Favorite thing: Wisconsin's capital, Madison, is a pleasant city with about 570,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area. It is situated on a narrow isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Menona, making it one of the most scenic cities in Wisconsin.
The area that would one day become Madison was originally inhabited by American Indians of the Sauk, Winnebago, and Fox tribes.
In 1829, former federal judge and land speculator, James Doty, purchased over 1,000 acres (405 hectares) on the isthmus between lakes Mendota and Menona with the intention of establishing a city. When the Territory of Wisconsin was created in 1836, the territorial legislature met in the town of Belmont. One of the items on its agenda was to choose a site for the territorial capital. James Doty campaigned hard to have his site chosen. (He stood to make a lot of money through the sale of plots of land). He even went so far as to promise choice lots at discount prices to undecided voters. Prior to the meeting of the territorial legislature, he had James Slaughter, the grand nephew of President James Madison, make a plat of the city that Doty named Madison, after the president, who had died earlier that year.
The territorial legislature did choose the "city" of Madison as the territorial capital, even though it existed only on paper at that time. Although Doty's campaigning may have had something to do with it, one of the main reasons the site was chosen was because it is halfway between Milwaukee in the east and the strategic post of Prairie du Chien in the west, and halfway between the highly populated lead-producing region in the southwest and Wisconsin's oldest city, Green Bay, in the northeast.
After Madison became the terriritorial capital, it grew quickly. Construction on the capitol building began in 1837, the town was incorporated as a village in 1848, the University of Wisconsin was established there in 1849, the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad connected the town with the rest of the state in 1854, and it was incorporated as a city in 1856.
Nowadays, Madison is frequently near the top of lists of the best places to live in the United States. It has a healthy economy based primarily on consumer services and high-technology industries, such as health services and biotech companies.
Favorite thing: With over 2,020,000 people in the greater metropolitan area, Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin. Milwaukee is still widely known today for its brewing and manufacturing heritage. Although the brewing of beer is still an important part of the city's economy, the manufacturing segment of its economy has declined significantly over the last century.
Milwaukee had its beginnings in 1785 when French explorer Alexis Laframboise established a trading post where the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers converge to flow into Milwaukee Bay and Lake Michigan. This strategic location on the shores of Lake Michigan ensured that Milwaukee would grow into one of the Midwest's major industrial cities.
In 1818 French-Canadian explorer Solomon Juneau established a settlement on the east bank of the Milwaukee River which became known as Juneau's Side. Soon after that, another settler, Byron Kilbourn, established a new town called Kilbourntown that was located across the river from Juneau's Side. And a third town grew up to the south of the other two. Its name was Walker's Point, after its founder George Walker. All three towns were bitter rivals, particularly Juneau's Side and Kilbourntown, and there was very little contact between them. However, by 1846 their differences were put aside and they combined to incorporate as the City of Milwaukee.
The name of the new city was probably derived from the Potawatomi word minwaking or the Ojibwe word ominowakiing, both of which meant "gathering place by the water."
Beginning in the 1840s, and continuing for the next few decades, large numbers of German immigrants made their way to Milwaukee. Their heritage and influence is still widespread in the city and are evident in Milwaukee's German neighborhoods, schools, churches, and particularly food, with beer and bratwurst being staples even today. German Fest, a large outdoor German food festival held in July, and Oktoberfest, held in September, are two of the major events of the year.
In addition to Germans, many Poles immigrated to the city, giving Milwaukee one of the largest Polish populations in the United States. The Poles left their mark on Milwaukee just as the Germans had, especially with respect to food and the numerous Polish festivals held throughout the city.
Favorite thing: Located about 20 minutes north of Milwaukee, not far off the interstate is the cute little town of Cedarburg If you have seen lot of quaint little towns you will find this one to be little different, but if you are looking for quaint little towns this one should fit the bill. Cedarburg is a place where people from Milwaukee (although it is close enough to Chicago too) go to relax and unwind for a day.
Fondest memory: In the middle of the old part of town they have a little section set up for tourism. They have a number of boutiques, cute shops, a winery, an old fashioned blacksmith shop and good places to eat and drink.Related to:
- Road Trip
A Family Outing Brings Everyone Joy
Favorite thing: In September of 2004, Allan, Jill, and I spent three days and two nights inWisconsin on what we call "our family vacation".
It's always so much fun because Jill is so much fun, and Allan is always so cooperative. For instance, at home, Allan never shops; he hates shopping. But, on our family vacations, he "bites the bullet", so to speak, and he shops with us. I think he secretly has lots of fun. He did not tire out this time, and Jill and I did lots of browsing, and he joined us!
One of the funny places that we shopped was called (of all things) "Screaming Tuna Surf Shop"! It was a zany place with bathing suits, shorts, tops, crazy jewelry, signs, and much miscellaneous items. We laughed so much in that store that I thought we might be asked to leave.
Jill purchased a black skirt with a "funky" hemline.
The photograph was taken by Jill just before we went into the Screaming Tuna Surf Shop. The picture tells it all....happy smiles.
Fondest memory: Just being together is fun, especially when there is no set schedule, and we can decide as we go what we will do next.
I love spontaneous activity. It makes for interesting and unusual happenings.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Food and Dining
The Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion
Favorite thing: While in Milwaukee, one should try to visit the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion
It is really one of the best Flemish Renaissance Revival mansions in the nation. It represents the American Gilded Age of Splendor in Milwaukee.
In 1892, the famous beer baron, Captain Frederick Pabst had this mansion built. Besides being a beer baron, he was also a real estate developer, a great sea captain, a patron of the arts, and a philanthropist.
This mansion is quite the place to visit. From the day it was completed, it was called the "jewel of Milwaukee's" famous avenue of mansions, Grand Avenue.
It's obvious when you visit the house that Captain Frederick had a German heritage.
You will see stunning interiors, elaborate wall coverings, great craftsmanship in the fine wood used throughout the home, and quite elaborate wall coverings. In addition, there are many intricate ironworks, magnificent stained glass, and rare art.
Fondest memory: Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc. is a non-profit organization that has a goal to conserve the Pabst Mansion and the family legacy.
Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc.
2000 West Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233
It is open daily except in January and February, it is closed on Mondays.
Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sunday: Noon - 4:00 pm
There are exhibits and special event, and the facility can be rented for such things as weddings.
There is an online Gift Shoppe at
It is for sure that the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion helped to make the 1890s the "Pabst Decade" in Milwaukee.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: Overall, I would have to say that Wisconsin wines are mediocre. You will probably find that they are quite drinkable, usually made with imported grapes, and respectably presented. However, the handful of wineries in the state just don't seem to be able to quite get it together for turning out traditional vintages like Merlot or Cabarnet. The fruit wines are a different story, and you would probably be hard pressed to find better. Although worth a look, on my next trip, I'll be visiting the breweries.
Fondest memory: One exception to my admittedly bland endorsement, is Von Stiehl's winery, which you can find on my must see activities. They make good wine and sell it for a decent price. Their tasting section is also top of the line.Related to:
- Wine Tasting
Maxwell Street Days in Cedarburg
Favorite thing: There are special events and festivals throughout the year in Cedarburg. Four of these days are called MAXWELL STREET DAYS. They are held once in May, in July, in September, and finally in October.
We just happened to be in Cedarburg on Labor Day Weekend, which is one of the Maxwell Street Days. It starts at six in the morning and runs until about three in the afternoon. It is HUGE!
These "flea market" events take place at the Fairgrounds in Cedarburg, a gigantic area indeed. We went quite late (about two in the afternoon), and some of the booths were starting to close. However, it is a good time to bargain. For instance, my daughter Jill purchased a $12,00 antique Vase for $2.00 so that the woman would not have to pack it up! We also purchased some candy.
Truthfully, there is lots of pure junk at these events, but every so often, you are lucky and find an item you really want.
Regardless, it is fun to tromp around the fairgrounds and see all the items.
Fondest memory: I knew that Allan would hate this kind of shopping so I suggested that he stay in the car and rest and read. He was thrilled that he did not have to go with us. He was glad when we returned in about half an hour and had candy to share with him.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Family Time is Quality Time in Wisconsin
Favorite thing: Why do I like Wisconsin so much? I like it because it reminds me of my childhood when family was the center of life. Here in Wisconsin with its "straight-forward", "downhome" kind of atmosphere, I am comfortable. Even though its been called "boring" by some people, I find nothing boring about it. With Lake Michigan as its centerpiece and hundreds of other lakes dotting its landscape, it offers beauty, tranquility, and a perfect place to spend time with those you love...the family.
Ironically, I find Wisconsin to exhibit a quiet elegance with it's antiques, mansions, quaint Bed & Breakfast Inns, art, theatre (indoor and out), and its astounding beauty.
Yes, it has its corny side also with Cheesehead hats and its beer guzzeling " good ole' boys". Yet, that also adds to its appeal.
Fondest memory: As a family, we loved being in Wisconsin. As a wife, I adored the romantic ambience of Wisconsin. As a Mother, I cherished the time spent with my daughter.
I'm sure that I will return often to my friendly Neighbor to the North, Wisconsin.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Railway Bridge in Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Favorite thing: Right on the "main drag" of Cedarburg, you will discover a few benches next to an iron bridge and a huge informational plaque. I was curious, so I wandered over and read the sign.
It talks about the construction by the Milwaukee Northern Railway Company of a riveted-steel "Thru Truss Bridge" over the Cedar Creek. Now, Cedarburg was named after Cedar Creek because of this power-producing creek that the Irish and German immigrants harnessed to produce electricity. The Carnegie Steel Company manufactured this Interurban Bridge. It measures 159 feet long by 12 feet wide by 20 feet high and is constructed for the company's interurban train line between Milwaukee and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
It was powered by overhead electrical lines. The trains carried passengers and freight in and out of Cedarburg. The railway depot and its servicing area once stood just a few blocks from this bridge.
Fondest memory: After I took photographs of the plaque and the bridge, I walked across. What a great spot! With walkers and bikers sharing the bridge, it makes for a positive, peaceful environment. Once again, I'm thankful for the people who work so hard to preserve these wonderful relics from the past.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Last Covered Bridge in Wisconsin
Favorite thing: We all enjoyed seeing and reading about the last covered bridge in the state of Wisconsin, the Cedarburg Bridge. This structure was built in 1876 and was retired as an auto bridge in 1962. It was built by the town of Cedarburg because of a petition of neighboring farmers. They wanted this bridge to replace periodically washed out bridges. So, they used pine logs that were cut and milled at Baraboo, Wisconsin. These logs were fitted and set in place in lattice truss construction using 3x10 inch planks that were secured by two-inch hardwood pins. This technique eliminated the use of nails or bolts. The bridge was floored by 3-inch planking. In 1940, the Ozaukee County Board voted to assume the preservation and maintenance of this bridge.
A plaque with information about the bridge was erected in 1965 by the Ozaukee County Historical Society.
Fondest memory: Jill, Allan, and I really enjoyed walking the bridge and exploring the park that surrounds it. What a peaceful, beautiful area. Thank goodness Cedarburg saved this bridge!
Take Washington Avenue three miles North of Cedarburg to junction of Highway 60 and Highway 143 to Covered Bridge Road.
Our daughter Jill took this photograph of Allan and I walking across the bridge.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: Visiting Door County in Great Lakes area on a nice weekend in October and especially our visit to Whitefish Dunes State Park located at the shore of Lake Michigan.
( 3701 Clark Lake Rd., Sturgeon Bay, Wi 54235,
tel. (920) 823-2400).
Fondest memory: Having a month-long internship at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay and meeting my colleagues and their students. It was great!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Spa and Resort
- Study Abroad
Apple Cider Picnics and Fun Fall Weather
Favorite thing: Wisconsin is absolutely beautiful in the fall. I'm from the Midwest, so I've seen a lot of fall, but I swear, it never gets old, and I think Wisconsin somehow got just a little bit more of the wonderful golden fall beauty than the other states:) It's a great drive when you're just in the mood to go think!
Fondest memory: Like I said in an earlier tip, my parents and I used to go to Wisconsin every fall to pick apples at the apple farm and to buy cheese curd. There are huge farms all over that sell all manner of apple or cheese products and you can seriously make a day of it. I recommend bringing a thermos of hot chocolate, buying apples and cheese, and having a picnic:) That's my fondest memory:)
Bayfield, Northern Wisconsin.
Favorite thing: This is a little fishing pier by the childrens play area in Bayfield. It was my favourite spot in the afternoon. Just take a drink & a good book & all the problems of the whole world just disappear...as if by magic.
The Mighty Mississippi has to start somewhere
Favorite thing: The mighty Mississippi River is huge by the time it makes its way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. And, it has another nickname "down south", namely "the muddy Mississippi".
But, up north in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the river is much smaller and more beautiful. And, in my opinion, it's much more enjoyable to visit.
In the photo below, just look at how blue and clean those waters of the Mississippi appear, up just north of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Fondest memory: One thing I enjoyed a great deal was a picnic lunch that my wife and I enjoyed on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, just north of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The photo below was taken on that October 1981 day. We were actually sitting IN Minnesota, looking back over into Wisconsin.
Go in October
Favorite thing: Wisconsin is a beautiful state, and it's got a lot to offer year-round. But for my money, the fall is the time to be there.
First, there are the lovely fall colors and changing scenes.
Second, there's that wonderful nip of cooler weather to come which you can feel in the air. It's a time of the year when you'll really find some "frost on the pumpkin", especially in the numerous pumpkin patches. Halloween is on the way. : )
And last, the German heritage of the state makes October...oops better spell it as Oktober....a great time to visit. Almost every town of any size will have an Oktoberfest celebration in the early part of the month. And considering that all those German immigrants brought a whole heap of beer-brewing skills to the new world with them... well, let's just say that you won't be thirsty.
Fondest memory: The two things that we did on our short visit to Wisconsin way back in 1981 that I remember and enjoyed the most are:
(1) A visit to Wildcat Mountain State Park. The leaves were changing and the park was almost empty. A perfect combo for me. Beautiful scenery, cool weather and no people.
(2) A tour of the G. Heileman beer brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Heileman's "Old Style" is a fixture beer in the midwest, served in taverns all over the region. Back in 1981, it was still being brewed by the G.Heileman brewing company, headquartered in La Cross. GH was a family brewery that had managed to reach the status of 5th biggest brewer in the US. Alas, the even larger Miller Brewing company bought out Heileman many years ago. And as I understand it, "Old Style" is still available, but comes mostly from Milwaukee. I haven't had an "Old Style" in twenty years. Sigh. If you go to Wisconsin, have another one for me. : )Related to:
- Beer Tasting
The Pfister is a wonderful historic property in downtown Milwaukee that offers classically...more
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