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Wisconsin/Minnesota - Tourist advice

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I just read the other thread about the family that will be in Wisconsin and got some great ideas, but I'm looking for other advice.

We will be in the area for about 5 days next week. It's just the dd (8yo) and I traveling by car. I had planned for 2 days in Madison, 1 day in La Crosse, and 2 days in Mankato, MN.

Mostly the trip is just to see a couple of states we've never been to... dh is out of town and we have a week on our own, just the two girls.

We love to visit rural villages, see historic sights, etc. Neither of us like to shop. For example, that Pearl St. soda shop mentioned in the other thread is right up our alley! We'd love to visit a working dairy farm to see how cheese is made. Children's museums and zoos we aren't interested in because we have access to those kinds of museums where we live and for the most part, one is like another. We will go into Walnut Grove, MN one day that we're staying in Mankato, to see what I expect will be a very tiny Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. Still, dd has been a fan of the books and has read them all twice in the last few years and wants to go there. She and I both love local historical museums and anything, really, that is nostalgic or a reminder of the "old days".

Our stay in La Crosse will be right near the water in what I guess is the historic section based on the other thread (Pearl St.). Reading the other thread, I'm now wondering if we shouldn't stay 2 nights in La Crosse instead of 1. Right now, our trip is Madison 2 nights, La Crosse 1 night, Mankato 2 nights, then head back home (which will take us 2 days).

Any thoughts or suggestions for us? When in Madison, I would like to drive out to the more rural southern parts to see some interesting sights and dairies. I'm not really sure where to go, though. We're not really interested in seeing Madison itself on this trip. Keep in mind, we don't like to shop, so "other" activities are what are important to us. TIA!!
post #2 of 9
I have to admit I haven't seen the Wilder things in the Mankato area, but there is also a replica of the cabin and small musuem near Pepin (Little House in the Big Woods) two different places a few miles apart which I thought was neat. It's not far from La Crosse (90 minute north IIRC).

I really enjoy La Crosse and have spent more time there than about any place that I have never lived in or had close family live in. I love the Pearl and there is a boat ride that leaves from downtown La Crosse that was fun too. I think my favorite thing to do is go to the free public beach across the bridge from downtown and watch the barges and boats go by.

There is also some Wilder things in Burr Oak, IA (it's only a couple miles into Iowa and near Decorah, IA which is a town with lots of history (primarily Norwegian-American history) and home to Seed Saver's which my kids both enjoyed.

If you want to visit farms South of Madison and aren't interested in exploring State Street, the farmer's market or the capital I wouldn't stay in Madison at all(although it is a lot better in the summer without all the students ) I'd stay in a small town somewhere else. New Glarus, Mineral Point, Mount Horeb, Monroe would all be good choices. Each sort of has it's own ethnic vibe New Glarus is Swiss, Mineral Point is English/Welch/Cornish, Mount Horeb is Norwegian, and Monroe is more German. If I had to pick just one I'd pick New Glarus.
post #3 of 9
Can I come with you?! I all that historical stuff but I'm the only one in my family, which means I'm always overruled

About 30 minutes from Mankato in New Ulm there's the Schell Brewery. They offer tours (which I STILL haven't been on, despite being married to a native New Ulmer for 6 years ). It's still in operation, being run by 5th-generation Schell descendants. New Ulm is a big historical town, too. Very big German ancestry. St. Peter is just north of Mankato and apparently that's a pretty cool town to visit, too (again, I've never been - see above). I'm trying to think of any farms in the area that offer tours but can't think of any off the top of my head. The kids always take field trips in school but I think they just go to a classmate's farm since it's a big farming area.
post #4 of 9
Ooh...let me know when you'll be in La Crosse. Dd (8) & I are ALWAYS looking for an excuse to go to The Pearl.
post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by mnnice View Post
I'd stay in a small town somewhere else. New Glarus, Mineral Point, Mount Horeb, Monroe would all be good choices. Each sort of has it's own ethnic vibe New Glarus is Swiss, Mineral Point is English/Welch/Cornish, Mount Horeb is Norwegian, and Monroe is more German. If I had to pick just one I'd pick New Glarus.
I was thinking of these towns too, as well as of Spring Green and the Wisconsin River area. As PP alluded, you could easily fill those two days with activities you and your dd would enjoy without ever setting foot in Madison! Southwestern Wisconsin is beautiful, and there's so much to do and see, including farm/dairy/cheesemaking tours. There are also many historic sites in the area, such as Pendarvis in Mineral Point.

A few links you might find helpful for planning your Madison-area stretch of the drive:

Southwest Wisconsin Visitor's Bureau

New Glarus Chamber of Commerce

Green County Tourism

Happy planning!
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you everyone!

MissMaegie'sMom - I've looked at the links and I think we're going to look into spending a day in the Mineral Point, Mt. Horeb and and New Glarus area. They look like interesting towns. The Southwest Wisconsin link was particularly helpful.

Then the next day I think we'll stop at Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wi and if we have time, stop at the House of Rock in Spring Green, heading to La Crosse. That looked kind of interesting. Anyone been there?

StellasMommy - we'll be in La Crosse less than a day... arriving in the evening and leaving the next morning. I have no idea when we'll make it to the soda shop - it will probably spur of the moment. Sorry!

Mnnice - thanks for the tips in Pepin and Burr Oak. I will research those, as we'll be heading home through Iowa.

CallMeMommy - New Ulm sound right up our alley (we used to live in Germany). I don't think dd would enjoy a brewery tour, but we love german food, so I thought maybe we could go there one of our few days in and around Mankato to have lunch and just sight-see.

Thanks again everyone for your help!
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
CallMeMommy - New Ulm sound right up our alley (we used to live in Germany). I don't think dd would enjoy a brewery tour, but we love german food, so I thought maybe we could go there one of our few days in and around Mankato to have lunch and just sight-see.
My two suggestions are going to be Kaiserhoff for lunch and the Hermann the German monument afterwards for a little exercise. DS insists every time we're there, and lucky Mom is the one who gets to go up with him since everyone else is afraid of heights And then just drive around town, tons of cool old buildings and historical markers. They have a historical museum, too.
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post

Then the next day I think we'll stop at Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wi and if we have time, stop at the House of Rock in Spring Green, heading to La Crosse. That looked kind of interesting. Anyone been there?
Glad you'll be able to tour Cedar Grove- it should be a fun experience for your dd. I'm sure you'll have the opportunity to sample their goods. Mmm!

It's been years since I've been to House on the Rock, but I don't think it's changed much since I was last there. It's a fun place to visit, especially if you're looking for something from a more historical point of view. It also offers a sort of entertainment factor that one looks for in road-trip sightseeing- it's one of those places that has something for everyone. I'd check it out if I were in the area!
post #9 of 9
I'm not sure which way you're headed into/out of MN, but if you're willing to go off your path, I think you might enjoy Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Spring Valley, MN. There are tours of the cave, as well as tours of historic Forestville. We've been there a few times, and it's fun.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_par...ave/index.html
http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/hf/

If you're going to New Ulm, the Harkin Store isn't far out of your way. I've never been, but I've always wanted to stop in.
http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/hs/

Here's the MN Historical Society, there are lots of fun things to see: http://www.mnhs.org/visit/

Just south of Mankato is Minneopa State park. There's a waterfall that is a nice (not too long) walk from the parking area. Not the most spectacular waterfall, but it's a good place to stop and stretch your legs.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_par...opa/index.html

If you're going up to St. Peter, there's the Traverse de Sioux treaty center.
http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/tds/index.html

And hey, if you're interested in meeting another MDC in the Mankato area, let me know IIRC, your DD and my DD1 are almost exactly the same age.
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