{Road Trip} Wisconsin Dells

It isn’t summer unless I make a trip to Wisconsin Dells. I have been going every summer for over ten years now. Over the years I’ve had numerous travel companions but for the last four years it’s been Jay. Ya know because he’s a keeper and I sort of like his face. Anyways all I can say is I LOVE the DELLs. It’s kitschy and touristy and it always changes and every time I go I discover something new to do. Your options are endless here, just be ready to pay for it all. Wisconsin Dells is what I call a money pit, you come in with a full wallet and leave with change, but it was totally worth it.

Everyone has at least one restaurant that they go to when they are in The Dells. For me it’s Mac’s Macaroni and Cheese shop. It’s amazing and I crave it all year. They have 18 different Macs that you can choose from, every thing from traditional to the three little piggies. Jay tried the hangover Mac and I tried the three little piggies Mac. Both were delicious and my craving has been satisfied for another year.

This year we decided to do a few things that we’ve never done before. I wanted to make this trip amazing and fun! If you are familiar with Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, then you know that there is a lumberjack show right next door. Tickets are $17.98 for adults and $10 something for kiddos. The show happens rain or shine, because the crowd sits under cover. The show is mainly for kids with a few adult jokes sprinkled in for good measure. The host explains that the two camps will compete against each other in various lumberjack activities. Activities that include, axe throwing, pole climbing, sawing, and chopping. The show was good and it lasts about an hour and 20 minutes with a short intermission for the lumberjacks.

After the show we decided to stop for cheesecake which led us to paintball. Ya know because cheesecake and paintball go together. $10 gets you 120 balls with a bonus shot. The booth is small and the staff was friendly. While you pick your paintball gun the staff gives you some simple instructions, dumps your balls in the hopper and you are in business. Jay learned that I am a pretty good shot! See we’ve been together almost four years and he’s never seen me shoot before. Haha gotta keep those secrets ladies, always let them learn something new about you.

After paint ball we headed back to our kitschy motel for a late swim. We stayed at the Indian Trail Motel which is basically like staying in 1950. Hello pink bath tub! Anyways this isn’t our normal hotel. Our normal hotel Days End closed unexpectedly in early May and I was left scrambling to find us a new place to stay. The motel did fit the bill, swimming pool, fire pit, and price point. But it wasn’t the same. We still enjoyed our stay, the staff could use some customer service training and then this place would be awesome!

Since this weekend was about doing things we had never done before I suggested the Cave of the Mounds to Jay. In which Jay obliged and we set out on Saturday morning. The drive to the cave was beautiful, we wound are way through farm county and curved through bluffs. Soon we were at our destination, $18.98 gets you into the cave and the tour is about an hour long.

The cave did not disappoint. It is possibly the most beautiful cave I have ever been in. Cave of the Mounds is nicknamed the “jewel box” for the many different colors presented in the formations. Our tour guide Ariel was very sweet and informative about the cave and it’s history. I loved the fact that she paused to let us take photos through out our journey.

Once our cave tour was completed we went back to the surface, aka the gift shop. On our way in I noticed that you could buy bags of dirt to “mine” for jewels and fossils. I was determined to do this and so I did. A bag of dirt will set you back $12.99, but it’s worth it. It was for me at least. With my jewels in hand we said good bye to Cave of the Mounds and hit the road.

Wisconsin is littered with wineries. Every where you look it’s “oooo wine!” Some of the wineries are out pacing the California wineries in competitions across the globe, how cool is that? I saw a billboard for Baraboo Bluff Winery and so we went. The tasting room was very lively and the staff was knowledgeable about the wines. You can taste up to 3 wines for free, if you want to taste more than 3 it will cost you. Jay and I both dove in and tried 3 wines each. Somehow we walked out of there with half a case of wine. Ya know because that’s how I role. I do have to mention the winery is literally on top of a steep hill with a slightly less steep walking path. I let Jay carry the box down, I didn’t want to trip and break all the wine. AJ and steep paths don’t mix.

Once the wine was safely secured in the car we headed back to the Dells. We got some pool time in before the rain came and then headed off to dinner. When I was in Milwaukee my dad and I went to the Sprecher’s Brewery and I was surprised to see a Sprecher’s restaurant in The Dells. Well I wasn’t surprised, my dad told me it was there so it was more like “Whoa! Stinky Pete was right!?” Anyways the restaurant was a little busy, which is typical for dinner in the Dells. I ordered the prime rib and Jay got the rib eye, both were delicious.

After dinner we watched a Street magic show and I poked around in the shops on Main Street (really its Broadway). I’ve learned in my travels that wherever I go I am always reminded of my son’s. I was in a little shop looking at Christmas ornaments (don’t tell Jay) when something caught my eye and I had to have it and so I bought it. This was the perfect ending to a perfect Wisconsin Dells trip and I cannot wait for next summer.

{22 Trips in 2014} Cirus World, Baraboo WI

3315Circus World is an important part of Americana and mostly a huge part of Wisconsin’s state history. The state of Wisconsin has given us a lot of great things such as: cheese curds, beer -lots of beer, the Badgers, and of course the circus. Or more specifically Wisconsin is the birth place of the Ringling Brothers. In 1882 the 5 brothers performed skits and juggling routines in towns all around Wisconsin. In 1884 the Ringling Brothers held their first one ring circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin and united with a famous showman named Yankee Robinson. Using the title “Yankee Robinson and Ringling Brothers”, the Ringling Bros. and Yankee Robinson circus traveled through out the Midwest.

3350Wisconsin would always be home to the Ringling brothers and Baraboo would prove to be the perfect wintering ground for the brothers and their performers. The Ringling’s spent their winters designing and fabricating new props and wardrobes, hiring new and returning performers, planning the route the circus would travel, and laying out their new advertising campaign. They also cared for their animals which in 1916 consisted of: five hundred horses and ponies, 29 elephants, 15 camels and about 20 other hay eating animals, plus tigers, lions, monkeys, and birds including ostrich. Today only 10 of the original 25 structures remain in Ringlingville and are open to the public.

As the glory days of the great railroad circuses began to fade, John M. Kelley, personal attorney for the Ringling brothers, saw the need to preserve the history of the circus. To this end he joined forces with members of the Gollmar Family, first cousins to the Ringlings and circus owners themselves. The team incorporated Circus World Museum as a historical and educational facility in 1954. Following Circus World’s opening on July 1, 1959, the site was deeded debt-free to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. What began in 1959 with less than an acre of land, six old circus wagons and a boatload of passion, has now become an internationally recognized historical treasure.3363

Circus World is an important part of American History. For children, it is an eye-opening experience that they cannot get in a classroom. For adults, it is a look back at the good times before iPads and smart phones took over as a form of entertainment. My parents went to Circus World in the 1970s, however they only saw it from outside. To their disappointment they arrived at the museum after closing time and were not ale to visit. They told this story to me numerous times throughout my childhood, I think it was a lesson to always check to see when things close and to be on time.

3331As a little girl I loved going to the circus. My parents took me every time it came to Red Wing, it was always held at the Bergawald Arena and it was usually in the spring. Cotton Candy and a pin wheel kept me company as the acts unfolded before my eyes. Elephants, acrobats, and clowns danced around, and I was as happy as a clam. At 31 I had child like excitement as I plopped down my $19.95 and strolled under the entrance sign.

I love museums where one does not have to tag after a stuffy tour guide. At Circus World you can tour the grounds at your own pace and there is no one trying to stuff facts down your face. My mom and I wondered from building to building, reading, pointing, and chatting about how much work goes into putting the circus on. We made our way through the Irvin Feld Exhibit Hall and we made are way up the hill to the W.W. Deppe Wagon Pavilion which holds a3327 collection of over 50 historic circus wagons. From the wagon pavilion my mom and I trucked on over to the C.P. Fox Wagon Restoration Center and got a glimpse of the wagon restoration process. We took in a magic show, the magician was pretty good and he told us “don’t miss the big top show.”

3365Big top show, my little heart pitter pattered at those words, and we made our way back down the hill. I spied an elephant and skipped on over to visit her. I cannot being to tell you how happy she was, she was probably the happiest little elephant I have ever seen in captivity. At Circus World they pump circus music over he loud speakers and this little elephant was keeping with the beat. She was enjoying the day, swaying back and forth, swinging her trunk, swishing her tail, and stepping to the beat of the music. The elephant made my trip to Circus World worth it. My mom pulled me away and we walked on over to the Side Show display.

Inside the tent they tell the stories of the bearded lady, tiny Tim, the fat lady, and the really tall man. These folks were not freaks, they were human just like you and me. I could not imagine being put on display and having people point and laugh at me for days on end. This to me is the dark part of the Circus and I vacated that tent and made my way to the big top!

3367Yay! A circus at Circus World, wow that’s a crazy concept. I bought a Snapple an some cotton candy, yes I am five and found a spot inside the tent. The circus did not disappoint, puppies did tricks, the ponies pranced, the acrobats spun, and the elephants, OMG the elephants were my favorite part of the entire show. The show did not disappoint and it lasts for a little more than an hour. I was content with my visit and with a grumbling tummy I was ready to head on out.

If you find yourself in the Wisconsin Dells area, pull your ass away from the water slides and take a short drive to Baraboo. Circus World does not disappoint, show your children a piece of your childhood, munch on cotton candy, and let your heart fall in love with the circus all over again. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

{22 trips in 2014} Witch’s Gulch – Wisconsin Dells, WI

3382Everyone knows that Wisconsin Dells is known for one thing, water slides. Beyond the water slides one will find a plethora of mini golf courses, fudge shops, and restaurants. The dells is Wisconsin’s version of Las Vegas. If you thirst for adventure, pull yourself away from the strip and head on out into the wilderness. Take a side road a long the river and find yourself in the heart of Witches Gulch. A place that not many tourists dare tread. $5 gets you on the trail and you will not be disappointed.3414

According to Native American legend it was a great serpent, wriggling down from his home near the Big Lake, that formed the bed of the Wisconsin River. Crawling over the forests and the fields, his huge body wore an immense groove into the land and the water rushed in behind him. 3418When he came to the sandstone ridge where the Dells begins he thrust his great head into a crevice between the rocks and pushed them aside to form a narrow, winding passage. At his approach, lesser serpents fled forming the canyons which lead off from the main channel. It was these timid, lesser serpents that formed Coldwater Canyon and Witches’ Gulch, so the legend goes.

3400The true story is just as exciting. When the great glacial lake of Wisconsin started to break free from its large ice dam the waters rushed free in a catastrophic flood and carved out the great rock formations we see today. It is hypothesized that the noise of the rushing water would have been heard up to six states away.

My mom and I almost missed the entrance to the Gulch. There are now big glitzy signs pointing to it, just a hand painted sign on an old iron gate marks the spot. A dirt road takes you deep into the woods, a stream is to your left, and soon you are in a narrow parking lot. There is a concession stand/gift shop at the edge of the lot, plop down your $5 and you are granted passage. I loved every minute of the Gulch, my head turning round and round in an attempt to take it all in. I stopped looking at the gulch through my iPhone camera lens and sucked in the beauty that is Wisconsin.3391

Witch’s Gulch is magic, pure natural magic. As you progress through the gulch you are greeted by the sound of rushing water. You soon realize that water is running beneath your feet and dumps into what they call “the witch’s bathtub.” The gulch leads you out to the Wisconsin River and of course as we were making our way through a noisy group of tourists arrived on one of the many sight seeing boats. My Mama and I didn’t let them spoil our fun, we slowly made our way pointing and looking at the beauty that was around us.