Looking to add some “extra” to the “ordinary” in your getaway? Venture beyond the expected to find these brag-worthy local secrets in central Wisconsin, from a hidden pub to a historic railroad hotel to a sculpture garden full of rusty critters!
Named for its classic rock ‘n’ roll theme, this relaxed eatery offers a bar full of memorabilia connected by a long hallway to a quiet dining room. The upscale menu featured French-inspired cuisine, from steaks and seafood to pasta and sandwiches. Stop by for deals on old fashioneds during happy hour, or check out the regular live bands.
Hidden on a quiet side of Waupaca’s downtown beneath street-level shops, this cozy food and drink hot spot is a popular local hangout. A private room nestled upstairs is perfect for a party or meeting. The 1868 fieldstone building is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers the intimate atmosphere of a small-town English pub with its original wooden beams.
The kids will love this café with more than 350 whimsical displays made of rocks, driftwood and other found items, from a “rock concert” to a “rockoon” to “lollipop rocks.” On the menu are more than 30 different types of pasties – all with smiley-face-stamped crusts – and “pizza rocks,” snack-size pies made with pepperoni, cheddar and parmesan, spices and sauce atop a light crust.
Tip back one of about a dozen microbrews on tap and order off a menu sourced locally with the seasons at this casual downtown gastropub. Or, head upstairs to The Oven Above the Pub for comforting, innovative dishes made in their namesake wood-fired oven.
Places to Stay
This 1876 hotel still radiates with the old-timey charm of its early days serving railroad travelers. Nine remodeled rooms include a private bath, refrigerator, cable and Wi-Fi. Unwind in the evening like people did a hundred years ago with a song around the player piano in the main living room, and get up early for the free continental breakfast!
If you have a big group and want your own spread, book this huge shoreline vacation home on the 1,100-acre grounds of Green Lake Conference Center. Rent one of the two floors or the entire seven-bedroom, four-bath house. Walk or bike on-site trails, get in a workout at the fitness center, or play tennis or a round of golf. A swimming beach and boat rentals are about a mile away.
Choose from eight themed rooms inspired by art, music and literature, with amenities like a private bath, Egyptian cotton sheets, a TV and DVD player, and Wi-Fi. Enjoy coffee and tea service early in the morning, with a full breakfast buffet also served daily.
The yesteryear feel of this hand-hewn log structure couldn’t be more Wisconsin, with nearly 30 rooms offering Northwoods views. If you’re looking to spoil yourself, book a suite with a king-size hot tub. The lodge also offers stay-and-play packages for a nearby casino and golf course.
One of Wisconsin’s most beautiful county parks is, fittingly, a tribute to renowned Wisconsin naturalist John Muir, hailed as the father of America’s national parks. A portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail winds through prairie, sedge meadow and hardwood forest around Ennis Lake. If you’re looking to make a day of exploring, the park is one of nearly two dozen stops on the John Muir Nature and History Route.
A Catholic priest built this city-block-sized display of religious themes using unique reddish-brown gossan rock and pieces of broken and melted glass. A meandering path leads you through multiple shrines and memorials, including the massive and unusual Wonder Cave.
See more than 100 species of animals in this walk-through zoo, from miniature donkeys to a huge white tiger. Kids can feed barnyard animals, make critter-themed crafts or go for a pony ride on the weekends.
Unlikely rust-red creatures – dragons, dinosaurs and more – emerge from this sculpture garden. Constructed from abandoned farm equipment and other upcycled objects, the whimsical folk art ranges from a frog playing a tiny piano to a “mutant chicken” to a jabberwocky.