Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Classic “small town” Wisconsin can be found in Cedarburg, about 30 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee.

The main street, Washington Avenue, is lined with restaurants and shops, from antique stores to boutiques to art galleries.

My mom and her boyfriend were visiting from Indiana. They like antiquing and wine tasting, so Cedarburg was a good match. Bret and I drove them over to Cedarburg on a rainy November Saturday.

Not letting the rain deter us, we toured around the restored woolen mill, now filled with shops, went wine tasting at Cedar Creek Winery, and had lunch at Anvil Pub & Grille.

Cedarburg is a nice daytrip from Milwaukee, Madison, or the Chicago area.

Here are some photos:

Bizarre. That’s the only word to describe Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, near Spring Green–about an hour east of Madison. And I mean bizarre in a good way! It’s organized hoarding–part museum, part house, and odds-and-ends you might find at your grandparents.

Began in 1959, and possibly owing to a dispute between its founder Alex Jordan, Jr. and famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright (the Wikipedia page is interesting!), House on the Rock does actually sit on a rock.

The house is a bit dark, cramped, and filled with antiques, Tiffany-style lamps, and vintage furniture and appliances. Parts of it reminded me of a cabin in the woods. The house is built around the natural stone.

Particularly striking is the Infinity Room which overlooks the valley.

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House on the Rock, infinity room

The rest of the House on the Rock is more of a museum of “things”: dolls, calliopes, cars, ships, and a whale! The highlight is a large carousel:

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House on the Rock carousel

It’s a fun side trip from Madison or Milwaukee. Make sure and purchase the full experience to get the most out of the trip. Set aside at least three hours. Then consider wandering into Spring Green or touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin.

Here are some pics from House on the Rock:

Milwaukee: China Lights

This fall, Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin hosted China Lights. This was the second time it was hosted here.

It’s an enchanting display. Constructed entirely by Chinese artisans, their creations are illuminated each evening. You show up before sunset, maybe have a beer or a glass of wine, tour around the beautiful gardens, then after dark watch the magical displays get lit up!

My favorites were the traditional Chinese dragon and a series of animals representing the Chinese zodiac animals.

Here are some photos:

I could eat my way through Montreal…in fact, I did! We didn’t have a bad meal there. A lot of people I know make lists of restaurants they want to try when they visit a new locale. We prefer to just wander around neighborhoods and pop in when a place looks good.

By far, one of our favorite experiences was the Old Montreal Food Tour–highly recommended!

Besides that, we had good meals at:

If you would like to do more planning for dining out while in Montreal, check out the Eater Montreal page.

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

Doing more exploring in Montreal, we continued to use our Passeport MTL to gain admission to the Insectarium and the Montreal Botanical Garden.

If you’re a fan of creepy-crawlies, then the Insectarium is for you. Dedicated to bugs of all kinds, some living, some dead…the place was popular with the kids! Outside, we noticed a food stall set up and an educational display promoting bugs as a food source. There were termite tacos on the menu! I opted for something sweet: a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone covered in ants. Actually not bad!


Insectarium – an ant-covered ice cream cone

After the Insectarium we continued through the Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal). The beautiful grounds comprise different themes like the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Alpine Garden, and more. A large greenhouse also displays countless plants and flowers. If you’re looking for green space and nice stroll, then head over to the botanical garden!


Montreal Botanical Garden

Here are some pics from the Montreal Botanical Garden and Insectarium:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

Montreal consists of great neighborhoods like Vieux-Montreal and Mile End. To add to that list is the Gay Village. Centered on rue Sainte-Catherine, the Village features hip bars, clubs, restaurants, and a welcoming atmosphere for gays and lesbians and the community as a whole. Geographically, it’s the largest gay village in North America.

The highlight when we visited was the beautiful public art installation by landscape architect Claude Cormier. Entitled “18 Shades of Gay,” over 100,000 balls in the colors of the rainbow flag are strung above the street. There’s even a viewing platform so you can get a bird’s eye view.

Here are some pics from the Gay Village of Montreal:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

Montreal hosted the 1976 summer Olympic games. The first Olympic hosted by Canada, the highlights included gymnast Nadia Comaneci getting a perfect 10 score, Britain’s Princess Anne competing in equestrian events, and Bruce Jenner’s gold medal in the decathlon.

We took the Metro to the Pie-IX station. Walking down Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin we were treated to an odd site: cyclists and rollerbladers – both men and women – covered head to toe in different paint colors. Was this a public art experiment? I have no idea!


Montreal Olympic Park

With our Passeport MTL we gained admission to Montreal Tower (Tour de Montreal). The tallest inclined tower in the world; it is attached to Olympic Stadium (Stade olympique) which also hosted the Montreal Expos before they decamped to DC in the 2000s. Inside the stadium, a funicular takes you to the top for some bird’s-eye views!


View from Montreal TowerView from Montreal Tower

After that, we walked over to the Biodome, (not to be confused with the Biosphere!) a nature center featuring various climates and animals of the Americas. Again, our Passeport MTL covered admission. The Biodome was originally used for indoor cycling events during the Olympics.


View of Biodome from Montreal Tower

The Olympics sites are not only interesting for sports buffs. It’s nice to see the buildings repurposed and used for other attractions and events. Definitely worth a side trip while you are in Montreal.

Here are some pics from the Olympic Park:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

When we were in Montreal, we decided to purchase a Passeport MTL card. You can choose either a 48-hour pass or a 72-hour pass. The pass gives you automatic entrance into 23 popular tourist attractions, plus unlimited travel on the Montreal metro and buses. For us, it was good deal.

So we decided to make the most of our Passeport MTL! One of the included attractions was a cruise on the Saint Lawrence River. We boarded the Bateau-Mouche down at Quai Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal. One the one-hour cruise, we enjoyed a history lesson on Montreal, the Saint Lawrence River, and Expo 67.


Habitat 67, Saint Lawrence River cruise

Knowing a little more about Montreal, we then headed over to the Biosphere, another site on the Passeport MTL. This structure was originally the American pavilion during Expo 67. Designed by the famous architect Buckminster Fuller, the geodesic dome is a Montreal landmark. Now an environment museum, the site offers educational and interactive displays on nature, weather, and wildlife.


Biosphere, Montreal

Here are some pics from the Saint Lawrence River cruise and the Biosphere:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

One of Montreal’s highlights is the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal)–a true gem and a must-see site.

Lines can be long, especially by afternoon or when a cruise ship is in port. We went shortly after opening and walked right in.

Stunning is the most accurate description. Built in the 1820s, it features a beautiful blue ceiling with gold stars. Other colors like purples and reds jump out at you. Intricate woodwork decorates the interior.


Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal

It is a famous gathering place for French Canadians. Celine Dion was married here. Justin Trudeau eulogized his father here.

No trip to Montreal can be complete without a visit. Here are some pics from Notre Dame:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.

One of the best ways to acquaint yourself with a city is to eat local food! On our second day in Montreal, we signed up for a food tour of Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal) from Local Montreal Tours.

We met the tour guide and our merry group of 12 at Crew Collective and Cafe. It used to be the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. The bank moved out. Now it’s been taken over as a cafe and co-working space. They even left the bank teller windows intact! From there we embarked on a 3 hour, 1.5 mile walk of Old Montreal.

Had a great time! We found it funny that most of the participants lived in the Montreal region. Some said they rarely get to Montreal’s city center, so they thought this was a good opportunity!

Stops included:

After the tour, bellies full, we walked around more of Old Montreal that we missed. Wonderful experience!

Here are some pics from food tour:

For more photos, check out my Montreal Flickr album.