"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 :)
There is much to see in Rhinelander and this museum is a must-see if you only have one day.
The Pioneer Park Museum Complex is America’s oldest Logging Museum and was once an actual logging camp. It is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, closed Mondays except for open and end of the season. During September, open Fridays and Saturdays.
This is a self-guided tour, and upon arrival you are greeted by a docent and given a sheet describing each building and exhibit in order so you don’t miss anything. Page 1 and following exhibits.
The Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs during the Depression in the 1930’s. It also helped build the infrastructure of the National and State Parks throughout our country.
The Fire Barn had a beautiful mural painted on two sides.
Three trucks on the inside.
There was a teepee outside of the Fire Barn too. Here we are for scale.
Now we head to the Blacksmith Shop, very interesting! when you walk in they have a cross section of Wisconsin trees at the Nicolet National Forest on display.
In the main building are many treasures to be seen, some of them animated. We first see a logging camp setup for their dining room.
As you can see up ahead, this is the door leading to the “captured” Hodag. Also a Hodag “roar” and a mini-sawmill model with moving figures inside. Also Hodag art.
I just heard the roar from the Hodag on the left. A docent at the museum will press a button to play the roar.
The Model Sawmill is amazing, its 75 years old! It used to run on steam, now its electric. Here is some information about the builder. Lets see it in action!
This concludes Part 1 of the museum, the half on the right side of the complex.
Part 2 – The Railroad Museum
On the left side are all the railroad cars, the Rhinelander Depot and other artifacts of interest. Click on pages to expand.
First off is the Steam Hauler, which used to pull logs on a sleigh with ease. It helped cut down the cost of logging and wear and tear on horses!
The Rhinelander Railroad Association has been involved here, and a fine job they have done! They also have a model railroad in the basement level of the depot. I hear the train now! This is simulated, the train is really stationary and does not give rides.
If you want to ride a real steam train, you need to go to Laona to ride their Lumberjack Steam Train. Its about 45 minutes west of Rhinelander.
We enjoyed getting the grand tour of the displays by a volunteer from RRA. He first showed us the model railroad, filling the entire room. How impressive!
There were many good displays on the top floor too, even a train stained glass window.
And the grand finalé, we recieved a tour of the car currently off limits to visitors, the “Thunder Lake Company Car”, or President’s Car. Our guide showed us the work still had to be done here, and the need for donations. $10,000 is the goal and there is still a LONG way to go. While you are there you can either put money in the donation box or send a check here. Interior of car and restoration photos exclusive here.
Thanks very much for showing us so much, you take pride in your work and it shows. Now to wrap up our tour. here are a few more exhibits. It was an enjoyable 2 1/2 hours of exploring and we learned a lot!
Near the entry take a picture with the hodag and/or a carving of Tom Skubal, a former CCC participant.
Rhinelander is a city of almost 8,000 in Oneida Co. It’s also the county seat. We have been wanting to come here for a long time, this gateway to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We also wanted to see the mythical creature, the Hodag. It was “discovered” by Eugene Shepard in autumn of 1893. This is the famous picture that he used to prove it was real. He showed the hodag at the first Oneida County fair in a dimly lit tent. People were skeptical about this creature, but believed it just enough to run out of the tent screaming when Eugene made it move, marionette-style. The hodag is still part of Rhinelander mythos today, now turned from a scary monster to a cute mascot for the community.
The first place one should stop is the Chamber of Commerce, where you can take your picture with the Hodag and pick up area information. It is at 450 Kemp St. We did just that! Don’t worry, this one is tame and LOVES posing for pictures 🙂 There are many more scattered throughout town, we saw as many as we could. This is a sample, we counted about 20 but probably missed some. You can get Hodag souvenirs here too.
Hodags downtown, such works of art!
This video is a good summary of Hodag lore.
Lets take a look at the historic downtown, it was filled with many beautiful buildings.
The Merchants and Trust Building, the library was in a room there before the current building was built.
My favorite building is the Courthouse, beautiful day or night! This is the view shortly after sunrise, then 2 AM on July 8. The night is short there this time of year. The dome is Tiffany glass, VERY unusual. It glows green at night.
Closeup of the glass panels within each square that makes up the dome.
And at night, my favorite!
There are also historical markers on site.
This sounds strange, but we often make a cemetery one of our stops. We stopped at Forest Home Cemetery to see the sites of two notable people buried here. This cemetery is large and it was a challenge finding them. The hardest one was Eugene Shepard, the man who “found” the first Hodag in fall of 1893. For someone who is largely responsible for Rhinelander’s identity, his gravesite is very humble. Here it is, plus it’s coordinates.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.912
The other gravesite is John W. Heisman, founder of the Heisman Trophy. His is even more humble, it’s a flat marker. This is how we found it. Look for the Donaldson large monument, it is in front of that.
N45º 37.867′ W089º 23.973
We also saw a Packer house on 224 Sutliff Ave.
Rhinelander also has two museums. The Rhinelander Historical Society Museum on 9 South Pelham St. was not open, despite the sign saying it was open when we arrived at 2 PM on a Tuesday.
We were fortunate however to see the Rhinelander Logging Museum. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. the museum is located at 135 South Stevens Street at Pioneer Park. See next post to read about our experience there 🙂
We also had a great visit at Hodag Park, on the shores of Boom Lake. Here you will find the Hodag historical marker and several shelters and playground. There are also Hodag Water Shows in the summer.
Rhinelander has many restaurants. We ate at two of them. We had a dinner and breakfast at the Friendship House on 2260 Lincoln St . They open early which was great for our busy day of exploring. We were treated like regulars, the staff takes great pride in their work. Our coffee cup never had the chance to get empty. Chris told us proudly he made the pies, you know we had to have a piece! Al and I shared a piece of Strawberry Cream. Selection changes daily.
The other place is where “Around the Corner With John McGivern” visited, Joe’s Pasty Shop. We wanted a simple meal after spending Tuesday exploring all over town. The have four flavors ready-to-eat and many more you can bring home frozen ones to cook later. Delicious! View John’s entire visit to Rhinelander last summer.
We stayed two nights at the Days Inn downtown, only a block from the courthouse which made my night photo of it a short walk away. The only drawback is there is not a free continental breakfast. It was a good excuse to go back to the Friendship House after a fine dinner there the night before.
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!
Amherst and neighboring Amherst Junction was settled around 1852, most settlers Yankees and English-speaking Canadians. It may have been named after the hometown of one of the settlers from Amherst, Nova Scotia.
We first stopped in Amherst Junction. The historic State Bank Building.
We then went went to the nearby village of Amherst to see the dam and bridge.
The bridge and even a sign describing its history.
Sometimes vehicle trouble can happen on the road, we were hearing a loud scraping sound when the brakes were applied. We discovered Amherst had an excellent auto repair shop called T & T Automotive. We went right there and they took care of us in one hour, even though we just dropped in. We give them a stamp of approval for their fast and excellent service.
We will be back in Amherst perhaps next year to learn more about this town. This community saved our trip and maybe our vehicle from damage.
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!
Genesee Depot is located in the town of Genesee in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. We are finally back after 2 1/2 years since got a great chance to tour Ten Chimneys in this community.
Stillman Smith was the first settler in the area in 1837. It was named after the train station, Genesee Depot opened Johnston Quarry in 1842 which provided some stone that went into Madison’s State Capitol.
We first take a look at South Genesee (Saylesville) when the old Saylesville Mill still stands.
Nearby across the road are a few other historic buildings and a WWI memorial on the same side as the mill.
We go to downtown Genesee Depot to see the several historical buildings there and still in use. This is the original Town Hall, in front is a sign telling Genesee Depot’s history.
This is the former train depot. It was a restaurant called the Depot Café, unfortunately it closed on May 24, 2015. It was open 3 years.
Just down a road a little is The Union House, first opened as a hotel in 1861. Now it is a fine dining restaurant.
Many other great businesses downtown. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Cornerstone Restaurant, and so did many other visitors to Ten Chimneys. The food and service are top-notch and we will go back when we are in the area again. They even served a mini chocolate bundt cake in their bakery case, recipe by Alfred Lunt of Ten Chimneys, yum! Some of their selections come from Sally’s Sweet Shoppe across the Street. Owner Judy Knoernschild and her friendly staff welcome you for a great dining experience!
Woodstock, IL is in McHenry County in northern Illinois with a population of nearly 25,000 as of 2010. It was chosen as the county seat in 1843 and was originally called Centerville, due to being in the center of the county. In 1845 the town name was changed to Woodstock after resident Joel Johnson’s hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. It became a city in 1873, and a rail line soon arrived. It is still in use today, Metra trains come through also, taking passengers to Chicago 37 miles away.
Prior to 1992, Woodstock was not considered to be a destination for visitors. The movie Groundhog Day changed all of that. Since the movie’s release in 1993, people have been streaming in from all over the country (and world!) to see the city that the movie made famous. Al and I came into town to celebrate Groundhog Day in 2015 and 2017 and had the time of our lives! All the sites in the movie are marked with a plaque for a self-guided Walking Tour any time you come to visit. The city was re-vitalized by the movie and the money spent in town by visitors has allowed for many improvements and beautification projects to make the city a welcoming place for all. We stay at the Super 8 when we come to visit. Book early if you are coming for Groundhog Day, we reserved our room in early November. Or you can even stay at the Royal Victorian Manor, featured in the Groundhog Day movie as the Cherry Street Inn.
There is more to Woodstock then the groundhog though. They have preserved their beautiful historic Square and most storefronts are occupied with boutiques and restaurants. On our most recent visit in 2017, many buildings are now outlined in LED light and the trees in the inner square have white lights on them. Very beautiful!
Woodstock created a pdf map listing the historic buildings on or near the Square. Here are some of them. Let’s begin at the Opera House and go counter-clockwise.
Across the street on our left is the Phoenix Block.
At the end of this corner on 113 S. Benton is the majestic Church Block building (1899), named after Malachi Church, a county sheriff. In the corner is now a four-face city clock and the business Ethereal Confections Craft Chocolate and Dessert Bar. Also Material Things.
We round the corner to the BMO Harris building, housed in the Primm Block. The tan building is the Murphy Block.
At the end of Benton Street (across from Ned’s Corner) are these businesses.
Cass Street is next on the square.
On this street is the former Tip Top Cafe’ in the Groundhog Day movie. Now Taqueria La Placita, we enjoyed a great dinner there 2-1-17.
At the top of Cass St. we see the Old Courthouse and Jailhouse buildings, all occupied.
We enjoyed lunch at the Public House of Woodstock here, site of the Groundhog Day movie bar scene where they drink to world peace.
Across the street is the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Jaci’s Cookies, where we got a couple scones and a Groundhog cookie! They closed on 9-30-16.
We are back at the top again where we started. We saw other interesting buildings, these are on Main St. just off the Square. This is the Waverly house building, built in 1900. Next to it is the store Rare Rubbish, with a vintage Elgin Watch neon sign with clock. Cool! We saw the sign at night in 2017, one side still works!
Across the street is the Woodstock Theater, on this site around 100 years.
On our way out of town, we saw the Purple Heart Memorial.
This wraps up our tour of Woodstock. Check these resources for more information about this city and McHenry County. A great place to visit any time of the year. We always feel welcome here, as we do when we visit my home state. We also found this great historical marker just outside of Woodstock at a small wayside.