Monthly Archives: March 2011

March 23, 2011

WI Northwoods Restaurants to Remember

Next time you’re in the Northwoods, try these one-of-a-kind restaurants

The Outdoorsman in Boulder Junction, WIOrganic. Locally-grown. Gourmet. Small-batch brewing. These are just a few of the words that describe what Northwoods restaurants are serving up. These three one-of-a-kind restaurants stand out as the very best in the Northwoods.

Boulder Junction’s Biggest Trophy
Boulder Junction is famous for its trophy-size muskies. But, the town is home to another trophy for which the community should be equally proud: The Outdoorsman Restaurant.

Unsurpassed hospitality and a mix of home-style and gourmet flavors create a dining experience that’s quite extraordinary. Dinner entrees like roasted duck, elk medallions and grilled bison set The Outdoorsman in a class all its own among Wisconsin restaurants.

Stop by the restaurant for lunch and enjoy an “Outdoorsman Sandwich.” Full of sliced beef, peppers, mushrooms, onions and mozzarella, it is the pinnacle of sandwich artistry. Even vegetarians have a place at the table. Try The Outdoorsman’s mean black bean veggie burger—it’s truly tasty.

Next time you’re in Boulder Junction, catch a meal-of-a-lifetime at The Outdoorsman.

Great Meals on Tap in Minocqua
The Minocqua Brewing Company in Oneida County is well known as the place to go for outstanding, handcrafted brews. However, it also has some of the best food in the Northwoods.

In a land of mom and pop burger joints, there’s a lot of competition for who’s got the best burger and fries. But the Minocqua Brewing Company is certainly at the front of the pack. Start your meal off with sweet potato fries or “Artisan Cheddar Nuggets,” made with aged cheddar. Follow that with a half-pound Angus burger with one of twelve different toppings, including sliced avocado, brie or smoked gouda. If you don’t feel like a burger, try a pulled-pork sandwich or a brat with onions, kraut and Swiss cheese.

This brew pub’s diverse dinner menu has everything from pasta primavera to perch. Highlights include a succulent yellow-fin tuna steak, delicately breaded lake perch and salmon with a delicious Dijon mustard sauce.

Of course, all of these culinary creations can be washed down with one of the Minocqua Brewing Company’s seven different beers. If you can’t find one you like, then you probably don’t like good beer.

Hodag County’s Holiday Acres
The Three Coins Restaurant at the Holiday Acres Resort in Rhinelander offers a variety of entrees that are sure to surprise every palate.

Chef Tom Jordens has put together a fresh and enticing menu. His specialty is creating gourmet dishes using locally-grown, Wisconsin-made products. Fish, steak, salads and more await you in a lovely setting of rough-sawn pine and beautiful views of the landscape.

Everyone who visits the restaurant gets three coins to put in the fountain on their way out. Make one of your three wishes another meal at the Three Coins Restaurant.

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March 23, 2011

Wisconsin Birdwatching 101

Five easy tips to help you get into birding

Sandhill CranesBirdwatching is probably the most accessible outdoor activity there is. It’s also one of the most rewarding.  And you don’t need to travel far to experience the very best in birdwatching—Wisconsin just happens to be one of the best birdwatching destinations in the United States.

Here are five easy tips to help you get started in what just might become a lifelong pursuit

  1. Learn to identify common birds by sight – Before embarking on your first birdwatching expedition, get a bird identification guide and thumb through it, looking for easy-to-identify birds you might see in Wisconsin, such as robins, cardinals, blue jays, crows, red-tailed hawks, starlings and red-winged blackbirds. Once you have a good grasp of these birds, move on to harder to identify birds, such as the various sparrows. If you get really good, you can venture into the world of warblers. Once in the field, don’t be surprised if it’s a bit of a challenge putting names to the birds that you see. Over time, you’ll learn to note certain field marks and eventually know hundreds of different types of birds by sight. It just takes practice.
  2. LoonLearn bird songs – The best birders use both their eyes and ears to identify the birds that are around them. Many birders hear a particular species before they find it with their binoculars or spotting scope. A good place to start learning some bird songs is at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  It’s probably the single most useful tool on the Web for beginning birders. You’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up on what makes each bird call unique.
  3. Buy or borrow good binoculars – Binoculars open up a whole new world to birders. A simple walk through the woods can become a birding adventure as you scan the treetops and undergrowth and find dozens of different types of birds. Without the binoculars, you’d only see a fraction of the species that are out there. Spotting scopes are another option for birders. But beginners should start out using binoculars, which are easy to use and carry.
  4. lesser yellowlegsDon’t forget waterfowl and shorebirds – Most seasoned birdwatchers would agree that seeing a rare species of warbler is a real treat. But some of the best birding is found by the waterside. Wetlands and lakeshores offer a chance to see a variety ducks and wading birds, many of them large and quite impressive. Watching a blue heron fishing in the shallows or an elusive sora rail lurking in the reeds is high entertainment for any nature lover. So, when you’re choosing a place to go birdwatching, look for locations with wetlands, ponds or lakes.
  5. Let yourself fall in love – Love? That’s right. If you spend enough time birdwatching, there’s going to be some particular species of bird that you fall in love with. Maybe it’s the way the black-capped chickadee braves the coldest days of winter. Maybe you’ll be captivated by the swagger of the mockingbird. Or perhaps you’ll fall in love with the graceful neck of the glossy ibis. Don’t fight it. It’s going to happen.
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March 17, 2011

Early Season Paddling Trips

Paddling is the perfect way to experience spring in Wisconsin

Springtime is ideal for paddling in Wisconsin. Water levels are at their highest, so paddling is generally at its best. There are also fewer crowds—on many rivers, it’s not unusual to paddle all day without seeing another paddler, even on weekends. But best of all, paddling in the spring puts you in direct contact with the birds, animals and plants that are just waking up from their winter slumber. It’s an experience unlike any other.

Frog

Black River CanoeingWestern Wisconsin Wonderland
The Black River in western Wisconsin is a paddling gem. Running through yellow-pine forests and sandstone banks, the Black River is different than any other Wisconsin River. The dark-stained water, numerous sand bars and occasional islands make the Black River an interesting place to paddle.

The most popular stretch for paddling is the 15 miles above Black River Falls. Downstream from the dam at Black River Falls, you’ll find another 30 or so miles of paddling. Neither stretch is too difficult and the views are outstanding.

On dry ground, you’ll find hiking and mountain biking trails in the Black River State Forest and the Jackson County Forest. Find complete information on Black River Country at www.blackrivercountry.net.

Flambeau RapidsNorthern Wisconsin Rapids
If you’re looking for a spring paddling adventure, head to Rusk County. Paddlers can choose from four different rivers—the Flambeau, Chippewa, Jump and Thornapple. For an exciting trip through multiple sets of rapids, choose the Flambeau River.

The stretch of the Flambeau River from Hervas Camp Landing down to the Big Falls Dam is one that every paddler should experience. You’ll encounter the challenging Cedar Rapids, the dangerous Beaver Dam Rapids (which you should portage) and the relatively serene Pine Island Rapids. It’s a wonderful trip for paddlers looking for some real adventure this spring.

For more information on paddling all four Rusk County rivers, visit www.ruskcountywi.com.

CanoeingCapital Views
Mendota County Park in Middleton is the ideal place to launch a canoe or kayak for a paddling trip on Lake Mendota. The park features shallow water launches made specifically for paddlers. You’ll also find park shelters, bathrooms and shower facilities. It’s an unbeatable set of amenities for paddlers.

Lake Mendota the largest lake in the Madison Chain of Lakes, offers nearly 10,000 acres of open water. Paddlers will be treated to outstanding views of the University of Wisconsin Campus, downtown Madison and the State Capitol. During the spring, Lake Mendota offers excellent fishing for jumbo bluegill and crappie, so bring your fishing rod.

Inland, Middleton offers other spring recreation options, including an award-winning community trail system and the nature trails of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. For more information on all that Middleton has to offer, visit www.visitmiddleton.com.

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March 17, 2011

Cure Winter Blues With Big Spring Views

Some surefire spring sights

Winter in Wisconsin sometimes likes to linger a little longer than we’d like. One of the best ways to shake off the cobwebs and lift your spirits is a quick getaway to somewhere you can see something beautiful. It’ll change your mindset—guaranteed. Here are three ways to get a gorgeous glimpse of spring.

Sunny the Sunfish - Onalaska, WIThe Badger State’s Sunniest Scenic Overlook
Located just north of Onalaska, the Sunny the Sunfish Scenic Overlook is hard to miss. That’s because this small park by the side of the road is overseen by a giant replica of a sunfish.

After you’ve taken your mandatory picture with Sunny, head to the gazebo, where you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of Lake Onalaska and the Mississippi River Valley. Through the spotting scope, you’ll see the newly greened wetlands and rolling fields stretching on into Minnesota.

You’re also see birds, thousands of birds, depending on the weather. The overlook gives you a front-row seat for the spring migration spectacle. Swans, mallards, canvasbacks, bluebills and bald eagles all travel through this corridor, and Lake Onalaska is a favorite stopping place for them all.

If you want to take a closer look at the water, just take a walk down the stairway that leads to the river. At the bottom, you’ll run into the Great River State Trail, which runs for 24 miles northward to the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, another great place to take in the spring migration.

For more information on Onalaska, which offers the region’s largest selection of lodging options, visit www.discoveronalaska.com.

West Bend RiverwalkA Stroll Along the River
The West Bend Riverwalk is the perfect spring stroll. Following the winding Milwaukee River, which is quite beautiful in this stretch, the Riverwalk allows you to enjoy peaceful waterscapes, the first green plants of the year and budding trees.

Along this three-mile route, you’ll encounter a number of outdoor sculptures, which are part of the West Bend Sculpture Walk. The Sculpture Walk is composed of 25 different works of art. The works were created by local artists and well-known artists from throughout the country.

The Riverwalk is located adjacent to historic Downtown West Bend where you’ll find shops, great museums and unique restaurants. For more information on West Bend’s attractions, visit www.wbachamber.org.

OrchidSpring Blooms Indoors
During a Wisconsin spring, occasionally the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. At Orchids Garden Centre and Nursery in Middleton, there’s something blooming, no matter the weather outside.

True to its name, the garden center specializes in growing and selling blooming orchid plants. Each flower and leaf is a natural work of art. If you decide you need to take an orchid home with you, the staff are experts in orchids. They’ll be able match you with an orchid that suits your horticultural skills and home environment.

If you just can’t get enough spring blooms, visit the Bruce Company, also located in Middleton. The Bruce Company is one of Wisconsin’s best gardening centers and features an unsurpassed selection of plants for both the indoors and outdoors.

For a complete list of shops and attractions in Middleton, visit www.visitmiddleton.com.

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