A fall vacation that is not the same-old, same-old awaits 189 miles (about 3 hours, 20 minutes) northwest of Chicago in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Water bottles, check. Pillow (I like mine), check. Phone, cords, and bathing suit, check.
On the agenda is see a show at American Players Theatre which everyone calls APT, tour Wright’s Taliesin, explore the hilly countryside and stop at Peck’s Farm Market East on the way home for yummy, fresh corn. The town is surrounded by farmland so visitors will be treated to true farm-to-table products that are not just a nod to today’s popular menu phrases.
For Chicagoans, I90 to US 12/14 around Madison is arguably the shortest, quickest route. Coming from the northern suburbs, I mosey west over to US 12 because I94 is under construction and it means I can stop at Anderson’s Candy Shop in Richmond, IL, for chocolate and Kindfolk Coffee inside a boutique center in Cambridge, WI, for a latte.
Fortunately, my room is ready at The House on the Rock Resort, even though I arrive closer to lunch than the 3 p.m. check-in. So, after dropping my bags, I get directions to the Spring Green General Store for lunch. GPS is fine but I also like to know ahead of time where I’m going.
I heard that the General Store, alone, is a destination experience. Wow! Can’t believe all the stuff crammed on the shelves and down the aisles. But lunch first. Hmm, heard the soups are good, however, I’m going to do a chicken salad sandwich on whole-grain ciabatta and wash it down with peach iced tea.
After ordering at the counter and receiving a flag from Mexico (lots of countries represented) to ID my order, I find a table on the indoor porch. Totally stuffed, I walk off lunch, peering into boutiques and stopping in Arcadia Books.
Then back to the resort to unpack, call Taliesin to book a tour for tomorrow and relax. I get lucky because I should have reserved a tour before leaving home. Fortunately, someone had just canceled for the Highlights Tour that goes to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and his studio.
APT is also tomorrow and where I plan to do dinner. I ordered a picnic supper when I bought my show ticket.
So tonight, I will try Freddy Valentine’s Public House in the historic State Bank of Spring Green. Imagine chowing down on great ribs in a bank. I was told by owner David Owen who named it after his dad, that everything on the menu was really fresh.
In its seven years, the restaurant has picked up several mentions as one of the best small-town restaurants in Wisconsin worth the drive.
BTW, in this town almost every building is historic. The General Store is in a converted cheese storage building dating to about 1919 that was other things before becoming the store and café in the 1980s. The bank, built in 1915, was listed on Register of Historic Places in 2007.
It will seem funny going to Wright’s organic, Prairie School style of architecture at Taliesin tomorrow after seeing old, small-town buildings of the same period, today, just a six-minute drive away.
Wright first built Taliesin on his family’s large farm in 1911. Then he rebuilt it after fires in 1914 and 1925. It was listed as a Historic Landmark in 1974 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019.
The visitor’s center with its great view of the Wisconsin River and where Taliesin tours start and end is perfect for lunch. Going on the tour was a great way not just to see the inside of his home and studio but also take in breathtaking views of the Wisconsin River Valley in the fall.
Back at my weekend retreat to relax, I have time before the APT show to fit in some laps in a really attractive indoor pool where high ceilings and glass walls make it feel connected to the outdoors.
Refreshed, I drive less than a mile from the resort to the American Players’ campus, pick up my pre-ordered dinner, then picnic at a table before taking a shuttle up the hill. I will be seeing Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” in the outdoor amphitheater.
As the sun sets behind the trees, the seats start to fill with people more inclined to trekking up the hill than I was. Surprised by the many people who seemed to know each other, my seatmates explained that APT’s audiences return every year.
Not surprising, was that the show turned out to be every bit as good as the version I saw in Chicago a few years ago because APT attracts actors, directors, and choreographers from TV, film, and regional theaters.
Now I’m thinking I should come back next year.
For more restaurants, places to stay and things to do visit Spring Green online.
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