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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Taliesin, the sprawling estate near Spring Green, where Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked. (Pedro E. Guerrero, courtesy of Taliesin Preservation, Inc.)

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

The No Rules Gallery and Bird of Paradise Tea Room in Spring Green (Barb Tabak)

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Dine in the vault at The Bank Restaurant and Wine Bar in Spring Green

Scenery and the arts draw adults to Spring Green


The Spring Green area, an hour west of Madison, is the Wisconsin Dells for adults.

Rather than careen down a giant water slide at the Dells, you can canoe and kayak down nature's slippery finger, the Wisconsin River, when you visit Spring Green. A 92-mile stretch of the lower Wisconsin is ideal for leisurely paddling, and you can beach your vessel on a lovely sand dune at the town's back door.

Riding the Ducks in the Dells is a particularly exciting and uncommon adventure for children. Touring the eccentric House on the Rock between Spring Green and Dodgeville is a more adult way to sample the unusual.

The Rick Wilcox Magic Show in the Dells baffles minds from 7 to 70. A different kind of theatrical magic is spun in summer and fall at Spring Green's American Players Theatre.

And the magic of visual perception, brilliantly employed by local boy Frank Lloyd Wright, is celebrated by Taliesin Preservation, Inc., which offers the opportunity to marvel at the world famous architect's creations 51 years after his death. The Spring Green area is where he chose to live most of his life, and the public can taste the rich flavor of his work and esthetic at the museum and learning center that survives him.

I first traveled to Spring Green in 1980 to report on the founding of a new classical theater company, the American Players Theatre, and as a theater critic, I have returned several times each year.

That adds up to nearly 100 trips to the Spring Green area, nearly 500 meals consumed there, and more than 7,000 hours of free time exploring the nooks and crannies of what is known as the "Driftless Area" of Wisconsin. It's called that because the land was not touched by glaciers, resulting in some of the state's prettiest scenery.

Here are my suggestions for dining, things to see and other activities in greater Spring Green and several nearby communities.

SPRING GREEN

For breakfast and lunch, don't miss the Spring Green General Store, an institution here. You have a good chance of encountering an American Players Theatre actor eating the house specialties, which include burritos, chili and hummus. True to its name, the general store sells everything from earrings and women's apparel to beer from microbreweries and greeting cards.

My suggestion for dinner is The Bank Restaurant and Wine Bar, somewhat hidden inside the 1915 Neoclassical Revival style building that initially housed the State Bank of Spring Green. Located on Spring Green's main drag, Jefferson Street, the restaurant blends an attractively designed interior and ambiance with an excellent wine list and gourmet menu that does not require you to empty your account at the bank.

The natural beauty of the Spring Green area has appealed to artists dating back to the early 20th century, when Frank Lloyd Wright began work on Taliesin, his 600-acre estate. Browsers and serious shoppers can check out the Wisconsin Artist Showcase at the Jura Silverman Gallery in the heart of the village's downtown. Everything from prints and paintings to handmade paper and art furniture are on display.

Walk a few blocks and check out the No Rules Gallery in the Albany Street Shops, across the street from the General Store, where jewelry, pottery, tiles and stained glass abound. Its sister shop, Bird of Paradise Tea, has expanded to include tables and home baked pies. The gallery and tea room are connected by an interior wall opening.

Panacea, which is in the same cluster of businesses, offers an extensive array of soaps, gifts and kitchen items. And Convivio, a few blocks away, is popular for its mix of art, wine and tableware.

Wright's Taliesin complex is just over the Wisconsin River south of Spring Green. Six tours, all starting from the Wright-designed visitor's center, offer a detailed look at the architect's life and work. The Riverview Terrace Cafe, operated by Madison's Hubbard Avenue Diner, serves lunch, dinner and a great view in the visitor's center.

You may not know that the American Players Theatre now mounts shows in a 201-seat indoor theater as well as on its much loved outdoor stage. It is one of the best classical theater companies in the country.

If you think you don't like Shakespeare, catch one of the Bard's comedies there. You'll be surprised.

After the theater, head for The Shed. It is known for its tasty bar food, outstanding pie and good vibes.

Another of those Spring Green institutions, The Shed is where the APT actors go to unwind after performances. Take your theater programs for autographs.

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Talkbacks

3151 | Aug. 7, 2010 at 5:12 p.m. (report)

When you make the trip to Spring Green, you do want the entire experience to be exciting. Thanks for the great review.

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RideNoEvo | Aug. 6, 2010 at 12:55 a.m. (report)

We went to the House on the Rock for the first time this year....ummm...it was cool in a trippy Tim Burton acid trip circus kinda way, worth a stop. Also the roads in the area are awesome if you are on two wheels

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