"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
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.).
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Two freighters passing in front of Mackinac Island!
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.
This rounds out our only full day in Mackinaw City. We had views of other attractions we may get to on a future visit.
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.
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.
There are other signs at this park describing the interesting history of Stevens Point. They even made pearls buttons!
The view across the Wisconsin River shows the water tower and New Page Paper Mill company.
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.
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!
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!
The menu, also the place mat!
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.
It was a great visit to Stevens Point , we are so glad we had a chance to look around!
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.
The view from the top of the stairs of the boats. Our boat is the Red Cloud, on the left back.
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.
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.
We approach the “Gateway of the Dells”, Romance Rock and High Cliff.
The dignified Chief Black Hawk’s Profile.
The Giant’s Shield
This majestic rock is called “Signal Point”, the entrance to Witches Gulch.
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!
On our left is Witches Bathtub.
Spooky Lane, and then…
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.
There was also this plaque attached to the side of the rock on our right.
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.
The picture on the sign showing the jump.
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.
There is another concession building at the end of the trail. There is another sign explaining how this area came to be.
Scenic View of the river, on our way back to the boat, now docked on the other side opposite of where we dis-embarked.
It was regretfully time to go, so beautiful here.
On our way back to port, what a wonderful ride! A last look at The Palisades rock formation.
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.
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.
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!
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
The tradition continues now, we got our picture taken just before the tour we did three days later.
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.
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!
3-D display using Bennett’s photos
Stereo viewers, precursor to Viewmasters.
The Bennett Studio, and displays inside.
I had my picture taken with H.H. Bennett himself 🙂 Al wasn’t nearby at the time.
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.
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.
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.
Now for a real lion, today he was sunning himself in full view, looking regal.
Next to the lion is the Primate House, the outdoor exhibits are also viewable from the inside.
After the Primate house we head along the path east and see the Anna Vilas Hall building, where many events take place.
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.
Our next stop was the Tropical Rain Forest Aviary, with bird, reptiles and even rodents that live in the rain forest.
The Capybara is here too, the largest rodent.
Now for the new exhibit we all have been waiting for, the new Arctic Passage!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The viewing platform’s scenery has changed since 2011. on the left is 2011, on the right is 2015. Wow, what a change!
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.
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.
And now for the best Children’s Zoo I can remember ever seeing.
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.
The animals at the petting zoo area were so funny and all vying for attention.
There also is a large play structure for the kids here. This is a zoo in itself.
Pink Flamingos are also in this part of the zoo.
Also here is the Red Panda, not for petting.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Behind the park across the street is the former railroad depot. The former rail was removed and replaced with the 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.
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.
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.
A couple guys are netting fish.
Lake Bell View, it was hard to see it due to the fog.
On our way back downtown we saw an old railroad bridge over the Sugar River, now part of the Badger State Trail.
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.