Mackinaw City- Gateway to the Upper Peninsula and Mackinac Island

6-22, 23 and 24 – 2016

Mackinaw City sign-Mark Beaudry text

Mackinaw City Historical marker

On Day 2 of our trip, we headed to Mackinaw City to catch the Arnold ferry to Mackinac Island.  Our first view of the Mackinac Bridge really built up our excitement!  Residents and visitors alike LOVE their bridge and are not shy about showing it.  The Mackinac Bridge Authority, located in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, takes care of the bridge and the many people crossing it every day.  There is a $4.00 toll payable on the St. Ignace side, which helps pay for maintenance and professional drivers. They drive people across the bridge in bad conditions or if you have a fear of bridges.  Tune your radio to 530 or 1610 AM to hear a broadcast on bridge conditions.  If there are good conditions, you hear a welcoming message to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).

First view of Mackinac Bridge text hearts

Enjoy this view of the bridge from  Michilimackinac State Park and hear the broadcast, a 4 min-33 sec. looped message.  A bonus, the freighter Joseph L. Block  goes under the bridge!

Michilimackinac State Park map

Michilimackinac State Park

Old Mackinac Point Light House is also at this park, admission charged if you go in, except if you just want to visit the gift shop.

Old Mackinac Point Light House marker

Old Mackinac Point Light House sign

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Dinner at Hunt’s Mackinaw Pasty and Cookie Co., right across the street from our hotel on the 23rd. Delicious!

Hunt's Mackinaw Pastie and Cookie Co.

The next day dawned with a beautiful sunrise outside of our hotel, the Super 8 Beachfront.  After breakfast there we began our day of fun!

Super 8 Beachfront hotel in Mackinac City

Mackinaw City sunrise 6-24-16

Our first attraction was the Mackinaw Bridge Museum downtown, they opened at 8 AM.  This museum is quite large, you need at least an hour to explore it. Two videos are playing, showing the building of the bridge.  You can buy them both together for $30 for a great souvenir. Having a meal at Mama Mia’s Pizza sounds like a good pairing with a visit here too!

Mackinac Bridge Museum

Mackinaw Bridge Museum display

This museum is located in Mackinaw City’s main shopping district. To us it resembled Broadway Street in the Wisconsin Dells.  In the center of it all is Mackinaw Crossings. There you will also find their historic train depot, now a restaurant.

Mackinaw Crossings Shopping Center

Mackinaw City has a great many historical markers, more than we had time to see.  Some of them are interactive, there are audio clips to go with each marker.  It is part of the Mackinaw City Historical Pathway.  This is what the signs look like.

Mackinaw City Historical Pathway sign

From here we headed to McGulpin Point Lighthouse.   We even got to go up into the light part. It is open until Nov. 1.

McGulpin Point sign

McGulpin Point Light House in Mackinaw City

McGulpin Light House light

From the shore you could see the distant St. Helena Island lighthouse.

St. Helena Island Lighthouse in Michigan

If you like stargazing, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is in nearby Emmett County.  We went in the daytime, it is open 24/7.

Headlands sign

We walked on the trail to the shore, from here you could see the new telescope building going up. It should be done by next summer!  This is where you look at the blackest sky possible.  If you wish to do some stargazing in your area, use this light pollution map as a guide.

Headlands Telescope building in Mackinaw City

It was lunch time, we headed to one of the city’s favorite places, Darrow’s Family Restaurant.  The Darrow family also were the Mackinac Bridge builders as well. It was pretty busy!

Darrow's Family Restaurant in Mackinaw City

We also paid a visit to Wawatam Park, named after a brave Indian Chief who lived in this area.  You can see Mackinac Island in the background behind the wood carving of the Chief. There is also a historical pathways sign here.

Wawatam Park in Mackinaw City

Wawatam Park Historical Pathways sign

We also went to the Gary R. Williams Memorial Park, where we got day and night pictures of the Mackinac Bridge.  A freighter passed under the bridge at night while we were there.

Mackinac Bridge from Gary Williams Memorial Park in Mackinaw City

Night freighter

We also enjoyed visiting the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, a retired Coast Guard Ship.  What a great tour and view from the deck!  This was the last attraction we visited that day.

Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum in Mackinaw City

Two freighters passing in front of Mackinac Island!

Freighters passing each other

We finished our day with dinner at the Dixie Saloon, located at the endpoint of the famous Dixie Highway.  It follows most of the outline of Michigan. I have been near the beginning of this highway when I lived in Illinois. It passes through Chicago Heights.   The restaurant does not have free wi-fi, but you can pick up a signal from the nearby Shepler’s Ferry.

Dixie Saloon in Mackinaw City

Shepler's Ferry in Mackinac City

This rounds out our only full day in Mackinaw City. We had views of other attractions  we may get to on a future visit.

Mackinaw Parasailing

We saw great views of this from the shore, looks like fun!

Mackinaw Parasailing

Parasailing and Mac island

Colonial Michilimackinac

See what life was like in the fort in the 1700-1800’s, complete with cannons and muskets.  It is still an active archeological site too.

Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City

Heritage Village

Heritage Village in Mackinaw City

It was an enjoyable stay in Mackinaw City, we hope to go back again soon!

Wisconsin Lighthouses – Guardians of the Great Lakes and Beyond

2006 – Present

Since 2006, we have been visiting communities along the Lake Michigan coast of Wisconsin in a quest to see all the light houses. It took 9 years to see them all between Kenosha and Algoma, the southernmost community in Door County.

We both share a maritime heritage, as my husband is a Navy veteran, as well as his father Alvin T. Kutil and father’s brother Robert. They grew up in Manitowoc, where many ships were built that served in WW II. One of my great-grandfather’s was also a Navy vet about 100 years ago.

We will begin with Kenosha and work our way north.

Kenosha 12-1-12

There are two light stations here. The red Kenosha North Pierhead Light and the Old Southport Lighthouse.

Kenosha North LightSouthport lighthouse in Kenosha

Kenosha Southport Lighthouse Marker


Racine  4-19-15 

Racine has 5 light stations protecting its harbors, including one at its Coast Guard station.

Racine Harbor Light Station

These 4 are scattered along the coast, you can hear the Racine Reef light station, it’s horn emits a mournful sound every 15 seconds that you can hear all over Racine.

Racine Lighthouses


Hear the Racine Reef Light station.

Racine Reef Lighthouse Info

Windpoint is the northernmost of the Racine light stations, it has a museum open in the summer months. Please put a donation in the box when you visit!


Milwaukee 12-15-12

Breakwater Lighthouse

Milwaukee Sentinel in the Mist 12-15-12

Pierhead Light

12-15-12 A Milwaukee Light House

Northpoint Light Station

12-15-12 Milwaukee Northport Lighthouse


Port Washington  4-5-14

Breakwater Light

4-5-14 Port Washington -Breakwall Light House

Old Port Washington Light Station

Old Port Washington Light Station 4-5-14


Sheboygan 8-20-06

Breakwater Light House, this was our first one. Also the only one in Sheboygan.

Sheboygan 8-20-06


Manitowoc – Many visits there.

North Breakwater Lighthouse

Manitowoc North Breakwater Lighthouse 8-29-12

Manitowoc and Two Rivers often treat themselves like a twin city, so I will add Two River’s two lighthouses here.

North Pierhead 6-30-12

Located at Roger’s Street Fishing Village.

6-30-12 Two Rivers Rogers Street

Here it is as seen from across.

Rogers Street Fishing Village in Two Rivers

Rawley Point Lighthouse 6-30-12

5 miles north of downtown Two Rivers.

Two Rivers Rawley Point 6-30-12

Rawley Point Lighthouse marker


Kewaunee  9-3-15

Pierhead Lighthouse

9-3-15 Kewaunee Light House WM Al

Photo by Al Kutil


The northernmost one we have seen along Lake Michigan’s shore is in Algoma, considered to be the gateway of Door County. The little red lighthouse is the town’s trademark.

Algoma LakeshoreAlgoma banner 8-29 1324


Lake Winnebago is large enough to have four light stations. To date we have seen one of them. We were able to climb to the top and had a great view of the Marina below.

Fon du Lac Lighthouse  8-29-12

8-29-12 Fon du Lac

Fon du Lac Lighthouse plaqueFon du Lac Lighthouse view of Marina 8-29-12

This is our lighthouse list to date, we hope to see more soon! Learn more about Wisconsin lighthouses in the links below.

Hot Website Links

Door County

Lighthouse Friends 

Apostle Island Lighthouses

Wisconsin Lighthouses and Lighthouse Tours

Lighthouse Tour – Door County Trolley, Inc.

Door County Lighthouse Tours

Book – Wisconsin Lighthouses: A Photographic and Historical and Historical Guide

Stevens Point – Gateway to the Pineries

7-6 and 8, 2015   Portage County

An introduction to the Stevens Point area.

Stevens Point sign

Stevens Point is the Portage County Seat, with a population of 26, 717 with a rich history in the logging industry in the 19th century. We stopped at Pfiffner Pioneer Park  and found out why it’s called the “Gateway to the Pineries”. there is a marker there about that, as well as a marker dedicated to George Stevens, whom the city was named after.

Pfiffner Pioneer Park sign WM

Stevens Point Gateway to the Pineries marker WM\

George Stevens Plaque in Stevens Point

There are other signs at this park describing the interesting history of Stevens Point. They even made pearls buttons!

A Point in Logging History sign in Stevens Point

Before Refrigerators sign in Stevens Point

Buttons From the River sign in Stevens Point

The Riverfront Arts Center is in this park also. You can see the Pineries and Stevens marker in this view.

Riverfront Arts Center in Stevens Point WM

The view across the Wisconsin River shows the water  tower and New Page Paper Mill company.

New Page Paper and watertower in Stevens Point

My husband lived here for one year while he went to college at the University of Wisconsin in 1980.  Former Gov. Lee Dreyfus was inaugurated here on 1-1-79. He relates his experiences here when we last visited in 2001. It’s on that rock in front of the building.

UW Stevens Point Lee Dreyfus WM

Stevens Point is also home to a rather rare and unusual water feature, The Boy With a Leaking Boot. Here it is in operation.

The Boy With The Leaky Boot in Stevens Point WM

Boy With Leaking Boot sign

Many of the early settlers in Stevens Point were Polish, and to honor that heritage, they have a statue of Casmir Pulaski.

Casmir Pulaski Statue in Stevens Point WM

At St. Peter Catholic Church, Cardinal  Karol Wojtyla from Poland came to this church during its Centennial. Two years after this visit he was elected Pope John Paul II.

St. Peter Catholic Church in Stevens Point WM

Stevens Point also has a sister city in Poland.

Stevens Point sister city in Poland

Stevens Point also pays homage to its railroad history, still very active. This is the depot with a train present.

Stevens Point Depot and train WM

Across the street is the Southside Railroad Complex, complete with steam engine and Soo caboose.

Southside Railroad Complex Marker in Stevens Point

Southside Railroad Complex WM

Southside Railroad Complex Front and Back WM

Funds are still being raised for continued renovations of the cars.  Go to to learn more. There will be an open house here on Sept. 19.

Southside Railroad Complex Open house

For those wishing to arrive in Stevens Point, the Municipal Airport is there to serve your needs.

Municipal Airport Collage in Stevens Point

Downtown is beautiful, having preserved many historic buildings still in use with many businesses. The Mathias Mitchell Public Square has been a gathering place for the community for over a century.

Public Square in Stevens Point WM

Public Square Markers Stevens Point

In the square is also a fountain, complete with a performance schedule.

Public Square Fountain and schedule in Stevens Point

Other features downtown, the former Opera House, “The Fox on Main” is currently vacant. Donations are being collected to refurbish this historic building.

The Fox on Main Opera House in Stevens Point WM

The Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum can also be found on Main.

Central Wisconsin Children's Museum

At the back of the Portage County Public Library parking lot is a marker, it was the site of the first public building in town.

Stevens Point First Public Building marker WM

All this exploring can make you hungry, and we had lunch at two top places. On July 6 we went to the Hilltop Pub and Grill on 4091 Main Street. What a beautiful building too! The food was also delicious, I had the beef brisket sandwich and Al had the Chicken Flippers from the appetizer menu. Yum!

Hilltop Pub and Grill in Stevens Point WM

Beef Brisket Sandwich and Chicken Flippers at Hilltop in Stevens Point

On July 8 we went to Al’s Diner, tucked away in a residential neighborhood on 3324 Jefferson St. We felt welcome from the moment we walked in, and left as friends with the owner Gail Guzman.  Also one of the local ladies were there and we chatted with her as well. We will be back next year on our return visit!

Al's Diner Collage in Stevens Point WM

The menu, also the place mat!

Al's Diner Menu in Stevens Point

We saw one final marker before our visit concluded, the Jordan Dam and Power Plant and marker at Jordan County Park. It is a little hard to find, is was hidden by a large bush in a circle turn-around area. It is on the right side of highway 66 as you leave town.

Jordan Dam marker in Stevens Point

Jordam dam and power Plant marker in Stevens Point WM

Jordan Dam in Stevens Point

It was a great visit to Stevens Point , we are so glad we had a chance to look around!

Upper Dells Boat Tour – Wisconsin Dells


Dells Boat Tour – Tickets and Pricing

The last time we took this tour was June 30, 2002 and it was time we did it again. This time we were armed with a better camera (mine) which also shot HD video. Al also had his own camera and he sat in the lower deck, giving another point a view. We arrived at the Lower Dells Dock parking area, the first Upper Dells ride was at 10:00, a shuttle bus took us to the dock stairs to catch it. These are the boat rides available in summer this year.

Dells  Boat Tour ticket Office

Dells Boat Tour Schedule 2015

The view from the top of the stairs of the boats. Our boat is the Red Cloud, on the left back.

Upper Dells Dock watermark

Before you board, you have the chance to get a souvenir picture taken, available upon return. It is $20, includes a 8 x 6″, 2 – 4 x 6″ and three wallet-sized prints, plus a photo key chain for the wallet picture. What a good deal, here is our picture. You can get the same done at the Lower Dells. Just like what H.H. Bennett used to do over 100 years ago.

Upper Dells Al and Laurie Kutil  6-17-15

Now we are on board and on our way!  We were lucky to have such a beautiful day. We are visible from the bridge to passersby as we go around the bend to the left, heading to the Gateway up ahead.

Bridge View 2852 WM

Upper Dells Boat Tour leaving WM

We approach the “Gateway of the Dells”, Romance Rock and High Cliff.

Romance Cliff and High Rock - Upper Dells Watermark

The dignified Chief Black Hawk’s Profile.

Chief Black Hawk's Profile watermark

The Giant’s Shield

Giant's Shield watermark  in Upper Dells

This majestic rock is called “Signal Point”, the entrance to Witches Gulch.

Upper Dells Rock formation WM

It is time for our first stop at Witches Gulch. We disembark and walk the path between tall rock formations, you can see the forest above you. Very beautiful!

Red Cloud boat at Upper Dells

Witch's Gluch Path WM at Dells

On our left is Witches Bathtub.

Witch's bathtub in Witch's Gulch in Dells WM

Spooky Lane,  and then…

Witch's Gulch Narrow Passage WM

It opens up to a wide area and concessions/restrooms are available.  We had 20 minutes before we had to get back on the boat.

Concession Stand at Witch's Gulch at Dells WM

There was also this plaque attached to the side of the rock on our right.

Witche's Gulch Plaque

Back on board, we crossed the river to our next attraction, the dog jumping across Stand Rock to re-create Ashley Bennett’s jump that made the Dells famous.  We assembled in the small amphitheater with this great view.

Stand Rock in Dells WM

The picture on the sign showing the jump.

Stand Rock Jump in Upper Dells

The dog jumping is a German Shepherd named Radar. Let’s watch!

How exciting that was!  Radar is perfectly safe, there is a net below to catch him if he fell.

We continue along the trail, seeing other beautiful rock structures and scenic views of the river.

Toadstool Rock Upper Dells WM

There is another concession building at the end of the trail.  There is another sign explaining how this area came to be.

Concession Building collage at Stand Rock in Dells WM

Sign at Stand Rock in Dells

Scenic View of the river, on our way back to the boat, now docked on the other side opposite of where we dis-embarked.

Scenic View  3187 WM

Pointed ledge at Stand Rock WM

Path to boat in Upper Dells from Stand Rock WM

Stand Rock area  - Upper Dells WM

Tall Rock formation 3204 WM

It was regretfully time to go, so beautiful here.

Back on the boat after Stand Rock 3210 WM

On our way back to port, what a wonderful ride! A last look at The Palisades rock formation.

The Palisades at Stand Rock 3212 WM

As we headed back to our home port, Brendan offered us copies of the Dells Boat Tour Official Guidebook for sale for $5, a great memento of our tour.

Official Guidebook of Dells Boat Tours

Saw a PT-109 shark boat on the way back, cool!

PT-109 3251 WM at Dells

Also saw a Jet Boat.

Jetboat Upper Dells Coming Back Al Kutil WM

Almost back, view from the bridge.

Upper Dells Boat Tour  Returning WM

Returning to dock Upper Dells WM

The crew secures the boat to the dock at the building.  On the dock is the stand where we pick up our picture.

Upper Dells Boat Tour Station Building WM

Photo Pickup at Upper Dells Dock 3292

Captain Bob and Brendan wish everyone a great day and hope you enjoyed your tour!

Captain Bob and Brendan Upper Dells Red Cloud crew frame WMDells Boats Come Back in Fall

Hot Website Links

Chamber of Commerce

Dells Boat Tours

Wisconsin Dells Information Deals

Explore Downtown Dells

City of Wisconsin Dells

Travel Wisconsin

H.H. Bennett Studio in the Wisconsin Dells – A SESQUICENTENNIAL Celebration!


H.H.Bennett Studio at Dells

H.H. Bennett Plaque at WI DellsOliver and Jean Dyer Reese plaque in the Dells

This was  a very special weekend at H.H. Bennett Studio, they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary and we had to be a part of it. It was our first time visiting and we were in for a treat! Admission is $7 for adults, but waived on this weekend. They always accept donations. There were costumed interpreters, even Ho-Chunk music and dancing since H.H. Bennett was kind to them and allowed him to photograph them. Just outside of the right-side building is a rotating picture display.

Bennett Studio Rotating Pictures at Dells

H.H. Bennett was a pioneer in photography, he invented the “snapper” in 1878. You no longer had to sit perfectly still for 5 minutes or more to get a portrait taken. He took pictures all over the Dells with his new technique. His most famous shot was his son Ashley jumping at Stand Rock. It took him 17 tries to get this shot. Bennett’s work helped bring people to the Dells and the tourism industry was born there!

Stand Rock Jump in Upper DellsAshley Jump at Stand Rock

Just before a Dells Boat Tour left the dock, Bennett would take a picture of the group in the boat and have the picture developed and printed by the time the group came back. It took A LOT longer to do the tour in the 1880’s, you had to help row the boat! Now it only takes two hours and the crew does all the work.

Photo by H.H. Bennett

Photo by H.H. Bennett

The tradition continues now, we got our picture taken just before the tour we did three days later.

Upper Dells Al and Laurie Kutil  6-17-15

We went inside, you could get many souveniers, including prints of Bennett’s famous photos.  The docents near the museum entrance greeted and welcomed us. We knew this was going to be fun! The studio continues to support the Ho-Chunk Nation by selling their jewelery and books.

Inside H.H. Bennett Studio at the Dells

Ho-Chunk Indian Jewelery at Bennet Studio.

I hear drums!  A couple of representatives of the Ho-Chunk are going to be performing some dance and song for the guests. Two talented children showed us what they have learned so far about their culture’s traditions.

There was much to see inside the museum, new displays and really liked how the older building showed how his studio probably originally looked. Also the history of cameras and what ordinary people used in times past, including myself!

Bennett’s descendants are still involved with the museum today. Betsy Grant, Bennett’s Great-Granddaughter, was on hand to tell us about his many accomplishments. It was great meeting you Betsy!

Bennett Legacy Lives OnBetsy Grant, H.H. Bennett Great-grandaughter

Bennett Legacy Lives onsign

3-D display using Bennett’s photos

Bennett Display at the Dells

Bennett Studio display

Stereo viewers, precursor to Viewmasters.

Stereo Viewers ar Bennett Studio in the Dells

The Bennett Studio, and displays inside.

H.H. Bennett Studio in dells

Bennet Studio Collage

I had my picture taken with H.H. Bennett himself  🙂  Al wasn’t nearby at the time.

Selfie with H.H. Bennett at Bennett Studio

On the 2nd floor they showed 40 minutes of silent film that Miriam Bennett shot from the 1920’s through the 60’s. These excerpts are Broadway Street scenes from the 20’s, 50’s and some Ho-Chunk dancing. I added some music to the movies.

Miriam Bennett Films at Bennett Studio

We had a great time learning about this great Photographer. Nearby is the house where he lived, on 825 Oak Street. The season for visiting here is usually early May through late October.

H.H. Bennett House in the Dells 2

H.H. Bennett Original Studio in the Dells

Return to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison – What An Amazing Place!


Henry Vilas Zoo Sign

It was time to come back to the Henry Vilas Zoo, and this time explore the ENTIRE zoo. My previous visit was on October 4, 2011 and I didn’t go through the entire zoo on that day. Also, Al was with me this time, he didn’t remember the last time he came here.

If you plan on coming, remember that its free to visit, donations are accepted though and there are donation boxes scattered throughout the zoo. Most days the zoo is open 9:30 to 5, more specifics on hours here.  Inside exhibits open at 10:00. Wear comfortable shoes, it took almost four hours to see the entire zoo in one visit. It helps to have a map with you too to check off each exhibit as you see it. Lets begin our tour!

We began at the main entrance where we find the gift shop and ice cream shop. Also two concrete lions that the kids love to take their picture with.

Vilas Zoo Gift Shop and Ice Ceam Shop


Concrete Lions at Henry Vilas Zoo

Now for a real lion, today he was sunning himself in full view, looking regal.

Lion at Vilas Zoo in Madison

 Next to the lion is the Primate House, the outdoor exhibits are also viewable from the inside.

Discovering Primates Building at Vilas

 Inside Primate House at Vilas

 After the Primate house we head along the path east and see the Anna Vilas Hall building, where many events take place.

Anna Vilas Hall at Vilas Zoo

 From the balcony of Anne Vilas Hall you could see the penguin’s home. They were not out  that morning so here they are from my 2011 visit.

Penguin Parlor at Vilas 10-4-11

Penguins at Vilas ZooPenguin Parlor plaque at Vilas


Blackfoot Penguin facts at Vilas Zoo


Our next stop was the Tropical Rain Forest Aviary, with bird, reptiles and even rodents that live in the rain forest.

Rainforest Aviary at VilasTropical Rain Forest Aviary plaque at Vilas

Inside Tropical Aviary at Vilas

McCaw at Vilas

The Capybara is here too, the largest rodent.

Capabara at Rain Forest Aviary at Vilas


Now for the new exhibit we all have been waiting for, the new Arctic Passage!

Arctic Passage Exhibit Building at Vilas

In 2011 they were fundraising, now its a reality it just opened May 23, 2015. Here is an overview of the new mega-exhibit.

Many kids were there, and they were really enjoying it. We also had lunch at the new Glacier Grill inside, which offers a view of the Polar Bears while you eat! Eating here also supports the zoo.

Glacier Grill view at Vilas

The Sea Lions were really aping the crowd, and knew how to get claps and cheers.

There are many great photo-ops to take with your kids too. Not to mention numerous animal cut-outs the can put their faces in.

Vilas Zoo kid photo ops

Orangutan Cut-out for pictures at Vilas

This is really fun, outside of the Arctic Passage exhibit is an actual Tundra Buggy, used to transport scientists across the arctic and Antarctic icy terrain. You can go inside and kids can pretend to drive it, inside it sounds like its rolling along.

Tundra Buggy exhibit at Vilas

It’s not just for scientists anymore! In Churchill, Canada you can also have a buggy tour. Cool!

Across from the Arctic Passage exhibit is the North American Prairie exhibit. In it are Prairie Dogs, Badgers and Bison.

George M. Fiat North American Prairie exhibit at Vilas

Animals at North American Prairie exhibit at Vilas

The viewing platform’s scenery has changed since 2011. on the left is 2011, on the right is 2015. Wow, what a change!

View from Prairie Platform at Vilas 2011 and 2015

Next to here is the new Jack Lussier Conservation Pavilion, also just a sign on my visit in 2011. A docent was teaching a large group of children here.

jack Lussier Conservation Pavilion at Vilas

Next is the Herpetarium, or reptile house. Outside are two tortoises and an alligator. I probably saw those same tortoises when I was a kid, or even my Mom since they live over 100 in many cases.


Discovery Center and Herpetarium  at Vilas

Alligator and Tortises at Vilas


Inside Herpetarium at Vilas

And now for the best Children’s Zoo I can remember ever seeing.

Childrens Zoo entrance at Vilas

It wasn’t this big when I was a kid.  It has a petting zoo, train ride and carousel for both kids and adults to enjoy. It’s a $1.50 to ride them each. Lets watch them in action! The carousel is customized for Madison, see the panels above with the Capitol and Bascom Hill.

Vilas Zoo Carousel

Train ride at Vilas

The animals at the petting zoo area were so funny and all vying for attention.

Petting Zoo at Vilas

There also is a large play structure for the kids here. This is a zoo in itself.

Zoo play structure

Pink Flamingos are also in this part of the zoo.

Pink Flamingos at Vilas


Also here is the Red Panda, not for petting.

Red Panda at Vilas

The last area of the zoo to see is at the east-central area, with the giraffes, hippo, tapir, plus the tiger (not seen) and lion.

GiraffesHippo and Tapir at Vilas

Lots of tables under pavilions (new) near the central building that has been there since my childhood. Access to the Children’s Zoo used to be through the central area of this building.

Vilas Zoo central area

What a great time both of us had, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this zoo.  Thanks also Vilas Family for bestowing this gift to Madison, your legacy begins its 2nd century!

Plaque in Vilas Zoo


Belleville – Small Community, Big Heart!


Belleville Sign


Belleville Downtown IMG_1011

Belleville is a friendly village of 2,385 in both Dane and Green counties.  Many of the early settlers came from France and you can see the evidence of that in some of the business names.  It was a foggy day in the 40’s and created quite the atmosphere. The town was all decked out for the holidays. In historic Library Park was a gazebo decorated and had a Christmas tree inside, also many lamp poles had pretty decorations on them.

Belleville Christmas Collage

We usually have a meal in most of the places we visit and we learned of a favorite place here, the Corner Café. This time we were joined by our nephew  Joe, we had breakfast together.   Their food was delicious! I wish could eat more but we will come back on our next visit.

Corner Cafe Big Collage


After breakfast we came back to Library Park.  In the center is the first Village Hall building, constructed in 1894.  Also a two-sided marker that has only been there since 2011. A great synopsis of early Belleville history.


Library Park in Belleville

Library Park Village Hall 1894 Belleville

Belleville Marker both sides

Behind the park across the street is the former railroad depot. The former rail was removed and replaced with the Badger State Trail.

Belleville Depot and Badger State Trail

In keeping this this being a former railroad track, we also headed south of town between Belleville and Monticello and found the historic Stewart Tunnel that the train once passed through. It’s 1/4 mile long and considered one of the darkest trail tunnels in Wisconsin.  We sure look small! It is over 20 ft. high! Find it here. Park on Tunnel Rd. near the trail, it is about 1/4 walk from the road.

Stewart Tunnel in Belleville


Back in town, we saw another historic building, the former Park Hotel, important way station for travelers in Belleville’s early history. It is now The Dam Bar and Grill.

The Dam Bar - Historic Park Hotel  in BellevilleOther businesses downtown..

Francois Ford Sales and Service

Francois Ford in Belleville


Patches and Petals – The Quilter’s General Store

Originally a two-story furniture store.

Patches and Petals Quilting Store in Belleville


Belleville Auto Body

Belleville Auto Body


Main Street Salon and J & M Bar and Grill

Main Street Salon and J & M Bar and Grill

Bellville also has great parks for recreation as well. The Community Park has much to offer .  It is on the banks of Lake Bell View and a path goes alongside the lake. A bridge makes crossing easy and offers a great view of the dam.

Belleville Community Park bridge

 A couple guys are netting fish.

Belleville Dam at Community Park

 Lake Bell View, it was hard to see it due to the fog.

Lake Bell View in Belleville

On our way back downtown we saw an old railroad bridge over the Sugar River, now part of the Badger State Trail.

Old Railroad Bridge over Sugar River in Bellleviille

We had a great visit here today, and we have a few more places to tell you about.  We also sought out another marker just 7 miles west of town at Primrose Lutheran Church.  Some Norwegian settlers came to this area also.

Primrose Lutheran Church in Primrose


Primrose Lutheran Church marker


A popular business on the north side of town is the Duluth Trading Company Outlet.

Duluth Trading Company in Belleville

 A popular bed and breakfast called Cameo Rose lies just outside the village.

Cameo Rose Bed and Breakfast


What a great day in Belleville, a friendly community with a big heart!