September 12, 2012

Girls Gone Oshkosh

Leon’s Frozen Custard (Julie Henning)

Editor’s note: As part of Wisconsin Travel Best Bets’ Shift Your Gears campaign, we asked bloggers, writers and photographers to write about destinations across the state and share their experiences. Today, Julie Henning (follow her on Twitter at @RoadTripsFeedMe), an editor at, talks about her recent trip to Oshkosh, “Wisconsin’s Event City.”

It’s time to grab your best girlfriends for a getaway weekend in Oshkosh.


Visitors and residents of Wisconsin’s Event City will want to start their adventure at The Shops at City Center, located one block off of Main Street in the heart of downtown Oshkosh. With boutique gifts, books, coffee and relocated city favorite Caramel Crisp and Café, Saturday morning patrons may find themselves at the Oshkosh Saturday Morning Farmers Market. Spanning the 400 and 500 blocks of North Main Street, the farmer’s market runs June 2 through October 20 (rain or shine) and features regional and seasonal produce, fruits, herbs, meats, eggs, cider, syrup, honey, plants, flowers, jams, jellies and cheese (of course!).

Another popular shopping destination in central and eastern Wisconsin, The Outlet Shoppes at Oshkosh are home to 50 retail stores ranging from clothing to luggage, shoes, health and beauty and housewares. Girlfriends with young children will want to stop in and shop at Wisconsin-based American Girl and Oshkosh B’Gosh. Just off the Highway 41 frontage road, The Outlet Shoppes at Oshkosh are hard to miss.

Chocolate and custard

Two of Oshkosh’s oldest and most nostalgic family-owned businesses have chocolate in common: Oaks Candy and Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates. Known for their meltaways, clusters, nut-rolled chocolates and specialty candies, a visit inside the Oaks Candy store at 1206 Oregon Street involves a step back in time. Adding a few fingerprints on the display case, you’ll leave feeling like a kid again.

Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates (Julie Henning)

Nestled among the tidy homes at 1823 Doty Street, Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates is the unlikeliest of hidden gems. Without a website or sign marking your arrival at the Hughes’ home, look for a small square of neon and a hand-turned open/closed sign. Visitors to the chocolate shop enter through a side door and descend down to the tiny counter (next to an equally compact display case). Popular in an assortment or on their own are milk and dark chocolates in one-, two-, three-, and five-pound boxes of creams, caramels, nougats, nut clusters, crawlers and meltaways. Chocolate lovers from near and far have kept the Hughes family in business for over eight decades.

Claiming to have the world’s finest frozen custard, a trip to Oshkosh would be incomplete without holding Leon’s Frozen Custard to their word. Leon’s serves between 200,000 and 300,000 cones each year, and President Bush even made a visit to the 1950s-style diner back in 2004. Reasonably priced custard, treats and sandwiches are served by carhops in poodle-skirts—try the Joos burger and you’ll know why they ship to customers all over the United States.


Apostles Clock (Julie Henning)

Satiated and shopped (but not dropped), make sure and leave time for culture during your time in Oshkosh. Considered a must see on a first-timer’s itinerary is the 8-foot tall, 111-year old Apostles Clock at the Oshkosh Public Museum. The most popular artifact at the museum, the Apostles Clock performs on the hour and uses a system of pulleys and weights to move figures of the 12 apostles across the clock face. Between performances, museum patrons can explore six other permanent exhibits (plus one visiting exhibit) encompassing more than 250,000 objects on the main and second floors. Visitors pressed for time can always pick up a souvenir from the cleverly stocked museum gift shop.

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