There’s something about the end of summer that always makes me anxious for a road trip, and this year, a weekend getaway to Madison, Wisconsin was the perfect solution. Conveniently, late summer is also the perfect time to visit Wisconsin’s capital because college classes aren’t back in session yet, leaving visitors space to enjoy the famous outdoor patio.
Leaving Des Moines early on Saturday morning, my first stop was the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa. While I’d visited once before during the movie site’s 25th anniversary celebration—I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Kevin Costner and Bob Costas play baseball—I gave into the quick detour on my way through Dubuque.
Just across the Mississippi River and over the border into Wisconsin, I pulled off the highway in search of gas and a better cell reception. When I only found the former, I turned to my paper atlas which revealed Dickeyville Grotto was only a few blocks away. Iowa is home to a much more elaborate stone grotto—the Grotto of the Redemption —but I was equally charmed by Dickeyville’s more modest attraction. The grotto is made from an eclectic collection of materials, tying in both patriotic and religious themes.
I continued east through rural Wisconsin to New Glarus, where I found my fellow weekend adventurer in New Glarus. After wandering around town (spoiler alert: it’s very Swiss and very adorable) and stopping for lunch at the community-owned Cow & Quince we headed slightly south to partake in my second favorite Wisconsin delicacy: beer.
If you’re a craft beer nerd, you’ve probably heard of New Glarus Brewing and their legendary, “only sold in Wisconsin” brews. My favorite is Spotted Cow, but for $8 visitors can try a flight of three in their tasting room and pick their favorite. The outdoor patio area is the perfect place to enjoy a few beers on a nice day and explore the on-site “ruins.”
With a few six-packs of Spotted Cow in tow, we headed north to downtown Madison to embark on a foot tour. We wandered around the Wisconsin State Capitol before heading toward the University of Wisconsin - Madison campus for a beer overlooking the lake on Memorial Union Terrace.
After a long day of sightseeing and a dinner full of deep fried cheese curds at The Old Fashioned, we were more than ready to pass out in our room at the Holiday Inn Madison At The American Center. Despite the packed parking lot, our hotel room was so quiet that we were asleep in no time. The next morning we had a wonderfully slow start while I caught up on some blogging thanks to Holiday Inn’s great high-speed wifi and endless supply of complimentary coffee.
After a delicious breakfast of sweet and savory crepes (and let’s be honest, some more coffee) at Bradbury's Coffee we set off in search of the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. Located about 30 miles northwest in Sumpter, Wisconsin, Dr. Evermor's Forevertron Park is currently in the running for my favorite roadside attraction ever.
Built in 1980s by artist Tom Every, the Forevertron is the creation of fictional Victorian inventor Dr. Evermor who hoped to use the device to launch himself into the heavens. It’s a bit out of the way, the Forevertron site is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. Along with the Forevertron itself, Every also has created a chorus of more than 70 birds made out of old instruments, googly-eyed crabs made from old tractor seats and countless more fanciful creatures.
I’ve never met a strange, niche museum that I didn’t like and the National Mustard Museum just outside of Madison in Middleton, Wisconsin was no exception. With more than 5,676 different kinds of mustard on display from all over the world, this savory museum and shop are what all your condiment-loving dreams are made of.
Anyone who knows me well knows that my perfect day isn’t complete without ice cream of some sort. So before heading back toward Iowa, we stopped at Ella’s Deli for a milkshake and a ride on their classic carousel. Though I’d read about this famous deli, nothing prepared me for the chaos of walking through the front doors. With literal hundreds of animatronic animals, carousels and more, Ella’s is a ridiculous, sugar-coated sensory overload perfect for a quick stop to satisfy your sweet tooth before you’re back on the road.
Here’s a link to my full trip route on Roadtrippers.
About the Author: By day, Megan Bannister is a digital marketer and freelance writer. But on the weekends, you can find her on the open road scouting out the nearest World's Largest thing to feature on her blog, Olio in Iowa.