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Milwaukee is a great place on a great lake, but every now and then it's nice to escape its urban parameters and explore some of the less-populated parts of the state. Wisconsin is full of gems, both well-known and well-hidden. Here are a few of our favorites.
Molly Snyder Edler
I love the state of Wisconsin for its beautiful, natural offerings. That said, my favorite place to camp is Kohler-Andrae State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan with its stunning surplus of pine trees and sand dunes. I also really like Gov. Dodge near Dodgeville, featuring super steep hills, bluffs and waterfalls. And since we're talking about breathtaking Wisco destinations, I might as well throw the gargantuan Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin's Northwoods on this list, too.
On the flip side, I'm a big fan of the historic Trempealeau Hotel on the Mississippi River, the American Players Theatre in Spring Green and an old-school amusement park in Green Bay called Bay Beach. This summer I plan to take my kids to Dr. Evermore's Scrap Metal Park between Baraboo and Sauk City, and based on everything I've heard and read about this outsider artists' massive sculpture garden, I'm fairly certain it'll make my short list of favorite Wisconsin attractions.
Every Cinco de Mayo my friends and I escape into the Wisconsin wilderness for the weekend. This year it was a cabin in Adams, but last year was New Glarus, which continues its reign as my current favorite 'Sconie spot outside of the city. Let me count the ways. The proximity: It's a two-hour drive from Milwaukee. The trails: The 23-mile Sugar River Bike Trail is a bicyclist's dream, weaving around the woods and city streets. The price: There are camping options aplenty at the New Glarus Woods State Park for $15 a night. The beer: Four words -- New Glarus Brewing Company. The wine: The small, family-owned Primrose winery offers free tastings and tours all year 'round. The quirk: It's "American's Little Switzerland" and has the adorable architecture to prove it. What's not to love?
Two places jump to mind. I like the area around the Kettle Moraine State Forest during the summer, preferably during a weekday. It's beautiful. It's peaceful. It's a great place for hiking, biking and just taking a relaxing drive.
I also love Madison on a football Saturday. I like Madison all the time, really, but there is nothing like the three-act play that takes place on a crisp, fall morning. You have the pre-game anticipation, the tailgating and socializing at the various establishments; then, you have to the game itself -- 70,000 people dressed in red watching the Badgers; and, it's all followed by the post-game party on State Street -- for the people with good stamina, that is.
I'm a water fan, so I'm very happy along the coast of Lake Michigan. Harrington Beach State Park is among my favorite nearby trips thanks to its mix of meadows, wooded parkland and lakeshore beach ... and local labor and Italian-American history (the "lake" in the park was a quarry that employed many immigrant miners from Italy, Switzerland and other countries). That it's so close makes it a great one-day destination. My favorite part of the state otherwise, though, is the southwestern part of the state. Because the glaciers missed Spring Green and the surrounding area, it is fabulously lush and green, with rolling hills dotted with walnut and other trees. Every time I'm there I'm amazed by the beauty.
There are a handful of places in Wisconsin that I love to visit. During the summer, we try to spend at least one weekend a month in our "starter cabin" in Wausaukee. I've had some great weekends in LaCrosse and New Glarus and Madison. But my all-time favorite Wisconsin getaway is my annual camping trip in Door County. Specifically, my friend Eron and I camp at Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, hit the batting cages in Sister Bay and spend the remaining hours holed up in the Bayside Tavern. The only debate is where to have breakfast: at Pelletier's, Summertime or the White Gull Inn. We've taken this trip each and every year since 1994, and have actually made lasting -- if not highly sporadic -- friendships with the natives. Other than the growing influx of obnoxious Chicagoans, Fish Creek has it all: the beauty of Up North with the refined but laid back attitude of enlightened vacationers -- who know that Door County only gets good north of Egg Harbor.