Driftless Day Trips
One of the most commonly asked questions when guests call to make a tour reservation is what they can see or do while they’re in the area. Many of our visitors come to Taliesin from around the Midwest for a day or weekend trip and we couldn’t recommend that more. This corner of southwest Wisconsin is not widely known as a tourism hot spot, but we are ready to let the secret out: southwest Wisconsin is beautiful, unique, and interesting!
Are you looking to plan a day trip out to Taliesin from Milwaukee? We would recommend leaving Milwaukee early in the morning to catch the earliest Taliesin Highlights tour. This tour offers a succinct story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life and use of the property, starting with the Hillside school building he designed for his aunts and came to use for his fellowship of apprentices, and ending with the interior spaces of his private residence and studio.
After the tour, if you’re looking for some small-town charm and further cultural immersion, spend the afternoon in Mineral Point. Just a short thirty-minute drive south from Taliesin, Mineral Point offers charming art galleries and shops set amidst a historic main street. There are quite a few delicious choices for lunch, but if you are curious about the Cornish mining culture behind Mineral Point’s beginnings, we recommend a stop at the Red Rooster for pasties and figgy hobbin.
Maybe you’re planning to take an overnight trip to Taliesin from the Twin Cities? Make the drive in the morning so you can spend the afternoon at House on the Rock. This quirky attraction is just seven miles down the road from Taliesin and includes an architecturally unique home as well as a giant carousel, a re-imagined cobblestone street, a giant whale, and collections ranging from cars to dollhouses. You have to experience it for yourself!
Relax after your visit with dinner in Spring Green. There are several great places to eat, but frequented often by our guests is Freddy Valentine’s Public House. Offering salads, sandwiches, and specials with a light emphasis on classic pub food, the dishes incorporate local ingredients. Don’t linger too long over dinner because you need to catch a show at American Players Theatre. The outdoor theater offers a magical, forested setting to enjoy classic stories and talented performances that carry you into another world for the evening.
It would be easiest for you to stay the night in one of the many locally-owned hotels in Spring Green, as you will need to be at Taliesin bright and early for the four-hour Estate tour. This tour is the most comprehensive and includes a walk across the property, visiting every historic building and telling the complete story of Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices finding new ways to live in harmony with nature and integrating art and culture into everyday life.
After the Estate tour the best place for lunch is the Riverview Terrace Cafe at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. We may be a little biased, but the food is delicious! The seasonal ingredients are locally sourced and the cafe is run by the Food Artisan Immersion Program participants. Not only will you have delectable, fresh food, but you’re supporting students in their venture to learn how to operate a restaurant utilizing local food systems.
As a bonus tip, we suggest stopping by the Driftless Cafe for dinner on your drive back to the Twin Cities. Owner Luke Zahm is the current host of the PBS television series Wisconsin Foodie and is a partner in past and future Taliesin programming. The food is so amazing there are no words. Just trust us.
Making plans for a weekend trip up to Wisconsin from Chicago? If you reserve far enough in advance, you can call the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Seth Peterson Cottage your home for the weekend. Located in beautiful Mirror Lake, WI you have close proximity to many different attractions in southwest Wisconsin. On your drive up to the cottage, make sure to leave time for a visit to the Cave of the Mounds. This underground cave is a geologic wonder. Take a tour and experience the beautiful, natural rock formations. It’s the only cave of its kind in the upper Midwest.
On Saturday morning make time for a Taliesin for a House tour and on your way back to the Seth Peterson Cottage to enjoy Devil’s Lake State Park. Take a hike on one of the many trails that circle the lake to scope out unique rock formations and then cool off with a swim or relax on the beach. For dinner, make your way into the Wisconsin Dells to a traditional Wisconsin supper club – The Del-Bar. Owned by the same family for over 75 years this restaurant sports architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice James Dresser. This is one of our staffs’ favorite places in the state to enjoy an Old Fashioned.
On your drive back to Chicago, we highly recommend going out of your way to pick up some Wisconsin delicacies. Swing over to the Mississippi River and stop in Potosi. This small town is home to the Potosi Brewing Company, which offers a brewery tour, beer tastings, and access to the National Brewery Museum. Don’t forget to pick up a six-pack to take home with you.
As you cut across the southern part of Wisconsin, there is one more stop you need to make. Baumgartner’s Cheese Store in Monroe claims to be the oldest cheese store in Wisconsin and their cheese sandwiches haven’t changed much since 1931, but that’s part of the fun. Pick up a cheese sandwich served on rye or buy a brick of cheese to take with you. Can we dare to recommend the Limburger?
These are just a few of our favorite places in southwest Wisconsin, but there is so much more to check out. Travel Wisconsin is a great resource for planning your visit to this great corner of the state. Start making plans now!