Take a fall color break. Green is a fine summer color but to celebrate the change of season to autumn, drive to northern Wisconsin now or wait a couple of weeks to mid October. That’s when the scenery in southeast Wisconsin blends gold with copper and ruby reds.
But you need to make room or camp reservations now because places such as Door County and even Bay Field further north that are both only beginning to change, are already putting up “sold out” signs. Another popular destination is Eagle River.
The Iron River area Three Lakes show Land O Lakes and Minocqua already have high color
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.
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.
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.
Take advantage of that extra day off work for a last-minute vacation.
Take advantage of that extra day off work for a last-minute vacation.
Door County, a Wisconsin peninsula separating Green Bay from Lake Michigan, is about 3 ½ hours north of Chicago. This is a place to just kick back, hike and bike the state parks and visit art galleries.
However, for a special treat, try to snag a ticket to “Grand Eloquence,” the peninsula’s last classical chamber concert of the summer season, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m. and plan to return home late Monday afternoon.
The concert is a repeat of one that sold out early in the series that is held in a fabulous, Gatsby-style, 35,000 square foot Ellison Bay estate. The program is Gustav Mahler’s Quartet Movement in A minor for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano.
A dressy casual (no shorts or flip flops) event, catered by Alexander’s of Door County, the concert benefits United Way of Door County and Midsummer’s Music Festival. Tickets are $150. For more information call 920-854-7088 and visit Midsummer Music.
Or, for summer’s waning days, plan trips to the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Fit in a visit to Long Grove. A historic village, settled in the mid-1800s, the town is home to such tasty shops as Long Grove Confectionery. However, it also has stores that carry wares from Italy, Ireland and other countries. Labor Day weekend features “Long Grove Around the World” to celebrate those shops.
At Ravinia, hear violinist Johnny Gandelsman play selections by Bach, Stravinsky, Glass and Biber Sept. 1 or pianist David Fung play Ravel, Scarlatti, Rachmaninoff Beethoven Sept. 2. Both concerts are 6 p.m. in Bennett Gordon Hall. Dinner packages are available. For tickets and more information visit Ravinia.