WI-FINE: : Lots to explore across the border
Any Minnesotan bold enough to stop at that most hallowed shrine of Wisconsin sportingdom, Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers, for those not familiar with pro football) needs to be prepared for some good-natured ribbing.
Our guide, upon learning our place of origin, made a number of jokes at Minnesota’s expense, such as addressing the rest of the group as “those of you from the 49 states recognized by Wisconsinites,” with pointed looks at Hubby Bryan and me. Since we quit paying attention to the Minnesota Vikings a number of years ago and haven’t watched much football since, such barbs rolled swiftly off our backs.
But Packers fans or not — or even football fans or not — Lambeau Field is well worth a stop. Bryan and I ventured up to Green Bay a few weeks ago on our recent vacation, which took us on a circuitous route through the Badger State (see an explanation of that nickname below right). Some friends had recommended the Lambeau tour, so we lined up with some really loyal Green Bay Packers fans for the experience. I think we were among the few not garbed in green and gold.
Our guide was knowledgeable and obviously proud of the hometown team. He led us from one of the deluxe suites at the top of the stadium to outside the locker rooms below (no one is allowed inside the locker rooms), from where we emerged onto the actual playing field, accompanied by the (taped) roar of the crowd.
The timing of our visit is of note, as we arrived the day after much-beloved former quarterback Brett Favre was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame, his number retired. This had been a big to-do in Green Bay, and it was kind of the calm after the storm.
For us, the highlight of Green Bay wasn’t Lambeau, but a Sunday afternoon stop at Titletown Brewing, where we snacked on mac-and-cheese pizza (YUM!) and met a fellow homebrewer with whom we sampled some stellar beers and shared in-depth beer talk.
From Green Bay, we took a short drive up the Door County peninsula, stopping in Sturgeon Bay, where we took a stroll along the waterfront and checked out the fish sculptures in the downtown area. Since we’d visited Door County before, we didn’t go all the way to the tip, instead turning back south and spending the night in the (somewhat unremarkable) town of Kewaunee. It was a pretty town with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan, but with few amenities.
Since the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture — a huge gathering of aircraft enthusiasts in OshKosh, Wis. — had tied up most lodging in the center part of the state, Bryan and I turned the Jeep Wrangler south to Lake Geneva, which is a resort area similar to Okoboji, Iowa, although perhaps on a grander scale.
After the Civil War, Lake Geneva became a resort for wealthy Chicago families, who constructed mansions on the 5,500-acre lake. Among its other claims to fame, Hugh Hefner chose Lake Geneva as the home for his Playboy Club & Resort, now the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa.
We did not stay there, but got a pretty good deal via the Internet on a small suite at a resort just a short walk from the main marina. We spent one night there, checking out some of the downtown area shops and restaurants and walking along the shore. It’s a place to which we would like to return and perhaps take an excursion ride on one of several boats that ply Geneva Lake’s waters. I am particularly intrigued by the U.S. Mailboat tour, during which mail is still delivered by boat to 75 residences around the lake during the summer months.
The rest of our vacation week was spent revisiting some favorite spots in Wisconsin. Here are a few other must-sees:
MONROE: This town almost on the very southern border is home to the Minhas Brewery/Distillery operation, and there are tours of both operations. Monroe is also known as the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA,” and is headquarters for the Swiss Colony operations as well as Chalet Cheese, the only cheese factory in the U.S. where limburger cheese is made — a stinky claim to fame. Our favorite stop for lunch here is the BuggyWorks restaurant, which features local ingredients.
NEW GLARUS: Located to the north of Monroe, New Glarus is modeled after a Swiss village. But our main stop is just south of town at the New Glarus Brewing Co., which has a gorgeous visitors center on the outskirts of town. You can take a self-guided tour through the brewing operation, stop at the gift shop and then enjoy a brew while wandering through the grounds that overlook the valley below. It ranks high on our favorite brewery list.
THE DELLS: It’s the Waterpark Capital, but we stay away from those kiddie-dominated hotspots, staying at a small motel downtown where we can sit by the small but uncrowded pool and walk to any number of restaurants. From there, it’s a short drive to attractions in Baraboo, Spring Green and the top-notch Wollersheim Winery, located along the Wisconsin River.
WOODMAN’S: Just before we cross back into Minnesota, Bryan and I always stop at Woodman’s Market in Onalaska. This expansive grocery has one of the large cheese aisles I’ve ever seen, enabling us to stock up on cheddar, Parmesan, colby, etc. And while we’re there, we purchase a six-pack of New Glarus Spotted Cow — since you can’t buy the signature beer outside of the state. That way, we can still taste Wisconsin when we’re back home.