Easy does it. Sometimes the easiest gifts are the best ones. Give the gift that keeps on giving all year long with annual park stickers, passes, and nature center memberships.
Books and Publications: You can't go wrong with books and magazine subscriptions that focus on a persons interests. Following are just a few suggestions.
Specialized Gear: There are some great Milwaukee area shops that can help you find the right gear for the outdoor enthusiast on your list.
SUPPORT THE PARK NEXT DOOR AND FIND GREAT GIFTS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING LIST
Several of the annual Milwaukee area favorites are back again this year, with plenty of other festive displays throughout the state. Be sure to watch your local news sources for information on festivities in your area as well. Here's wishing you a cheerful holiday season!
Winter Wonders - Whitnall Park/Boerner Botanical Gardens
This holiday event is back for year three, with new displays, concert lighting, and a whopping one million lights. Features new dramatic lighting techniques and displays set throughout the 1.4 mile-long drive-through route at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Whitnall Park.
Open Nightly, with special sponsor events and giveaways each weekend. Check the schedule for details. Recommended to purchase tickets online. Peak wait times on Fridays, Saturdays, and holiday weeks. For lower wait times, visit Sunday-Thursday evenings after 7:30 pm.
Open 5-pm to 10-pm every night through January 1, including holidays. This is a drive-thru only display. Admission packages vary. Visit the tickets page for more details.
19 more holiday light events across the state
Life likes to remind us that we are not in control. We can try our best to be prepared, to plan ahead. But sometimes, yup, it just rains. My first weekend trip to Door County was in early November, and accompanied by gray skies, strong winds, and lots of rain. I checked the weather forecast every day prior to my trip. The degree of wind and rain varied, but the forecast of rain did not.
The rain held off on my early morning drive up, but finally gave way when I reached the Algoma Pierhead along Lake Michigan. I stopped to take a few photos of the lighthouse beneath stormy skies, then headed further on to Sturgeon Bay.
I had sketched out a wish list of places I wanted to visit. A travel log that was ambitious for even the best weather, and high energy days. But with continuous rain, and a shortage of daylight, I made adjustments as I went.
My first stop in Sturgeon Bay was Potawatomi State Park. The park is large, 1200 acres, and the drive along the roads that wind through the park is especially scenic.
Once past the entrance station, I took Norway Road to Shoreline Road, following it until I reached the parking lot of the nature center and park store, which is in-between the north and south campground areas.
Across the road from the parking lot stood the entrance to the Ancient Shorelines Nature Trail. A half-mile woodland loop, it seemed like a good fit in the pouring rain.
I put on my rain gear, got out my umbrella, and ventured onto the trail.
There is a sense of peace and magic in surrendering to the elements, standing beneath a canopy of trees in a gentle rain, autumn leaves falling around you. An umbrella doesn't hurt either.
With daylight quickly fading, I finished the drive through Potawatomi State Park and headed back towards town to my lodging for the evening. I had a reservation at a retro-style motel in Sturgeon Bay called Motel57.
The rates were good, and, as it turned out, the room was clean, comfy, and had a bit of style. Chilled from the walk in the rain, I checked in, dried off, and took a quick nap to warm up before heading out to find some dinner.
I was hoping to do a little tourist shopping before dinner, but I had trouble locating the shop I was trying to find in the dark and rain. So, I opted to go straight to dinner at a local favorite spot.
Door County Fire Company is a Sturgeon Bay ale house and restaurant that resides in an original working firehouse dating back to 1907. When the fire department moved to a new facility in 2007, the original building was developed as a restaurant and event venue.
The ale house has a casual, comfortable atmosphere, and family-friendly, quick service. I enjoyed a burger, along with a non-alcoholic Kaliber by Guinness beer. Both were delicious!
Back to the motel for the night, I settled in to review my wish list, and get a good night sleep. Unfortunately, the forecast for rain remained, so I prioritized my list to locations that offered scenic drives with stop-offs for short walks and photo opportunities.
First on my list for day 2 was breakfast at Big Easy. A popular specialty breakfast spot in Egg Harbor, Big Easy is known for their fresh, warm beignets, breakfast bagels, coffee, and more.
I ordered the beignets (one made it home to my husband), and breakfast bagel sandwich, which came with the tastiest tater tots. So good! The breakfast sandwich could easily be shared.
I lingered over breakfast while the rain continued to pour, though the forecast now suggested intermittent downpours.
I debated a bit on my next stop. Shopping wasn't a priority on this trip, but it was a worthy option given the weather. I decided to head to Peninsula State Park, driving past some of the shopping in Fish Creek along the way. Then I would have an idea where to stop on my way back down the highway. Despite the rain, and it being past peak season, Fish Creek seemed to be bustling with plenty of travelers and shoppers. It looked promising. But on to Peninsula State Park...
There were two main features in the park I wanted to see - Sven's Bluff, and Eagle Tower. Shortly after entering the park , along Shore Road, I made a stop at Weborg Point. One of many camp sites in the park, it offers some lovely views of Green Bay, along with a fishing pier, picnic shelter, and a few other amenities in season. I took a few photos from the point and then headed back out onto Shore Road toward Sven's Bluff.
Traveling along Shore Road, I made the turn to Skyline Road, which climbs upward to Sven's Bluff. I pulled into Sven's Bluff Overlook as the rain tapered off for a few minutes. Though the views over the lake were misty and gray, the views of Green Bay and the coastline were pretty spectacular.
Situated atop part of a Niagara Escarpment Bluff, there are multiple hiking trails in the park that meet up with Sven's Bluff. Whether you're driving through, biking, or hiking in Peninsula State Park, you'll want to put this stop on your list.
Leaving Sven's Bluff, I once again drove along Skyline Road until it reconnected with Shore Road. It was along Shore Road that I arrived at my last park destination - Eagle Tower.
This 60-foot high tower on the peninsula's northeast shore, features an observation deck at the top with inspiring views of the park, the surrounding islands, the upper Michigan shoreline, and the village of Ephraim.
If the idea of climbing the 100 steps from bottom to top leaves you breathless, there is a more accessible, and incredibly scenic option. Take the 850-foot fully accessible boardwalk ramp from bottom to top. The angle of the ascending slope is never more than 5%, and makes it passable for wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, and hikers alike. There are level landings and benches for resting, and photo ops, along the way as well.
I was intrigued by the ramp for two reasons: I have difficult knees, and the view as you climb the ramp is like walking among the treetops. Not something you get to do everyday.
It was still raining as I walked up the ramp, and the winds had picked up. Wind gusts of up to 50mph were expected. Once or twice I grabbed the railing when the wind gust caught me by surprise, but it was more thrilling than dangerous. Though someone on the tower did lose a hat! The panoramic views promised, though, were absolutely worth it!
The tower is open seasonally from May 1 to October 31. However, from November 1 through April 30 it may be open, weather permitting.
I was there on November 5. It was passable in the rain, not sure I would be brave enough to try the climb over ice or snow. But if weather permits, it's worth the climb. Whichever climb you prefer.
I left Peninsula State Park wet, windblown, and feeling good. Despite the inclement weather, I had still managed to experience these fantastic destinations, and was fully impressed by the surrounding natural beauty of the park. And I was not alone. Rain was not keeping everyone away.
There were many folks out there enjoying the park, even in the cold, gusty rain. I guess that shouldn't surprise me, this is Wisconsin after all.
I left Peninsula State Park and headed back south towards Fish Creek to do a little shopping. It drizzled for a while as I made my way through a few shops in town, picking up a few souvenir gifts along the way. Beach People Fish Creek was my best find.
And just as I arrived back at my car to head towards my final Door County destination, the sun came out. I checked the weather station on my phone. It was predicted to rain in an hour. Just in time for me to arrive at Cave Point County Park.
In a way, I had saved the best for last. Or at least the most dramatic for last. Cave Point County Park is a must-see on just about any Door County list I read while researching for my trip. And it did not disappoint. I arrived late in the afternoon, without much daylight left, and the gift of sunshine that popped out when I was leaving Fish Creek was fading. Ominous gray clouds were moving in fast as I pulled into the parking lot. The winds had picked up, and suddenly it was raining again. Though more of a drizzle to start. It was getting much colder, too.
But I, along with a growing group of other travelers, had arrived just in time for Lake Michigan's show. The winds were picking up quickly, gusting. Maybe close to that 50mph winds predicted. Cave Point, like the other parks and shorelines in Door County, is part of the Niagara Escarpment. The cliffs and ledges at the park not just scenic, but jutting, big, sturdy, and ancient.
I moved towards the ledges, and the sound was loud. Waves racing towards the cliffs and crags, busting up against the rock and splashing well over the top of 20-foot cliffs, spraying anyone standing nearby. Between the mist, the rain, the wind, and the spray of the waves, it was nearly impossible not to get wet. Which did not seem to bother anyone one bit. There was a lot of gleeful shouting, and plenty of laughter. And plenty of picture-taking as well.
There is a short walking trail near this part of the park, but the excitement was on the cliffs, and it was turning dark. I stopped to use the facilities before heading out. Exiting the restroom the crowds had already gone. The park was dark, and the waves were still loud. I was tempted to head back towards the cliffs. I was exhilarated by the whole experience. But common sense won out. I was alone. And, it was time to head home.
But I would be back. 🍂
Autumn melancholy is setting in. The brilliant colors on the top photo, from just two weeks ago. On the bottom, just today. It happens so fast. I've tried hard not to miss it. The changing colors, the birdbaths full of robins and waxwings on their way further south. I am going to miss them so.
The changing of the seasons constantly reminds us to enjoy the now the best we can. Life is fleeting. Moments are upon us, then gone.
Commit to memory the warmth of the sun on your face through the car window. The sound of the breeze rustling through the trees. The timbre of your loved ones voice saying good morning, or good night.
Touch the flowers in the garden that have yet to fade, and know that when they do, that they will come again. But you will miss them.
Adore the smell of autumn. Thank goodness it lingers long after the leaves have fallen. Like the scent of someone you miss long gone.
Yes, a little melancholy, at the prospect of letting go. But ever forward we go. Nature shows us the way. A constant reminder to keep focus, but be ready for the unexpected. The good, the bad, the in-between.
It's right there in the name. Nature. Natural. What has gone will come again. Life. Death. Rebirth.
Fall. Winter. Spring. Summer. Repeat.🍁❄️🌷☀️
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.
I've been keeping closer to home these days, and truly discovering the beauty that lies in The Park Next Door.