is begging for a trip there this year to check out the reconstructed mounds.

7. Explore western Wisconsin’s fantastic foursome, Blue Mounds, Prairie du Sac and Spring Green

A couple of years ago I was driving through southwestern Wisconsin on my way to Des Moines and was surprised at how many tourism attractions I have never been to in that corner of the state. Cave of the Mounds, Little Norway, Wollersheim Winery and House on the Rock are all situated within 20 miles of each other, making it easy to tackle all four in a long weekend. The Southwest Wisconsin Visitor Bureau also offers a discounted pass to visit all four – just $39. That kind of a deal is too good to pass up this year.

8. Kayak the Apostle Islands, Bayfield

Every time we mention the ApostleIslandsin Wisconsin Trails, I kick myself for not having made the journey up there yet. It’s a haul from Milwaukee, but from everything I’ve read and seen about the national lakeshore, it’s more than worth the trip. And I can’t think of a better way to explore the 21-island archipelago than via kayak. I’ve heard it can be a challenging paddle and the best way to see more of the islands is to camp a couple of nights on them. So with my limited kayaking experience and string bean arms, it’s probably best I go with an established tour group. Safety first!

9. Bike Elroy–Sparta State Trail, Monroe County

I consider myself a recreational biker, which means a few times every summer I stuff my 7-year-old Trek into my car (note to self: buy bike rack) and head out to explore a new trail. On this year’s list is the popular rails-to-trails Elroy­–Sparta State Trail in westernWisconsin. Claiming to be the nation’s oldest rails-to-trails bike path, the 32.5-mile route passes by five small towns and through three nearly 140-year-old railroad tunnels, the highlight of the route. The relatively flat trail is easy enough for beginners, meaning I can probably trick ­– um, I mean talk, a few of my non-biking friends into make the trip with me.

10. Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I have yet to visit this world-class museum as an art-appreciating adult, despite having lived in theMilwaukeearea for most of my life. The museum’s permanent collection features more than 25,000 pieces of art, including works by Picasso and Rembrandt and an extensive collection of Georgia O’Keefe pieces. Not to mention the beauty of the Calatrava building itself. With free admission the first Thursday of the month, there’s no excuse to not explore the museum in 2012.
* * *

Shailah, creative director

1. Tour Taliesin, Spring Green

I’ve always been a Frank Lloyd Wright fan. I almost went to architecture school but decided I preferred designing on paper to designing huge structures that last decades. FLW had great ideas and was ahead of his time, looking to nature and using materials from the buildings’ sites. I loved last year’s Milwaukee Art Museum exhibit of his work, Organic Architecture for the 21st Century.

2. Visit Baraboo

My sister and her family moved to Baraboo about a year ago, and even though I’ve been to visit a couple times, I would like to get there more in 2012. One thing I want to do is visit the Aldo Leopold Foundation. In my daily life, I always try to be conscious of ways I can be better to the environment. I really like what I know of Leopold and his conservation ideas, and I’d like to learn more about his life and to see his famous shack. I also want to go to the International Crane Foundation. My sister says that when you walk in, the cranes come running over to see what’s going on. I think it would be cool to see all the different crane species there.

3. Tour the Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point

My friend just moved to Stevens Point and said there are three breweries there, which surprised me. I think I’ll just stick to one brewery tour when I visit, probably the Stevens Point Brewery, the fifth-oldest continually operating brewery in the country.

4. Visit with Walter Hamady, Mount Horeb

In my book arts class at UW–Milwaukee, my professor, Max Yela, was always talking about Walter Hamady, an artist, book designer and papermaker who was a professor at UW–Madison for 30 years. He started the Perishable Press, and through that, published a series of books called the Interminable Gabberjabs. A few years ago, he spoke at one of his shows in Madison. I couldn’t get up the nerve to talk to him then, so I’d like another shot at it.

5. See a movie at Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theatre, Wisconsin Dells

My husband and I have always wanted to do this but it just hasn’t worked out, mainly because of the limited showtimes – or what I assume are limited showtimes. I read online that the Big Sky Twin near the Wisconsin Dells is open seven days a week, Memorial Day through Labor Day, so now we have no excuse. I think the seats in our little Honda Insight will be comfortable enough. I hope they bring us popcorn on roller skates.

6. Camp on Rock Island, Door County

The fact that this island is only accessible by boat is very appealing to me. No cars allowed – or bikes, which is a little strange, but hasn’t put me off. This 900-acre island sits about six miles off the tip of the Door County Peninsula and the ferry runs daily, Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. There are 40 walk-in campsites with just the basics: fire pits and pit toilets. There is a lighthouse (the oldest inDoorCounty) and some exhibits in the stone buildings built by the man who once owned the island. But the views are what people go here for – Rock Island’s “campsite C” was recently voted the best walk-in campsite in the state by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks.

7. Go cliff-jumping at Redgranite Quarry, Redgranite

8. See Big Manitou Falls, Superior

This natural wonder inPattisonState Parkis our state’s highest waterfall. I want to make a weekend of it and go camping at the park’s campground, which has nearly 60 sites and – if we decide to really rough it – three backpack sites. I’d like to check out some of the trails there, although from what I know, it’s hard to get a good view of the falls.

9. Make an appointment at Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, Milwaukee

I learned about this place when I was working on their website. Their approach to acupuncture is different than how it is typically done. The group takes more of an Eastern approach to acupuncture with communal healing and group treatments. In their new space in the Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, they have teamed up with a chiropractor, massage therapist and nutritionist to create a complete wellness center.

10. Visit Sweet Water Organics, Milwaukee

I heard about this when we were living inMilwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, and it sounds really interesting. Basically, it’s an indoor fish and vegetable farm operating as a sustainable aquaponics system. According to the website, “the fish waste acts as natural fertilizer for plant growth and the plants act as a water filter.” As the place grows, the plan is to eventually supply local restaurants and the community.
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Jerry, photographer

1. Kayak the Apostle Islands, Bayfield

As many times as I’ve been around them, I’ve never actually been to the Apostles. I’ve spent countless hours in a canoe, but kayaks are something I have little experience with. I can’t think of a better introduction to kayaking than seeing the Apostle Islands from one. This is one of those great-to-shoot and great-to-do experiences.

2. Fly-fish the Bois Brule River, Douglas County

Again, this is a place I have been to for work but not for play. I’ve photographed fall color and kayaking here, but my fly rod stayed at home. Five U.S. presidents have stayed and fished on the Bois Brule: Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower, Cleveland and Coolidge. President Coolidge’s “summer White House” was on the Bois Brule, and many presidents have stayed at the Cedar Island Estate.

3. Camp at Crystal Lake Campground in the Northern Highland–American Legion State Forest with my grandsons, Vilas County

Crystal Lake is one of my favorite spots in the state. Campsites ring this beautiful lake, which has some of the most stunning sunset views I’ve ever seen. I’d like my grandsons to get some of the same Northwoods experiences I got as a kid: listening to loons, waking to the smell of pines, making beef stew with biscuits in a Dutch oven.

4. Go ziplining with my wife, Lake Geneva

Something is very appealing to me about flying through the air – while still being attached to something. When we passed a billboard advertising ziplining last summer, my wife said she’d like to go. The idea of flying through the woods like a bird on a wire sounds great. When I do go, it will be with one of those helmet-mounted cameras to share the experience.

5. Photograph the Clam Lake elk herd

This has been on my list for a long time; I hope to actually get to it this year. Elk used to be native to Wisconsin, mostly in the southern part of the state, but the area around Clam Lake is a more suitable habitat since southern Wisconsin is now mostly devoted to agriculture. To be able to photograph animals that we think of as living only in the mountain states would be great.

6. Have an Island Rum Punch at Tom’s Burned Down Café in La Pointe, Madeline Island

It was too early to sit down for a cool one (and I was on the clock) when I was last in La Pointe, so I have to go back for that. The place is right out of the Florida Keys, and there’s something appealing about a joint with a tarp for a roof, live music, an art gallery and a sign that says, “Sorry, we’re open.”

7. Go dog sledding

I’m looking forward to something fun in the winter months. I really love animals, and I’ve always been impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of sled dogs and the people who both train and take care of them. This will be one of those times when I’ll be trying to get great shots while simultaneously trying to not fall off of something.

8. Canoe the Kickapoo

Believe it or not, I’ve not taken pictures or paddled here. “Kickapoo” is an Algonquin word that means “one who goes here, then there,” which refers to the meandering nature of this river. I’ve always hoped to gather my friends from Viroqua, Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago for a weekend of canoeing and fishing the Kickapoo and a couple of nights around the campfire at Wildcat Mountain State Park.

9. Eat at Franks Diner again, Kenosha

How do you not love a place whose motto is “Eat the diner way!” This is one of those places that has such a great vibe in addition to fantastic food. I smile just walking in the door. There is an old saying that goes, “Food tastes better served with a smile.” The food stands all on its own at Franks, but the funny and smiling staff make it taste even better.

10. Visit the prairie chickens


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12 Responses to See the state with us in 2012

  1. Marta DeMerath says:

    Visiting the Point Brewery is just a start in Central Wisconsin. Try a trip to the Rudolph Grotto and Dairystate Cheese. Visit the Alexander House and learn about the papermaking process while enjoying the ever changing art exhibits (Port Edwards). How about a mill tour and a trip on the Cranberry trail? Catch a performance at UW-Marshfield, UW-Stevens Point, or in the Performing Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids. Take a trip around NEPCO Lake and see all the lovely summer homes and the Pullman car. Learn to curl at the Tri-Cities curling Club. Take a look beyond the obvious choices and you’ll see that Central Wisconsin has a lot to offer!

  2. Becky Steimle says:

    I’d like to make my 2012 Wisconsin to-do list from yours! I’ve been to many of the places you mention but there’s still so much to do in this beautiful state of ours, whatever your interests may be. Thanks for rounding up some inspiring ideas.

  3. Kyle says:


    DO NOT go to Door County without your bike! Just about every road in the county is suitable for biking. It’s my favorite place to ride.

    If you like organized rides, I recommend either the Ridges Ride for Nature or the Door County Century. Each has options starting at about 25 miles.

  4. Jerry,

    Thank you for including us on your Bucket List! Let us know when you’re planning to come down and we’ll roll out the red carpet (er, more like carpet of pine needles).

    We are open in the winter, and many of our guides tell me their favorite time to zip is when it’s snowing!

  5. Very good visual appeal on this web site, I’d rate it 10.

  6. Meridith @ Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau says:

    Glad to hear you love Franks Diner, Jerry. We do too!!

  7. Peter Lorin says:

    I love so many places in Wisconsin:
    Door County with Washington Island (totally different from the rest of Door County and reachable by car ferry from the northernmost tip of “mainland” Door County), Lake Winnebago, the Wisconsin River Valley, the Baraboo Hills, the wonderful Northwoods, the Bayfield peninsula, Wausau with the views from and of Rib Mountain, the Mississippi River Valley and Grandfather Bluff at La Crosse, the Kettle Moraine State Forest with charming Hartford and its great automobile museum nearby, Holy Hill Basilica (also near Hartford), the Niagara Escarpment (with High Cliff State Park) on the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, the entire Lake Michigan shoreline between Milwaukee and Door County (with some favourite places such as Port Washington, Sheboygan, the sweeping lakeshore drive on WIS 42 between Manitowoc and Two Rivers, quaint and pretty Kewaunee and Algoma further north just to the south of Door County), the city of Sturgeon Bay, Cedarburg, the Milwaukee County Zoo, the fantastic railroad museum at Ashwaubenon (Green Bay Metro Area), the Green Lake resort area, the great SS Badger on its run across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington,MI….
    Well, I could go on and on!



  9. Jean in Kenosha says:

    I love Frank’s Diner. While it may say “Eat the diner way” on their sign, I prefer to slogan printed on the back of the Frank’s t-shirts the staff wears: Order what your want… eat what you get!

  10. Pingback: Ten Chimneys time lapse | Wisconsin Bucket List

  11. Amy Beck says:

    I’d like to nominate the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau for staff members’ bucket-list-visits for 2012.
    Featuring exhibitions that include NASA | ART this spring, Botanicals this summer, and the Museum’s internationally renowned Birds in Art exhibition this fall, a visit anytime to the always-free Woodson Art Museum is rewarding any time of year.
    This fall also features the debut of a collection of forty-three oil paintings by legendary Wisconsin artist Owen Gromme in newly expanded gallery space. The Woodson Art Museum also offers an extraordinary Bucket-List check off: travel with Museum staff to Cuba!
    Having received a People-to-People License for travel to Cuba from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Museum will host two trips, in May and November, to explore the country’s art, architecture, and bird life.
    Call the Museum at 715-845-7010 or visit to find out more about Cuba: It’s People, Art, and Birds and about exciting things happening in 2012 at the always-free Woodson Art Museum.

  12. Pingback: Getting to Spring Green | Wisconsin Bucket List

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