Spring Green, WI 

It's best to have a detailed county map when exploring the beautiful countryside surrounding Spring Green. Otherwise you might never veer off onto the back roads and discover such treasures as the Friendship Historical Wayside on Friendship Drive, about 18 miles north of Spring Green (off highway 23), near Loganville. It's a restored one-room schoolhouse and picnic site that sits high on a ridge, offering breathtaking views even on a cloudy day.

The schoolhouse is locked, but you can peer into the windows and see the room just as it appeared not too long ago in the days before such structures were converted into weekend homes. There's an old red water pump on the grounds as well as an outhouse with seats that grow progressively larger just like the ones at the desks inside.

Continue west on Friendship Drive and you'll soon come to Spring Valley Road. Turn right and you'll be driving through an Amish farm community. Be on the alert for slow-moving vehicles, like horse carts loaded with hay. The J and R Quilts and Variety Store (S6418 Spring Valley Road; closed Sunday and Monday) is located in a small brown building behind a white farmhouse. Mostly it stocks flours, grains, spices, and miscellaneous groceries for local families, but there's also a small inventory of Amish quilts, hats, and other handmade crafts.

For one of the most scenic drives in the area take highway 130 south from Lone Rock. The road travels over and along the Wisconsin River, then into the picturesque farming community of Clyde, named by early settlers because it reminded them of the hilly, rugged terrain around the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, from which their ships embarked for America. There's a community center (6281 highway 130) that houses the Clyde Cafe (608-583-4009), a popular, friendly place, and worth a stop for hearty country breakfasts and dinners that don't run much higher than $5. It's open until 2 PM Sunday through Thursday and until 8 PM Friday. Go a couple of miles farther south on highway 130 and then turn left on Limmex Hill Road, and you'll find the Silver Star (3852 Limmex Hill Road, 608-935-7297), a spectacular new cafe and inn. The large, rustic yet elegant log structure opens onto 340 picturesque acres that overnight guests can use for hiking and skiing. The place was conceived and designed by the owner, an artist, who filled the ten spacious guest rooms with fine art and vintage furnishings. She'll soon be planting herbs, vegetables, and strawberries, which she'll use in the restaurant. Rooms run from $95 to $135, with a two-night minimum stay on weekends.

Another attraction in the area is Global View (6593 Clyde Road, 608-583-5311), where you can hike in the fields or browse through a large selection of Asian jewelry and art on sale in a restored barn. The shop is closed in winter and opens in mid-April. In nearby Highland there are winery tours and wine tastings at Spurgeon Vineyards and Winery (five miles west of Highland on highway Q, 608-929-7692).

If you stay on highway 130, however, you will soon intersect with highway 23, where a left turn will have you corkscrewing through more gorgeous scenery, past House on the Rock (5754 highway 23, 608-935-3639), which opens daily at 9 AM. Closing time varies depending on the season. The new Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center (three miles south of Spring Green on highway 23, 608-588-7900) will give you brochures on all Wright sites in the area. The Visitor Center also gives tours of Taliesin, where Wright lived for 48 years. It also houses a bookstore, a gift shop, and a cafe with wonderful views of the Wisconsin River. Tour season runs May through October, when the center is open every day 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.

The area has inspired many visual artists over the years. The best place to see their work and that of other talented Wisconsin artists is in downtown Spring Green at the Jura Silverman Gallery (143 S. Washington, 608-588-7049). This restored cheese warehouse is always crammed with exhibits that change seasonally. It's open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5:30 PM. A block north at Lexington and Jefferson streets are the Lexington Station Shops (161 and 167 S. Lexington Street Station, 608-588-7072) in a converted lumber yard. The complex has recently changed owners, bringing in the new Sienna River Gallery, a venue for Central and South American tribal art, and Heartland Amish, a large collection of handcrafted items by Amish artisans from Wisconsin. Upstairs there's Treasure Hunt Antiques & Collectibles (608-588-7758), a multidealer shop featuring a varied inventory; some items may be bid on through an ongoing silent auction. Open daily in summer from 10 AM to 7 PM, Sunday noon to 6 PM.

The Winsted Shop (on highway 23, 608-588-7544) has a nice selection of books by and about Wright and is also a good place to pick up brochures and maps. It's open Monday through Saturday, 9 AM to 5:30 PM, and Sunday, noon to 4:30 PM. One of my personal favorites is the Spring Green General Store (137 S. Albany, 608-588-7070), a natural foods cafe and grocery and gift shop. The kitchen features creative and inexpensive breakfasts and light lunches. During the summer the cafe is a gathering spot for actors from the nearby American Players Theatre, one of whom helped write the dramatic breakfast menu that includes, for instance, a "to die for" three-egg Hamlette. I tried one of the wonderful giant buckwheat pancakes, studded with fresh strawberries and served with real maple syrup, for $2.50 (for two it's $3.95). The cafe has two porches--one outdoors, one enclosed. It's open from 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM Sunday.

An attractive place for dinner in town is the historic Post House (127 E. Jefferson, 608-588-2595), Wisconsin's oldest continuously operating restaurant, which first opened in 1857.

Two special events during the year bring many tourists to Spring Green. The annual Arts & Crafts Fair (June 24 and 25 this year) draws more than 250 exhibitors from all over the country. And during the first three weekends in December the town hosts a Country Christmas Festival of the Arts, which includes holiday concerts, house tours, and special lodging and entertainment packages.

It's a prime area for outdoor recreation. There's a big sandy beach bordering the Wisconsin River just south of town near the intersection of highway 23 and county trunk highway C. (There can be sudden drop-offs in the river, so for safety wade against the current.) Canoe rentals are available from Bob's Riverside Camp (Shifflet Road, 608-588-2826). A free publication called the Spring Green Traveler, published by the Chamber of Commerce, includes a bicycle route map, color coded according to type of terrain. Some of the country inns have hiking and cross-country ski trails for guests. Governor Dodge State Park (15 miles from Spring Green on highway 23) is the best public place, with many campsites and a lake for swimming and fishing.

Most area restaurants and hotels are open year-round. In the most deluxe category there's the Springs Golf Club Resort (400 Springs Drive, 800-822-7774), which features an elegant dining room, grill, swimming pools, fitness center, tennis courts, and hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing trails in addition to a golf course. Rooms range from $135 to $175 a night, with special golf and skiing packages available.

There are many high-quality motels in varying price ranges, most located along highway 14 just outside of town. Many were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright associates. The Usonian Inn (highway 14 at 23, 608-588-2323) offers sweeping views of the countryside from windows at the rear of each room; doubles cost between $54 and $59 in warm months, $29 in the winter. The Round Barn (highway 14, 608-588-2568) includes indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a capable, moderately priced restaurant housed in a restored round barn. After dark they turn on the lights in an upstairs window, providing a view of the magnificent network of old rafters. Rooms run $69.50 to $74.50 from mid-June to September, with lower rates at other times.

Except during the coldest months, it's a good idea to make lodging reservations before you arrive in Spring Green. For a complete list of accommodations, attractions, and information on special events, call 800-588-2042.

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