21 Reasons to Visit the Burbs
You may not be lucky enough to live here, our top ’burb back in 2002. Yet you can call it home for a night with a stay at a cozy B&B. Located in a renovated barn, the Carriage House is cheery and charming, while the romantic Cameo Rose Victorian Country Inn sits on a 120-acre estate.
2. Black Earth
Is your footwear looking a bit frumpy? Pay a visit to the Shoe Box, one of the country’s largest shoe stores, carrying over 300,000 pairs in over 100 brands. From Converse to Crocs, Adidas to Uggs, chances are you’ll find the sandals, boots or sneakers your tootsies have been longing to wear.
Art is a major contributor to the quality of life in this enclave of historic preservation and creative expression. As if pottery studios—be sure to visit Rowe Pottery Works and the Cambridge Stoneware Co.—galleries, antique shops, and boutiques brimming with gifts, clothing, jewelry and more weren’t enough, the city also offers art fairs, festivals and tours throughout the year.
4. Cottage Grove
Looking for a flat stretch of land where you can bike or hike to your heart’s content? You’ll find exactly that here at the starting point of the Glacial Drumlin State Trail. The fifty-two-mile course is made of crushed and smoothed limestone—on an abandoned rail corridor—and traverses east through rolling farmland, drumlins and marshes.
5. Cross Plains
Sporty types can have a field day—literally—at Municipal and Baer parks. Municipal boasts a swimming pool, skateboard park and ball diamonds, while Baer offers a volleyball court, tennis courts, lighted ball diamonds and an ice skating rink. Game on!
Forget Daytona. Local race fans can soak up NASCAR culture a bit closer to home. That’s thanks to Nora’s Tavern, a bar and restaurant owned by NASCAR driver Todd Kluever and his big brother Tim. A round of brews and a chance to meet a pro racer—that’s sure to get a few engines revved.
It’s big, pastel and oh-so-touristy. But you’ve got to love Pinkie, the larger-than-life spectacle-wearing pink elephant that greets interstate passersby from its perch at a gas station on County Hwy V. If a gigantic fiberglass pachyderm isn’t enough to make you peel off I-90/94, we don’t know what is.
Cowboy culture is alive and kicking just south of Madison at the Dry Bean. Years ago, this cavernous saloon was where the area’s best country line dancers went to strut their stuff. Today, the Bean’s a watering hole for anyone with a hankering for a drink or a thirst for great live music.
9. Maple Bluff
You might not wish for Governor Doyle’s job, but his pad is pretty sweet. Visitors can take a peek into the Governor’s Mansion—formally known as the Executive Residence—on tours held over the summer and in December. The Southern Classical Revival–style home is over 20,000 square feet. Its neighbors aren’t too shabby either.
Got kids? Well, then you’ve got to road trip to this eastern ’burb chock full of activities sure to excite young thrill seekers. Old-fashioned amusement park Little-A-Merrick-A has roller coasters, go-karts, a Ferris wheel and more. Plus, the town just built skateboard, BMX and rollerblade facilities in Deerhaven Park.
If you’re looking to get close to nature, consider a visit to Cedar Hills Campground. The simple, peaceful piece of land keeps the focus on its stunning views of the Wisconsin River Valley. Campers may also spot hawks and eagles and can hike, canoe and kayak. Those looking to get even more natural can head over to clothing-optional Mazo Beach.
Lake Waubesa has a natural friend in this lake-loving ’burb full of places to get out on the water. The village maintains a public boat launch from which boaters can ski, fish and zip around the lake’s 2,000-plus acres. More watery fun is in store at Yahara River Park, a conservancy area with pedestrian access to the river and a canoe launch.
This ’burb may be bustling but it also offers plenty of places to relax. Unwind with a facial, wrap or massage at ANIU Salon Spa Yoga, elements therapeutic massage, Revolution Salon & Spa, Spa-tique Day Spa, Steel Magnolias Body Spa, Tangles Salon & Spa or The Knot Spot. You’re just a phone call away from full-body bliss.
Victorian style is preserved and celebrated at the Nathaniel Dean House, a yellow-brick, two-story built in 1856 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the local landmark is attending the Dean House Concerts of live music by area performers Thursday evenings throughout the summer.
15. Mount Horeb
Southern Wisconsin may not have a ton in common with the Rocky Mountains, but that doesn’t mean Midwesterners can’t enjoy a little downhill action come winter. Local skiers and boarders head to Tyrol Basin, a hill with a vertical drop of three hundred feet, sixteen trails, a half-pipe and lots of special events. Hit the slopes till you’re frozen, then warm up with a cup of cocoa in the Norwegian-style chalet.
You can’t get much closer to the source of your sustenance than by picking your own fruit from an orchard. Carandale Farm celebrates forty years of giving the on-the-farm, pick-your-own experience to non-farming urban and suburbanites. Strawberry season begins mid-June, followed by raspberries and the Concord grape harvest in mid-October. Less into picking and more into eating? Carandale sells pre-picked product, too.
17. Shorewood Hills
You can practically get an architecture degree just by strolling the Shorewood neighborhood. Houses reveal the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Frank Riley, John Flad and others and exemplify Prairie, English Tudor, International and Modern styles. Don’t miss Wright’s Pew House on Lake Mendota Drive or the Bradley House on Oxford Road designed by George Elmslie, one of Sullivan’s star pupils.
Need a gift—for someone else, or just for yourself? A painting for above the sofa or, heck, a new sofa altogether? You’ll find all this and more at the eclectic galleries, antique stores, gift shops, jewelers, home décor stores and clothing boutiques tucked into historic buildings along Main Street and the smaller side streets extending from it.
19. Sun Prairie
Experience Georgia O’Keeffe in the famed artist’s hometown. Visit the historical marker where her home once stood, the street named in her honor and the extensive exhibit about her at the Sun Prairie Historical Museum. Each June, the town remembers her with the Georgia O’Keeffe Celebration featuring an art fair, performances, tours and exhibits.
Take a hike in this fitness-loving ’burb. Badger Prairie County Park not only is full of hiking and mountain bike trails, it’s also part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and offers access to the Military Ridge State Trail. But don’t forget your four-legged pals: the park contains a three-acre pet exercise area.
At Schumacher Farm visitors step back in time and experience what rural life was like here in the 1920s and ’30s. This outdoor museum is open year-round during daylight hours, and the Friends of Schumacher Farm hold workshops, tours, festivals and special events.
— Written by Katie Vaughn