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‘Winterful Wisconsin’: Top places to visit in Madison

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Dreams of a white Christmas usually come true for us in Wisconsin, but there’s a quick skid of difference between picturesque wintry weather and an avalanche of discontent.

A new exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, gently reminds us that the modern-day pleasures and pitfalls of winter are gentle when compared to what our forefathers experienced.

“Tis the Season: Winterful Wisconsin” dips into photo archives, artifacts and amateur home movies to show how we historically coped and celebrated the harshest of seasons.


What to say about The Edgewater?

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One of the bigger city cat fights in Madison during the past few years involved a $100 million restoration of The Edgewater, a 1948 Art Deco hotel that overlooks Lake Mendota downtown.

This is where celebrities chose to stay, and a wall crowded with autographed photos proved it. It wasn’t unusual for groupies to head to the hotel’s bar, hoping for a post-show glimpse of a performer in need of a nightcap.

Let’s take a ride

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Mobster Al Capone was released from federal prison 75 years ago and sent home to Chicago. He was 40 years old and in bad health, mentally and physically, because of advanced syphilis; he refused treatment because he didn’t trust people with needles.

That’s how Johnny Three Knives recounts it, and he’ll tell a lot more if you follow the Sicilian code of conduct. The wheelman, a guy named Nails, adds a scowl of agreement.

Museums offer special exhibits

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Art, history and other museums in Wisconsin offer ongoing opportunities to learn and appreciate the world and home. Consider this sampling of special exhibits that will carry us into the new year.

“Changing Currents: Reinventing the Chippewa Valley” addresses at least 350 years of local history through a diverse array of local figures (including a lumberjack, fur trader, Ku Klux Klan fighter and Hmong refugee), interactive settings (Ojibwe wigwam, steamship and 1950s vacation cabin) and related activities.

Destination cooking

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With colder weather comes the inclination to cook more, if for no other reason than to add warmth to the kitchen. This new trio of cookbooks, each associated with a destination to visit, just might add ideas for holiday gift lists or inspiration to your own recipe repertoire.

Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. recently published “The Old Rittenhouse Inn Cookbook: Meals and Memories from the Historic Bayfield B&B” ($24.95), which shares dozens of recipes from the Queen Anne Victorian estate that has been open to overnight guests since 1975.

Things I learned when cruising the Danube

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Living out of a suitcase usually is an irritating necessity when a trip involves multiple cities, states or countries.

You can stay in one place to avoid a jumble of hotels, but that means renting a car or riding trains to and from home base, which can eat up a lot of time.

Readers share their thoughts on recent travels

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Time to sort through the reader mailbag. ’Nuf said.

Some of you share my enthusiasm for Clear Lake, Iowa, and its rock music heritage.

Game still on at Atlantic City

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My bet is that Atlantic City isn’t on the radar of football fans heading east to watch Wisconsin play Rutgers on Nov. 1.

Atlantic City, 100 miles south of New Jersey’s largest university, is quickly losing its reputation as a gaming mecca. Four of the city’s 12 casinos closed this year, and a fifth (Trump Taj Mahal) is expected to go down before November ends.

Haunting New Orleans

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One visit is enough for some places, but that’s not how I view New Orleans. The city has a flashy array of personalities, none boring.

If I could be anywhere in the country as this month ends, it would be The Big Easy, and the Oct. 26 Packer-Saints football game is just one reason why.

Dining out on the farm

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Lots of chefs develop farm-to-table menus to showcase local ingredients, but these restaurants go one step further. Each is on a Wisconsin farm and open all year.

North Star Homestead Farms, 11077N Fullington Road, Hayward: A trio of women — Ann Berlage with daughters Laura and Kara — operate a cafe, market and creamery on a 1919 farm in Sawyer County and Chequamegon National Forest.

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