May 6, 2010

How to Spend a Rainy Day in the Northwoods

These Oneida County and Vilas County attractions really shine when it rains

Logging Museum in Rhinelander, Wisconsin

When you think about your summer vacation, I bet you don’t imagine it raining. But, Mother Nature doesn’t make her weather plans based on your vacation plans.

But if you’re vacationing in the Northwoods of Wisconsin when it rains—no problem. There’s plenty of rain-proof activities and attractions in Oneida County and Vilas County.

The largest population center in northeast Wisconsin’s Oneida County is Rhinelander, a community offering a long list of things to do, regardless of the weather. Shopping, going to a movie or heading to a restaurant are obvious answers to a summer thunderstorm. But Rhinelander also offers more than just than the usual rainy-day activities.

The Kovac Planetarium, located just a few minutes outside Rhinelander in the Town of Monico, is one of Wisconsin’s greatest wonders. The planetarium holds the distinction of being only the fourth globe-style planetarium ever built. It’s truly a sight to behold. Most incredibly, it is the work of one man — Frank Kovac — who designed and built it himself over the course of 10 years.

Visitors to the Kovac Planetarium will be treated to a 90-minute experience in which they’ll see the complete rotation of the night sky as it would appear through a 24-hour period. The planetarium is open year-round by reservation only, and accommodates up to 25 people. It’s a fascinating show — and one you shouldn’t necessarily wait for a rainy day to see.

Throughout the summer, Wisconsin River Cruises gives you a chance to see the Northwoods aboard the Wilderness Queen. Gaze at the osprey, eagles and wooded shores as you cruise the Wisconsin River near Rhinelander. You’ll be protected from the elements on the lower level of the boat. But if the rain lets up, you can head to the open-air upper deck. Wisconsin River Cruises offers sightseeing, dinner and Sunday brunch cruises.

The story of the community of Rhinelander is intertwined with the logging industry. Learn about the history of Rhinelander and the Northwoods at the Logging Museum Complex at Pioneer Park. The museum recreates an authentic logging camp, bringing to life the world of the 1800s lumberjack through artifacts and displays. The museum is open daily from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Learn more about Rhinelander’s rainy-day attractions at www.explorerhinelander.com.

For complete information on Oneida County, including a downloadable list of “Rainy Day Activities,” visit www.oneidacountywi.com.

Shop in Boulder JunctionIn nearby Vilas County, you’ll also find great activities that are perfect for a rainy summer afternoon.

Snowmobiling is alive and well in St. Germain, even in the summertime. Take a visit to St. Germain’s International Snowmobile Hall of Fame, which offers a collection of historic snowmobiles and exhibits showcasing the history of snowmobiling.

Eagle River is home to the Northwoods Children’s Museum, which features hands-on activities for kids. The museum houses more than 22 exhibits, ranging from a medical center exhibit to a giant bubble station. Parts of the museum change on a seasonal basis, helping to keep things interesting for repeat visitors.

Minocqua is home to the Dr. Kate Newcomb museum, which tells the fascinating story of Dr. Kate, also known as the “Angel on Snowshoes.” This fearless physician provided medical care to residents of the Northwoods and even helped build the area’s first hospital.

For more information on other interesting indoor attractions in Vilas County, visit www.vilas.org.

Another good destination on a rainy day is downtown Boulder Junction.  The town’s main thoroughfare hasn’t changed much in the last fifty years or so and maintains an historic charm that visitors love. Shops, galleries and even an ice cream shop make Boulder Junction a good spot to hunker down and wait out the weather.

Get a complete list of Boulder Junction shops and restaurants at www.boulderjct.org.

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