Local Secrets: Where to Go in East Central Wisconsin

By Jeniece Smith
Managing Editor

Looking to add some “extra” to the “ordinary” in your getaway? Venture beyond the expected to find these brag-worthy secrets of east central Wisconsin, from a restaurant named for its most notorious guest to a “dead & breakfast” to the first house lit by Thomas Edison’s work!


BackYard Grill and BarFond du Lac

Billed as “casual dining with a touch of patio panache,” this local hangout will make you feel right at home with lunch, dinner and more than 60 beers on tap or in bottles. Menu options range from personal pizzas to homemade cheese curds to more healthful specials like a veggie burger and lemon-pepper tilapia. Stop in for a happy hour, and you’ll see where the locals hang out!

Tamara’s the Cake GuruOshkosh and Appleton

An array of cupcakes, cookies, and other desserts are waiting for you at Tamara’s – even if you have a vegan diet, dairy or gluten sensitivities. Heck, even the family dog can find a treat to eat!

Extra offerings include an 80s-themed donut “Breakfast Club” on the weekends and specialty cakes for weddings and other special events.

Big Al Capone’sMalone

Rumor has it that legendary Chicago gangster Al Capone stayed frequently at this former stagecoach stop and boarding house in the 1920s, so the current restaurant is named for him!

Renovations at the State Historical Landmark made for an expanded kitchen and menu of casual dining favorites for lunch or dinner. Stop by for weekday specials like half-price pizza and live music on select weekends.

Zuppas – Neenah

Stop by Zuppas for a mix-and-match meal sure to please the whole family. A local staple, Zuppas offers fresh salads, soups, sandwiches and more in both halves and wholes, allowing you to create your favorite combo (and perfect for picky eaters)!

Meals are served cafeteria style – take a tray, hop in line, and make your selections – and can be enjoyed in the dining area, a relaxed atmosphere with ample seating. Above all else, make sure to save room for dessert – the homemade cookies, cheesecakes, cakes and bars cannot be resisted.

Places to Stay

52 StaffordPlymouth

This “Irish guest house” offers nearly 20 rooms with four-poster beds, double whirlpools and complimentary breakfast. When you’re ready for dinner, head downstairs to the on-site pub and restaurant!

Dead by Dawn “Dead & Breakfast”Manitowoc

Feeling adventurous about your accommodations? Check out this “dead & breakfast” for guests 21 years and older, “where your host's top priority is an unrestful night's sleep.”

Your spooky experience kicks off with an “unhappy hour” of drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the B&B’s Shrunken Head Room, followed by a night of surprises from beyond the grave. Will you make it to the breakfast table in the morning?

Hotel Seymour Supper ClubSeymour

What’s better than a supper club? A supper club with its own lodging! In addition to the customary Friday fish fry and prime rib special, you’ll find two renovated rooms available nightly at this historic hotel.

Lake Orchard Farm RetreatSheboygan

It’s hard to get more homey and cozy than a farm, especially one that’s been in the same family for six generations. Another adults-only retreat, Lake Orchard caters to couples with a full breakfast served in your room or the common dining area, wine and cheese tastings, and plush rooms with Sleep Number beds, whirlpools, private balconies and fireplaces.

A game room, nine-hole golf course and other on-site activities like biking and snowshoeing ensure there’s plenty to do.

Comfort Suites – Appleton

This one might be a chain hotel, but it’s got some hidden surprises like a huge pool and water slide for the kids and a cocktail hour at the on-site bar for grown-ups. This pet-friendly hotel’s free coffee, hot breakfast, shuttle and newspaper delivery will make you feel right at home.


Bookworm Gardens – Sheboygan

A must-stop for kids and kids at heart, this free-admission garden offers two acres of interactive play space surrounded by the scenes of popular children’s books, from classics like Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Giving Tree to newer favorites like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The garden is divided into six “gateways,” with books stored inside stone pillars to read while inside each area.

Another regional favorite for the kiddos is Lakeside Park Rides in Fond du Lac, with its carousel, miniature train and whip rides, as well as paddle boat and kayak rentals.

Cave toursChilton and Maribel

Enjoy the great outdoors – above and below ground – at Ledge View Nature Center in Chilton and Cherney Maribel Caves County Park in Maribel.

Ledge View offers naturalist-guided tours of Montgomery Cave and Carolyn's Caverns on weekends and select weekdays during the warmer part of the year, while tours at the county park are available the third Sunday of each month or by appointment May through October. Be sure to make reservations, wear old clothes and bring a flashlight!

Hearthstone Historic House Museum – Appleton

Bet you didn’t know that the first home in the world to be lit by a hydroelectric central power station based on Thomas Edison’s work was in Wisconsin, and today it’s a museum! The bluff-top Victorian mansion overlooking the Fox River was new when the electric lights went on for the first time in 1882, and the home maintains its original light fixtures and switches, woodwork and stained glass.


Looking for more local secrets? Check out Wisconsin's top hidden gems, and subscribe for the latest news on restaurants and lodging across the state.