Picture a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam in a county where visitors to its scenic towns often gather around huge outdoor pots to watch traditional fish boils.
It is Door County, a peninsula that separates the calm waters of Green Bay from turbulent waves of Lake Michigan and where the must-take-home items are chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies and the must-visit time of year is fall.
An easy drive from Green Bay’s airport, the route on the way to the Sturgeon Bay, the first vacation town on the peninsula, is dotted with the crimsons, golds and pinksm of changing leaves. And, as TV ads say, “But wait.” The colors keep intensifying, driving northwest along curving roads through picturesque villages.
If looking for a different experience this summer consider going to the spectacular EAA (Experimental Aircraft Assoc.) AirVenture Show July 22-28 in Oshkosh, WI., a historic lumber town on Lake Winnebago at the Fox River.
About half a million aircraft and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world fly in for the show which will feature historic military aircraft to today’s sophisticated machines – all at the Wittman Regional Airport. Best plan is to start looking now for a place to stay in the region.
Early in the week, highlights include the Warbirds of America show when a B-29 Doc and FIFI will fly together and the United States Air force Heritage Flight fly-overs of an F-35, A-10. and two P-51s. There will also be a salute to World War II ace Bud Anderson so all flying P-51s in the U.S. have been invited to participate.
In addition, U.S. Navy fighter aircraft, including F4U Corsairs, the gullwing fighters that were a key asset in the Pacific Theater will be on hand and there will be an observance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day with aircraft that participated in the actual invasion on June 6, 1944, as well as C-47 airplanes that will have just returned from a historic anniversary flight to France.
Later in the week is a tribute to the Apollo 11 flight.on its 50th anniversary when Apollo command module pilot Michael Collins will be the main guest, joined by Apollo astronaut Joe Engle at a program hosted by space shuttle astronaut Charlie Precourt.
“Even a half-century later, the Apollo 11 mission stands as one of the great human achievements of all time,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions.
An additional theme will be aerial firefighting sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service with support from aircraft operators and manufacturers.
Activities are planned with the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, EAA Warbirds of America, and individual aircraft owners. Every afternoon will have flight-precision aerobatics plus there are daily programs and workshops.
Air Show Hours: Daily – July 22-27, 2019: 2:30-6 p.m. & Sunday, July 28, 2019: 1-4:30 p.m. Night Air Shows – Wednesday, July 24 and Saturday, July 27: 8-10 p.m.
The itch to getaway to a colorful scenic vista is upon us. The weather is showing signs of fall with warm days and cool nights and some trees in the neighborhood are beginning to show tinges of gold and orange. But before you throw a suitcase in the car and drive off there are a few tips that could up the fall color experience.
1.Don’t use your neighborhood color changes as the definitive guide. Colors in states or area of your state to the north and west may be in full fall color palette or just beginning to change south or east. In the US check fall foliage map or weather map for where the foliage is turning. Some states have color reports. Among the best in the Midwest is Wisconsin.
2.Make accommodation reservations ahead of time. You’re not alone when looking for a fall destination but to avoid bumper-to bumper traffic go during the week, not om the weekend.
3. Take advantage of local Visitors Bureaus to find the best place for what you want. . As an example, Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and Traverse City in northern Michigan (below the Upper Peninsula) and Brown County (Bloomington and Nashville) in central Indiana keep tabs on what is available and know price points and type. The visitors centers’ websites also show where pets are welcome. Also stop at the Visitors Center for a map, brochures and suggestions because GPS will work some places but not all.
4. Because you are driving, not flying, throw those extra boots, hiking shoes, jackets, sun protector hats and sprays, water bottles, first-aid kits and backpacks into the car. Don’t be afraid to bring your own pillow for a good night’s sleep.
5. Don’t forget chargers for phones, ipads, cameras or whatever other electronics you take everywhere. Also check your accommodations before you leave, they already have enough chargers from previous visitors.
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.
When “The world is too much with us… late and soon, as English poet William Wordsworth said with a poem that continues with “we are out of tune” you know it is time to take a break.
A good place to get back in tune is to plan a girls’ getaway where the view out the balcony door stretches across water and hills, where stress is forgotten over cocktails and delicious food and tension is massaged away by experienced hands.
My sister and I found such a place when we chose Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, WI for our annual spa getaway.
This year, my sister flew into O’Hare from Dallas so we could drive from my home in a northern suburb of Chicago. It took about an hour which is the same amount of time for someone flying into Milwaukee’s airport.
The resort is just on the eastern outskirts of Lake Geneva so we first parked downtown for a bit of boutique shopping then headed to the Grand Geneva to unpack and unwind. FYI, the lake is called Geneva Lake and the town is Lake Geneva.
The resort has lots of accommodation options ranging from deluxe rooms and suites to condos. We loved our deluxe double on the third floor of Building 3 with a view of a lake on the property.
BTW Grand Geneva has 1,300 acres that include ski hills in winter turned into an adventure spot in summer, golf, horseback riding and plenty of paths to hike and bike.
I liked the lap pool in the spa and fitness facility across the lane from our building. My sister liked the fitness center where she could work out with the type of equipment she used back home.
While waiting for our spa services in the women’s locker room, we heard happy chatter from girlfriends enjoying the spa’s whirlpool. Another waiting area open to males and females, was a quiet relaxation space with good fruit juice, crackers and cheeses.
We booked massages for one day and mani-pedi services, the next. Definitely recommend both.
The resort had two top notch dinner restaurants, the Geneva Chop House and Ristorante Brissago. Both have good food and good service. The night we ate at the resort we were in the mood for Italian flavors and loved our choices of a pumpkin bisque, Osso Bucco and eggplant parmigiano.
The resort’s Sunday morning brunch in its Grand Café was tempting but after a weekend of eating we ordered light breakfasts from the menu.
We left on Sunday but heard there was a shuttle that went into Lake Geneva on Monday for a tour of the town that included lunch. Maybe will do it next time.
I’m thinking the resort would be a good place to visit next Valentine’s Day or birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day.
But regarding our experience, best of all was that everyone at Grand Geneva seemed to really care about the guests.
BTW if you see bear cubs, pull to the side to take photos because “bear jams” instead of ordinary fall color “peeps” make it hard for people merely driving through the park from Nashville to get to Ashevill, NC.
Overlooking the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side of a waterway that also borders Wisconsin, Stillwater has several historic B and B’s, antique shops and cafes.
I stayed at the Rivertown Inn for its romantic rooms, great breakfasts and charming hosts. However, there are several other good B&Bs.
A good way to see color from the town is a paddle boat excursion.
When ready to look for a long color drive, head north on Highway 95 to follow the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
Both sides of the highway are state parks. The scenic byway goes from Point Douglas near Hastings to north of Sandstone, MN.
If you didn’t take a paddle boat in Stillwater you can do so from the Minnesota side of Taylors Falls. From Taylors Falls continue north on M35 and then I 35 to Duluth where you pick up M61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
The route takes you to Grand Marais. The North Shore is a nationally designated “All American Drive” for its scenic overlooks, fall color, hiking trails and waterfalls. Be sure to make an overnight reservation ahead of time.
Now that leaves on a few trees are changing is the time to figure out where to go to see spectacular color in a few weeks and next month.
But if you don’t want to merely drive some place for fall color and then head back home then consider a vacation destination with great views, hiking, biking, fun shops and lots of lodging and dining choices.
Before becoming engulfed in everything fall from cool nights to school schedules, take a few days for one last summer break. Within four hours of Chicago there are restaurants and resorts with lake-side views, good spas and shopping, plus scenic boating and biking choices.
Door County, WI
About 3.5 hours north of Chicago is a finger-like peninsula that sticks so far out into Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other that there are almost too many scenic views for one trip.
The Door, as visitors and residents call it, begins halfway up in the fleshier part of the finger but the vacation destination begins at the Sturgeon Bay knuckle and continues up the finger to Gills Rock. Some folks even cross the choppy waters north by ferry to Washington Island, an interesting day trip when time allows.
To make the most of your vacation, first nail down where to stay. The sailing, hiking, biking and the Door’s specialties of art gallery hopping and lighthouse touring can wait. But accommodations fill quickly.
Before deciding, you should know that the Lake Michigan side is known as the “quiet side” because the small towns are nestled further apart among the forests. The Green Bay side is dotted with small bustling villages, restaurants, shops and inns.
But it doesn’t take long to cross The Door’s farmland in between so neither side is a bad choice. Both sides have state parks.
To stay amid the action, look at places on the Bay side from Fish Creek to Ephraim to Sister Bay. For quiet side accommodations, look at Baileys Harbor.
The best way to find lodging is to go to Door County, click Availability or Stay. If still not sure call the bureau at 800-527-3529 because they are very helpful.
“One of our primary things to do is help people find a place to stay,” said Communications Director Jon Jarosh.
The web site lists lots of activities but if you want a map and brochures stop at the Visitors Bureau after where WI Highways 57 and 42 connect at 1015 Green Bay Rd. on the south end of Sturgeon Bay.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois about three hours from Chicago are the scenic rolling hills of the Galena Territory and the historic town of Galena, home to Ulysses S. Grant with tie-ins to Abraham Lincoln.
Indeed more than 80 percent of Galena has historic district designations.
But a trip here isn’t just about going back in time. Situated on the Galena River and near the Mississippi, it’s a picturesque river-town edged with steep, photo-op streets.
Shopping its main street is delicious because there are wine-tasting places and yummy ice cream and candy shops.
Nearby, are the stage coach trail, fort and scenic vistas of Galena’s Jo Davies County. There is usually balloon or Wine or other festival taking place in the area.
Accommodations here range from charming B&Bs and inns to resorts.
If interested in combining golf, spa treatment or hiking, a good place to stay is the Eagle Ridge Resort on the outskirts of town at 444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena and at (800) 892-2269.
If interested in a Labor Day Weekend stay check out its special events and guest rate package.
To learn more about the area and find other lodging choices visit Galena.
Lake Geneva, WI
Closer to Chicago is the town and lake where some of the city’s elite used to vacation and where some urbanites still have homes and cottages. It’s Lake Geneva on Geneva Lake and the small towns nearby.
From Chicago’s northern suburbs, the drive is about 1.5 hours but don’t try to make it faster than the posted speed limit. Some of the small towns along the route add to their coffers with speeding tickets.
However, Lake Geneva is an easy, fun getaway for folks who like to hike, bike, golf or enjoy water sports.
A great way to hear about the estates around the lake is to take the mail boat which pauses, sort-of, at some piers for postal deliveries.
Because the Lake Geneva area has been a vacation destination since before the turn of the last century, there are lots of lodging choices from contemporary to vintage and from resorts and B&Bs to inns and condos. To fit in golf or a spa treatment, consider the Grand Geneva outside of town.
For accommodation availability visit Lake Geneva and enter your arrival and departure dates.
So, instead of looking at the calendar with dismay that summer is just about gone, fit in a getaway. You deserve it.