Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter at the Zoo

I've really enjoyed the monthly gifts given by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation this year.  It will be sad to see the program end, though they are certainly going out with a huge finale.  Starting the day after Christmas until New Year's Eve, THE ZOO IS FREE!!! Even parking is free! This is a great opportunity to get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and enjoy the animals.  Many will be in their indoor habitats. Others that can't tolerate the cold will not be on display, but there are few.  To find out what animals are where, take a look at the animal list.  I have never been to the zoo during winter, but in fall the animals were full of energy- more so than summer.  We really enjoyed it.  I hope you'll get over to see the animals and the winter decorations.

So what can you expect?  Open hours are 9:30-4:30.  You can plan your visit using the Milwaukee County Zoo website.  

I've copied this from the announcement page.


  • Animal Talks – Zoo Pride volunteers at various exhibits will make special presentations to visitors, explaining animals’ daily care, interesting facts and answering questions.
  • Animal Enrichment – Zookeepers will demonstrate the art and science of animal enrichment, the necessary activities to keep Zoo animals engaged and healthy.
  • Ice Carving – Professional ice carvers will demonstrate their unique talent in this seasonal artistic medium with custom sculptures featured throughout the grounds.
  • Craft Projects – Children and guests of all ages are invited to create animal-related crafts and projects
  • Kohl’s Wild Theater – The Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s award-winning theater act will present two live entertaining and educational performances per day.
  • Post-a-Hope – The Foundation invites guests of all ages to offer their hopes for the future of the community by participating in a unique “Post-a-Hope” project available at the Zoo at various times throughout the week. Inspiration and aspirations are welcome!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Milwaukee Treasure Hunt

Back in 1982, The Secret was published, and a treasure hunt began across North America for keys hidden in ornate boxes in public spaces.  The keys were meant to be traded for gems from the author. Unfortunately only 2 of 12 treasures were ever found before the author was killed in a car crash.

There have been a few articles written about the treasures, called the Byron Preiss treasures.  Urban Milwaukee did a feature in 2013. Probably the most complete place to search for information might be at Wiki, where it's called The Secret (a treasure hunt).  The page is being updated, and if you find clues you can add to what is there. The book is no longer in print and our library system doesn't have a copy, but what you need is on the Wiki page. Here's the painting that they believe is a clue to the Milwaukee treasure, and you can find a poem which goes along with it.. The symbolism has been somewhat decoded at the wiki page, though I disagree with some of it.  The castle= city hall. The balls look like lawn bowling balls (though they say golf), mill stone (there is one at the ravine), and the cloak has what appears to be a birch grove. Inside the box is a key, so therefore a picture of a key.  This led some people to believe the treasure was buried in Lake Park somewhere.

I had never heard about the treasures until I was contacted by a Milwaukee resident this summer who was looking for information about Lake Park. He asked about a grove of birch that might have been standing more than 30 years ago.  Unfortunately, birch don't tend to live very long and there is no indication of a birch grove now. I didn't think too much about it until I came across a photo last week at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.  They have boxes of old photos from every nook of Milwaukee. You have to pay $5 to use the research library, located upstairs.  If you find something you'd like to have copied, it's 25 cents.  Here's the photo I had copied.

None of the bridges look exactly like this anymore.  It was a photo taken by an instructor at UWM during the 70s, and those clearly are birch trees.  I went to Bridgehunter and discovered that this is the footbridge over the ravine- north of Lake Park Bistro.  That's a great website with photos of nearly every bridge over time.  You can waste a lot of time there if you're looking for something to do this winter.  Ha!

So now it appears the clues have indeed led us to a specific place in Lake Park.  The question remains whether anyone will find it.  If you do, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What's New with the Door County Sled Dogs?

Some of the Door County Sled Dogs

It's no secret I'm in love with the team of sled dogs and volunteers who visit our lakefront in the snowiest weather and give rides.  Now they've made national news!  In the December issue of Woman's Day magazine, you'll find a nice article about them, with more about how Rick and Bonnie got started dog sledding in Milwaukee.  In the years since they started, the team has grown and now they have a lot to be thankful about...and they are sharing it with you.  They have their own website, where you can follow their activity around the midwest. Or follow them at Facebook. They post lots of dog photos and let you know where they are for fun meet & greet opportunities.

Woman's Day December 2015
There's also a newsletter that just started this fall.  You can read the first issue and see more photos of the dogs, as well as get information about the new education center that was purchased, thanks to a generous donation.  Now the dogs can make guest appearances at the education center and you can visit the next time you are in Door County. It's located on Hwy 42 in Ephraim.
Holiday dogs at the new Education Center in Ephraim
During winter (when we have enough snow), you'll find them at McKinley Park or Whitnall Park giving dog sled rides on Sundays from January 17- late February, 11-1.  If you are interested in finding them, you should call their automated line for any up to date messages. (414)967-9677
Rides are $15 for kids and $20 for adults, which includes photo ops, a cuddle with the dogs, and the ability to ask questions of the volunteer mushers.  No one gets rich at this gig.  Everyone is a volunteer.  With this many dogs, you can imagine what it might cost for food and vet bills, as well as transportation costs.

Would you like to help the dogs?  The easiest way is to sign up for Amazon Smile- a part of Amazon that sends a portion of proceeds to charity.  On the top left side in the menu, you'll see the word "supporting" and that's where you can put in your choice of Door County Sled Dogs, and from that point on you will help them every time you log in and make purchases.  Even if you have Amazon Prime, you can use Amazon Smile. All of your preferences should transfer from the main amazon site.  They even make it easy to add a bookmark to your computer.

The other thing you can do is check out the dogs' wishlist on Amazon.  You can purchase anything on the list and it gets sent to them. If you have prime, there is no cost for shipping either. You'll notice some books on the list for the new education center. There are dog treats, cleaners, toys, and much more.  When you do your gift giving this year, it doesn't cost much to add a few items for these lovely dogs.  Santa knows they have been very good!

Lastly, consider sponsoring a dog for a year.  Or make a donation using paypal or credit card. Click on the DONATE button on the Door County Sled Dogs web page at the lower left side.  You can read much more about the dogs at this site too.

Let's all hope we get some snow later this winter so we can see the beautiful dogs in action!

Musher Joe at McKinley Park in 2014 with us and the team

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Outdoor Art under North Avenue Bridge

A friend of mine is an artist and she mentioned that last Friday had been a day to share art with the world- Free Art Friday.  Apparently artists all over were encouraged to make something and give it away.  With that in mind, I thought I'd look for art in parks or outdoor spaces.

Have you been to the Rotary Centennial Arboretum lately?  It extends from Locust Street to North Avenue along the Milwaukee river.  Take a short hike along the river and you can take a moment to enjoy the new artwork painted on the pillars under Norh Avenue Bridge.  Of course, if you're not really into the cold weather hike, you can park on North Avenue and just take the steps down below the bridge.  There are people living under the bridge, as evidenced by sleeping gear, but I've never seen anyone there during the daytime.  There's a nature theme featuring local birds.  See how many birds you can identify.

There are also a few additional artworks added that can't really be classified as graffiti.  They are a bit more polished. This is a pleasant change to what had been there just a few months ago.  I love the movement to add public art to the outdoors!

This is a good week to learn about graffiti.  Central Library is having a program Monday evening, December 7 with a lecture at 5:30.  Then on Saturday, December 12 at 1, you will learn how to make graffiti yourself.  Registration is required.  You can see the flyer here, or go online at

If you enjoy looking for more outdoor art treasures, check out the Milwaukee Mural Map.  This is an interactive map that includes all the murals known to date with photos and information about who created them. There is even a bike tour you can take with the creator of the mural map- though she does this in summer.  Look for the Bublr bike locations on the map too.   What is your favorite outdoor art?

Holiday Display at the Domes

Mondays are free for Milwaukee residents, so a friend and I went to the Domes to see the new Gingerbread Land exhibit.  It never disappoints.  Always warm, welcoming, and fragrant, the show dome changes several times a year.  If you're still looking for a place to do your Christmas photos, the showdome has a sea of poinsettias in many different shades and makes a good backdrop, not to mention the natural lighting since the roof is made of glass.

The enormous Christmas tree on display has a special story behind it.  My friend Melanie Ariens, a local artist, was married in Milwaukee in 1993 and tiny pines were wedding favors for the guests.  Melanie's mom took home 4 of these and planted them in their yard.  Last year one of the trees was cut for the county courthouse.  This year, another of the beautiful trees is here at the Mitchell Park Domes. Talk about a gift that kept on giving!  Happy Anniversary to Melanie and thanks very much to her parents for the gift of such a beautiful tree!
The huge Christmas tree was a wedding favor in 1993
There are also a couple of historic pieces which were in the county park greenhouse before the Domes were built.  Be sure to walk around the edges and take a look at the lion head and the beautiful wrought iron gate.  They included a photo of the original greenhouse.

 The other domes have holiday decorations as well, though not nearly as many as the show dome.  This exhibit continues through January 3.  There is a break of 2 weeks before the next exhibit, "Attack of the Giant Monsters Train Show" begins.  The train show is always a community favorite and I have no doubt that this one will entertain with its unique theme.

If you go to the Domes:
Admission is $7 for adults/ $5 for students.  Milwaukee residents are free until noon on Mondays with proof of residency (driver's license with a current address).  There are some vending machines in the lobby for snacks.  The gift shop has original nature themed gifts and is a good place to do your holiday shopping.

On Saturdays all winter long, go to the greenhouse at the Domes for the weekly Milwaukee County Farmer's Market. Admission to the market is free, but you will have to pay to gain entry to the Domes. You'll find many wonderful offerings such as coffee, pancakes, veggies, soaps, cheese, jams, and even entertainment. When the days are short, this is a great place to warm up.  Parking is available behind the greenhouses on Saturdays.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bring on the Christmas Season!

Today is the start to the Christmas season as far as I'm concerned, though many holiday decorations have been up for weeks and the Christmas parade for Milwaukee has gone by.  If you want to experience all the area has to offer, you need to make a plan.

I'll start with a list put out by Calie Herbst, of Miltown Moms.  Her list of 10 local holiday traditions and celebrations includes several in parks, as well as a few others that we enjoy every year.  Be sure to check out the new BMO Harris bank display.  You get a free candy cane and the bears are adorable.

Local First is hosting their second buy local fair on Sunday November 29 from 9-4 at the Domes.  If you are buying gifts this year, it's a great place to find unique goods. You can print a coupon for $2 off admission at the link. Be sure to walk through the Domes to see the gingerbread display that Calie mentions. If you really like gingerbread, make a stop at Milwaukee Public Market and see the MATC gingerbread houses too- December 4 -15.

Next Sunday, December 6, there's a holiday pop up shop at Schlitz Audubon from 12-4.  This is a good chance to take a hike, climb the tower if you've never done that, and find some interesting outdoor themed gifts.  Steph Davies from The Waxwing will have a variety of bird themed gifts.  I'll be there with Milwaukee County park maps and copies of my books, "The Milwaukee Bucket List", and "101 Things to do in Milwaukee Parks".  Stop by and say hi!

Thinking of a holiday lights drive?  Be sure to visit the Bayview neighborhood that does Nightmare Before Christmas. The most comprehensive list of holiday lights I've seen is from Just Add Kids.  They include Racine, Waukesha, the Milwaukee parks, Candy Cane Lane, the Holiday Train, Miller Coors, and even walking food tours in the city.  Take a look to see if there's something you haven't been to yet.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train comes to Milwaukee December 4

You can see the full schedule of events for the holiday lights festival, which includes decorations in parks, the jingle bus, and Cocoa with the Clauses December 12 at Cathedral Square, which is already decked out in upcycled ornaments. If you have kids that want to make their own holiday upcycled ornaments, go to Homemade Holidays at Wehr Nature Center. Stop by Pere Marquette Park, home to the Milwaukee Historical Society, which is a beautiful building all decked out for the holidays.  Santa will be there for photos December 6 from 10-3.

Upcycled ornaments at Cathedral Square

Whitefish Bay has their holiday stroll tonight from 5-9 which includes the Door County Sled Dogs making an appearance with their bus.  You can find them at Yellow Wood on Berkeley after the parade, which kicks off at 6.  This is a pretty darn cool event if you've never experienced it.  This year will include a storefront with dancing ballerinas.  Santa will be there to visit with kids and of course, the usual pony rides.

The Urban Ecology Centers are also buzzing with outdoor activity.  Participate in the 2015 Candlelight Walk or join in to count birds for the annual bird count.  Check their calendar for many more events. Most require advance registration.

We have a lot to do in Milwaukee this holiday season.  Get out and enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hiking/Biking Outdoors on Black Friday

The American trend has been to focus on stuff and shopping the day after Thanksgiving, but REI, the outdoor store, is trying to buck that trend by staying closed on Black Friday. REI is encouraging its employees and customers to get outside on Friday instead, using the hashtag #optoutside on instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  What a great idea in my mind! More than 1 million people have already taken the pledge to get outside.  If you do the same, post a photo of yourself in the Milwaukee parks using the same hashtag #optoutside on social media and the whole world can share in your adventure.

Seven states  have already said that admission to their state parks will be free on Black Friday- including neighboring Minnesota.  Wisconsin did not jump on board with this promotion, but locally Havenwoods State Forest is always free and has a few miles of hiking trails. Some are even dog friendly!  Wisconsin state park stickers go on sale December 1 for 2016, so you do indeed get a free month when you buy early. If you're lucky enough to be out in California, you can even visit the Redwoods for free.

Need a few new ideas for where to have an adventure? Check out the links to the Oak Leaf Trail that saw their official opening in October. There's a new one mile segment near the Oakview business park on South Howell Ave.  Another segment just outside Estabrook Park, near Hampton Ave, is open so you can bike all the way to Oostburg if your legs will take you. Check out more information about these trails at Wisconsin Bike routes.

Oak Leaf Trail near Hampton Road

New bridge decks take you safely over the highway
For hiking in the parks, download a map at Milwaukee's Park People website.  There are nearly 30 to choose from.  If you have kids, why not check out the new accessible playground in Franklin at Franklin Woods Nature Center? For photos, go to Kayla's Krew.  The address is 3723 W. Puetz Road. Whatever you decide to do...have fun doing it!

Friday, November 20, 2015

USS Milwaukee is at Veterans Park

In case you haven't been by Veterans Park lately, there's a battleship sitting on the lakefront for a few more days.  This is one of the newest ships built for the Navy in Marinette, Wisconsin and it will be commissioned Saturday. Unfortunately, there's snow forecasted for the weekend, so it may be a blustery event.  Tickets have already been distributed for the event, but if you have a chance, you might want to go see it while it's here.

This is a newer design called a littoral combat ship, made to get into tight spaces. I've read that it's incredibly fast.  During testing it took out 40 sailboats in Door County with the waves it made!  You can see an interview from FOX 6 about the ship

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Poetry in Juneau Park

Fall is a beautiful time to get into the parks and there's another great reason coming up this weekend.  Come listen to native American poets recite poetry by the Solomon Juneau statue in Juneau park.  This is one of the best views you'll get of the lakefront.  I wrote about this park a couple years ago, but it's always a favorite of mine.

Sponsored by Juneau Park Friends, this is the second poetry event in this park.  The first was well attended.  Bring your blanket and snacks.  If you enjoy geocaching, there is a cache here, so maybe you want to make that part of your weekend adventure.  This park with 2 statues is also part of the City Walk: Monuments and Statues Tour in Milwaukee.  If it's a nice day and you feel like getting some exercise, this is the starting point.

Follow the Facebook page for Juneau Park Friends for more information about events in this park.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another Accessible Playground in Franklin

It's fantastic to see so many beautiful crowdsourced accessible playgrounds going up near Milwaukee.  I wrote recently about the grand opening happening this weekend for Kenosha Dream Playground.  Now here's another!!!  The latest addition is called Kayla's Krew and it has a grand opening tomorrow, October 9 at 5:30 PM.  The park will remain open until 8:30. Take a look at the Facebook page for many more photos of the community build.  I haven't been there yet, but it sure looks fantastic!

This playground is located at Franklin Nature Center, 3723 W. Puetz Road, Franklin.  Though there isn't parking onsite yet, there will be a shuttle from the Milwaukee County Sports Complex from 4:30 until 9 for the grand opening.

You can read more about the playground and make donations at the link at the City of Franklin website.  Thought it has been built, it will require maintenance and your donations will help with that.

In future there will be another accessible playground built at St. Francis, provided funding is raised.  Follow the Facebook page for St. Francis All Abilities Playground on Facebook to stay up to date on that project.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Villa Terrace Fall Gardens and a New Exhibit

I'm certain you've driven past that huge black iron gate near Bradford Beach and wondered what those gardens and home look like close up.  This is a great week to find out.  There's a new exhibit opening and the museum will be free to the public.  New Hanji- a Korean Paper Tradition begins October 9 at 6:00.  Get there as early as possible to take advantage of free admission and the light just before sunset.  Often the sky is at its best just before sunset which is 6:25 PM.  You'll sometimes see reflected light in the clouds over the lake and the view from the patio at the rear of the home is stunning with all the fall foliage.

Opening Reception
Friday, October 9, 6-9 PM
Free admission sponsored by Chris and Christopher Adams
Korean artists Haemija Kim and Kumgang Seunim will be there for the reception

Special events here are really done well.  I especially love to come for coffee and music at the cafe on weekends.  These are held the first Sunday of the month at their Cafe Sopra Mare. I have taken my son with me but it is a small space and unless your child can sit very still, it's probably more of an adult destination.

Even if you can't make it to the exhibit during the grand opening, this is worthy of the admission fee of $7, or only $5 for seniors and veterans. Get more information about tours and open hours at the website. You'll want some time to walk through the lovely  Renaissance Garden. It's kind of a hike up and down the staircase or hillside.  So much work is done here by volunteers who weed and tend the plants.  You can help do this too.  Ask while you are there.

There are outdoor yoga classes every Sunday at 8:30 AM through fall, weather permitting.  What a relaxing, beautiful setting this would be.

Be sure to take notice of the black and white stones in the entry, set in a mosaic pattern.  Those were collected from the beach by the children who lived here when it was being built.  Can you imagine how many trips that took?

You can't enter/exit from the lake side of the museum.  You'll need to find parking on the street at the building entrance on Terrace Avenue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lynden Sculpture Garden- Breathtaking in fall

I remember the first time I stopped in to see Lynden in Fall. I was blown away by the colors reflected in the pond and appreciated all the sculptures in my photos.  Every year I make it back at this time.  If you've never been here, you need to make this a destination in the next 2 weeks.  You might clean up the kids a bit and get some nice family photos here too.

This is the former home of Harry & Peg Bradley but is now a private park with art.  The program seems to grow every year, and if you're an educator, you need to check out the Free Educators Day on October 18, where you can explore how art can be used in curriculum.  Bring your family with you!  On the same date, you get a rare opportunity to walk through the gardens with a tree expert who can share information about the trees and answer nature questions. Autumn Tree Walk with Sharon Morrisey.

If you have a dog, there's a dog day every month where pooches are welcome.  I borrowed a dog once and found this is a great way to keep the geese population down.

Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children.  You can become a member if you plan to visit more frequently, starting at $40.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cemetery Tours Not to be Missed at Forest Home

October and cemeteries just go together and that's why I'm excited to give you a couple reasons to get into one of my absolute favorite places- Forest Home Cemetery.  This is full of a wide variety of trees and plants- more diverse than any place in the region.  You're going to see lots of color in the next week or so.  It is also home to anyone who was someone back in the early days of Milwaukee- mayors, businessmen, beer barons.  You can take a self guided tour, but if you're lucky to get on to one of the guided tours during October, you should be thrilled!
The Blatz family grave

A beautiful bridge in fall

Brew City Safari has walking tours year round.  Check out the website for a complete listing of what's to come.  You need to be somewhat fit for these tours.  October 17 they will be hiking Forest Home Cemetery.  This one is considered a beginner tour at 3 miles long and goes from 1PM - 4 PM.  A donation of 2 canned/packaged food goods is requested.  If you enjoy tales and/or photography, you're going to get plenty of both with this tour.  You can join at the event on Facebook called Brew City Safari; Forest Home Cemetery Tour.

Historic Milwaukee Inc. is offering a Halloween tour on October 30 at 5 PM.  This event will definitely sell out and there is no waiting list.  Be prepared to book online October 8 at 9 AM.  This link is for the tour page, but on the date, expect an additional live link to sign up.  Bob Giese is the tour guide.  I've been on tours with him and he just knows everything there is to know about anyone buried there...and then some.  I'm certain this one won't be as strenuous as the Brew City Safari hike, but the terrain is uneven and rolling so a pair of comfortable shoes is a must and I'd dress in layers.

If you're not able to make these tours, go anyway.  Just pick a day when the sun is shining and look at the fall colors.  You won't even need to get out of the car if you don't want to.  Download a map at the cemetery website to find out where people are buried if you like.

Since you're in the neighborhood, also make a stop at St. Luke's Hospital, 2900 W. Oklahoma.  Take the patient elevators to the 9th floor and get off at the Healing Garden.  You will get the best view of Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley from up here.  There's even a viewer to see things a bit closer.  You can park in the parking garage, but I usually park across the street at Leon's Custard...well, you know why.  It's open 11 am-midnight every day.  Just eat your custard before you go upstairs.  No food or drinks allowed.
View in fall at sunrise from the Healing Garden

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Take a Nature Field Trip with an Expert

I went on a field trip with Brian Russert, Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Coordinator, a few years ago and learned more than I ever imagined.  He's a walking, talking expert on all things that grow in these parks.  We saw salamanders, wildflowers, poison ivy, birds, and just had a great walk with fellow nature lovers. His crew has been doing nature hikes to various parks this year and there's still time to get on one now that the fall foliage is going to peak.

This is a great time to get into a park with an expert

You can view the complete file about what the hikes are and how to pay.  The easiest way is to pick up the phone and reserve a space for one of the last three hikes left. No matter which one you select, it's certain to be worth your while.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 9:30-11:30 a.m. - Exploring the Forked Aster Trail at Franklin Savannah in Franklin Park
Saturday, Oct. 17, 9-11 a.m.  Autumn Birding in Grobschmidt Park
Saturday, Oct. 31, 9-11 a.m. Invasive Species at Grant Park

Here's an excerpt about payment:

Programs are limited to the first 15-20 people registered. Hiking conditions vary by site, from easy walking to strenuous hiking. Participants should check conditions when registering.
Registration and payment must be received three days before the program date. The program fee is $15 per person over 12; $10 per person age 2-12 or 60 and better. Children under 2 are admitted free. Credit card payments may be made by phone at (414) 257-6521 or in person at Parks Administration, 9480 Watertown Plank Road, Wauwatosa. The Public Services Office at Parks Administration will also accept payments of cash or check. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Salmon Swimming Upstream in Milwaukee River Now

It's officially Salmon migration time for the Milwaukee River Parks.  If you're a fisherman, check the local fishing reports to see what comments are being made about fishing at a particular spot.  I'll add a link here for fishermen...or those who just enjoy a good story about fishing.  There was an active blog that first got me looking for salmon on the river back in 2010 called Seeking Trout.  The link I've provided is for that story they wrote about fishing the Milwaukee river for salmon. It has some good photos and video. The blog doesn't seem to be active any longer but the stories about fish from many interesting locations are there for the reading.  It may give you some fishing tips too. This is also a good time to drive to Kewaunee or Racine to see the DNR fish facilities where they collect eggs.

If you're like me and just enjoy seeing the fish jump, check out the places in the river where you can find rapids or small waterfalls. The fish begin their journey up river from Lake Michigan in late September.  These are what some people call "half dead' fish.  When the river is shallow, as it is now, they get beat up on the rocks which only makes it worse.

There's a spot near North Avenue bridge where the water is full of rapids and rocks.  I was there a few weeks ago and since then, there is a new mural under the bridge, so you get to see fish and art at the same time.  It was a community mural project done for the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park and displays birds found in the Milwaukee area.  I borrowed a photo from my friend's Facebook page to give you a preview.  You can access this place by taking the East Bank Trail from the Rotary Centennial Arboretum. You can also download a complete map, which includes this bridge, from that link.

As you go upstream from here, the next good viewpoint is at Hubbard Park in Shorewood.  Stop in and have a cool drink at the Beer Garden if it's open.  You'll see nice foliage here in the coming weeks. too. This is a great place for Friday Fish Fry or Sunday brunch at Hubbard Park Lodge.

The Estabrook and Kletzsch Parks have smaller waterfalls.   I've written before about these parks during the salmon run and you can read that blog here.

To get to the Estabrook waterfall, take the stairs down below the beer garden.  This park gets very busy on a nice weekend, and the parking lot fills up. It's a prime location for dogs, skateboarding, biking, and disc golf.  There's also a nice playground. The fishermen tell me the fish are easier to catch closer to Capitol Drive.

Kletzsch park has the best opportunities for both viewing and catching fish.  Fish are caught here before they make the jump where they pool among rocks. Unfortunately, this tends to be really messy with careless  people who leave their fish guts and garbage behind.  Hopefully that won't happen this year, but you've been warned. You can park along the roadway at Kletzsch or there is a parking lot closer to the playground.
Kletzsch waterfall with a salmon in the air

Estabrook waterfall

Estabrook Beer Garden
Hope you enjoy seeing some fish this fall!  Let me know how your outing goes by commenting!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Scenic Drives using the Fall Color Report

It's often difficult to know exactly when to drive somewhere to see the changing fall colors, but when you plan to make a day of it, it's good to know what is going on from somebody local.  Travel Wisconsin posts a Fall Color Report that includes the percentage of foliage that has peaked.  You can look at a county and see by the color, whether it has pretty foliage.  If you know a county is peaking, then you can look for large wooded areas and lakes within that county for the prettiest views. Sometimes users will post photos along with reports and you can see where they went to take the photo.  It's an interactive map.

There are three especially scenic drives I would recommend.  It says peak color will be during the 2nd week of October, so if you can do it then, you'll likely be rewarded with some great views.  I've done them in the past, so the photos you will see are not from this year.

The first is always an annual trek for us.  Holy Hill.  It is a beautiful Catholic Church set atop a hill in the Kettle Moraine.  You can hike the Ice Age Trail here if you're up to the challenge.  Click on the link given and you will find a downloadable map you can take with you.  Though there will probably be many other hikers, it's always a good idea to let someone know you're doing the hike, just in case you get lost. Sometimes I go off on a weekday on my own and forget to do that...then realize there is no cell phone coverage in this area. You can also pick up apples while you are there.  Check out Pine Hill Orchard or Rim's Edge Orchard.  Years ago there was a helicopter ride given by the apple stand on the way to Holy Hill, but it didn't last very long.  People who lived there didn't appreciate the noise of a helicopter overhead.  Now you get the best views by climbing the tower at the basilica.  Good luck!

The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive has been listed in books as one of the most scenic drives in America, and rightfully so.  There's a diversity of trees, rolling hills, and a few opportunities to climb towers to see what's below you. Allow several hours to do this and expect there to be traffic.  You can always stop along the way and take a short hike.  Depending on how much of the drive you do, you'll have opportunities to climb at Lapham Peak or Parnell Towers. This is a good way to stretch your legs and once you're at the top, you can see for miles on a clear day.

The third is Old World Wisconsin.  I have yet to visit during fall, but it's on my list for this year.  This is a beautiful natural setting any time of year, and it's even more fun for families because of the historical buildings and costumed volunteers.  It's only open Thursday -Sunday during October and there is an admission charge.  I'd advise you check out the website before you go to see what events are happening.  They do run a shuttle between villages and the parking lot, but you can choose to walk.  If you do this, you might consider dressing in layers and wearing some comfortable shoes.

I'll throw in a few more, though they are a bit farther away and I've written them on my other blog which is more of a travel blog.

A few years ago we drove to Columbia County to see the Amish homesteads.  If this is your thing, you'll enjoy seeing shops, buggies, and beautiful gardens at the general store.  Go early in the day so you can get fresh bakery.  You can download a map of the Amish businesses and places of interest at the Columbia County Visitor Bureau.

If you haven't seen the cranberry bogs up near Wisconsin Rapids, it's a beautiful destination, though we stayed overnight so we could do the tours of the fields. I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the student run tour Splash of Red at Pittsville. The best place for information about the whole cranberry experience is the Cranberry Growers Association website. The season runs through most of October, but if you combine a tour with the fall colors in mid month, it's even better for photography. Make time to drive the Cranberry Highway and you might see fall color, cranberry fields, and migrating birds too.

Drive to Sauk County to see the rolling hills and experience the The Farm Art DTour. Held in a different location of Sauk County every year, the Fermentation Fest has a variety of things to see and do, but you can download the driving tour at the website and see it any day October 2-11. It is 50 miles but because you will be stopping to see things, maybe take some photos, and driving scenic roads, it will take more than an hour.  Someone told me they did all the stops and it took them 4 hours...just so you plan enough time before it's dark.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wehr Nature Center- the Perfect Fall Destination

It's officially fall so I'm going to dedicate the next couple of weeks to my favorite fall locations within an hour of Milwaukee.  Today, let's kick it off with Wehr Nature Center.  This center is located in Whitnall Park.  It's one of the smaller nature centers as far as building size goes, but packs a big punch when it comes to activities, mainly due to the 400+ volunteers who plan and participate in events. Admission is free unless it's a special event.  Parking will cost you $3. There's a fantastic gift shop with a variety of gift ideas for anyone who enjoys gardening, nature, hiking, or the outdoors in general.
Look up for some color too
The best place to find out about what's going on is the Friends of Wehr website. Click on upcoming events and you'll see a calendar.  There are some regular adult groups that meet, like the Wild Ones local chapter and the Wehr Photography Club. You can hike every Wednesday morning with the group that hits the trails for exercise, called Hike for Health.  For kids and their adults, check out Little Wonders and NatureNauts- preschool programs that get your kids outdoors and teach them to explore the world around them.

The Wehr Astronomical Society meets monthly and you can follow them on their Facebook page for more information.  They have invited some pretty interesting speakers in the past so if you enjoy anything to do with stargazing or astronomy, check them out.

This weekend is one of my favorite events- Cider Sunday.  It's an annual fundraiser.  Only one day- Sunday, October 4, 11:30-4:30.  Admission is $3, or get an annual membership for $25 individual/$35 family and you pay nothing.  Even parking is free for members.  There are opportunities to make apple cider, listen to music, hike the five miles of trails, bid on silent auction items, and do some crafts with the kids.  Be sure to get a look at the pond some time this season as the trees surrounding it turn color. No fishing is allowed here.  You will likely see a variety of birds, frogs, and turtles.
Kids love cranking the apple press

The other fall event that is really fun and often sells out is the Halloween Haunts.  This night time hike is for kids ages 4-10 (and adults who love to watch kids).  Volunteers dress up and post themselves out in the woods.  You need to purchase tickets in advance and it's held rain or shine.  We've gone a few times and really enjoyed it.

If you are at the nature center, why not hike to the waterfall?  It's very pretty in fall and if we've had much rain, it's really going to flow.  You can actually get down to the bottom of the falls and take some nice photos. Wear a bright color (other than yellow) so you stand out against the fall colors of the trees.

Check out Wehr Nature Center and find out what would make hundreds of people want to volunteer.  I think you'll love what you see!