Extend summer by doing something special Labor Day weekend

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.

Fit in a Door County vacation to end the summer
Fit in a Door County vacation to end the summer

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.

Check out butterflies or stroll the paths at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Check out butterflies or stroll the paths at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Visit the Chicago Botanic Garden. A butterfly is sure to land on your shoulder at “Butterflies and Blooms” in the garden’s net-enclosure. But the happening ends Sept. 2.

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.

Cap the weekend off with a picnic on the lawn and  concert at Ravinia Festival.

You can still picnic under the trees at Ravinia or get a dinner music package on Labor Day Weekend
You can still picnic under the trees at Ravinia or get a dinner music package on Labor Day Weekend

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.

Photos (C) Jodie Jacobs

Green Bay: Go for football legends, stay for color and food

Imagine running out into the stadium to the roar of the crowd via the players’ tunnel or being allowed up on the exclusive club level.

Fall destinations Series: Part 1 is Green Bay, Wisconsin

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.
Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Green Bay Packers to appreciate the team’s famed Lambeau Field but you arguably should be an admirer of cheese curds and hometown brewers to appreciate this northern Wisconsin town.

Imagine running out into the stadium to the roar of the crowd via the players’ tunnel or being allowed up on the exclusive club level. You get to do both when you take the stadium’s tour. The cost ranges from $8-$11 depending on age and military status.

As a Packers’ tour guide reminded us, Lambeau is up there with Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park as one of the historic stadiums on sports fans’ want-to-see list.  Dedicated Sept. 29, 1957, with the Green Bay-Chicago Bears game, the field was called City Stadium until renamed Sept. 11, 1965 after Curly Lambeau died. It is owned by the City of Green Bay and Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District with shareholders who live all over the world.

Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.
Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.

But the Greater Green Bay Area has enough to see and do to fill out a football weekend or a fall getaway.

Outdoors

Color explodes around this northern Wisconsin area so bring hiking or good walking shoes to enjoy the scenery.

Explore the L. H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve’s 920 acres of forest and meadows on the Bay’s western shore. The preserve has nine miles of hiking trails beginning at the Interpretive Center.

Bring the fishing gear and head to nearby Algoma, about a 35 minute drive. The fish always seem to be biting here.

Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.
Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Visit the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, a delightful 47 acres of rose, shade and seasonal gardens for adults and a terrific place where children will find butterfly and Peter Rabbit gardens and a frog bridge.

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth on the Foxy Lady and see the town from the water.

Indoors

Visit Hinterland, an artisanal brewery. It has $5 tours on Saturdays by appointment that includes two beers but stay to do dinner because, as with the beer, the quality and variety is way better than a typical pub.

Relax at Titletown Brewery because the place is fun, has terrific atmosphere and good, handcrafted beers and burgers. The brewery is in the old C. & N.W.R.R. depot, a historic building designed by Chicago architect Charles S. Frost at the turn of the last century. Titletown also has decent cheese curds.

Do a wine-tasting at Captain’s Walk Winery in a historic Green Bay house or at its parent location, The von Stiehl Winery in a historic Algoma building. No worries if you don’t know a lot about wines. Both places are delighted to answer questions and both have award winning wines.

Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.
Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.

To see a vineyard and taste award winning wines drive over to the Parallel 44 Winery in Kewaunee.  Owners Steve Johnson and wife Maria Milano have figured out how to grow a mix of varietals that produce excellent wines and survive Green Bay winters.

Learn a little more about the area and the science behind football at the Neville Public Museum. It is fun for youngsters and adults. The museum’s mission not only covers history and science, it also has an art component. Currently on exhibit are some terrific WPA paintings.

Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.
Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.

Just as you don’t have to love football to appreciate Lambeau Field, you don’t have to be a railroad buff to enjoy peeking into old railroad cars. The National Railroad Museum has a Green Bay address but it is on the edge of town that is also considered Ashwaubenon. Save enough time to visit the engines and old cars tucked into barns on the property, tour the museum which currently has an extensive dining car china exhibit and take a ride around the property.

Dining

Green Bay is not just brew-pub food although some of the pubs turn out exceptional meals. Please leave a comment in that section with a recommendation or an experience. With only two days to sample the culinary scene I have only two recommendations.

The best dinner I’ve been lucky enough to eat anywhere in United States was at Three Three Five, a private dining club downtown Green Bay that opens to the public only on Wednesday nights.

Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five
Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five

The rest of the time chef Christopher Mangless and his staff are turning out dishes for the club’s patrons, Hollywood celebs and political notables such as former president George W. Bush. When asked how people find out about him, his restaurant and that he caters dinners everywhere, Mangless  said “word of mouth.”

He is also known as The Traveling Chef. Wednesday is a farmers market which helps him decide what to serve that night. Even though his dishes, which are small plates, are very creative and beautifully plated, you can identify what you are eating.

I wish he were based in Chicago so I could eat there once a week, or at least, once a month. BTW, Mangless’ cheese curds side dish was among the best I’ve sampled.

The next best cheese curds I’ve eaten was at The Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, Wisc., a nice detour when coming from Milwaukee or Chicago.

While in Green Bay, also check out Ogan a restaurant on the Fox River. You’ll like the food and the view.

Stay

The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.
The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.

With little time to check out the many accommodations available, I opted for Cambria Suites, a business-style hotel that is about a good football field toss from Lambeau. The suite and bathroom were comfortable, modern and clean.

However, families might like The Tundra Lodge which has a North Woods atmosphere and is also near Lambeau. It has regular restaurants, a snack and shop store and  an indoor-outdoor waterpark.

When to go

Green Bay’s ski and snow mobile trails are a winter treat. Fox River, the Bay’s waters, and Lake Michigan make the area a good fishing place, spring, summer and fall (unless you want to add ice fishing for winter). Add the leaf color changes in the fall and you may make it a year-round destination. In addition, even if you aren’t into football, Lambeau Field is worth a stop any time of year.

Do a two-for-one getaway

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.
Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.

Tie a visit to Green Bay with a vacation in Door County. Green Bay is at the foot of the peninsula so it is about 10 to 20 minutes from The Door depending on your destination.

Five tips for a fun fall color trip

A little fall travel homework now saves trip stress later on

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

A vacation in the Elkhart Lake area of Wisconsin can combine a scenic getaway with cooking classes

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

Combine an art class with travel to do more than just look

Bring home more than a souvenir from a trip. Take a class in something you always wanted to try.

Travel does not have to be the old if it is Monday this must be Madrid scenario. Arguably the best way to see an area is to remain unpacked for more than a day. Even better, do something special while there.

There is nothing wrong with renting a cottage or condo in your destination of choice for a week. But when you need an excuse to take off time or some extra incentive to visit a region, look for classes to take.

The second of a series on combining a class with travel looks at two travel destinations where visitors can take art classes.

Pottery is nice to buy from an expert such as John Dietrich whose shop and studio with wife Diane McNeil is in Ellison Bay on Wiscon's Door County. But besides finding the perfect piece to take home it is also nice to take a class to better understand the craft
Pottery is nice to buy from an expert such as John Dietrich whose shop and studio with wife Diane McNeil is in Ellison Bay on Wiscon's Door County. But besides finding the perfect piece to take home it is also nice to take a class to better understand the craft

Maine

If you have a yearning to visit the fishing villages, forests and coast of Maine, look into Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. No prior craft knowledge needed unless you are seeking an advanced class. You can take a one week summer workshop here in fibers, clay, metals, wood, glass and even blacksmithing.

The only problem is that you might be distracted by the scenery. Haystack overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on Deer Isle. Indeed, just driving there from the Bangor Airport or Boston if doing New England this trip, is about following back country roads to Deer Isle.

But you are not there yet.  You skip across the Eggemoggin Reach and tiny islands to reach the school. Haystack’s scenic location gives new meaning to the phrase “tucked away.”

Classes are Monday through Friday and the studios are open 24/7 so students don’t have to stop work on their projects when the instruction for the day is done. Students stay and eat on campus during their workshop period.

Because Haystack is on the middle of Maine’s coast, about 70 miles from Bangor, 160 miles from Portland and 250 miles from Boston, taking a class here can be bookended with a weekend near any of those towns.

The state is all about water: 5,000 miles of coast, 6,000 lakes, 32,000 miles of rivers. So enjoy its scenery and, of course, lobster. The yummy seafood is about half the price you pay at home.

A good resource is the Maine Office of Tourism.

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts,  89 Haystack School Drive, Deer Isle, Maine 04627, 207-348-2306

The Peninsula School of Art holds workshops year round that are a good escuse to visit Door County
The Peninsula School of Art holds workshops year round that are a good escuse to visit Door County

Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin, a peninsula that juts like a thumb into Lake Michigan from the southern edge of Green Bay, is known as a vacation destination.

The county is also known as a haven for sculptors, painters, photographers and ceramicists. It is also a good place to go gallery hopping and take a class at the Peninsula School of Art.

Workshops run anywhere from one day to a semester.  Best plan to combine a class and a travel stay is to look at the offerings during your vacation time. Classes range from ceramics, jewelry and metal arts to painting and photography for all skill levels.

The school does not have a campus but The Door, as the peninsula is popularly known, has a wide choice from cottages and condos to inns and B and B’s.

The art school is conveniently situated in Fish Creek which is dotted with interesting shops and places to stay. When not in class, explore the Peninsula’s winding roads through woods and farmlands.

Green Bay, the waterway, not the town, borders Door County on its northwest. Lake Michigan laps up to the southeast shoreline or underside of the thumb.

The closest major airport is Green Bay but guests also fly into Milwaukee.

More information at  Door County, Wisconsin.

Peninsula School of Art, 3900 County F, Fish Creek, Wisc. 54212, 920-868-3455