Dubuque, Iowa: Let the Good Drinks Flow
By Stephanie N. Grimoldby
One way to warm your blood this winter is with some casual imbibing. Dubuque, Iowa, offers several opportunities, starting with the fourth annual Dubuque on Ice Brewfest.
From 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, craft beer lovers can enter the Mystique Community Ice Center, 1800 Admiral Sheehy Drive, to visit more than 30 brewers, taste more than 100 beers and sample local coffee blends, cheeses, sausages and chocolates.
“It’s a great event,” says Rick Kruser, a brewfest committee member and assistant executive director of Wisconsin’s Potosi Brewing Company, a participating vendor. “It’s a great place for people to come in and showcase their beer.”
In the festival’s inaugural year, 450 people crowded the ice center mezzanine, and attendance has doubled each of the past two years, Kruser says. This year’s fest promises to be the largest yet, with 2,200 tickets available.
“The craft brewing community is a tight-knit community,” Kruser says. “Home brewers like to go in and get tips and pointers from the brew masters.”
Exhibitors will include local establishments like Galena Brewing Company and Great River Brewery of Davenport, Iowa, plus major U.S. craft breweries such as Goose Island, Stella Artois Cidre and Boston Beer Company.
The fun continues with live music and a handful of games reminiscent of college days. Whoever can hold a full stein of beer in an outstretched arm the longest will win the Stein Hold challenge, and the fastest nail pounder will be crowned the Hammerschlagen champion.
General admission is $35; designated driver tickets are $5. To learn more, visit dubuquebrewfest.com.
More Imbibing Ideas
If you can’t make it to the brewfest, here are three alternatives.
The Potosi Brewing Company, located less than 30 minutes away in Potosi, Wis., is home to The National Brewery Museum, featuring beer and brewing memorabilia from across the country.
“Back in the day in Wisconsin, and throughout the area, every town had its own brewery,” Kruser says. “Prohibition [shut down] a lot of breweries … so we have stuff from places people have never heard of.”
The Potosi Brewing Company opened in 1852 and remained in business until 1972. Its buildings sat vacant for more than 20 years, until four local businessmen purchased them with restoration plans in mind. The community rallied the cause, and the Potosi Brewery Foundation was formed in 2000.
Four years later, the town of Potosi beat out heavy-hitting beer cities like St. Louis and Milwaukee for the right to house the museum. American Breweriana Association members recognized the town’s brewing history and applauded its community support, Kruser says.
Nearly 65,000 people visited the brewery and museum last year, and Kruser expects that number to rise when the brewery begins tours of its new bottling and kegging facilities in the spring.
In July 2014, Dubuque welcomed Jubeck New World Brewing as its first nanobrewer – that is, a craft brewer on a tiny scale.
Located in the downtown historic district, Jubeck truly is community-supported, evidenced by its creative beginnings.
Startup costs were covered by donations made through Kickstarter, an online funding platform, as interested parties purchased advanced memberships in return for a share of the beer the brewery made, says president Jay Jubeck.
It took three months to find a location – 115 W. 11th St. – and nine months to reconstruct the building, complete the proper licensing and start crafting beer. Now, the brewery offers patrons eight to 10 seasonal beers in a welcoming atmosphere.
“It’s been going great so far,” Jubeck says. “It is kind of a unique thing that we do.”
Jubeck’s small taproom is open from 4 to 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but Jubeck hopes to expand those hours, and the selection, within the next year or two.
What if you like a bit of wine with your beer? Take a look at Dubuque’s own Iowa Wine Tours, which offers daily tours to area wineries, but also provides an excursion for those with all-encompassing palates.
The company’s special four-hour Winery/Distillery/Brewery Tour combines the best of three specialty beverages, with an educational tour of three facilities, tastings, on-site shopping, lunch and transportation on an Iowa Wine Tours bus.
For more information on these and other Dubuque-area attractions, go to VisitDubuque.com.
Elmhurst: A Great Place to Ward off Winter Restlessness
By Stephanie N. Grimoldby
There’s no need to develop cabin fever as winter lingers on. Elmhurst, in eastern DuPage County, has several activities to keep you busy, both indoors and out, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicts for the weeks ahead.
Fun ’O the Irish
Both Irish-born and Irish-wannabes will attend Elmhurst’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, now touted as the second largest such parade in the Chicago area.
The parade kicks off at noon on March 7, at the intersection of Wilson Street and Spring Road, then continues north on Spring Road. Entertainers include the Elmhurst Armpit Orchestra and the City of Chicago Pipe Band.
Seasoned paradegoers will grab a spot early, because 24,000 spectators packed the streets last year, says Jim O’Connor, who has been involved since the parade’s inception 19 years ago.
“When it started, nobody had any conception of what this would turn into,” he says.
The parade route starts in a residential area that’s full of family celebrations, and ends in Elmhurst’s business district, with people lining up in front of bars and restaurants to enjoy the remainder of the day.
“It’s the end of winter,” O’Connor says. “That’s what makes St. Patrick’s Day so significant.”
For details, visit elmhurststpatsparade.com.
Sounds of the Carnival
On Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15, the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra presents “Carnival of the Animals” at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, 149 W. Brush Hill Road.
The performances feature Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Le Carnaval des animaux,” a piece many have heard before, says Cynthia Bergquist Krainc, executive director of the symphony.
“The composer wrote this piece to introduce different instruments to audience members,” says Krainc. “So, each movement features a different section of the orchestra, and each represents a different kind of animal.”
For visual support, dancers from the DuPage Dance Academy and narrators from First Folio Theater Company in Oak Brook will perform. “We have a swan, a donkey, a kangaroo, an elephant, a tortoise, a lion,” says Krainc. The wide variety of animals provides many possibilities for the dancers to get creative.
The Saturday evening show includes three additional pieces: “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams, “Divertissement” by Jacques Ibert and “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel.
A shortened Sunday afternoon performance, geared toward children and families, includes “The Carnival of the Animals,” Krainc says. Before the show, Luscombe Music of Elmhurst will provide an instrumental “petting zoo,” allowing children to try different instruments.
For more information, visit elmhurstsymphony.org.
Free Outside Fun
When the kids become restless, take them outside for free ice skating and sledding at Eldridge Park, 363 W. Commonwealth Lane, part of the Elmhurst Park District.
The park encompasses nearly 43 acres and includes a large lagoon where outdoor skating is allowed, so long as the lagoon ice remains 8 inches thick for a three-day span. The park district posts a green flag when the ice is open for skating; a red flag warns the ice is dangerous and the lagoon is closed. Skaters can check conditions online at epd.org.
Eldridge Park – along with Berens Park and Crestview Park – also offers a lighted sledding hill for families to enjoy. All three parks close at 11 p.m.
For more information, call the Wagner Community Center at (630) 993-8901.
Discover more Elmhurst destinations online at elmhurst.org.
The Quad Cities: Explore the Galaxy at Ski Snowstar
By Stephanie N. Grimoldby
Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park, located just outside the Quad Cities, in Andalusia, Ill., has never had an identity issue.
The 28-acre, outer space-themed resort is not extremely large, and doesn’t pretend to be.
Instead, Snowstar focuses on its best qualities: being a family-friendly park that offers unique facilities, plenty of runs and extremely creative social events.
“We’re a small area,” says Ed Meyer, general manager. “We cringe when people think we’re a mountain. But we have a lot of fun trails. The main thing we pride ourselves on is being a service-focused, family-oriented ski area. We work very hard to reinforce it with our actions here.”
Despite its size, Snowstar offers several amenities that larger resorts do not.
One is the popular five-lane Stargazer tubing hill. “A lot of people are ambitious and want to learn the sport of skiing and snowboarding for a lifetime,” Meyer says. “Other people just want to get out of the house and have some fun, and don’t necessarily want to learn something. Tubing is kind of a no-skill, all-thrill activity that takes people back to their childhood when they went to Uncle Glen’s back pasture to go sledding.”
Another distinctive trait of Snowstar is its giant airbag – an 8.5-foot-tall, 50-by-50-foot bag of air, with baffles, that offers the perfect landing pad for skiers and snowboarders practicing wild moves.
“The air bag softens their fall,” Meyer says. “Shaun White and other professionals use one to master their tricks. A lot of people like to see people doing the tricks, but you always wonder how they got good without killing themselves.”
The main activities at Snowstar remain downhill skiing and snowboarding, which take place on runs with names like Big Dipper and Outer Limits, though The Darkside terrain park attracts a fairly large crowd. The resort also offers the Little Dipper Learning Center, devoted entirely to beginners. Special kids’ programs and Women’s Wednesdays ensure that everyone learns at their own comfort level, Meyer says.
Still, Snowstar might be best-known for its special events.
The park’s For the Fun of It Races take place Monday evenings throughout February, and allow kids and adults alike to compete in downhill speed races.
Snowstar also has a junior race team that travels the Wisconsin circuit, but the Monday night races are more of a social event for resort-goers, Meyer says.
“They get the thrill of running race gates and being on a timed course,” he says. “We have random giveaways for them. One night, we’ll have a sweatshirt given to the guy who has the biggest crash.”
Toward the end of every season, Snowstar hosts its popular Slush Pit Splash V Snowbound Beach Party. The main attraction? A large ramp at the top of a hill that leads toward a big trough of water at the bottom.
“The object is to see if you can get enough speed to get across the water without taking a dump,” Meyer says. “Everybody loves it. There’s a prize for best costume, best splash – it’s a well-attended, fun event that has created some pretty good memories.”
This year’s event will take place on Sunday, March 8, but the Slush Pit Splash doesn’t necessarily signify the park’s closure. If cold weather holds, the party continues at Snowstar, Meyer says.
For more information on Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park, visit skisnowstar.com. To discover other Quad Cities-area attractions, go to visitquadcities.com.
Travel Wisconsin: Have Fun Indoors with the Whole Family
By Travel Wisconsin
Finding some indoor fun for the kids is no problem this time of year. With unbeatable waterparks, museums and dining options, Wisconsin provides many exciting kid-friendly tours and destinations. Out-of-staters and Cheeseheads alike will have fun at these indoor Wisconsin hot spots.
Try a “kids’ day out” Milwaukee style with tickets to the nationally renowned First Stage, a children’s theater focusing on creating extraordinary experiences for young people and families. Head backstage and reserve your family’s spot in one of First Stage’s Family Workshops to learn the ins and outs of the performance.
If you’re headed into Milwaukee from the south, make a sweet stop at the Jelly Belly Factory, in Kenosha. Satisfy your family’s sweet tooth by hopping on the Jelly Belly Express, an indoor train that tours the candy warehouse. Your family will have a sugar buzz to last the whole day.
The kids will give you two thumbs up when you end the day with the ooziest and gooiest grilled cheese of them all, at Milwaukee’s kid-approved Melthouse Bistro.
Both kids and kids-at-heart will love a day on the town in Madison. First, head on down to the Capitol Square and Wisconsin’s beautiful State Capitol building. Explore the intricate paintings covering the rotunda and learn more about the building’s history on a Capitol tour. For families or groups smaller than 10 people, no reservations are necessary.
Then, spend an afternoon at Madison Children’s Museum. From the human-sized hamster wheel to the rooftop garden, this colorful place has plenty of inventive and creative ways to play.
If you’re looking for a night on the town with the kids, check out zany Ian’s Pizza for a slice of cheeseburger pizza and a show at the Children’s Theatre of Madison.
Head to the land of green and gold to make your junior Packers fan’s dreams come true. Take the Lambeau leap with a tour of the Packers’ home field, and go behind the scenes. Your family will get a chance to run through the players tunnel and learn all about the rich history of this year’s NFC North division champs. Complete your Packers journey at the brand new Packers Hall of Fame, which reopens this April.
Also, don’t forget to check out the Children’s Museum of Green Bay, a hands-on museum that boasts fun-filled exhibits like an indoor tree house and a giant sailboat. To end the day, grab a table at Titletown Brewing Co. and order a pitcher of homemade Sno-Cap Root Beer.
After a day out like this, you’re sure to be crowned MVP.
If your kids swim like fish, look no further than the shores of Lake Michigan. Especially this time of year, when the water’s downright cold, book your stay at the Blue Harbor Resort, which offers some wet and wild indoor activities. You’re guaranteed to find a crowd pleaser, between the indoor mini golf, arcade room and Breaker Bay Water Park.
Next, check out the John Michael Kohler Arts Center for more than just finger painting. This creative center features exhibits, some family art classes and kid-style cooking classes.
Or, drive up the coast to Manitowoc to visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, where you can tour a real World War II-era submarine.
Plenty of fun around Wisconsin awaits you this year. For more information or travel ideas, visit TravelWisconsin.com.