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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wisconsin Day Trips

Places to go without going far

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Costly vacations may be out of the question for many of us this year, but we don't have to just hang around the house. Instead, plan a day trip. Much less costly than trips that require money for hotels and eating out, day trips can be accomplished on less than a tank of gas. Taking the time to explore where we live is also enlightening, as it better connects us to the people and places around us. So break out the picnic basket, grab a camera and head out to some of these points of interest around southeastern Wisconsin.

Points South

For a really sweet time, visit the Jelly Belly Warehouse in Pleasant Prairie. This is a tour of a Jelly Belly warehouse, not a factory, but the folks at the visitors' center still make it lots of fun. Hop on the Jelly Belly Express Train for the free tour and cruise through the warehouse, pausing for short videos about the company's candy-making history and process. The best part may be after the tour, when you stop in the candy store. The sample bar has every flavor of Jelly Belly, and visitors are encouraged to try as many as they want. For more information, call 866-868-7522 or visit www.jellybelly.com/visit_jelly_belly/wisconsin_warehouse.aspx.

The Bong State Recreation Area is so much more than a photo op for bleary-eyed young adults. Named for Major Richard Bong, a celebrated World War II airman from Wisconsin, the recreation area offers 41 miles of trails for hiking, mountain and dirt biking, and ATV and horseback riding. With a nod to the park's namesake, there are lots of “flight” activities too, including areas for flying model planes, launching rockets and hang gliding. For visitors who prefer the water, Vern Wolf Lake is perfect for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Nature programs are offered year round by the permanent naturalist. For more information, call 262-878-5600 or visit dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/specific/bong.


Points West

Take a step back in time and visit Ten Chimneys, the Genesee Depot home of Broadway stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Docent-led tours create an intimate, personal experience for visitors. It is best to call ahead for tour reservations, because space fills up quickly during the tour season, which runs May 26-Nov. 10. Patrons of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater may recall the first play of the 2011-2012 season, which centered on the life of Lunt and Fontanne and their special home. Call 262-968-4161 for general information and 262-968-4110 for tour reservations, or visit www.tenchimneys.org.

Make a spiritual journey to one of Wisconsin's most powerful native sites. Aztalan State Park was once the site of a thriving American-Indian population known for building ceremonial earthen mounds. This population left behind a rich resource for local archaeologists, who have been able to learn much about life in Wisconsin circa 1100. The park allows visitors to climb to the top of the mounds for a beautiful view and a little perspective. Aztalan is a peaceful place to escape the city for a day. For more information, visit i94.biz/aztalan/aztalan.html. To arrange group tours, call 608-241-4958.

With the grilling season upon us, this is a natural time to think about condiments. Visit the National Mustard Museum in Middleton to learn everything you could ever want to know about the perfect accompaniment to burgers and brats. After viewing the mustard collection of more than 5,300 varieties from every state in the nation and more than 60 other countries, visitors get a chance to try some samples at the well-stocked tasting bar. Purchase your favorites in the museum shop and bring them home for your next cookout. Call 800-438-6878 or visit mustardmuseum.com for more information.

Points North

The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend was started just over 50 years ago, mainly to collect the works of Milwaukee-born artist Carl von Marr. The museum now claims the best collection of his work in the world. Over the years, the museum began to collect all types of art from Wisconsin. This regional art collection has grown considerably and is still expanding. In 2013 a new building will be completed to properly store and display the collections, as well as create additional spaces for special exhibits and educational classrooms. Be sure to check out the incredibly detailed Zinn Dollhouse display. For more information, call 262-334-9638 or visit www.wisconsinart.org.

Once a Great Lakes shipbuilding powerhouse, Manitowoc is a natural location for the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Learn all about Wisconsin's commercial fishing and boat building industries. Kids will love the interactive exhibits. Take the time to tour the restored World War II submarine, U.S.S. Cobia, docked alongside the museum. If you don't suffer from claustrophobia, go for the longer “Nook & Cranny” tour and see parts of a submarine rarely viewed by the public. It requires reservations, so be sure to call ahead. For more information, call 866-724-2356 or visit www.wisconsinmaritime.org.

Susan Harpt Grimes is a freelance writer working in the Milwaukee area. She has been contributing to the Shepherd Express since 2010.