ABOVE PHOTO: Northwoods Center
By Renée S. Gordon
The first nonindigenous people to visit what is now Wisconsin was a group in search of the Northwest Passage led by Jean Nicolet in 1634. A small group of priests, fur traders and hunters followed. French control gave way to British control until the 1783 Treaty of Paris ceded control to the United States and the largest group of settlers began entering the region. They established the dairy, lumber and mining industries. Dairy farming was their first major industry and the state continues to be the country’s leading dairy producer. The area prospered and in 1848 Wisconsin was granted statehood. (www.vilaswi.com)
In the years leading up to the Civil War, the state held a place of prominence on the Underground Railroad because of its proximity to Canada. Only one of the UGRR sites, The Milton House, can be toured. The 1844 building is octagonal, and has the only portion of the UGRR that is authentically underground and contains a tunnel which is open to the public. (www.miltonhouse.org)
Northern Wisconsin’s heavy forestation made farming nearly impossible and the area became known for its logging villages. Because of the very cold, snowy, lengthy winters the region become known for its outdoor activities and unique crafts. The Northwoods is estimated to be 30,000-sq. miles, rife with hundreds of picturesque lakes, wetlands and forests where you can opt for serenity and tranquility or unique shopping opportunities, great food and a plethora of all-season outdoor activities. The history of the region and its people is seamlessly incorporated in every aspect of a visit. This special combination of history, small town charm, winter sports, attractions and one-of-a-kind gifts makes the region an ideal winter destination.
Jean Francois St. Germaine and his Native American wife were the first settlers in the town named after him. A statue of the mythical Chief St. Germain greets you as you enter the town erected in honor of the town’s French-Native heritage. (www.townofstgermain.org)
The Hammock Hut, a boutique hammock and messenger bag shop, is one of the town’s specialty shops. Each item is handcrafted of designer fabric and is both rugged and practical. You can make a selection from an exterior mall filled with testable hammocks or chose from interior displays in three showrooms. Purchases can be made online and delivered for Christmas. (www.hammockhut.com)
Green Rich Tea is an interactive shop offering quality teas and a Tea Academy experience. Guests gain expertise on brewing, serving and drinking natural teas. Tea was shipped in tins until a vendor in the 50s felt the cost was prohibitive. He put leaves in small pouches made from his wife’s stockings and stapled them. (www.greenrichtea.com)
Supper clubs are a Wisconsin feature that developed in the 1900s. These “clubs” serve fine, traditional, food and drink and usually depend on local clientele. Clearview Supper Club is a St. Germain favorite for a meal to round out your visit. This historic restaurant provides stunning lake views and classic fare made from natural ingredients. (www.clearviewsupperclub.com)
There is area real place named Land O’Lakes and it is, of course, in Wisconsin. The town, originally known as Stateline, was built around a sawmill in the late 1800s. The town is most famous for the breathtaking landscape, skiing and snowmobiling opportunities. It is also home to the Land O Lakes Artisans Center, where one can learn the region’s art history and take workshops and classes to enhance your art skills. (www.landolakes-wi.org)
Nearby visitors can follow in the footsteps of the SciFi Channel and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and investigate the Paulding Light. These lights have appeared regularly since the 1960s. The move around and change size and there are unproven theories regarding their existence.
The Old Copper Indians lived in the Eagle River area until settled by whites in 1853. The town was named because of the huge number of eagles found there. The largest concentration of freshwater lakes, more than 3,000, in the world is located around Eagle River. The lakes and Nicolet National Forest make this an outdoor and winter sports paradise. You can select from numerous land and water-based activities including peaceful sails around the lakes. It is a resort town and the “Snowmobile Capital of the World®.” The town hosts the Amsoil World Championship Snowmobile Derby and has been rated “The Best Overall Snowmobiling Vacation Destination” by SnowGoer Magazine. (www.eagleriver.org)
Northwoods Children’s Museum is totally interactive and showcases 24 individual learning stations. Exhibits are both indoors and out and it will be difficult to tear your child away. (www.northwoodschildrensmuseum.com)
Soda Pops must be on your itinerary. It was constructed n the 1880s as a tavern, but during prohibition it became a soda fountain. It is now the oldest soda fountain in Wisconsin. All of the interior elements, booths, ceiling, floors, etc., are original. The 1940s fountain was first located in Pennsylvania then installed here. The walls are decorated with memorabilia, some sold in the adjacent store, the food is wonderful and the menu has more than 100 possibilities. Try the Water Tower Sundae. It was made for sharing. (www.soda-pops.com)
Downtown Boulder Junction, an area that abuts Eagle River, provides wonderful shopping opportunities in an eclectic collection of shops that offer Northwood’s treasures. The shops include antiques, arts, home décor and boutique stores. Wiley Miller, a premier wildlife artist, has a studio complex in Eagle River that he shares with his son, a woodcarver of large-scale tree sculptures. There are well over twenty-five shops where visitors can both watch the art being created and make special purchases.
Another “must” is The Raven’s Niche and Mykytka Leather, a unique shop where you can purchase ready-to-wear moccasins or opt for a handmade pair crafted just for you. The store also offers items made by other artists that can only be purchased here. People order special pieces, leather artworks, clothing, journals, etc. They also make handcrafted seats for motorcycles that are superb and have been ordered by several stars. (www.mykytkaleather.com)
Acorn Lodge is a best bet accommodation. Located in the center of downtown Boulder Junction, it offers, large rooms, pool, spa and breakfast, all in a prime location. (www.acorn-lodge.net)
Wisconsin is a WOW destination! (www.travelwisconsin.com)
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