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Photo Trip Report: Wisconsin and Minneapolis


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== INTRODUCTION ==

 

I am a longtime lurker of these theme parks forums, and I have decided to try my hand at writing one of those photo trip reports. I apologize that photos are not very comprehensive, but my camera and phone are lousy, and I am a terrible photographer anyways. Moreover, this vacation was not focused on amusement parks or roller coasters, so you’ll only get a little of that when I hit the Mall of America near the end of the trip.

 

I have wanted to travel to Wisconsin for several years now due to hearing about House on the Rock while randomly surfing the net looking at amusement park carousels. I also already had a passing interest to visit Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Fast forwards several years, and I had some time off for the Fourth of July holiday, and because sitting on my ass at home twiddling my thumbs is lame, I decided to finally travel to Wisconsin and check these places out.

 

The plan was to fly into Milwaukee, Wisconsin and follow the I-94 up to Minneapolis, Minnesota doing touristy shit all along the way. Once there, I would turn around and retrace my steps down the I-94 back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin four days later. Here is a general overview of the trip:

 

House on the Rock and Baraboo
Baraboo and the Dells
Minneapolis and the Mall of America
Cheese and Milwaukee

 

Continued below...

Edited by aueft
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== Day 1: House on the Rock and Baraboo ==

 

My vacations tend towards very efficient but sporadically unrealistic. Here is what I had planned to visit on my first day. I ended up not being able to visit the International Clown Hall of Fame due to them not being open for the Tuesday July 4th holiday. Even with the omission of that smaller attraction, it still was a relatively long day:

 

  • House on the Rock
    Al Ringling Mansion
    International Clown Hall of Fame
    Devil’s Lake State Park

 

As I mentioned last time, House on the Rock is the main reason for this vacation. I originally heard about it several years ago due to the large carousel they have on display. After reading a bit more, it sounded campy and tacky and therefore perfect for me. It is an attraction showcasing a vast and eclectic collection of “things”. It is not exactly a museum as the collections are not curated or presented for any academic purpose. Maybe it could be called an art installation?

 

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This is the largest carousel in the world. It is not available for rides and is more there to observe.

 

The House on the Rock is organized into three tours. The first tour is of the House itself, and is preceded by a small exhibit giving context and history behind the attraction’s creation. The first tour takes a winding route through the house, doubling back on itself several times. Many of the rooms here very low ceilings, which require you to duck as you pass by player instruments and random asian art. This first tour is probably the least interesting, as it lacks the scale and showmanship of the later tours, and I was actually disappointed heading out of the first tour and into the second. However, it did feel the most authentic, I suppose.

 

The second and third tour were in a separate building that housed most of the collection. Each room and collection was usually by some theme, and the sheer, absurd volume of the items presented in each of these displays gave the entire experience a surrealist feel. And I loved the way that the tour continued to occasionally double back on itself, which made it feel like you were really exploring some of the larger spaces.

 

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Much of House on the Rock was extremely dark, so many of my photos did not turn out.

 

One room was themed around the sea, and housed a giant sculpture of a whale. The space was surrounded by catwalks lined with display cases of model ships. Unfortunately, none of my pictures of the whale itself turned out, and due to the fact that it basically filled up the entire room, it was hard to get the distance to get a picture of it in its entirety.

 

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One of the musical orchestra displays. This one played the song "Danse macabre."

 

The next set of rooms each contained a player musical orchestra. Although each installation looked impressive, much of it was just for show. The player string instruments were all slack, and their parts were either missing or covered by a recording. Moreover, many of the instruments that did play were out of tune. Like everything else in the attraction, the overall affect and scale were what was impressive.

 

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Beautiful and evocative, but run-down and fake. Or maybe the other way around.

 

I think that I spent over two and a half hours at the House on the Rock before heading out to drive towards Baraboo, but I could have very easily spent more. I kind of imagine that attractions like this are a matter of taste (I have an unfortunate affinity for garish tourist traps), but for me House of the Rock was well worth the effort.

 

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One room was surrounded with cases full of these animated miniatures and toys.

 

Next on the agenda was to drive into Baraboo, Wisconsin and to tour the Al Ringling Mansion. It was a quick hour long tour of his mansion learning about the history of the residence and a little about the restoration efforts. Many parts of the mansion were unavailable to tour given how many times the mansion has changed hands, and some of it was still being restored. Given how perfunctory the tour felt, the 20 dollar admission seemed steep, but I had time to kill, and I did get something out of the visit.

 

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The Al Ringling Mansion: Potentially not worth it, but a vacation quickie.

 

After touring the Al Ringling Mansion, I was supposed to visit the International Clown Hall of Fame, which was located only a few blocks away. However, like most of downtown Baraboo, it was closed for the holiday. Given that their website was not particularly up-to-date, I was not surprised that this attraction was closed for the holiday. To be frank, I had not cared about visiting the International Clown Hall of Fame enough to call ahead of time and verify the hours. It was not a huge loss.

 

After taking an early dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant, the last attraction for the day would be Devil’s Lake State Park. I had seen some photos on the internet of pretty looking rocks, and I figured that people would judge me if my entire vacation was filled to the brim with childish amusements, so I decided to visit this while I was spending the evening in Baraboo.

 

The park was fairly crowded with locals as they were celebrating Independence Day with picnics and barbecues near the lake, and I’m sure that the state park is not usually so busy on Tuesday afternoons. I took the East Bluff Trail up to the overlooking rocks where most of the photo opportunities were. And I’m glad that I remembered to pack bugspray, which I applied everywhere in earnest whenever a bug so much as grazed me.

 

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Photo of pretty rocks, acquired!

 

The hikes up to the pretty looking rocks were much more strenuous and difficult than I had originally imagined. The paths were occasionally very steep and uneven, and I know that my parents would not have been up to it if they were traveling with me. I had not expected to spend more than an hour there: I think that I ended up spending almost two.

 

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Photo of more pretty rocks, acquired!

 

I went back to my hotel after hiking to wash up and take a shower. I was all sweaty and messy, but I was more worried that I had over-applied bugspray (which the instructions on the packaging had warned against) and that I had sprayed the bugspray directly into my ears (which the instructions on the packaging had also warned against).

 

As this was the evening of July 4th, I was tempted to drive up to the Dells for their fireworks show. Then I remembered that I don’t particularly care for fireworks or large crowds, and I was already tired, so I called it a night. I am glad that I did not push myself further, as it let me get some extra sleep for a night.

 

To be continued...

Edited by aueft
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I actually traveled to Branson, Missouri a few months ago to visit Silver Dollar City. Nothing really jumped out at me when looking for other interesting things to do in that area (so I ended up seeing a Christian musical production of "Moses," which was probably a horrible fit for me [it had good reviews on TripAdvisor!]).

 

But yeah, I think 70% of this trip was straight up tourist traps. This is what happens when you have someone like me plan a vacation.

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==Day 2: Baraboo and the Dells==

 

I knew going into this that the second day of my vacation would be the most intense. I had added the 8:30pm Tommy Bartlett Show late in the planning process, and I would have to drive well over two hours after the end of that show after that to reach a Motel 6 in Menomonie Falls. Although I could afford a late 9:00am start, I would not be checking in to the next hotel until before 1:00am at the very earliest.

 

I was also worried that this would my most crowds heavy day, as I was heading into a known tourist trap area on the day after a holiday. I figured that there would still be lingering Fourth of July crowds in the Wisconsin Dells.

 

Finally, I know that there are many credits to be had in the Wisconsin Dells area, but I am not that fixated on roller coasters, and there looked to be better attractions in the area, and I had heard many, many unflattering reports about the Mt. Olympus theme park.

 

  • Circus World Museum
    Lost Ríos Indoor Waterpark at Chula Vista
    Upper Dells Tour
    Tommy Bartlett Show

 

The Circus World Museum is a complex of exhibits and performance spread out across a rather large grounds. Many of these exhibits are in spaces converted from old circus buildings. It celebrates the Ringing Bros circus and the other traveling shows that made Baraboo their winter headquarters. It had high reviews on TripAdvisor (which is normally my source of truth), and I wasn't against learning more about Wisconsin's surprising connection to traveling circuses, but I had a feeling that it would not be for me. I figured that it probably would be geared towards children (which it is), but I eventually found it to be rather nice and quaint. I get the feeling that they built for much larger crowds than they currently host, and the overriding feeling that I got from the place was that they make the most of the little that they have.

 

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Next stop: Circus World Museum

 

At the Circus World Museum, there was a show or demonstration around every hour which meant that there was a very deliberate constant stream of activities. Each demonstration would end by directing guests to the next demonstration which would usually occur a short fifteen minutes later. For example, the first demonstration in the morning was about clowns, and the demonstration on novelty circus instruments occurred fifteen minutes later in the adjacent room. I think that this worked fairly well for them.

 

The main attraction during the summer months was the "Big Top Circus" show which occurs twice a day. I'm afraid to say that this main show was eager but half-baked, and it was probably the best they could conceivably do on a museum's budget. The smaller, more intimate demonstrations that I had seen earlier in the day were less ambitious but more interesting.

 

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I hate being down on this, but I wasn't particularly impressed by their "Big Top Circus" show.

 

The Circus World Museum had live performing animals during the "Big Top Circus" show and some live demonstrations of tigers at other times in the day. I suspect that stuff like that wouldn't fly where I'm from due to animal rights activists, and even I am not dumb enough to say more on that matter on the internet.

 

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something something PETA

 

For the museum portion of the attraction, there was a major exhibit near the entrance (which also had air conditioning) which gave some general information about the Ringling Brothers and Baraboo's connection to the circuses. Outside, there were some side exhibits in barns (which did not have air conditioning). One of their largest exhibits was a display of old circus wagons.

 

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The largest exhibit was a display of circus wagons. This building was air conditioned, which was important to me.

 

After rather enjoying my time at Circus World Museum, I left Baraboo and drove north for less than an hour (give or take some time for getting lost) to start visiting attractions in the Wisconsin Dells.

 

The Dells are famous for indoor waterparks, and since I was vacationing in the Dells, I obviously felt obligated to visit one. However, I’m not really into waterparks as most of them seem the same, so I planned ahead to not enjoy myself. I picked Chula Vista's "Lost Rios" indoor waterpark as I had a coupon, and it was relatively cheap, and some of the other parks were exclusive to resort guests.

 

Both the indoor and the outdoor portions of the waterpark were very small, and the outdoor portion of the park was unavailable as it had started to rain. Lines weren't bad at all despite the recent holiday, and I got to ride my first water coaster and bowl slide. And I waded on my knees through a ridiculously shallow lazy river. I think that I spent around an hour and a half or something at the park before leaving.

 

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Yeah, I couldn't really see any of this. I had stored my glasses to be safe. Being nearsighted is such a curse.

 

After leaving the Chula Vista indoor waterpark and drying off a little, I drove a little bit south towards downtown Wisconsin Dells (I was surprised that there was free parking) to take the Upper Dells Boat Tour up the Wisconsin river. The Wisconsin Dells downtown is a tourist trap and is probably packed to the brim with the same attractions I could easily find at any other tourist trap in this country.

 

Like Devil's Lake State park, I decided to take the Upper Dells Boat Tour after seeing pretty pictures on the internet. And the reviews on TripAdvisor were good for this attraction, so I obviously had to go. I’ve had bad experiences with boat tours in large cities (they're usually boring), so I fully expected that I wouldn't enjoy myself.

 

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The loading dock of the Upper Dells Boat Tour

 

The tour itself was uncrowded, and all of the guests easily fit on the top deck where we could all enjoy the views. Tour guide gave some information about the history of the area and some details about the limestone rock formations that we passed on our way up the Wisconsin river.

 

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Photo of pretty rocks: acquired!

 

The first land excursion was to the Witch's Gulch. Because the gulch has a much lower temperature than the surrounding area, the trail was all misty and atmospheric. It's not a place that would be as enjoyable with crowds, so I am glad that the tour I went on suffered from low attendance. And I thought that the fact that this excursion ended in a snack bar was hilarious (these land excursions probably were not more than a quarter mile long). But it was also useful as most of the families elected to hang near the snack bar for the majority of the time allotted for the excursion which allowed me to fully enjoy Witch's Gulch proper in peace.

 

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Fine, I'll admit that the Witch's Gulch is pretty.

 

The second land excursion featured Stand Rock. It was a large pillar of rocks stationed several feed away from a nearby cliff. Due to a miscommunication in the touring company, most of the group (myself included) did not get to see a living dog jump from the cliff to Stand Rock and back again. I'd imagine that this type of demonstration probably wouldn't fly in California. There was also another snack bar and gift shop on this land excursion further along the path which was still hilarious to me (I don't think that more than twenty minutes had passed since the last snack bar).

 

After being rather impressed by the Upper Dells Boat Tour (mostly due to Witch's Gulch), I headed south to the Tommy Bartlett Show. It is a Dells staple, and since I was vacationing in the Dells, I obviously felt obligated to attend a show. However, there was quite a bit of negativity its TripAdvisor page, so I planned ahead to not enjoy myself. I picked the night performance which started at 8:30pm and ended two hours later. It would allow me to best squeeze in as much vacationing on that day.

 

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Here is a picture of the sign that sits at the entrance of the Tommy Bartlett Show.

 

The Tommy Bartlett Show is an old campy water show that is located a bit south of the Wisconsin Dells. The first half of the show before the intermission seemed to focus on the permanent water sports acts, and they tried to shoehorn a limp story about a summer vacation road trip or something. After the intermission, the show shifted to a random selection of acts on the small stage in the front of the river. While the acts after the intermission were probably better, the small scale of the acts conflicted with the large stadium seating of the venue. I was sitting pretty close to the stage as I had arrived almost an hour early, and even I had issues seeing some of the acts in the second half of the show. To make matters worse, many of the acts here were similar to things that I had seen earlier at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo.

 

Also, I figure that the performers are used to this, but I am pretty sure they were being eaten alive by the shocking number of mosquitos that were buzzing around on stage. Gross.

 

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The first half of the show included a FlyBoard and hang-gliding, but was mostly all water skiing.

 

The Tommy Bartlett Show was my last attraction for the day, and this is the part of my vacation planning where I probably did a dumb. The Motel 6 that I had booked for this night was in Menomonee Falls, and I should have switched my hotel to something closer, but I didn't. It was already dark by the time the Tommy Bartlett Show ended, and my phone was having trouble with getting reception. I thought google was going haywire as it sent me down a bunch of random country roads in the dead of night. After a stressful drive, I arrived at the Hotel 6 at Menomonee Falls around 1:30am.

 

To be continued... (I promise that there will be roller coasters in the next part of the report)

Edited by aueft
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An altered fictional version of House of the Rock was featured in the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods also now a series on Starz. This has probably increased their attendance. Gaiman toured American roadside attractions to research the book and their surreal feel is in some way captured (if not redoubled). In the book, they board the carousel and something magical happens, can't remember but I think getting younger was only part of it.

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Yeah, I learned about House on the Rock when I read American Gods earlier this year. And man, Gaiman's way of describing his settings is SO good, that now when I see photos in trip reports like this, I feel like I've already been there, even though I've not.

 

Great trip report, by the way! I'm loving seeing all these random tourist trappy places. I, too, am a sucker for random stuff like this, so I'm eager to see what's next!

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==Day 3: Minneapolis and the Mall of America==

 

I am posting this update later than I had wanted, but life happens.

 

The third day of my Wisconsin trip was supposed to be my light vacation day as I had only planned three attractions around Minneapolis area. At this point, my dedicated camera had run out of batteries (and I did not have sufficient time to buy a new pack of batteries while vacationing), so the quality of photos on this trip report is going to get worse. Apologies in advance.

 

  • Mill City Museum
    Can Can Wonderland
    Nickelodeon Universe

 

Much more doable than the previous day, right?

 

Given the late night the night before, I decided to sleep in. I had originally planned to leave at around 8:00am to give myself time to get to eat a nice breakfast (at Exit 45 Restaurant and Bakery in Menomonie) and to finish driving to Minneapolis to get to the Mill City Museum for the 10:00am opening, but I ended up leaving over an hour later than scheduled.

 

The Mill City Museum is located in an old converted mill in the middle of downtown Minneapolis, and still contains some of the extant machinery from when it was operational. It was a rather small museum that explored the history of the mill: detailing how factories milled grain into flour, and describing the flour "dust explosions" and fires that caused the facility to eventually shut down. There was also some general information about how critical the Saint Anthony Falls were to the foundation of Minneapolis. I watched a very silly and energetic introductory video which further outlined the history and origin of Minneapolis. This all would have been a good primer if I was planning to explore the rest of the city (I wasn't).

 

As part of the admission to the Mill City Museum, you get a timed ticket to the "Flour Tower." They had converted a freight elevator into a ride of sorts, which would stop at each floor where there would be a small scene that depicted the operations of the mill. This was accompanied by audio and some video of workers describing their life at the mill. Although the story sort of fizzled out at the end, I was more impressed with this themed elevator edutainment ride than all of the more conventional amusement attractions that I would experience later in the day.

 

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I definitely did not take enough photos of the Mill City Museum. Oh well.

 

One of the things that caught my eye when I was researching the area for things to do was an indoor mini golf course called Can Can Wonderland. It is a member of the emerging genre of independent artist collective mini golf courses, and most of its holes had elaborate decoration or large mechanical toys or other random gimmicks. It also contained a bar as well as some antique arcade games. The place seemed to be right up my alley, so to speak, and I didn't care that I was traveling alone. This resulted in me playing a round of mini golf by myself, which is the best evidence yet that I am trash.

 

It was kind of hard to find the entrance of the place, which I guess enhanced the underground urban hipster feel of the place. Can Can Wonderland packed a "full" 18 hole golf course in a relatively small space. In order to make the best use of space, many of the holes were very short and were not partitioned from one another with the usual barriers that would normally knock the ball back onto the green. I feel like this contributed to the holes not particularly playing very well.

 

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Most of the holes here had weird art structures or toys on the greens.

 

I am petty enough to compare Can Can Wonderland with independent artist collective mini golf courses that I have visited in the California Bay Area. And if I wanted a good game of mini golf, Can Can Wonderland compares unfavorably to Subpar Mini Golf in Alameda, California. Alternatively, if I wanted interactive art themed to un-fun minigolf, I think that Can Can Wonderland is less imaginative than Urban Putt in San Fransisco, California. Of course, my antipathy for the place may have been enhanced by the fact that I was an idiot that was playing a game of mini golf by myself.

 

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This place is pretty popular. Even on a random Thursday in the middle of the day, they had a waitlist to golf.

 

After my shameful 1 player game of mini golf, I headed south to Bloomington, Minnesota to visit Mall of America and Nickelodeon Universe. This was the real reason that I had driven through Wisconsin to Minneapolis, and the fact that I had driven across the entire length of a state for a mall is the best evidence yet that I am trash.

 

I am pretty sure that the Mall of America is the largest mall that I have walked through. It nevertheless felt more manageable than other oversized malls that I have walked through in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. Part of this is the parking, which is divided into multiple levels in a parking structure (which means your first impression won't be the immense size of the parking lot). The mall is also built in a circle around Nickelodeon Universe, which is useful if you need to orient yourself. It also wasn't run down, empty, and depressing, which is nice.

 

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The Mall of America gets my highest mall recommendation: If you must walk through a mall, this is the one to do it.

 

I figure that most people on this forum are familiar with Nickelodeon Universe, so I don't think I need to say too much about it. It's an indoor amusement park with a Nickelodeon theme. It specializes in flat rides but does have three full sized roller coasters. The park is clean, attractive, and bright with lots of natural lighting. Entry is free, and you can either purchase an all day wristband or you can buy individual points. Given the types of discounts they run (I got a good discount through AAA), I can't imagine that that riding on a point basis is worth it.

 

There were a few things that surprised me about the park. Firstly, I don't really remember seeing any food vendors on the premises of the park itself. And I suppose that need is well covered by the rest of the mall (upside: more options, cheaper, and higher quality than the usual amusement park faire). Secondly, I was prepared to take off my glasses before riding any rides and store them in their case, but I didn't have to. Although the ride operators generally discouraged riders from wearing glasses, they did let me ride with them anyways. Finally, I am surprised by the number of muslims that I saw at the park. I guess there is a large muslim community in the area.

 

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I think that the park's Nickelodeon theme attracts a younger age set than most amusement parks. It's better than suffering unruly teens and young adults.

 

Waits weren't long as it was not very crowded on a Thursday evening. I circled the park once while riding all of the rollercoasters and their log ride. Then, after a quick dinner at an italian fast food restaurant called Piada, I circled the park again taking re-rides, snapping some photos, and riding some of the flat rides. I put some brief thoughts on some of the rides below:

 

Spongebob Squarepant's Rock Bottom Plunge - this was my first Gestrauler Euro-fighter. In theory it's neat that they were able to fit such a fully-featured rollercoaster in such a small space, but in practice it was too rough to really enjoy. I only road this once.

 

Fairly Odd Coaster - like the Gestrauler Euro-fighter, this Gestrauler spinning coaster was rougher than it needed to be, but it wasn't rough to the point that I couldn't enjoy it. I got quite a lot of spinning out of this coaster. I think I liked the layout of this roller coaster the best out of the three coasters at Nickelodeon Universe.

 

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The Fairly Odd Coaster was probably my favorite roller coaster at the park.

 

Pepsi Orange Streak - I have a soft spot for family coasters, even if they are un-themed, which is my perfectly reasonable excuse for riding this twice. This particular one reminds me of Jaguar At Knotts Berry Farm in that it leisurely tours the park from above. Like many family roller coasters, the vehicles on this one were a bit small.

 

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I really like the ride placement in the park. Although they don't have a whole lot of space, the attractions don't feel overly cluttered.

 

Log Chute - this is probably the stand out of the park, and almost a league better than the other attractions here. It features two drops and a handful of themed show scenes depicting the tall tale of Paul Bunyan. Unfortunately, the sound in the show scenes was too garbled to understand and you get quite a bit of noise from the rest of the park anyways.

 

Flat Rides - Jimmy Neutron's Atomic Collider is an uncommon flat ride model, so I made sure to ride it. I also rode Shredder's Mutant Masher, which is a Chance Revolution, and Avatar Airbender, which is their Intamin Half Pipe. The ride cycles on the latter two felt rather short, but I don't think I waited too long for any of these.

 

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I tried for an artistic shot. I wish that I had my dedicated camera so that I could control shutter speeds and stuff.

 

Although Nickelodeon Universe has a lot of positives (good clientele, clean, attractive, mall food, free parking, low crowds, no obnoxious upselling), I don't think I can give it a strong recommendation. The coasters didn't feel like anything special, and I am not much of a flat ride person. Their selection of rides just wasn't exciting to me. As I mentioned earlier, to my (potentially weird) tastes, my favorite ride of the day was the edutainment Flour Tower show at the Mill City Museum earlier that morning.

 

I left the Mall of America at around 8:00pm to drive to an Econo Lodge in Tomah, Wisconsin. I think that it would have been an easy two and a half hour drive if the weather was clear, but there was a thunderstorm, and I am not used to driving in that type of rain (I think that us Californians don’t actually know what bad weather is). Because I couldn't see where I was driving, I followed slowly behind a truck to be safe. This was another drive that was personally very stressful to me.

 

I checked into the hotel at 11:30pm. This would be fine if I hadn't planned to leave early the following morning to visit Carr Valley Cheese Co.

 

To be continued...

Edited by aueft
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  • 2 weeks later...

==Day 4: Cheese and Milwaukee==

 

I think that this is the part where my vacation started to fall apart. The late nights and early mornings were starting to get to me. I apologies in advanced that this last part of the trip report seems slightly more prima-donna-irritable than usual.

 

I was not particularly interested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but after planning my vacation around all of the interesting tourist traps that I could ever want, I found out that I still had Friday free. This left me with almost an entire day before I had to make it to the Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee to catch my flight at around 7:30pm. Thusly, I planned to drive down I94 East in the morning, picking up minor attractions along the way, before spending the rest of the day in Milwaukee.

 

Although I had originally planned to visit Dr Evermor's Forevertron on this day, the stress from the previous nights' drives and my overall exhaustion caused me to skip that attraction entirely. I also ended up missing the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations factory tour as well for various reasons.

 

  • Carr Valley Cheese Co
    Dr Evermor’s Forevertron
    Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations
    Sprecher Brewing Co
    Harley Davidson Museum

 

Wisconsin is famous for cheese, and since I was in Wisconsin, I felt obligated to visit a cheese production facility. Moreover, manners dictate that I buy gifts (traditionally sweets or other edible product) for my coworkers. Although Carr Valley Cheese Co in La Valle was a little bit out of the way from I94, other cheese factories would have been even more difficult to visit. The actual cheese production at the factory only ran during the early morning when it was cool, so I knew that I wanted to get there well before 9:00am. This required me to wake up around 6:30am to check out early from the Tomah Econo Lodge so I could make the drive.

 

The Carr Valley Cheese Co Factory is in a small building located in the middle of nowhere, but even in the (relatively) early morning when I visited, there was still a small group of tourists at that location. In terms of the factory itself, their display consisted of a window into the production room and a short video that silently played in a loop up up in the corner of the store. I don't think that it was worth the early morning drive but going to Wisconsin without visiting a cheese factory would simply feel wrong.

 

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I woke up at 6:30am to get this photo, so it is going into the trip report no matter what.

 

I was going to buy a cheese dip as I thought it would be convenient to share with my coworkers, but the nice lady at the counter informed me that it would have to be checked in at the airport. Instead, I bought some bread cheese (I thought that was supposed to mean that you were supposed to spread that cheese on bread [i don't know much about cheese]). Out of fear that the cheese would go bad in the rental car in the the summer heat, I stored it in my daypack.

 

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I don't know what I was expecting, but the facility for the Carr Valley Cheese Co was small. Also, that machine took my quarters without vending a soda (I desperately needed the caffeine at this point).

 

The next attraction was supposed to be Dr Evermor’s Forevertron just south of Baraboo, but I was too tired and irritable to bother, and I knew that my GPS problems would make the drive a bit difficult. Moreover, that sculpture park had weird hours which would put me at risk for the attractions later in the day. I instead started traveling towards Milwaukee and the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations in Menomonee Falls.

 

I have no particular affinity for motorcycles or the Harley Davidson brand. Motorcycles are for cool people who live dangerously and not for people like me. However, Harley-Davidson is one of the industries in Wisconsin that has any name recognition with me, and the Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin is their largest facility. Once at Milwaukee, the plan was to drive north to their factory, and take their quick half hour free tour before heading off to make a 1:00pm tour reservation at the Sprecher Brewing Co.

 

Although I did have trouble accessing google maps, I think that I was comfortable enough with traveling rural roads at this point, and it was not the middle of the night. I was making good time until I got to Milwaukee proper where I was stymied by a glorious amount of road construction everywhere. The fact that the parking lot at the Harley-Davidson factory seemed blocked off by construction was the last straw. By that time, it was already 12:00noon, and I decided to cut my losses to ensure that I would be able to make the 1:00pm tour at the Sprecher Brewing Co.

 

The Sprecher Brewing Co is a local brewery that specializes in soft drinks like Root Beer. They do produce beers, but since prohibition, Root Beer has far and away done their best business. This suited me just fine: Although alcohol should appeal to me in theory, I just can't stomach the bitterness. This is one of many reasons that I will never be a real adult.

 

Due to skipping out on both Dr Evermor’s Forevetron and Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations factory, I got to Sprecher Brewing Co very early. For a while, there was only one other group of guests, which made me worried that the tour group would be too small (more responsibility for each individual guest, you see). Fortunately, people trickled in until we had a sizable group of people. They opened the bar before the tour and gave out wristbands that could be redeemed for three alcoholic beverage samples. Guests were also free to partake in unlimited samples of any of their non-alcoholic sodas.

 

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The main draw here is definitely the beer tasting.

 

I tried half a sample of a hard (alcoholic) cream soda (even with all that sugar, it was difficult for me), as well as their apple soda and their take on cola, and then decided that that was enough drinks. The tour itself was very insubstantial. We only stopped in two different rooms where the tour guide described their process for producing beer. The second part of the tour was the bottling plant where she pointed out the machines along the line. Of course, I couldn't hear a lot of this as the bottling began in earnest half way through her explanation, and she was unable to yell over the din. I would not recommend visiting this brewery if you are a weirdo like me who doesn't drink. By itself, the tour is probably not worth the effort.

 

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Explaining how they brew beer. The Sprecher Brewing Co is a small local brand, so the facility isn't very large, and the tour is short

 

Despite missing out on the Harley Davidson plant earlier due to various reasons, I was still on schedule to visit the Harley Davidson Museum. The museum is centrally located in Milwaukee near the I94 in downtown Milwaukee (I have no idea why my phone GPS had difficulty finding it).

 

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A timeline of all of the motorcycle models that they have had over the years.

 

The museum was split between two floors. The focus is mostly about the history and development of the Harley Davidson company: the origins out of a garage in Milwaukee, to the war efforts, to the acquisition by AMF, and finally to a photo op with current motorcycle models. It also served as a general celebration of motorcycles and motorcycle culture. At the time of my visit, they also had a small special exhibit about "The Race of Gentlemen" (an annual carshow / race in New Jersey that is themed to classic roadsters) in a separate building.

 

It's a decent museum even for someone without any real interest in the company or motorcycles.

 

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The earliest known model of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

 

I think that I spent around two hours at the Harley Davidson Museum before heading towards the Michell Airport to return the car. I won't say that my return flight went without a hitch. Airline companies are the worst, but air travel is also an inescapable evil.

 

==Conclusion==

 

Although I distinctly enjoyed the first half of the vacation more than the second half, I would count this trip as an overall success. I loved the kooky attractions in Spring Green, Baraboo, and the Dells. I am not sure that the parts of Wisconsin and Minneapolis that I enjoyed would be to everyone's taste, so I don't think that I can make a blanket recommendation of this itinerary to others.

 

...and next time I do something like this, maybe my plans will allot more time to sleep.

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Regarding the House on the Rock - I'd never heard about it until I read American Gods either.

 

Great trip report! Thanks for posting. I like learning about things that I wouldn't normally think of doing!

 

P.S. - really like your dry self-deprecating sense of humor I'm the same way

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I really wanted to visit House on the Rock during my Chicago based trip two weeks ago, but the time needed and cost to explore all parts of the house made me decide against it. I could have done just the small tour,but I know that would have had me wanting more, that I didn't have time for.

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Yeah, I definitely would not recommend the shorter house tour for House on the Rock. I don't think the place puts its best foot forward, and the coolest stuff is in the second and third sections (in that order).

 

As an aside, this is probably obvious to most everyone else, but does anyone know how to link to individual posts? I want to update my first post to link to the different days of the trip report. I know that this trip was on the short side, but I figure setting up the table of contents here will be good practice for when I inevitably write about a longer vacation.

 

Edit: Thanks larrygator! I updated the first post.

Edited by aueft
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^I hope this helps

 

Click on the circled heading as shown in the image.

Copy the url text from the address bar by right clicking

Go to your front page, start the edit process and create a link using the URL button

When first prompt copy the link

When prompted the second time you can name your link

Link.thumb.JPG.1182f00cd863c5254e0be8e3c689ca0c.JPG

Link2.thumb.JPG.62ca07ec2252726468deb8dc406d199c.JPG

Link3.JPG.f09b4dd0477566fb1dc0a2779e7ef402.JPG

Link4.JPG.17a61aa4b556a29c5cab47845b6b9868.JPG

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