Spring events you should know

There’s still time to plan a visit to see Tulip Time in Holland Michigan. ( J Jacobs photos)

The eclipse is here and gone and it was great – maybe beyond most expectations. But there are more interesting and fun events coming this spring.

 First, there are Earth Day walks in your area forest preserves and at the Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum

Earth Day/s April 21-22

The Lake County Forest Preserves Hasting Lake site, 21155 W. Gelden Rd., Lake Villa, has an Earth Day walk April 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. (Shelter A)

This is a chance to visit and explore an area is the western part of the county you may not have visited before. Its for all ages and no registration is needed but adult supervision is required. (No pets but service dogs ok)

Event includes free, guided hikes and crafts. For more information visit Earth Day: The Official Site | EARTHDAY.ORG

 Chicago Botanic Garden

Also, April 21 at 2.p.m. is a 45 minute guided walk at McDonald Woods in Glencoe, IL (or do your own walk here at any time). There is a choice of a short (1/3 mile or longer loop of a 2/3 mile. (walks canceled if heavy rain) Parking and Garden admission charged for nonmembers. For more information visit Earth Day Walk in McDonald Woods | Chicago Botanic Garden


Tulip Time May 4-12

Then, in early May, tulips will be coloring the downtown landscape, parks and Windmill Island in Holland MI during Tulip Time, the towns, big, annual flower festival. Plus, there are traditional dances to watch and other activities during the fest. Tulip Time is worth the trip so book a B’n’B or hotel and get to know the town, its heritage and visit its wooden shoe factories on the outskirts of downtown. For more information visit Tulip Time.

Crane watching in Nebraska


Nebraska cranes at Platte River Watch shed 9J Jacobs)
At Platte River in Nebraska

Sandhill crane viewing

March 2024 is pretty warm for watching the crane migration on the Platte River in south-central Nebraska. But when I and fellow travel writers/photographers went a few years ago, the weather was in the 20s on a trip in 2013 and single digits on another trip in 2016.

So even though we were in the crane blind, a shed where the cranes wouldn’t see us, we had to really bundle up, add blankets and warmers. But the trips were so worth it.

Watch cranes waking up early in a.m. from shed ( Jacobs)
Watch cranes waking up early in a.m. from shed ( Jacobs)

We started at an information building then were taken to a shed with open lookouts for watching and photo shoots, first at night before the cranes landed, then back again in the morning to watch them take off.

Our starting points were the Crane Trust and the Rowe Sanctuary. Both times the sky was darkened by their numbers. We had our own accommodations, but the tours also have places to stay.

This year, 2024, the word is that there are many more cranes filling the skies over the Platte.


Where you start on your crane watching trip (JJacobs)
Where you start on your crane watching trip (JJacobs)

According to Earth/Sky news, wildlife biologist Bethany Ostrom reported in late February that the Crane Trust’s bird count saw about five times the usual numbers.

“Another record week? On February 24, 2024, we estimated 122,700 +9,100 sandhill cranes between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska,” Ostrom said. “On average, this time of year (week 2 of annual count) we see around 27,000 cranes.”

For more information visit Cranetrust viewing/tours

and Crane Season | Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary


Lake Geneva Winterfest means Snow Sculpting


Winterfest 2023 1st Place Winner North Dakota

2023 1st Place Championship team from North Dakota. “The Nemean Lion” The team also won “People’s Choice Award (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva CVB)

Next week, drive over to Lake Geneva, WI for  Winterfest Lake Geneva

Fabulous snow sculptures created by championship state teams from Alaska to Wisconsin are entered in the annual National Snow Sculpting Championship as part of Winterfest.

It starts with snow delivered to 15 team sites on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park.

Many visitors drive over on Feb. 2 or 3 to watch the sculpting and see the winners on Saturday when work stops and judges rate the sculptures. Visitors can also pick their favorites as People’s Choice. They fill in the time by seeing ice sculptures downtown, shopping and enjoying live entertainment

Some visitors just come in for the day but If looking for a place to stay consider the Grand Geneval Resort and Spa known for its Wisconsin Croissant, also called “Ouisconsin.”

For more information visit Winterfest Lake Geneva

Jodie Jacobs



Four events to look forward to in February


Past winner of Winterfest (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva Chamber)
Past winner of Winterfest (Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva Chamber)

Many folks are ready to say goodbye to January’s below freezing temps and heavy snow shoveling. So here are some events to put on the calendar to help.

Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva Winterfest Jen 31-Feb 4

Amazing snow sculptures will be created along Geneva Lake during Lake Geneva, Wi’s US National Snow Sculpting Championship. It is part of the town’s 29th Annual Winterfest that includes several activities.

Although it begins Jan. 31, visitors won’t see the completed sculptures until that first Saturday in February. It takes a while to have the snow delivered to each sculpting team’s worksite and it takes time for them to carve out their masterpieces.

There will be 15 state championship teams competing from all over the US. Look for them sculpting at Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park Judges will rate the work at about 1 p.m. Saturday. In past years, visitors also had a chance to vote for their favorites.

Strolling the downtown to shop, see ice sculptures, watch snow sculpting and enjoy live entertainment fills out the days until the winners are announced. Sculptures are still up on Sunday, weather permitting.

For more information visit Winterfest Lake Geneva


Woodstock IL town square filmed in Groundhog Day (JJacobs photo)
Woodstock IL town square filmed in Groundhog Day (JJacobs photo)

Groundhog Day is back in Woodstock, IL    (but also in Punxsutawney, PA)

Events surrounding the famed 1993 film start Feb. 1 but are celebrated with a redo of the weather predicting creature in Woodstock, IL on Feb 2. Suppposedly, film director Harold Ramis chose Woodstock for filming because the story-line location in Pennsylvania was far from his North Shore home in Illinois.

To see where weather forecaster Bill Murray and his station co-worker, Andie MacDowell fell in love, go to Woodstock, not Pennsylvania, a tourist destination northwest of Chicago with a picturesque square featured in the movie.

If in town early in the morning Feb. 2, you hear groundhog Woodstock Willie say when spring will come. But stay to tour the film’s sites and see the movie. 

For clips visit Groundhog Day utubeFor more Woodstock info visit Groundhog Day/Woodstock. For the Punxsutawney, PA site see Punxsutawney Groundhog ClubFor folklore and background on Groundhog Day go to Farmers’Almanac Groundhog Day.

(Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism site)

Asian (Chinese) Lunar New Year 2024 Feb.10-25

 Learn about the zodiac signs including yours, where the holiday is celebrated and where you can celebrate at Lunar New Year 2024/Animal, Dates and celebrations.

Although called Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year, the festival is also celebrated in other countries such as Vietnam and Korea. 

Here, in the Chicago area, there are dragon parades and other events in a couple of neighborhoods such as Argyle Feb. 17 and Chinatown Feb.  18, plus lots of red decorations (for good luck) in Asian restaurants. This year is the Year of the Dragon.


Football’s Superbowl Sunday Feb 11, 2024

The event will be at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the game doesn’t matter unless you are a fan of one of the teams. But the commercials are usually worth watching. Check top 10 for 2023 on UTube to see what was good last year. Peanuts (the edible kind) and M and Ms were still around.

For Super Bowl LVIII info visit 2024 Super Bowl LVIII Sunday – When, Where & More – NFL.com

International Puppet Theater Festival returns this week

“The Immortal Jellyfish Girl” Photo courtesy of Wakka Wakka Productions

There’s more to the already great Chicago Theater experiences than you might think.

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, begun in 2015 and now celebrating its 6th year, starts January 18 and continues through January 28, 2024.

Headquartered at the Puppet Hub in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building, 433 S. Michigan Ave., Festival events and shows are held at venues across the city. It also includes free neighborhood tours co-sponsored by the festival, Chicago Park District, Navy Pier and neighborhood organizations. 

Considered the largest puppetry event in North America, the Fest draws artists from across the globe and features more than 100 activities ranging from performances and symposium to workshops and a Pop-Up Store. 

Where to stay.

Chicago has lots of options but there is an official hotel for the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. It is the Warwick Allerton Hotel, 701 N. Michigan Ave. which has a discounted rate during festival dates. Use the  promo code, Puppetfest24. Visit Warwick Allerton or call (312) 440-1500 to reserve. This is where all of the artists stay and many visitors in town  for the Chicago Intl Puppet Theater Festival.

For Festival tickets, activities and more information visit Chicago Puppet Fest.

Add some color to your trip


Fall view near Traverse City, MI (J Jacobs photo)
Early fall view near Traverse City, MI (J Jacobs photo)


It’s not too late for a fall color getaway in the Midwest.

Depending on where you want to drive you will find trees beginning to dress in golden hues and adding scarlet to their fringe.

Wisconsin:  When viewing the latest fall report you see that Door County, a popular vacation destination in the northeastern part of the state is now at its peak color. 

From good eating and fish boils to fun shopping and festivals, there is always something going on in the Door’s charming villages. Before crossing the bridge onto the main part of the Door Peninsula, stop at or call Destination Door County for a map and suggestions. 


Illinois: If looking for an Illinois destination, consider historic Galena in the state’s north-eastern tip. The downtown boasts candy, ice cream and wine, restaurant stops and cute shops.  Plus, it’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Start at the visitor center in the old RR Depot where you see the town rising, step-like across a small river.


Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park has a fall color trail destination. It is also near the wine trails of the Traverse City area. Both are worth visiting for views of Lake Michigan, Traverse Bay and snacking on Michigan cherries and apples.

See Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, MI | Trails & Tour




Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, MI | Trails & Tour

Why visit Chicago this weekend


 O(photoPullman National Monument and State Historic Site sign in front of the red bricked Administration Clock Tower Building.

(Photo courtesy of NPS.gov)

Open House Chicago, a free glimpse inside historically, architecturally and culturally significant buildings, churches, homes theaters and museums not normally open free to the public, will have open doors this weekend, Oct. 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., thanks to the Chicago Architecture Center.

What to expect: Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. The sites open this weekend are in neighborhoods ranging from Andersonville/ Edgewater and Beverly/Morgan Park through Bronzeville/Downtown and Hyde Park to Logan Square, Pullman and Uptown.

This festival is an extraordinary opportunity to explore some of the city’s great places in more that 20 neighborhoods.

Among the sites is the Pullman National Historical Park and the historic Fine Arts Building 410 S. Michigan Ave. that has been featured this week in the Sun Times and Chicago Tribune

Tip: many places will have lines but Chicago Architecture Center  Members  will receive a priority access pass so of living in the area or have plans to return and take its fame boat or an architecture tour, membership is a good deal. 

For a downloadable Open House guide visit Site guide

Great detour stops on a road trip

City Museum. St. Louis

Instead of stopping merely to stretch, think of the stop as a way to make a driving trip extra special. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting there we don’t take advantage of the unusual museums actually located along our way or in towns we’ll stop at anyway.

Because many towns have multiple sights it’s easier to fit in a place that makes it into popular guides. However, doing so may mean losing out on a place you will be excitedly recommending to others. 

The following places are just a few of the unusual stops that a lucky travel writer might have uncovered. (Feel free to add your own recommendations.)

Traveling East-West

  1. The Archway:  If taking I80 across Nebraska, do more then stop to take a photo and go under the picturesque arch crossing above the highway at Kearney.

Opened in 2000, it celebrates the early and modern travelers who went west along the Great Platte River.  See and hear life-like figures tell their stories against stagecoach and wagon backdrops.  There’s even a more modern vista of autos and diners.

  1. City Museum:  If taking I70 or any of the other roads that lead to St. Louis, MO, make time to go downtown to explore this weirdly crazy museum. It opened about 25 years ago in an abandoned shoe factory. You will definitely feel like an explorer as you listen to menacing organ sounds while finding unexpected objects and pathways inside, outside on the roof and along different levels including underground.

Traveling North South

  1. If driving the 101 to LA, go downtown to its latest museum, the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum that opened in 2021. it often updates exhibitions so you might catch old movies and costumes one time and might see Star Wars figures the next time.

4.  If taking I 55 down to New Orleans, LA go to the warehouse district for the spectacular National WWII Museum. It has planes and artifacts but it is not about planes. It is a multimedia experience with immersive exhibits and first- person histories. Its “Expressions of America” reveals reflections of the men and women who served. It’s new Liberation Pavilion opens early Nov. 2023.



Experiencing Asia in Chicago


*Ed note: The following article is a slightly condensed version of writer/ theater critic/ videographer Reno Lovison’s Podcast on becoming more familiar with Asians in Chicago. After hearing all the misunderstandings that occurred during and after COVID I believe more people should try to get to know their local Asian communities. Consider exploring their areas abroad. But also think local for a travel treat. Reno has included some of his favorite Asian eating spots in Chicago.

South-East Asia Center Golden Diners luncheon (Photo by Reno Lovison)
South-East Asia Center Golden Diners luncheon (Photo by Reno Lovison)

Asian is a rather broad term whose nations encompass all of the Asian continent including Eastern Asia with China, Mongolia, Japan, North and South Korea. South-East Asia includes the area of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and others.

South Asia is the southern subregion of Asia, defined in both geographical and ethnic-cultural terms that commonly includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, with Afghanistan also often included.

Central Asia includes what are sometimes remembered as the “stan” countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, while Western Asia generally includes the countries referred to as the Middle-East with Turkey, Israel, Armenia and all of the Arabian Peninsula.

The Pacific Islands refer to all of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia including our own Hawaiian Islands.

Forgive me for any omissions, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list rather I encourage you to do some research of your own as you consider your exploration of how the Asian culture has manifested itself within the Chicago experience.

The first Chinese who were mainly Cantonese speakers arrived in Chicago around the time the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. This was because a majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. Now, 43,228 individuals in Chicago identified as Chinese according to the 2010 census, represent 1.6% of the city’s population. About 10,000 ethnic Chinese reside within the historic Chinatown area.

I encourage you to look into the Asian American historical record by visiting the Chinese American Museum of Chicago at 238 West 23rd St.  The museum can be a great jumping off point to explore the Chinatown area.

Ping Tom Park (Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)
Ping Tom Park (Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)

If you really feel adventurous, consider taking the Chicago Water Taxi from Michigan Avenue downtown to Ping Tom Park. There are spectacular views of the riverwalk and historic buildings along the way including the Willis Tower and the Opera House. 

Now, I am no expert on Chicago’s Asian Community but I would like to share some of my own experiences from the point-of-view of a lifelong Chicago resident who has a relationship with the South-East Asia Center in Uptown.

This relationship has been an opportunity to appreciate the struggles of immigrants in general as well as the various cultures the organization serves.

Established about 40 years ago with a mission to help resettle individuals from South-East Asia after the Vietnamese conflict, the center has grown to serve not only South-East Asians but also other newly arrived immigrants including those from Russia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Latin America and more.

The Center currently has more than 40 languages spoken among staff and clients. Its ESL classes are an essential service that helps newly arrived immigrants learn, practice and improve their English language skills.

Becoming a volunteer ESL tutor only requires about two weekends of training and is an excellent way to get beyond the tourist approach and become more personally involved with people from other cultures. I have done it myself and have really enjoyed the interactions with my students and what I learned from them.

For those over 60, the South-East Asia Center hosts a Golden Diners Lunch Program Monday through Friday from about 11:30 to 1:30. This is one of a number of dining locations around the city that provide a pay-as-you-please lunch option for seniors.

The spirit of the program is not to provide low-cost meals but rather to encourage seniors to get out into their communities and interact with one another.

If you are a senior grab a friend and explore the city. You can find a list of locations at “Chicago Golden Diners Program.”

By the way, the building that houses the South-East Asia Center’s Golden Diners Program at 5120 North Broadway is a local landmark that was originally built as a German Beer Garden and stands as a testament to the ethnic changes that have taken place around the city. At this location you’ll typically be treated to a very traditional Vietnamese style meal.

There are also Asian meals offered in Chinatown at the Chinese Community Center, Korean faire on north Kedzie, and Indian and Pakistani options on Devon and on North California. The city’s Golden Diners website provides addresses and details.

While we are talking about this part of the city, I must mention the Argyle Street commercial area just east of Broadway that is easily accessible by the Redline.

Known as “Little Saigon,” this street is inviting to anyone who wants to experience South-East Asian culture with local stores and (no-kidding) about 20 restaurants that either feature Pho or have Pho in their name

For the uninitiated Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a kind of broth with vegetables and meat typically served in a surprisingly large bowl. On a cold day you will manage to eat it all.

Other things to try might be Banh mi , a delicious baguette sandwich that reflects the country’s French colonial influence or steamed Bao, a pillowy soft steamed dumpling folded and filled with meat and veggies.

One of my favorites is the Vietnamese crispy savory crepe which is a cross between an omelet and French crepe folded and garnished with ample quantities of fresh herbs and greens accompanied by a sweet and pungent sauce.

Argyle Night Martket (Photo courtesy of DCASE)
Argyle Night Martket (Photo courtesy of DCASE)

Argyle Night Market, held every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. through  August is a perfect time to experience the neighborhood and rub shoulders with the locals. Check out Explore Uptown

Heading north and a bit west to Devon and Western will take you into the heart of “Little India,” the South Asian or Indo Pakistan area of the city where you can enjoy the sights and smells of this rich culture.

The street is festooned with nearly a mile of colorful sari shops and local markets where you can pick up fresh spices like saffron, turmeric and more.

This area is purported to have some of the best Indian restaurants in the country. Ask virtually any person throughout the South Indian diaspora and they will likely tell you they have a brother or cousin who lives here.

Food is of course the gateway to experiencing any culture so I’ll just give you a few of my favorite spots. I am not saying they are necessarily the best in category but they will provide a place for you to begin your personal exploration and encourage you to get out into some of Chicago’s northside ethnic neighborhoods. I have often said you can explore the world by exploring Chicago.

For Thai cuisine we typically default to Tiparo’s just south of North Avenue on Clark Street. We usually split one Tofu Pad Thai and one Crazy Noodles with Chicken. The portions are big enough for us to get two meals apiece out of an order of each to go.

Reza’s in Andersonville, a popular spot for Persian dining, features various skewers of grilled meat served on a bed of dill rice. Next door, Andie’s Mediterranean, has a large menu with a number of delicious vegetarian options.

At Foster and Clark is the Middle East Market where you can pick up an assortment of foods ideal for tasty lunches or light suppers. My stop there recently included a few spinach and cheese pies, a few parsley and cheese pies with kalamata olives, some veggie topped flat bread, a half-dozen falafel, hummus with roasted garlic, and some pita, feta cheese and kalamata olives to supplement other home cooked meals.

Staying within the western Asian cuisine, a little to the west on the other side of Rosehill Cemetery at a point known as the bend at the corner of Maplewood and Lincoln, is the Shawarma Inn purported to have the best (and in this case I agree) shawarma in the area.

If you are not familiar, shawarma is sirloin beef cooked rotisserie tyle and thinly shaved, served over rice or as a pita sandwich. Their hummus is also exceptional.

For the record this area is home to a large Assyrian population. The Assyrian civilization at one time incorporated the entire Near East, most notably the area of the Fertile Crescent or Northern Mesopotamia.

The heartland of Assyria lies in present-day northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and northwestern Iran. The remains of the ancient capital of Assyria, Nineveh, lies within Mosul in northern Iraq.

A great place to learn more about this culture would be the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in Hyde Park. (Known now as the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures).

Japanese Gardens on west side of Museum of Science and Industry East side of Cornell Ave., in Jackson (Andrew) Park (Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)
Japanese Gardens on west side of Museum of Science and Industry East side of Cornell Ave., in Jackson (Andrew) Park (Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)

It is not far from the Museum of Science and Industry where you will find Japanese Gardens along the lagoon.  This stunning spot with its iconic bridge and cheery trees was originally created by the government of Japan for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Reconstructed and renamed officially as the Garden of the Phoenix. A prominent feature as of 2016 is a sculpture entitled “Sky Landing” by acclaimed artist Yoko Ono.

Back up north, Bryn Mawr between Kedzie and Kimball, is traditionally the Korean neighborhood, but I have enjoyed Midori for Japanese food in this neighborhood at 3310 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

When it comes to Korean food, I have to give the nod to Soon at Noon Hour Grill at 6930 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park. Soon introduced me to bi bim bop about 30 years ago and I have judged every experience with that dish against hers ever since. This restaurant also has easy access via the red line Morse stop.

For some quick casual Filipino food, I like Merla’s Kitchen at Foster and Kimball. Her chicken adobo is well respected and her handmade empanadas made to order are large fresh, fried on the spot and delicious. It may take a little time but it will be worth the wait.

I believe a little-known gem is Jibek Jolu, a casual, family-run Kyrgyzstan eatery at 5047 N. Lincoln Ave. which serves hearty Central Asian fare. In my opinion this is literally where East meets West and those of us with Eastern European traditions will find some familiar looking and tasting options with a distinct Asian twist.

This Chicago Asian community overview is hardly comprehensive but I hope it will whet your appetite and encourage you to experience some new or different cultures.

Please go beyond the simple tourist approach of eating and gawking. Find some way to get involved in the important process of connecting with other people. Invite a friend or neighbor from a different ethnic group to join you on your expedition or be your guide. Do the same for them. Enjoy your differences but pay attention to your similarities and make note of the many things we all have in common. 

Reno Lovison is the executive producer of Chicago Broadcasting Network.

Make Door County Lighthouses a vacation destination



Cana Island Lighthouse (J J photo)
Cana Island Lighthouse
(J Jacobs photo)

They are historic, they have saved lives. “They“ are the 11 sort-of tower-like, mid to late 19th century structures that are celebrated in Door County Wisconsin’s twice-a year Lighthouse Festivals.

If you saw Think lighthouses for next vacation  you know some are seen by water and others can be visited or viewed on land and that some are definitely off the proverbial beaten path.

But during the Lighthouse Festivals: Spring June 9-11 and Fall Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2023, visitors can take boat and land tours that bring them up to and often, inside, many of these historic structures.

Or go to The Door, as it is popularly called, now through early October when four lighthouses are generally open to visitors and even more can be seen and photographed.

Your mission, if you accept it, is to see as many of The Door’s lighthouses as can be fit into a vacation. But remember this is a vacation so enjoy the Peninsula and divide the lighthouse sights into day destinations.

Doing the middle of the Peninsula from Lake side to Bay side

Two of the lighthouses, Cana Island off Highway Q near Baileys Harbor on Lake Michigan and Eagle Bluff in Peninsula State Park on Green Bay, are easy to visit spring through fall. They sit approximately opposite each other on the Peninsula so can fit into one day by taking County Road F across. 

Stop in their keeper’s rooms to see the furnishings and how they lived at the lighthouses. 

Eagle Bluff LTH in Peninsula State Park (JJ Jacobs photo)

Eagle Bluff LTH in Peninsula State Park (J Jacobs photo)

Both lighthouses are definitely worth a visit but save extra time for Cana Island whose tower is the most photographed in Door County. It has one of the last 3rd order Fresnel Lens of two still operating on the Great Lakes.  The lens, installed in 1869, can be viewed at the top of the tower. You’ll get your exercise in for the day or week because Cana has 97 steps up but the rewards are terrific views.

If the lake cooperates, the lighthouse and island are reached by walking across a sometimes wet, always stony, causeway or by taking a bumpy tractor-pulled, hay-wagon ride.

Operated by the Lighthouse Preservation Society and the Door County Maritime Museum which has three sites, Cana Island has a fine, new building on the lighthouse side of the causeway where visitors now pay to be on the island and visit the lighthouse. Stay for a short, good video, see a couple of exhibits and pick up information on lighthouses and the Maritime Museum.

Cana is a bit of a twisty drive from the town of Bailey’s Harbor. After seeing how Cana Island LTH is placed, visitors can better understand that lighthouses are on islands or a rocky tip of land.

While in the area, visit the Range Lights on Ridges Road. The big news is that visitors can, as of late May 2023, go inside the Upper Range Light which has been updated for volunteer lighthouse keepers to stay during the summer.

Visitors can park at The Ridges Sanctuary building, the Cook-Fuller Albert Nature Center that is downtown Bailey’s Harbor. Take its boardwalk to the Upper Range Lighthouse or park in the tiny lot across from the red-roofed Lower Range Light on Ridges Road and walk up the path. The two lights are still operating. When a boat has them lined up the lights are used to safely guide it. 

Lower Range Light at Baileys Harbor (JJ Jacobs photo)
Lower Range Light at Baileys Harbor (J Jacobs photo)

Another lighthouse is near there but it’s privately\ owned. Built in 1852 and called the Bird Cage because of its style of lantern room, it’s on a Baileys Harbor island. Deactivated in 1869 when the range lights were built, it can be seen on the lighthouse festival’s boat tour that leaves from Baileys Harbor Marina.

Go North

For a full day’s adventure head to Gill’s Rock where there is small gem of the Maritime Museum. Then take the Washington Island (Car) Ferry from neighboring Northport to Detroit Harbor on Washington Island. Tip: check the ferry schedule on-line ahead of time. It gets busy in the summer.

The ferry captain usually points out the lighthouses. Travelers can see the Pilot Island LTH and Plum Island Range Light’s tower. Plum Island is also open to visitors this summer.

The plus is that Washington Island is an interesting, multicultural place to visit. 

 In addition, another ferry continues north to Rock Island where the Pottawatomie LTH sits in Rock Island State Park and can be visited in the summer. First constructed in 1836, it is considered the earliest lighthouse in Door County. 

Rock Island Light

Rock Island LTH (Photo by Dan Eggert, courtesy of Destination Door County))

BTW, if you do venture across to Washington Island you are crossing waters the French called Port des Morts. With more than 275 shipwrecks, the waterway between Door County Peninsula and Washington Island became known as “Death’s Door.”

Well, not so much lately with well-built ships, but sometimes when the weather is really bad the Washington Island Ferry does not cross. Visit Traveling Death’s Door | Destination Door County   for more info.

However, given that people live on Washington Island, shop there and stay there, the ferry has regular summer and winter hours. 

Go South

A third day should include the impressive structures at the southern end of the Peninsula’s tourist region: the county seat of Sturgeon Bay.

Sturgeon Bay is divided by the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal that has the Sherwood Point Lighthouse on the southwestern edge of the canal and the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light on the northeastern edge of the canal where there is a bridge and narrow walkway to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light out in Lake Michigan. They are worth seeing in person and by water.

Sherwood Point LTH (Photo by Mike Tittel courtesy of Destination Door County)

Sherwood Point LTH is used by the military as a respite to be rented for active members. It is not on view except during the Lighthouse Walk, the second weekend of June which coincides with the end of the Spring Lighthouse Festival. Opened in 1883, it became the last of the Great Lakes lighthouses to be manned when automated in 1983.

The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower on the northern edge of the canal opened in 1899 and became automated in 1972. Park near the station’s gate and walk on a driveway up to the seawall.

Then, in the “can’t-miss it” category is an impressive red structure that is the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light. The lower-level walkway out to the pierhead light is open to the public up to a painted line.

Whether the Sturgeon Bay lighthouses are at the starting or ending point of your lighthouse destination vacation, there is another must see structure in Sturgeon Bay. It looks like a lighthouse but it really is the newly compeleted Kress Tower of the Door County Maritime Museum.

Surrounded, as Door County is on three sides by water (not counting its ship canal), the many tales of the Peninsula’s watery life and boundaries are in three maritime museums – Sturgeon Bay, Gills Rock and Cana Island. 

Kress Maritime Museum Lighthouse Tower (Photo by Dan Eggert, courtesy of Destination Door County)

 The main one at Sturgeon Bay recently grew to 10 stories high as the Kress Maritime Museum Lighthouse Tower to tell all its tales. “It’s not really an official lighthouse,” said Executive Director Kevin Osgood. “But it is used by boats,” he added.

Osgood recommends starting in the Maritime Theatre and an interpretive center on the first floor for a video, then taking an elevator up to the Baumgartner Observation Deck on Floor 10 and walk down.

“You get an idea of the vastness of the area from the Observation Deck and the scale of the Tower,” he said. “Visitors can take the elevator but when you walk down to each floor you learn about the area’s history,” said Osgood. 

As an example, he pointed out that in the stairwell to “People of the Water” on Floor 8 that features Native Americans and early settlers, “You hear them speak their languages.” (Visit Native American Historical Sites for more information and Door County locations.)

All the floors are interesting, from geological formations (The Door has part of the Niagara Escarpment) to the Door’s ship building industry, but if you ferried over to Washington Island you might want to know more about what’s on Floor 2: Shipwrecks. Many of the shipwrecks are sitting in less than 60 feet of water. 

Figure at least an hour to do Kress Tower. But now that you’ve visited at least a few lighthouses and at least part of the Door County Maritime Museum (You had to be in one at Cana Island) you know that doing Door County lighthouses takes planning. Driving the Door takes time. Speed limits are strictly enforced and The Door is larger than first-time visitors expect.

If you crossed from Bailys Harbor to Peninsula State Park you saw that Door Peninsula is a large, agriculture-oriented finger separating Green Bay from Lake Michigan. The entire mass is about 80 miles long and 25 miles across and includes part of Brown and Kewaunee Counties. In addition, there are two more lighthouses on the Lake Michigan side: The Algoma and Kewaunee Pierhead LTHS at the very southern end of the larger peninsula land mass.

Whew! Visiting even a few of Door County’s lighthouse towers, range lights and pierheads becomes a different way to spend a vacation. However, the Door is also a destination known for its inns, boutiques, bistros, cherry orchards, wines and cheese. So go for it.

If you go:

Before you go  Visit Find Places to Stay in Door County | Destination Door County

When you first get thereAs you approach the tourist and lighthouse part of the Peninsula before you cross the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, stop in at the visitors center called Destination Door County at 1015 Green Bay Rd., Sturgeon Bay to pick up a map of the county and a guidebook.