Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fountain City, Merrick State Park and Hawks’s View Cottages

Over Memorial Day weekend, my family and I took a camping trip up to Merrick State Park… which is north of La Crosse and situated right on the Mississippi River.
Our camp spot was great, right on the water, only one neighbor, right across from the men’s pit toilets and not far from the women’s and a clearance in the brush so we could fish right from our site. We were in the South Campground with no electric or flush toilets, but we used our vehicle to drive up to the North Campground a few times to use the cleaner flush toilets. They also have decent showers there. Firewood is available for purchase at the park until 11pm and there are canoe rentals available for 3 hours at a time. 
While we were there, friends of ours reserved a cottage at Hawk’s View Cottages and Lodges right in Fountain City (about 2 miles from Merrick State Park). They happened to have one of the cottages still open for the weekend, even though it was last-minute and a holiday weekend. We met them at their cottage to shower and check the place out. 
Our friends warned us ahead of time of “death hill”… the curvy, steep driveway that you need to take up the side of the bluff to reach the cottages. Whoa. The worst part about it was that we only one parking spot when we reached the top. To park in the tiny bluff-side lot, you have to maneuver in an impossible lack of space, with the threat of a straight dropoff glaring at you during every move. Backing into your space is required so you can get back down the hill when you need to leave. I’m just glad my husband kicked me and the kids out of the car before he attempted to turn the car around. 
From the parking lot, it was 84 stairs up to the cottage. Once you get in the cottage, the worries and complaints about the driveway and climb up seem to disappear. The cottage was gorgeous with lots of windows. Through the treetops, you can see parts of the Mississippi and boats in the water. Both levels of the two-level house had a deck, upstairs there was a master bedroom with a whirlpool tub and master bath. Downstairs was a kitchen and living room with fold-out futon and another bathroom. A perfect space for this little getaway. 
Hawk’s View also has a winery in town, so our friends were greeted to their cottage with a bottle of wine as well. In town, there was a tasting room that offered free wine tastings from late morning until 7pm. 
There were three restaurants in town that we noticed on the main-drag. We got the pan-friend Haddock at The Golden Frog… YUM! We would get that again in a heartbeat. The drink prices, although we’re not sure exactly what they were, were super cheap. Our meals, including the kids’ and their drinks, came to only $44. Between me and my husband, we had 5 alcoholic beverages. 
The next morning we went to The Monarch Public House (an Irish joint) after my husband had read great reviews on the place. We were sad that they didn’t have any breakfast buffets, so we ended up with lunch food. My husband liked his corned beef, but I ordered a chicken breast and it was like a processed, minced chicken patty. I was kinda grossed out. And their fries weren’t very good either. Overall, we were kind of disappointed. Later that day we stopped at WingDam, hoping they would have a nice patio overlooking the Mississippi for some drinks and apps. The patio went along the side of the building, not a great view, and the train ran right next to the building… almost literally a foot from the patio. So Loud! So we decided to just head back to The Golden Frog and we enjoyed our time on their fenced in patio. The kids were able to play, we got drinks and apps. Then we stayed long enough to get dinner. Another great dinner. I had the pizza, which was great. Our friend had the beef tips, which he raved about. Another great experience there. I’d recommend The Golden Frog. 
For groceries, it was a short jaunt to Winona, MN to find a grocery store. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters

My family and I spent the weekend in the northwoods. We camped in Lac du Flambeau (Broken Bow Campground) and spent some time driving around the area. We ate breakfast at Little Bohemia, known for the John Dillinger shootout and featured in the movie Public Enemies. Our waitress gave us a tip to stop in at the Discovery Center, just a short drive from the restaurant. 
When we got there, we were pleasantly surprised and excited to be there. We were greeted by one of the people working on the grounds and she filled us in on all of the things to do. There was a nature center with a few animals and some learning tools for the kids. There were miles and miles of various trails. We hiked just one of them, called the Interpretive Trail. There were little stations along the trail that shared information about the nature around us.
When we returned from the hike, we headed down to the lake. Here they had row boats, canoes and kayaks... FREE to use at your leisure! They also had a full shed of nets, fishing poles and beach toys. Everything was FREE to use. The water was nice and clear and, other than two other people laying on the beach, we were the only ones there. We have no idea if that is typical or not. We would expect the place to be super busy because of how great it was. We weren't going to complain. A whole lake to ourselves... yes, please!
We couldn't get over how immaculate the grounds were. Not a weed in sight, not a blade of grass overgrown or out of place. Even when we went into the bathrooms, they couldn't have been cleaner. The bathrooms were even air conditioned! There was a changing area and several showers in the restrooms as well.
If you're looking for a place to stop and spend the whole day while in northern Wisconsin, the Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters definitely gets our recommendation. They have a beautiful set up that would be perfect for a wedding ceremony as well, overlooking the lake.
Have you been there before? Do you know what I'm talking about? If you visit, please let me know. I'd love to hear how your experience was.