Wisconsin Road Trip
Last week I showed up at the airport to get on a flight to Madison, Wisconsin, for one reason only: my friend invited me.
After a pretty terrible flight cancellation, 24-hour delay, and general airline drama with American Airlines (never again!), I boarded a direct Delta flight and got into Madison less than two hours later.
It was worth it. I had an amazing time exploring this state with some amazing friends. I tasted everything I could, saw all the trees and the cows and the farms, and discovered a million other things outside of 'cheese' - which was - prior to this trip - the only thing I really thought about when I thought about Wisconsin. Don't worry... I also ate a lot of cheese.
We started the trip in Madison, drove up to Eau Claire for the Eau Claires music festival, then went further North to the South edge of Lake Superior, up to Madeline Island, then back down to Madison. Because I was with friends, we stayed with them, which was AMAZING. SO MUCH LOVE TO OUR HOSTS. Wisconsin is a really interesting state -- and not just because of current politics -- but because of its history and beauty. I myself have much to learn, but here's a brief guide to ways to experience the state and so you can get to know the people and places first-hand.
An amazing home // Madison -- I had the benefit of staying with friends in a beautiful home in Madison. There was a bike path and an ice cream shop within walking distance. What more could you ask for?
An amazing cabin // Up North -- Ditto on the cabin situation. But check out this NY Times article for accommodations.
America's Best // Eau Claire -- This hotel was loads better than the motel place we originally had booked (that lost our reservation). Good value if you have a group of friends and are going to a music festival.
Batch Bakehouse // Madison -- Road trips must start with a cappuccino and a pastry. Ideally from an excellent bakehouse like this one.
Nucleus // Eau Claire -- We could have eaten here multiple times, and given their eclectic maze set-up with multiple rooms and vibes, it would have felt different every time. Food was amazing, drinks were great, we wanted to have all their blended coffee drinks.
Mona Lisa // Eau Claire -- Found on Yelp. We were hungry. It was rainy. We were pleasantly surprised with an excellent selection of Italian food and some yummy cocktails.
Delta Diner // ??? - On our way up North, we stopped here and waited for maybe an hour (it was Father's Day). One of the best diner experience's I've ever had. It's worth the wait just to hear the menu explained by the waiter. They have coffee and ice cream next door if you want a snack before you stuff your face.
The Joynt // Eau Claire -- This is an institution. You can't go to Eau Claire without going to the Joynt, nor could the best musicians during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. CHEAP beer and good times, guaranteed.
Big Water Coffee // Bayfield -- I love supporting locally-owned and operated places and I think this is what most impressed/surprised?/enlightened me about Wisconsin. I shouldn't have been so surprised -- everyone wants great coffee! drinks! bakeries! But, my city-centric self was surprised. This is one of those gems. They had great coffee and fun mugs that I regret not buying. If you go, please send me one.
Tom's Burned Down Cafe // Madeline Island -- New favorite dive bar. I can't describe it, just go.
Mona Lisa // Eau Claire -- Adding this again for drinks because they made us a sweet Brandy Old Fashioned and a sour Brandy Old Fashioned and they both made me really happy. Some history about this unofficial state cocktail.
Eau Claires // Eau Claire -- This is a music festival. I don't really do music festivals (crowds of drunk people are something I try to avoid), but this one was bearable because it was in the woods. And it wasn't full of electro adult-children. There were kids. There were baby boomers. There were art installations. There was a maker-market. There was Wisconsin food and fare (including fried cheese curds, which were fantastic). We went mostly for Julieta Venegas, who was fantastic. I was also excited for Feist, but she was a little too pretentious on stage. We were very thankful for our hotel when it started raining. This festival is only a few years old, so go before it does become a shit show.
Big Top Chautauqua // Lake Superior -- I have not been to this, but friends' family tradition. Looks like a can't-miss experience.
Bell Street Gallery // Madeline Island -- We stumbled upon this cute gallery and art bar that sold all kinds of amazing work, from jewelry to paintings to ceramics to blow fish sculptures. Go see it!
Tetzner's Dairy // Washburn -- My friend pulled up. We got out. We took some cheese curds and ice cream, we left some cash, we left. Essential stop.
Sorry I didn't do much shopping this trip...next time!
Echo Dells // Bayfield -- A gorgeous, gorgeous hike that leads you out to Lake Superior.
Fly a kit or ride a moped // Madeline Island -- I opted to drink instead, but these both seemed and looked fun. You have to take a ferry to the island, so do that too!
Terrace at Memorial Union // Madison -- Do you think your college has a really amazing bar/cafe/outdoor space? It's probably not enjoyable as this place -- drinks, food, entertainment, outside on the water.
Special thanks to my friends who showed me their amazing state and who feed me everything they could on this epic road trip. Now I should probably go on a run.
Like what you just read? Share it! Leave a comment! And check out my guide to Nashville.