Monthly Archives: October 2012

October 26, 2012

Holiday Shopping on Main Street in Wisconsin

These small-town downtowns offer art and one-of-a-kind treasures

This year, get out of the ordinary holiday shopping grind. Head to one of Wisconsin’s small-town Main Streets and discover interesting shops and galleries and some truly unique gifts.

Wisconsin’s small-town Main Streets are eclectic. You’ll find mom-and-pop shops as well as sophisticated galleries and boutiques. Many businesses feature works by local artists, from paintings and jewelry to housewares and furniture. You’ll find something for everyone.

Small-town shopping is a pleasure. Strolling down the sidewalk, you’ll enjoy decorated streets and storefronts. When you feel your shopping enthusiasm starting to wilt, just stop in at a coffee shop or restaurant – small-town downtowns generally have several dining options.

Here are three of Wisconsin’s best small towns for holiday shopping.

Boulder Junction Holiday Shopping by Eric Johnson

Boulder Junction is a resort town located in the Northwoods. It’s surrounded by 194 lakes and is famous as a fishing destination. It’s also one of the best places to shop in the northern Wisconsin.

Boulder Junction’s Main Street is lined with interesting shops. Most notably, Boulder Junction offers five different art galleries. At Wiley Miller’s Wildlife Images, you’ll find paintings, prints, carvings and even chainsaw art. Firemouth Potter & Gallery displays the works of Bill Karaffa as well as the works of other artists. Arlene’s Pottery & Gallery features a wide variety of handmade stoneware.

The largest gallery in Boulder Junction is Moondeer & Friends, which offers an exciting mix of artwork from artists from around the Midwest and the world.

On your way into or out of Boulder Junction, stop by Molly’s Homestead, located five minutes south of downtown Boulder Junction on Hwy M. The gallery features the works of more than 40 artists and offers totem poles, fish decoys, carvings and antiques.

Downtown Rhinelander Shops by Norm Martin

Rhinelander is one of the commercial centers of northern Wisconsin. The bustling community’s downtown is home to a long list of shops.

Mel’s Trading Post is one of the best sporting goods shops in the Northwoods, selling everything from bikes and canoes to fishing tackle and hunting rifles. Spice of Life sells an array of spices, sauces, rubs, mixes and salsas.

Fun Factory Sweet Shoppe will satisfy any sweet tooth. If you have an aspiring magician on your list, head to Cliff’s Magic Shop. And stop by Peggy’s Antique Garden to look for that truly one-of-a-kind gift.

For dining, Downtown Rhinelander presents a lot of choices. Choose from nine different taverns and nine restaurants.

If it’s on your list, you’ll probably find it in Downtown Rhinelander. Don’t miss this lively neighborhood. Find complete information about the Rhinelander area.

Stevens Point Area Clay Corner

Located in the center of the state, downtown Stevens Point is a lively neighborhood full of shops and restaurants. Its Main Street is one of the healthiest in the state. Holiday shoppers will love this charming downtown.

You’ll find a delightful variety of gifts along Stevens Point’s Main Street. Gepetto’s sells classic toys that will stand the test of time. Fudge Utopia has some sweet gifts. Clay Corner Studio gives you a chance to craft a Christmas gift with your own hands. Kindred Spirit Books sells books, music and gifts for the body, mind, heart and soul. And Call it New/Call it Antique breathes new life into secondhand treasures.

If you have any artists or crafters on your Christmas list, be sure to stop by Herrschner’s at 2800 Hoover Road, an outlet shop for one of the world’s largest craft catalogs. Find a complete list of Stevens Point area shops and galleries.

Here are two more Wisconsin holiday shopping destinations:

  • Outlet Shoppes at Oshkosh – Shop more than 40 brand-name outlet stores.
  • Onalaska – This community on the Mississippi offers the largest shopping district in a nine-county region.

October 17, 2012

A Season of Monsters: Wisconsin’s Late Fall Musky Fishing

Here are four places to cast your line for big musky in November

When the leaves have fallen and all the trees are left bare, most people feel a twinge of sadness. Not musky hunters. November is the season when musky fishing hits its peak. The biggest fish get ferociously hungry in the late fall, throwing caution to the wind and becoming more vulnerable to the savvy angler.

Musky Fishing in Boulder Junction

If you’re a musky hunter, you’re heart is beating a little bit faster at the thought of those behemoth fish getting ready for their late fall feast. Here are four Wisconsin musky hotspots you should fish this November.

Lake DuBay in the Stevens Point area is a 6,830 acre flowage on the Wisconsin River. Its winding channels, secluded bays and large areas of open water all combine to create ideal musky habitat. During the late fall in Lake DuBay, a musky gets a healthy appetite. Look for fish in the transition zone between deep and shallow water, particularly near the river channels. Musky can be spread out in this system, so be prepared to hunt for fish. For the persistent angler, the rewards can be an amazing catch.

With more than 50 Class-A musky lakes in Boulder Junction, finding a great place to fish isn’t very difficult. One of the very best musky lakes in the area is White Sand Lake. This small lake has a healthy population of cisco, a musky’s favorite meal. White Sand Lake’s musky grow plump feeding on cisco. In the fall when the water temperatures plummet, ciscoes head into the shallows to spawn. The lake’s big muskies follow them and you have a once-a-year opportunity at some true trophy fish. Take advantage of this fantastic fall fishing pattern.

Fence Lake in Lac du Flambeau in Vilas County is famous for its huge musky. Each fall, the 3,500-acre lake gives up some enormous fish. During most of the year, the deep, clear lake can be a challenging place to fish. But when cold weather rolls around, the lake’s monsters come into shallower water, making them vulnerable to the musky hunter’s lures. Look for the musky action to increase as water temperatures fall. By late November, the fishing should be hot.

Boom Lake in the Rhinelander Area is famous as a musky lake. And for good reason: each fall, Boom Lake produces hundreds of huge fish. Boom Lake is one of the most popular fishing lakes in the Northwoods. But by November, musky anglers have the lake all to themselves. Cast giant jerkbaits and hefty crankbaits. Multi-fish outings are not uncommon in the late fall on Boom Lake. Get out there and enjoy one of the best fishing lakes in the Northwoods.

Other musky hotspots include Lake Holcombe in Rusk County and Lake Nokomis in Oneida County.


October 17, 2012

Fall Tour of Wisconsin Oddities

With winter on the way, it’s easy to feel a little lethargic. Kick it into high gear this fall with a senseless road trip to see some Badger State oddities and unusual points of interest. Wisconsin is a land of fun-loving folks and downright eccentric characters. So, grab a camera, hop in the car and go see for yourself.

Barry of the Mustard Museum

We start our tour of Wisconsin oddities in Middleton, where the condiment known as mustard is elevated to such a height that it demands its own museum. The National Mustard Museum in Middleton is a humorous romp through the yellow world of mustard. But it’s also a seriously good place to buy one of hundreds of varieties of mustard. The museum offers several photo opportunities.

The next stop is Black River Country, where an orange moose greets visitors in front of the Best Western Arrowhead Lodge & Suites. There is a legend behind the moose that involves too many strange fictions to bear repeating. But the orange moose must be commended for its ability to lure travelers from miles around to have their picture taken beside him.

Sunny the Sunfish

Further west on the banks of the Mississippi River in Onalaska, you’ll find Sunny the Sunfish, a giant fish sculpture overlooking Lake Onalaska. Sunny is always honored when visitors have their picture taken with him. While you’re there, take advantage of the scenic overlook to gaze out at the Mississippi River. It’s a beautiful place.

Rhinelander Hodag

In northern Wisconsin, there’s a town some people call Rhinelander, but it’s better known as Hodag Country. Driving through this bustling Northwoods community, you’ll see evidence of the Hodag everywhere, on signs, in the names of businesses and, most obviously, in a giant Hodag sculpture in front of the Visitor Center. The Hodag would be flattered if had your picture taken with him.

Further north, in Vilas County, you’ll find the resort community of St. Germain and the giant statue of Chief St. Germain. Be sure to stand tall next to the chief when you have your picture taken.

Of course, there are more odd sculptures, strange museums and other interesting things to see in Wisconsin. Get out there and find your own weird and entertaining things. And be sure to take a picture!


October 5, 2012

Business spotlight: Wisconsin Great River Road

Traveling along the Wisconsin Great River Road? Learn more about these businesses along the scenic byway that skirts the Mississippi River.

Smith Brothers Landing is a delightful shop offering beautiful, handmade artwork. Set on the shores of Lake Pepin, the exterior of the shop has a storybook quality that belies the wonderful artwork you’ll find inside. The highlight of the shop is the hand-wrought steel and glass sculptures made by owner Dave Smith.

Pepin’s Dockside Mercantile is also right on Lake Pepin and offers clothing, books, gifts and a variety of local products.

When you’re looking for lodging along the Wisconsin Great River Road, be sure to stop at the Great River Amish Inn in Pepin. The inn is located across the street from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, and each room boasts solid-oak handmade Amish furniture.


October 3, 2012

At the Mississippi River’s Front Door

Lake Onlaska (Dean Klinkenberg)

Editor’s note: As part of Wisconsin Travel Best Bets’ Shift Your Gears campaign, we asked bloggers, writers and photographers to visit destinations across Wisconsin and share their experiences. Today, Dean Klinkenberg of talks about Onalaska, the Sunfish Capital of the World.

Onalaska is at the heart of Wisconsin’s Great River Road and is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and good food. While most of the city’s growth has been in recent decades, Onalaska has a long history. Thomas Rowe, who plucked the town’s name from The Pleasures of Hope by Thomas Campbell, arrived here in 1851 to sate the thirst of the hard-working and hard-living men employed in the lumber mills of the Black River Valley. From 1855 to 1899, over 6 billion board feet of lumber floated down the Black River to Onalaska’s mills, enough to build about 2 million ranch houses.

The forests were depleted by 1900, and Onalaska’s economy gradually shifted to light manufacturing and agriculture. In recent years, Onalaska has also developed a strong retail economy. Today’s visitors will find that Onalaska offers many recreational opportunities, particularly along the Black and Mississippi Rivers, the places where the city began.

Getting Outside

The wide expanse of water to the west of town is known as Lake Onalaska, but it is formed from the Mississippi and Black Rivers. The lake was created when Lock and Dam 7 was completed in the 1930s, flooding low-lying sections of French Island and obscuring what was once the Black River channel along the east side of French Island. The lake is very popular with folks who like to fish: in winter, ice fishing shacks spread out across the section between French Island and Brice Prairie. You can get great views from the overlooks on Highway 35, or, even better, on the water with your own boat or by renting a canoe or kayak from Schafer’s Boats and Bait in Brice Prairie.

Onalaska Center for Commerce & Tourism (1101 Main Street).


Van Loon Wildlife Area (Dean Klinkenberg)

Van Loon Wildlife Area is a peaceful 4,000 acres of marshy Black River floodplain with a diverse population of birds and easy hiking. The preserve is also known for six rare bowstring arch truss bridges built between 1905 and 1908.

Eating and Drinking

If you’re going to be active, you’ll need some food to fuel your efforts. Nutbush City Limits is a favorite among locals for affordable food that is generously portioned, especially during breakfast. The Blue Moon Saloon and Roadhouse offers a relaxing dinner with impressive views of Lake Onalaska.

You can buy fresh, local products at a number of places in the area. The Onalaska Farmers Market operates on Sundays from 8am to 1pm (June through October) at the Crossing Meadows Shopping Center. You’ll also find a number of roadside stands and orchards from Holmen to Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge (primarily along Highway 35) selling berries, apples, tomatoes, squash, and other seasonal fruit and vegetables. Holmen Locker and Meats, about five miles north of Onalaska, is known for their homemade jerky, especially the beef varieties, and for stocking local and regional food products.

If you’re staying overnight in the area, Perrot State Park in Trempealeau has a large campground with electric and basic sites. If you want some pampering, the Lumber Baron Inn Bed and Breakfast in Onalaska is right on the river. All six rooms have a private bath.