Monday, February 1, 2010

Wisconsin State Capital

Wisconsin has one of the best capitals in the nation. I have not visited everyone of the 50 state capitals, but I have been to a fair number and Wisconsin is one of the best. The architecture of the capital, the marble, the art work, and just plain beauty of the Wisconsin Capital is hard to beat. The Wisconsin Capital is located in Madison Wisconsin in the center of the Madison Isthmus between two of Madison's lakes. Luckily by Madison law, no Madison building can be built in Madison that is higher than the capital. This law guaranties the capital will be more visible than some of the other state capitals that are located in major cities with tall buildings.
The Wisconsin Capital building is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm, except for weekends and holidays, then closes at 4 pm. There are tours daily six times a day Monday through Saturday and three times on Sunday. The tours last less than an hour and are very informational. If you have any time in Madison, just walking around the Capital building is worth the time.

The Senate Chamber, Assembly Chamber, Supreme Court and many other rooms are open to the public. When they are in session, there are some restrictions.

Walking around each floor is like walking around an art museum. Many of the rooms have murals on the walls that display different times in Wisconsin history.

Wisconsin achieved territorial status in 1836 and then Governor Henry Dodge selected Belmont Wisconsin as the Capital. The first Wisconsin legislators met at the end of 1836 and after stormy 46 day session, they chose Madison as the permanent capital. Wisconsin became a state in 1848. The first capitol begin construction in 1837. It was just a red-brick building with a tin dome and poorly constructed. The legislature decided in 1857 to expand the state capital.

The first expansion was completed in 1869. Two additional wings were added in 1882. Then in 1904 fire destroyed the interior of the Wisconsin's first capital building. Wisconsin did not have insurance because they wanted to start their own insurance fund.

With limited funds, the capital was to be built a wing at a time. Construction of the current capital building started with the West wing in 1906. The East wing was started in 1908, the South wing in 1909, the central portion in 1910 and the North wing in 1914. Construction was completed in 1917.

Marble for the construction of the Capital came from all around the world. The exterior white marble came from Vermont. Some of the interior's colored marble came from Italy, Africa, Norway, Germany and from Greece. Other interior's colored marble came from Tennessee, Missouri, Tennessee, Maryland, Vermont and New York. Some of the granite used in construction came from parts of Wisconsin. All the different marble types makes the Wisconsin Capital one of the most beautiful public buildings in America said the 1917 Architectural Record. I would still have to agree, but being from Wisconsin, I may be a little bit predigest.

The Wisconsin State Capital is the center of many activities in Madison. In the summertime on every Saturday there is one of the best Farmer's Markets in the nation around the Capital square. In July there is a one of the Midwest's largest Art Fairs around the Capital square. Cows on the concourse, and other events take place around the Wisconsin State Capital.

For more information and a virtual tour of the Wisconsin State Capital, visit:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weston Missouri, A Very Pleasant Surprise

If you have some extra time around the Kansas City area, take a short drive to Weston Missouri. It was a pleasant surprise for us this summer. The five of us had a little over 6 hours to kill before our flights took us back home. We had just finished an ARCA race the day before at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Our flights were taking off around 5 in the evening. So, over breakfast we looked over the tourist information for the Kansas City area. In years past we had explored most of Kansas City, so we were looking for another location. A hotel employee suggested Weston Missouri as a possible location to spend the day. She said Weston had shops, a distillery and was fairly close by.

The two women in our group heard shops and were all for exploring Weston. So we headed out. One of the first surprises was the terrain on the way to Weston. We passed through a river valley and then started into hills that remained me of the hills of Kentucky. As we approached Weston, the outskirts looked at any small town in rural America.

As we made our way to the downtown area, the houses and buildings remained me of an old river town. I expected to see the Missouri river from the downtown area. When we reached the downtown area, I was surprised not to find a river close by. What I found out later was Weston was an old river town. At one time over 300 steamboats a year docked at the Port of Weston. The Missouri River brought supplies and grew Weston to over 5,000 people. But a flood in 1858 moved the Missouri River about a mile and half from Weston. That disaster, a major fire and the Civil War reduced the population to less than 1,000. As we drove into town, I saw the today’s population given at just over 6,000.

We found a parking space and started to explore the downtown area of Weston. The downtown area is just a few blocks long so you can easily explore it on foot. There are many shops full of antiques, unique clothes, art, jewelry, gifts, and local produced items. A major portion of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places including the shops and residences just off the main street.

The real surprise was located in the Saint George Hotel. The hotel houses the National Silk Art Museum. The Saint George Hotel is one of the main buildings in Weston. It is the largest downtown building and was established in 1847. Besides being a hotel, there is a Champagne and Wine Bar and an excellent restaurant called Charlemagne’s. The restaurant is excellent place for lunch or dinner. We had lunch at Charlemagne's and enjoyed it immensely.

The National Silk Art Museum is full of rare silk art produced in the 1800’s. The silk art is reproductions of paintings created by weaving silk textiles to produce pictures of the art. It was the major means of reproducing art master pieces prior to photography. The museum is a national treasure and is the largest collection of silk art of this type in the world. We were lucky enough to have the curator, John Pottie give us a tour of the museum. What started off as a small purchase of a billiards scene has turned into over 200 silk art masterpieces and a very impressive museum. All five of us were very impressed and fascinated by the National Silk Art Museum. This alone is worth a trip to Weston Missouri.

The McCormick distillery is located just outside of Weston, but they have an outlet store downtown called the McCormick Country Store. You can taste some of their products and make a purchase of all their products at this location. We all tried the double chocolate vodka and had to take some home with us.

Besides the Saint George Hotel, there are many other accommodations for you to stay including Bed and Breakfast, camping and motels. Kansas City is not that far away either full of motels and hotels.

Weston has many other attractions besides shopping and dinning. There are several wineries, a brewery, and parks in the area for you to visit. Weston also has full calendar of festivals that are spread out over the year. The local Weston Museum is also a great place to visit and is full of local history and artifacts. Lewis and Clark passed through Weston on the Missouri river and there is an exhibit located in the train depot. Many of the attractions are free.

Overall, the five of us were very impressed with Weston Missouri and all it had to offer. We will be returning in the future to revisit some attractions and see some we did not get a chance to explore on this trip.

For more information, you can visit the following Web sites:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back Writing Travel posts

After a summer traveling to races, working (a real job) and participating in art shows, I am now ready to hit the computer keys and write. I have some real great locations for you to travel to that are not on the main tourist routes.

This summer has flown by and time has slipped. There are so many places to see and explore. I hope you have done some traveling this summer.

More coming in the next few days. Have Fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Restaurant Review – The Viking Grill & Lounge

[01/01/2009] One of the nice things about vacation or time off is having time to enjoy a great breakfast. The Viking Grill & Lounge in the middle of Ellison Bay, Door County, Wisconsin is one of those great breakfast places. Located on Highway 42, it is easy to get to from just about any place in Door County.

The Viking Grill & Lounge serves lunch and dinner besides breakfast. On this trip, we just ate breakfast at The Viking. It is one of the restaurants in Door County open year round serving up good food to locals and visitors alike.

The Viking Grill & Lounge is your basic breakfast restaurant. Eggs, pancakes, potatoes, sausage, bacon, and toast in many combinations are the mainstay of The Viking. They do have great Omelettes, Hash and Eggs Benedict besides the basics. The breakfast is not gourmet at The Viking, just great basic breakfast fair. But on a cold winter day, a great basic breakfast is just what you want to start your day.

The prices are reasonable, with most breakfast selections are in the $6 to $9 range. Coffee is $1.50, but is a bottomless cup. The eggs are done just the way you like them. If you order pancakes, you get a huge stack, more than most people can eat. I personally like their hashbrowns. They have a crispy top, but the insides are not too done.

Because The Viking Grill is also a Lounge (read bar), you can have Bloody Mary's with your breakfast if you so desire. The coffee is great, served in a croft with nice big mugs.

Overall The Viking Grill & Lounge is a great breakfast place when visiting Door County, Wisconsin. The prices are reasonable and the food is great. Not much more you can ask for to start your day.

If you are visiting Door County in the summer, you really have to try their Viking Fish Boil. They have been serving this Door County tradition since 1939 and they have it down pat.

The Viking Grill & Lounge
12029 Hwy. 42
Ellison Bay, WI 54210
(920) 854-2998

Thursday, December 25, 2008