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Snyder: Have imagination, will travel: State tourism staffers still busy promoting Wisconsin
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Snyder: Have imagination, will travel: State tourism staffers still busy promoting Wisconsin


You think your life has been upended? Your everyday routine destroyed?

And now you can’t even forget your troubles with a weekend trip?

Imagine how Sara Meaney feels.

As the head of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Meaney works to promote the great state of Wisconsin as a vacation wonderland.

With most of the state’s recreation options on hold, however, and the summer festival season decimated, the Department of Tourism has had to find new ways to satisfy our wanderlust.

When we talked with Meaney last week, she admitted it’s a challenge to showcase Wisconsin’s attractions during this safer-at-home state of limbo.

“All of us are in a similar spot — going a little stir crazy,” she said. “We’re seeing the same four walls and the same spaces day in and day out.”

To help folks scratch that travel itch, Meaney and her staff are “being as creative as possible. We encourage people to dream about traveling and plan for when we can travel again.”

To that end, the department’s Travel Wisconsin website “has programs that give people the chance to think about future trips and have fun learning about Wisconsin,” Meaney said.

Take a virtual trip

The website and Facebook page feature 50 different virtual tours from all across the state, including aerial tours of state parks, museum collections, a walk through a historic site and virtual classes, she said.

“We are always adding to that collection and will take suggestions and additions from museums and other groups,” Meaney said, adding, “We didn’t create all of these items, but we have gathered them all here. We dig into places you’ll love to experience. You may see someplace you want to go next.”

Highlights, Meaney said, include “a series of virtual tours of Frank Lloyd Wright properties in Wisconsin and an online Go Fish game where you see what types of fish you can catch in Wisconsin.”

As for what travel options people can enjoy now, Meaney immediately pointed out that “many of the state parks remain open, as are many trails and county parks and municipal parks. Golf has also reopened. We encourage people to go for walks and ride your bike.”

The great outdoors

Looking ahead to the summer travel season, Meaney is trying to stay hopeful but realistic.

“It is hard to project what will happen, and I am doing my best to not make any predictions or promises,” she said. “We should count on being able to continue being outside and enjoying outdoor activities.”

Her top priority, she said, “is to support our businesses. We need to support those local businesses as much as possible, our restaurants and bars. They’ve gotten creative with delivery and pickup options. You could order a to-go picnic meal and go to a park and enjoy it.”

The bottom line, Meaney said, is that Wisconsin “still has so much to offer. Outdoor recreation is a top draw for people coming to Wisconsin, and if you take away the crowds at big events, what do we have left? Pretty much everything. The outside is always there for you.”

We may be in danger of burying the lead here, but Meaney didn’t sign off our conversation without mentioning Wisconsin’s No. 1. attraction: Lake Michigan.

“It’s a wonderful experience just to see the lake,” said Meaney, who lives a block from Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. “The very colors and moods of the lake create beautiful vistas every day. I never fail to look at it and be amazed.”

How are you coping with the coronavirus shutdown? Email Liz at or call her at 262-656-6271.

How are you coping with the coronavirus shutdown? Email Liz at or call her at 262-656-6271.

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