Monday, October 27, 2014

Must See Yards

Some people go to great lengths to decorate their yards for the benefit of the public.  I learned about a Bayview neighborhood that is all decked out in Nightmare Before Christmas themed items and took a look at it today.  There are 5 homes in a row, and each has unique wooden cutouts.  It's quite a sight, just in time for Halloween.  And I've heard that even after Halloween, the decorations at one of the homes on the block will continue to tell the story that closely follows the movie, so stop by between now and Christmas to see what evolves.  Here are some photos.  Check out the Facebook link above to learn more about the project.  It's in the 2700 block of Logan in Bayview.

Since you're in the area, there are a couple other yards that are nearby parks and have been decorated over and above for the Halloween holiday.  The first yard I've written about before, and it's been mentioned in the book, Weird Wisconsin.  It's across from Sheridan Park and is well known for the Cadillac, Big Boy, Hamburglar, and Farmall tractor in the front yard.  There is so much more though.  Here's what it looks like now with some added ghouls and pumpkins.  It's at the corner of Lake Dr. and Armour in Cudahy.
The last yard is on the edge of the Grant Park golf course.  This is a great time to head out to Grant Park anyway to stretch your legs and do the Seven Bridges Hike while the leaves crunch underfoot.  When you go to the end of Grant Park and find the golf clubhouse, take a right and go to the first house.  The yard is decorated with hundreds of bike parts. These photos don't do it justice.  Everything is very creative and original.  Every time I go there I notice something new.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Extra Perks of Boerner Botanical Garden Membership

Have you been to the Boerner Botanical Garden yet?  It's a lovely space with something colorful to see in all seasons.  It's actually free to get in now as it's the end of the season.  But I think you should have an annual membership, and I'll tell you why.

Members actually become friends of the botanical gardens.  It will cost you $35 for an individual or $65 for a family.  You'll feel good about supporting the local gardens, and you'll get 10% off in the gift shop and cafe.  You get to attend some events for free and receive discounts on classes.  But it doesn't end there.  You get reciprocal admission benefits to more than 300 gardens around the US, including nearby Mitchell Park Domes, Chicago Botanical Gardens, and Madison.  You can check the link for a complete listing.

I decided to see the Chicago Botanical Gardens this week.  Admission is always free, but you have to pay $25 for parking, so it saved me a bundle!  The pass is like a 'park for free' card. This is a huge park so if you decide to go, allow at least a couple of hours to see it all.  There is incredible diversity- everything from Victory Gardens to Japanese bonsai collections.  With every path you start, you'll find something to look at.  It's especially colorful in fall.  I'll just post a few of the many photos I took to whet your appetite, and hope that you make it there some day.  You won't be disappointed!

An enormous collection of gourds and pumpkins

Colorful cabbages and mums were placed throughout the park

Just one fine example of the bonsai collection- there are many others

My favorite space was the Japanese garden

Loved the waterfall surrounded by fall color

Interesting lilies in the pond in a variety of unusual colors

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Historic Fall Tours for Driving or Walking

It was a rainy day when I took this photo at St. Luke's Hospital

The fall color in Milwaukee is nearing 100% so you won't get much better than this week, if you're looking for some pretty trees.  A new place I've found is the top of St. Luke's Hospital on Oklahoma.  If you go through the main entrance and take the patient tower elevators to the 8th floor, you'll find access to the "Healing Garden", which is open to the public. It's a beautifully landscaped garden complete with mums and other plants.  There's a view finder you can use to see the lakefront. From the top of this garden, you can currently see a mosaic of color all the way from Miller Park to the Basilica.  On a clear day, it's quite impressive.  You may also notice Leon's Custard is just across the street so treat yourself after seeing the view.  Drinks and food are not allowed on the roof.

I've written before about the Milwaukee Parks Fall Color Tour, which is still a good idea.  You drive between parks, and then I encourage you to get out and do a little walking and exploring, if weather allows.  Lynden Sculpture Garden usually has a beautiful show of color as well.  The problem now is that we've had some rain and everything is pretty muddy.  I have a couple of historic options that are full of color, but will keep you on paved paths, and can even be pretty if you never leave the car (though I hope it doesn't come to that!).

Most people are unaware that the most diverse arboretum in the area is Forest Home Cemetery, which also happens to be listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.  With around 400 different species on 200 acres, it's pretty in all seasons.  You can download a tour map at their website.  Then you also need to print a corresponding copy of all the famous people, if you decide to seek out the graves.  The stones are quite unique and tell a story of Milwaukee's history.  Be sure to go by the bridge at the lake, which is quite scenic right now.  Normally, they allow dogs, but because there's a large geese population traveling through, it's posted that dogs are not allowed right now. Here's a complete listing of all places in Milwaukee County on the National Registry.

The other place I like to visit is the National Soldier's Home.  You can see some of the historic buildings peering out of the trees beyond Miller Park.  This is considered a National  Historic Landmark District, and they've created a walking tour you can download at the Save the Soldiers Home website.  It is also an app, which you can put on your smartphone.  The buildings placed here date back to mid 1800s, and were used as retreats for returning soldiers.  The grounds are full of mature trees, though many are across from the buildings in a park like setting.  Spend some time walking the cemetery and you'll likely learn a bit about veterans who are buried there from several wars.  You'll notice construction at several of the buildings, which is a good sign.  Take some time to read about what they are doing so you can truly appreciate this historic area.

A pair of swans 

If you want to venture further, there's the Basilica at Holy Hill at Hubertus, and the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.  Both will take a half day to fully enjoy.  I climbed Parnell Tower on Friday and it wasn't at peak yet, but it is likely to be there today.  There are plenty of stops you can make along the way- churches, hiking spots, but only one grocery store.  Be sure to bring snacks and get a state park sticker, which is available at several places along the drive.
Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

View from Parnell Tower