Sure, some people make beer runs but, trust me, the thing to do in the northern midwest in the fall is make an apple run.
The village of Gays Mills, WI, is located in the southwestern part of the state. When I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a trip to Gays Mills was a long day trip, longer if we also went for cheese.
Come fall, when the apples are at their peak, there really isn't a better place to go than to this region of Wisconsin. There are smaller orchards in Iowa and other areas of the midwest, but Gays Mills has seven large orchards so the selection is terrific and the competition keeps prices reasonable. It's also a very scenic area with lots of fun things to do, besides the apple festival every fall. Also, it's not far from other places in the area that offer interesting sites and cheese makers, including Boscobel, Spring Green, Shullsburg, and Arena, WI, and Marquette, IA.
Wherever I go, I usually buy the following: refrigerator magnets, shot glasses, miniature animals, and t-shirts with logos of the state or country I am visiting.
In Wisconsin, I bought a t-shirt with a loon on it. That's kind of their state logo. The t-shirt says, "Wisconsin, the Loon Land".
For rememembrance, I bought a refrigerator magnet that shows a deer and a pine tree. I also got some quillow (a quilt that turns into a pillow). The quillow is the best thing I bought so far because I bring this in all my travels. I use it in the plane to cover myself in case I get cold. If I needed a cushion for my head in the plance, I just fold the quillow and it turns into a pillow. This was made by a lady in Park Falls, Wisconsin. She embroidered a picture of a loon on the face of the quillow.
Here's a list of the things we have done in Wisconsin:
1. We went fishing and caught at least five tiny perks.
2. We went out and gathered wild flowers near the lake.
3. We gathered wild ferns and cooked them. We actually ate them!
4. We baked wheat bread.
5. We gathered wild berries and made blueberry cupcakes.
6. I planted a peony on the right side of the porch of the log cabin.
7. I Dipped naked in the lake.
8. I saw these animals: two loons, deers and an eagle!
9. Opa saw a bear and a fox.
10. We went canoeing.
To help educate people in protecting and taking care of the forests in Wisconsin and avoid forest's fire, the forest rangers popularized Smokey the Bear. There are so many educational paraphernalia available in any tourists' town. They sell pins, refrigerator magnets, key chains, whistles, clothes patches, earrings, etc., -and, the face of Smokey the Bear is in each of these mementos.
Picking up berries is fun! There are blue berries and black berries. This area of Wisconsin is beautiful and wild that berries just grow everywhere! We go pick these and bake them into cupcakes or freeze them to use later.
Wisconsin is one among the many states that has so much trees! Miles and miles on the road, all you can see are trees! I can name other states like Washington (Evergreen State), West Virginia and Oregon that have maintained greeneries and forests! In Wisconsin, walking in the woods is very refreshing- we gather wild black berries, blue berries, red berries, ferns and wild asparagus. We gather so much black berries that we bake them into cup cakes in the morning. The wild asparagus are good, too! We boil them and just add some vinegarette on it and we are good to go! The wild ferns are also good- we stir fry them with garlic and soy sauce and top them with freshly boiled white rice!
Boating is really popular in Wisconsin especially since there are so many lakes in the state. The best time to visit the state is in August (in my own opinion) because the weather is nice. Paddling your own canoe is pretty calming in early mornings especially when you spot a loon
There are so many lakes in Wisconsin. After the school season, my children fly to Wisconsin and go to Park Falls where they spend their whole summer! They go out boating, fishing, swimming, gather wild berries and wild ferns! They watch the loons cry at night and watch the beavers build bridges! Sometimes, they see wild bears coming to our log cabin!
Superior was founded in 1854 and has since grown to be an important port city of nearly 30,000 people. It shares the bay with Duluth, Minnesota, and together, the Duluth-Superior port is the largest in the Great Lakes.
Superior was home to WWII hero and Medal of Honor winner Richard I. Bong, and the town has a museum and a bridge in his honor.
Ashland was first settled in 1854 and today it has over 8,000 residents. The town lines the Chequamegon Bay, and much of the waterfront area is dominated by the 1,800 foot long and 80 foot tall Soo Line Ore dock that was built in 1916.
Our Honeymoon in 1963 was our 1st visit to Door County.
Photo: Dee on honeymoon in 1963 in Door County
Door County is really a long peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, discovered Door County in 1634; what a discovery it was!
Door Peninsula claims more miles of shoreline than any other county in America. It also has more state parks & lighthouses than any other county in America!
Its coastlines are dotted with about 40 islands, great for boaters looking for a scenic spot to drop anchor. Of the 10 lighthouses that guard the islands & harbors of the county, only 1 of them, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, is open to the public. Built in 1868, it is located in the great Peninsula State Park.
Door County is famous for its cherry orchards. There are many roadside shops that sell cherry pies, cherry jams, & dried cherries. I've tried all 3; they are delicious.
Door County is also famous for its Fish Boils. Many places have Fish Boils on Friday evenings; some places offer them three or four times a week during high season (May through October).
Even if you do not care for fish, you should experience a fish boil in Door County!
They use freshly caught Lake Michigan whitefish caught by the local fishermen. They cook the fish outside over an open fire (been doing it for over 100 years..brought here by the Scandinavian settlers). They cut the fish into chunks & along with small red potatoes, they put them into a huge boiling water pot. They only use Salt to flavor the pot. Fish oils rise to the surface of the boiling pot. When the fish is done, a small bit of kerosene is tossed on the flames under the pot so that the burst of flames causes the boilover. Actually, the fish oils spill over the side of the pot. It is quite a spectacular event.
There are many quaint Inns & B&B's as well as hotels; many activities such as golfing,fishing, boating, hiking, shopping, & eating.
Door County is beautiful all four seasons of the year. Give it a try.
There are several beautifully landscaped gardens around the House on the Rock. It is worth taking a stroll and resting your feet after the big tour!
On the way to the house, there are also several metal structures/sculptures that are worth paying a visit to and taking a picture of them.
The house also has a shop that sells sweets, taffy apples and home made chocolate. We bought some chocolate from there (white and dark), but we really did not like it. Personally, I was hoping for a much better taste since it was made on site, but...
One of the biggest attractions in Wisconsin that is close to Chicagoland is House on the Rock. I wanted to go there for a long time, but I always put this trip as a low priority on my list. Last year I finally got to do it! And the perfect day to do it was during the Labor Day Weekend.
House on the Rock is a complex of architecturally unique rooms, streets, gardens and shops. It was designed by Alex Jordan, Jr. There are several tours offered once you get there. You buy your ticket from the admission office and you go on your own. The house is interesting, very big and it has some unique rooms. Some of the rooms are pretty dark and small, so if you are a claustrophobic you may not enjoy these rooms at all. Overall it was a nice experience and a nice day trip. Would I do it again? Probably not. This is one of the places that you go to once, experience it and take back memories with you. If you are an architecture guru and if you like to explore the way each room was built into more details, I am sure you can easily spend few good days in here, but for the majority of us 3-4 hours are just enough to explore the house and its grounds.
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