Monthly Archives: May 2011

May 23, 2011

Small-town Summer Getaway

Three charming bed & breakfasts for a relaxing getaway this summer

Brambleberry Bed and Breakfast in Black River Country, WI

Photo: Brambleberry Bed & Breakfast

These three bed & breakfasts are among Wisconsin’s most unique. Enjoy views of the lush green Mississippi River valley. Step out your door and saunter down a woodland path. Or, walk down the street to the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. These bed & breakfasts are real charmers. You won’t want to go home.

A Big River B&B

Photo: Lumber Baron Inn Bed & Breakfast

Overlooking the Mississippi River in Onalaska is the Lumber Baron Inn Bed & Breakfast. From its bluff-top perch, the Lumber Baron Inn looks bright and cheery. But the white exterior just barely hints at the visual splendor within.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lumber Baron Inn dates to 1888. The inn takes its name from the original owner of the house, who ran the first sawmill in Onalaska. The woodwork you see is all original, as are the light fixtures and the stained glass.

Onalaska offers a number of things to do. Just down the hill from the Lumber Baron Inn, the Great River State Trail runs along the Mississippi River for 24 miles. Hwy 35, which runs past the inn is a designated National Scenic Byway called the Wisconsin Great River Road. And, Onalaska is also home to the largest retail district in a nine-county region. There’s a lot to do.

A Honey of a B&B

Photo: Honeybee Inn Bed & Breakfast

Located in the town of Horicon, the Honeybee Inn Bed and Breakfast is a combination of cozy hospitality and vintage luxury. Set on a quiet side street, the cream city brick and yellow siding really give the inn a honey-colored hue.

Inside, you’ll find beautiful woodwork and stained glass. You’ll also find deluxe whirlpools, body jet showers, fireplaces, WIFI, and luxury linens. A night at the Honeybee certainly isn’t roughing it.

The biggest local attraction in Horicon is the Horicon Marsh. Just a few blocks away, where Hwy 33 crosses the Rock River, you’ll find Horicon Marsh Boat Tours. They offer sightseeing, birding and sunset cruises of the Horicon Marsh. In the summer, the marsh is alive with birds and animals. It’s quite a sight to behold.

A Great Green B&B

Black River Country is in a class all its own. The B&B’s eco-friendly practices can be seen in everything from the food they serve to their on-site organic gardens. Just step out the door of the B&B and head down a tranquil path for a walk in the woods or to watch a flock of sheep grazing in a green field.

But the ecological soundness of the operation doesn’t detract from creature comforts. Most of Brambleberry’s rooms feature double whirlpools and canopy beds. And this B&B is the only one in Wisconsin that serves dinner, summer through fall.

Nearby attractions include the trails of the Black River State Forest and Jackson County Forest and some interesting area antique shops. The Tenba Ridge Winery, located nearby, offers a variety of sensational wines and stunning views.


May 20, 2011

Easy Outdoors

You don’t have to be athletic or adventurous to enjoy the great outdoors

Family Biking TogetherWhen you open up a copy of any magazine focusing on hiking, bicycling or paddling, you’ll see pictures of high cliffs, snowy mountain tops and raging whitewater. You’ll see hikers marching up nearly vertical rocky paths, Tour-de-France-ready bicyclists racing down the road and kayakers fighting their way through whitewater. For the average person looking to enjoy the outdoors, these images can be a little intimidating.

Having fun in the outdoors is for everyone. Here are some ideas to help you enjoy summer in Wisconsin, regardless of your fitness level or experience.

Level Ground Bicycling

For many would-be bicyclists, hills are the deal breaker. Even with an assortment of different gears, getting up a hill can be daunting to many riders. Luckily, Wisconsin is home to a number of fantastically flat and super scenic state bicycle trails.

The reason for the abundance of level trails is the “rails-to-trails” program, which converted former railroad beds into bicycling and hiking trails. Because railway lines are built over the flattest terrain possible, the resulting trails are generally quite flat. That means virtually no hills and very easy riding.

The perfect example of a rails-to-trails project is the Eisenbahn State Trail in West Bend. This 25-mile trail takes its name from the German word for railroad. It follows a level course through the hilly countryside known as the Kettle Moraine, a landscape of hills, ridges and small lakes formed by the last glacier that passed through the area about 10,000 years ago. The paved segment that runs through West Bend is a great place to hop off the bicycle and grab lunch or enjoy the Riverwalk and the West Bend Sculpture Walk. For beginner bicyclists, the Eisenbahn State Trail is a very good choice.

Perhaps the most breathtaking rails-to-trails project is the Great River State Trail in Onalaska. Running for 24 miles along the Mississippi River and through beautiful wetlands, this trail is one of the best riding experiences in the Midwest. A 287-foot span of trail running along a former railroad trestle is one of the highlights of this exciting trip. The Great River State Trail links to the La Crosse River State Trail, which follows the meandering course of the La Crosse River from Onalaska eastward into the hills of the Driftless Area of Wisconsin.

Stillwater Paddling

Paddling at Boulder JunctionWhen most people think of canoeing and kayaking, they think of whitewater or long expeditions through the backcountry. But one of the best aspects of paddling is the serenity that can be found on slow-moving rivers, quiet ponds and peaceful wetlands.

One of the biggest stillwater paddling experiences in Wisconsin is the Horicon Marsh. The largest freshwater cattail marsh in the U.S., the Horicon Marsh offers the paddler thousands of acres of winding channels, secluded sloughs and open water. Gliding along glassy water with walls of cattail stalks on either side is a memorable experience. Paddlers can rent canoes at the southernmost tip of the marsh at the Hwy 33 bridge in Horicon.

Another good place to drop a canoe or kayak in the water is Boulder Junction. Surrounded by dozens of quiet lakes, a paddler has many choices. One of the best is Allequash Lake, a 426-acre piece of peaceful water surrounded by forests. Try paddling this lake in the evening and enjoy a sunset over the pines.

Hiking is Just Walking With Better Scenery

Hiking Trail in MiddletonHiking is probably the most overused word in the world. What most people call hiking is actually just walking along a trail in a forest, field or wetland area. The number of hiking trails in Wisconsin that are actually rugged and challenging is rather small compared to the trails that are easy and inviting.

There are probably a thousand different hiking trails in Wisconsin, ranging from less than a mile to more than 100 miles. Where to start? A great place is Middleton, where the award-winning community trail system makes it easy to walk all over town. The nature trails at Pheasant Branch Conservancy are a highlight of this city-wide trail system that includes paths and sidewalks.

The Northwoods of Wisconsin is a great place to take a walk. You’ll find more than 50 different hiking trails in Oneida and Vilas counties. Most are fairly level trails, but some have some rolling terrain.

This summer, take it easy and enjoy the natural beauty of Wisconsin. With so many opportunities for recreation, you’ve got no excuse not to have fun in the outdoors.


May 18, 2011

Where Are They Biting?

Four fantastic fishing holes that won’t disappoint

The mind-boggling number of lakes in Wisconsin can make choosing one overwhelming. Not every lake is created equal—and neither are anglers. Some fishermen are looking for enough panfish fillets to fill their skillet. Others are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime pike to hang on the wall. So, here are fishing options to suit nearly every type of angler. If you want to catch pike, bluegill, walleye or catfish, these four bodies of water are where you should start.

In Star Lake, northern pike are the star of the show. Located in the heart of Vilas County, Star Lake is just over 1,200 acres and 68 feet deep. But this medium-size lake holds jumbo-size pike. In early summer, look for pike along the edges of weedbeds. In late summer, Star Lake pike head to deeper water. Cast large crankbaits and heavy spoons to tempt these suspended fish. There are some real lunkers in Star Lake, so hang on tight.

Onalaska, WI Bluegill

Photo: Eric Franke

If you’re looking for big bluegill, head to the “Sunfish Capital of the World,” also known as Onalaska. Lake Onalaska, a 7,700-acre pool on the Mississippi River, holds huge numbers of enormous bluegills. The weedbeds, backwaters, channels and holes that constitute this complex fishery give the panfish angler endless options. If you like bluegill, it doesn’t get any better than this.

The Willow Flowage in western Oneida County might be Wisconsin’s best all-around fishing destination. At 6,400 acres, it’s one of the largest bodies of water in northern Wisconsin. But the highlight of this beautiful and undeveloped flowage is the walleye. Some of the Northwoods’ largest walleyes swim through the Willow Flowage’s channels, lakes, bays and more than 100 islands. Many anglers compare fishing the Willow Flowage to fishing in Canada. The drive is certainly shorter—and the fishing is at least as good.

Catfish in Wisconsin

The Mississippi River is the best place in Wisconsin to catch a trophy channel catfish or flathead catfish. And if you had to pick one place on the river to launch your catfishing expedition, it would have to be Prairie du Chien along the Wisconsin Great River Road. Not only does the river in this area hold huge numbers of catfish, Prairie du Chien offers everything an angler needs for a great outing, from lodging and dining, to fuel and fishing bait.



May 18, 2011

Cruises for Kids


Three great boat trips the kids will love

Most kids love boats. But, in a state with a few thousand lakes, there are relatively few boat tour options. But never fear – Wisconsin Travel Best Bets has found three outstanding boat tours that are just perfect for kids of all ages. Best of all, they’re very affordable.

Cassville Car Ferry
There’s nothing more authentic than a trip across the Mississippi River in a real car ferry. Everything else is just a boat trip. The Cassville Car Ferry is the real deal! Running seven days a week through the entire summer, the car ferry takes you from Cassville on the Wisconsin Great River Road over to the Iowa side of the river. The fare for one car is only $15. Bicycles are only $5. But for the kids, the memory will be priceless.

Wisconsin River Cruises
Take a tour of the Wisconsin River in Rhinelander. A 1½ hour sightseeing tour with Wisconsin River Cruises is a great way for the whole family to enjoy themselves. Grown-ups are $14 and children are $8. Children under the age of two ride for free. It’s a great deal and the scenery is amazing along this part of the Wisconsin River. Wisconsin River Cruises also offers a dinner cruises and Sunday brunch cruises.

Horicon Marsh Boat Tours - Wisconsin Travel Best BetsHoricon Marsh Boat Tours
To a kid, the Horicon Marsh in Dodge County looks like the biggest, coolest swamp in the world, and a trip on one of the Horicon Marsh Boat Tours’ pontoon boats is a real adventure. The 1-hour narrated sightseeing tour is the perfect option for kids of all ages. They’ll get a great view of the magnificent Horicon Marsh and learn about the plants and animals from the expert tour guides. Grown-ups have been known to learn a thing or two as well.