Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
126 E. Douglas St., Freeport, (815) 232-7099, theuniondairy.com
In 1914, local milk carriers Albert J. Hill and Conrad F. Kaiser teamed up to create a new dairy and creamery. Their business started on East Stephenson Street but later moved to its current location, near the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Site.
Since the owners introduced ice cream in 1934, employees have enjoyed inventing signature ice cream flavors and desserts such as Pretzel City: a vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries, pretzel crumbs and whipped cream. Many ice cream treats are available, such as s’mores sundaes, banana splits and root beer floats. Visitors also buy customized cakes for special events.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” says Jodi Miller, manager and co-owner of Union Dairy. “We have ’50s music playing and all the decor fits that time, with original equipment still being used in the building, like the fountain and malt machine. Watching the soda jerks, with their artistic abilities, create the sundaes and other treats is something that most customers enjoy doing.”
In 2005, a grill was added to sell burgers, Chicago-style hot dogs and more. Many menu items are named after parts of the region, such as the “FHN” veggie sandwich and the “Park District” deluxe pizza burger.
The shop celebrated its 100th anniversary last year with live music, a parade and carriage rides. It hosts events all summer long, including Friday Family Flicks on the first Friday of each month through September, when visitors can watch a free movie at the debate site outside Union Dairy. Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Gypsy Air Tours
Various locations, including Brodhead Airport, Galt Airport and Burlington Airport, (608) 215-7896, gypsyairtours.com
View the beauty of Wisconsin from high above, in this authentic Weaver Aircraft Corporation of Ohio (WACO) biplane, the 1930 WACO Taperwing.
“The business was started in 2011, out of a love of vintage biplanes, to share the Golden Age of Aviation with people of all ages and walks of life,” says Kerryann DiLoreto, co-owner with pilot Josh Brownell. “For most people, flying in an open-cockpit biplane is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s like nothing else.”
In this classic aircraft, the pilot sits in the back of the plane, while one or two people occupy the front seat. Flights can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. The pilot guides the plane over Wisconsin; customized tours are available so that passengers can see their own houses from the sky.
The knowledgeable pilots enjoy sharing their love for flying with the passengers. With a smooth take-off, journey and landing, the flights are perfect for first-time and veteran fliers alike. Goggles and helmets are supplied, but not required.
The business hosts birthday parties, field trips, teambuilding exercises and more. Reservations are recommended for group tours.
On Aug. 23, the Poplar Grove Annual Fly-in at the Poplar Grove Airport will include a pancake breakfast and opportunities to fly in the biplane. Business hours vary with the weather.
Horicon Marsh Education & Visitor Center
N7725 Hwy. 28, Horicon, Wis., (920) 387-7890, horiconmarsh.org
Since the 19th century, the 33,000-acre Horicon Marsh has attracted many species of wildlife, especially Canadian geese. The marsh has been named a “Wetland of International Importance” and a “Globally Important Bird Area.”
Plans for a new education center at the marsh began in the 1990s, thanks to a shared desire of local residents and the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) to grow the Wildlife Conservation Education Program. The new building was constructed in 2009.
“A Herculean effort by the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center raised a significant amount of funds to assist the DNR in constructing the facility that’s there today,” says Bret Owsley, DNR’s Horicon area wildlife supervisor.
This August marks the debut of the center’s Explorium, an interactive exhibit filled with intriguing history about the marsh. Inside this exhibit, visitors can walk through a glacier, ride an airboat simulator, learn how marsh water levels are regulated and more.
Schools can schedule field trips to the marsh throughout the year, effectively applying in-class learning to real-world experiences.
“It’s a great place to disconnect from the hectic pace of everyday life and find a place to unwind,” says Owsley. “The Center gives people an opportunity to explore the marsh, and provides fun, interactive games so people can learn what makes the marsh so special.”
The town of Horicon is about an hour north of Janesville, on Hwy. 33. The marsh and visitor center are just north of town.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.