Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go. Read the rest of this entry »

Five tips for a fun fall color trip

The signs are there, teasing the Northern US and Midwestern states with nippy air and barely tinged maple and aspen leaves. It’s time to plan a fall color getaway.

Fall comes in all colors along the forested back roads of Door County in northern Wisconsin

Fall comes in all colors along the forested back roads of Door County in northern Wisconsin

But before you pencil in your destination there are a few tips to consider so that fall color fever does not have to be treated with two aspirins a day.

1. Even though weekends may be easier on your work schedule, it won’t be easier on your drive or stay at popular fall destinations.

Do try to go during the week or you will find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic along normally scenic roads, staying at less desirable locations and grabbing “to-go” from a drive-in instead of relaxing at a good local restaurant.

2. Once you have determined where you want to go, take a look at that area’s Convention and Visitors Bureau websites for accommodation listings.

An overlook at Peninsula Park in Door County reveals warm tangerines, ambers and shimmering golds

An overlook at Peninsula Park in Door County reveals warm tangerines, ambers and shimmering golds

It is OK to call the CVB for suggestions and recommendations. They want visitors to be happy. They may even have a list of places in your price range and that meet your needs that are booked and those with vacancies.

3. Accommodations in popular color destinations are often filled months, sometimes a year, ahead so book as early as possible. Also, broaden your options to include Bed & Breakfasts, condominium rentals and suite hotels.

Remember that a place that may sound pricey but includes breakfast could end up cheaper than somewhere without breakfast. Also a condominium with kitchen facilities may also save on meal costs.

4. Choose an area that has more to do than drive around looking for the best snapshot to post on Facebook or go into the family album. Areas rich in fall color often have additional attractions such as wineries, harvest festivals and art galleries.

Visitors go to Southern Illinois for its wine trail and find out the Shawnee Forest is in the best kept color secret category except to people who live there

Visitors go to Southern Illinois for its wine trail and find out the Shawnee Forest is in the best kept color secret category except to people who live there

Knowing more about an area than its reputation for color may help deciding when and where to go.

5. Whether you have a destination in mind or not, you will have a better idea on when peak color comes if you check a state’s website. States want you to come so they have color watch and color information.

Knowing ahead that color comes the last week in September in one state or area of a state and mid-October in another state or area, will help you schedule your trip.

Here are some Midwestern scenic and color websites sites to check (other states have similar sites):

Follow the red border roads on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City because they lead to wineries, cute towns, great overlooks and more fall color

Follow the red border roads on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City because they lead to wineries, cute towns, great overlooks and more fall color

Visit Illinois and Color watch. See Indiana and check Color information. Go to Ohio and its  Color information. Also see Michigan and its Color information. Visit  Minnesota and its Color information. In addition go to Wisconsin and Color information

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Make the next vacation a culinary experience

Imagine preparing 19th century basic but delicious dishes over an open hearth fire and on a wood-burning stove in an 1860’s inn. Or at the opposite end of the culinary spectrum, learn slicing and sautéing ala French Classic cuisine in a gleaming, up-to-date cooking school.

Ingrediants for an old-fashioned hearty meal are laid out at Wade House, ready for peeling, dicing, mixing and cooking

Ingrediants for an old-fashioned hearty meal are laid out at Wade House, ready for peeling, dicing, mixing and cooking

Both experiences are in and near Elkhart Lake, a Wisconsin resort town north of Milwaukee.

The experience might start with checking in at the Osthoff Resort, a lakeside property that looks as if it were welcoming guests since Victorian times but was built mid 1990’s. Plan to stay a while. All rooms are suites with balconies, fireplaces and full kitchens.

Staying at the Osthoff means merely walking downstairs to L’ecole de la Maison,  a culinary school operated by Chef Scott Baker.

Combine a cooking class at L'ecole de la Maison with a vacation in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Combine a cooking class at L'ecole de la Maison with a vacation in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

During a recent class, students learned how to make, among other things, Cocquilles St. Jacques and Crepes Suzettes.

The school offers more than a dozen choices ranging from Italian Pastas and Sauces and Summer Soups and Stocks to European Brunch and French Classic.

A one-day L’ecole de la Maison course typically costs $185. The Osthoff Resort, 101 Osthoff Avenue, Elkhart Lake WI  53020, 800-876-3399

However, Elkhart Lake is also about a 15 minute drive to the Wade House, a historic Wisconsin stagecoach inn that has Hearthside dinners and breakfasts where visitors who have signed up ahead of time can learn to cook old-fashioned, hearty meals using century-old style cooking tools and methods.

Costumed guides and cooks welcome visitors to Wisconsin's historic Wade House

Costumed guides and cooks welcome visitors to Wisconsin's historic Wade House

A recent lunch hear consisted of squash soup, red cabbage with apples, mashed turnips, pork loin roast, bread pudding, cranberry bread and cider cake. A class is $45 a person.

Breakfasts will be offered July through September. Dinner-style lunches will be available Oct. 22 and 29 and November 12.

Tour Wade House before or after the meal. The upstairs still has its small rooms for overnight guests and the rooms used by the inn’s family. Call 920-526-3271 for more information.

Wade House, PO Box 34, W7824 Center Street, Greenbush, WI 53026

See Elkhart Lake

Also visit culinary vacations

Become a fall color connoisseur

It is not too early to plan your fall color excursion.  Indeed, it might even be too late if you expected to snag a weekend B&B or hotel room in such popular “leaf peeper” destinations as Door County in Wisconsin, Brown County in Indiana and Bennington and Addison Counties in Vermont.

The Alto Pass overlook and Shawnee Forest south of Carbondale, IL is worth a fall trip

The Alto Pass overlook and Shawnee Forest south of Carbondale, IL is worth a fall trip

Those are great fall destinations, but they are not the only places to celebrate nature’s coat of many colors.

Here are some guidelines to fit color around your schedule:

Consider your timeline and be flexible.

  1. Expect color seekers to crowd the roads on weekends so try to schedule your trip for during the week to see more than the back bumper of the car ahead. Early in the week is also best to find a choice of accommodations and restaurants.
  2. Based on past years, towns typically hold their fall fests during a top color weekend but nature’s show usually starts a couple of weeks before and continues a couple of weeks after the festival so you might have better reservation luck just before or after the hoopla.
  3. Try a new destination that will best fit your schedule.  To help you, most states have a fall color chart that is updated weekly. Even if the chart does not yet show color the state site usually has suggested color routes and a guide to what shrubs and trees change and when.
  4. The second week of October tends to be prime time almost all across the country from Connecticut to Colorado so to avoid the color jams look north for an early trip or south for a later one.

    Door County, Wisconsin shows its true colors every fall

    Door County, Wisconsin shows its true colors every fall

  • For an early fall color trip check the color charts put out by cold-weather states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Michigan. Spectacular mid-September color comes to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, the west end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the woods north of Michigan’s Traverse City.
  • Trees on the Leelanau and Mission Peninsulas next to Traverse typically pull out the paint tubes late September to early October due to the still warm waters of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay. The same is true of Door County, a peninsula that sticks out like a thumb into Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
  • Don’t worry that you missed the show if you can’t get away until the end of October. Look at charts for the southern tips of a state. Leaves tend to change later in the southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri where scenic cliff, rolling hills and meandering waterways add another component to the getaway. Drive from Brown County, Indiana and the Hocking Hills in Ohio south to the Ohio River for late fall color. Or drive through the national and state forests of Tennessee from east to west from October into November.

    Some of the best fall viewing is from the hills of the Leelanau and Mission Peninsulas

    Some of the best fall viewing is from the hills of the Leelanau and Mission Peninsulas

Do you really just want to see red?

Obvious as it may seem, the hot color spots are related to tree types. Vermont is popular because it is maple country – yeah, maple syrup.  However, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois also have an abundance of maple trees.  But except for evergreens, you can find forest paths among shades of gold, copper and oranges to make your fall trip a photo odyssey.

Here is a sampling of fall color charts and sites. Please add your favorite fall foliage destination in comments.

Check Federal properties of the US Forest Service or call the US fall color hotline at 1-800-354-4595.

Also, look for the state and regional  suggested fall drives for places off the beaten track such as the Traverse City area, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Vermont.

Other fall color drives: Virginia

Coming up: Questions you ought to ask before you book your accommodations

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