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Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever in Madison, WI

April 14th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

I have Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever that you can find in Madison, WI.  I’m sure that this is just what you need after a long, rough winter.  It’s time to get out of the house, get a little exercise, and bring a little color back into our lives.

Beginning on Saturday, April 19, the Dane County Farmer’s Market will move back onto the Capitol Square.  Go to seek out fresh spring veggies, herbs and bedding plants for your own home and garden or go just to be a part of one of Madison’s greatest traditions.

You can also go visit The Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW campus.  The spring bulbs always put on a bright show of color and this compact garden packs a lot of inspiration into a space that easily translates into projects for your home gardens.  The gardens are also celebrating their 25th birthday this year.  If you have never strolled their paths, it is time to do so or maybe even take one of their classes.  Information is on their website.

The other sure Spring Fever cure that the UW Madison provides visitors is our UW Arboretum.  Walk or bike your way through the trails and enjoy the spring flowering trees or later the magnificent lilac collection .  But don’t rush!  Take your time and enjoy the scents and sounds of spring.  Listen for the call of the red-wing blackbirds, and the spring peepers, and the buzz of bees.  They also have classes, lectures, and walks to enhance your enjoyment of this outdoor treasure.

And finally, number 4: You must go visit Olbrich Gardens.  Admission to the outdoor gardens is free (as is everything listed above) but I’m sure that you will wish to leave a little contribution in the collection box.  I’ve often used the garden as a resource for inspiration of things to plant for a whole season of garden color.  It does begin with the spectacular show of bulbs in the spring.  I’n especially fond of the areas where there are naturalized tulips and daffodils.  The addition of small seating areas throughout the gardens make this a place where you will want to go to relax and spend some time either with a special friend or your own thoughts and dreams.

If that doesn’t cure your spring fever please book a visit with us at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast.  From the chives poking up in the cutting garden to the wild flowers on the hillside, lambs in the pasture and robins everywhere, Spring is finally here.

 

Spring Break Getaway Road Trip

March 26th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Spring Break time has finally arrived and the innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast in Madison WI know you are just dying to get out of the house and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.  What better way to do this than to take a little road trip.

Less than an hour’s drive out highway 12 from Madison you will find Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, WI.  Their winery is open daily from 10-5 and the historic winery offers tours, tastings and fun shopping and sight-seeing on any early spring day.  Select a few bottles to take home with you or become a member of their case club.

Carr Valley Cheese

Carr Valley Cheese

What pairs better with wine than cheese?  And right across the river in Sauk City you will find a Carr Valley Cheese store.  They are producers of some of Wisconsin’s finest Artisan Cheeses made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk or combinations thereof.  Try a sample and ask about pairing a cheese or two with the wines you just purchased.  Your innkeepers will happily provide you a board, cheese knife and some wine glasses when you return to relax at the Inn.

 

 

 

But first, while you are in the area head back in to Prairie du Sac and make a stop at the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council Overlook to see the American Bald Eagles.  The overlook is just 2 blocks south of the Highway 60 and Highway 78 intersection in Prairie du Sac, right along the Wisconsin River.

What a great way to shake off the winter blahs and get out to enjoy some of the Best of Wisconsin.

Madison’s Top 10 Things to do in Fall and Winter

October 26th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Yahara Channel in Winter

The Yahara River in Winter

Madison Wisconsin is a lovely place for a spring or summer getaway but don’t forget just how charming this city can be in the cooler, even frigidly cold, months of the year.  Here is a list of the top or first 10 things that the innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn recommend to their visiting guests.

1.   The Dane County Farmers Market  The largest producer-only farmers market in the nation is a year-round affair.  In mid-November the market moves indoors to the Monona Terrace Convention Center and then after Christmas you can visit the market at the Mifflin Street Senior Center.  You will be amazed at the bounty of the market while the gardens sleep.  The markets just before Christmas are a wonderful source of supplies for decorating, gift-giving and holiday feasts.

2.   Madison’s Restaurant Scene  Creative chefs, farm-fresh ingredients, and the quirky spirit of Madison combine to present a dazzling variety and abundance of really fine eateries.  Visit one of the tiny ethnic cafes on State Street or one of the big boys with stars after their name and you will be very well fed.  This is why we always ask guests what they want to eat before we start recommending restaurants.  Guests could starve to death before we get to the end of the list of Madison’s great places to eat.  A favorite dining scene for us is a window seat at a restaurant on the capitol square on a snowy evening.  It’s pure magic.

3.   University of Wisconsin Campus  UW keeps things lively in the winter seasons with their sports and cultural offerings.  Take in a basketball or hockey game, men’s and women’s for both.  The Hall of Fame in the Kohl’s center is worth a visit even if the team is on the road.  Recitals, concerts, and theater really get going in the winter months and Sunday afternoon at the Chazen Museum is a seasonal delight.  Stroll through the galleries while listening to the live music performed in the atrium.  That famous ice-cream is available all year round at Babcock Hall or the Memorial Union.

4. State Street  Madison’s well-known pedestrian mall that connects the capitol square with the UW campus is always a lively place to enjoy a cup of coffee, ethnic dining, or browsing the bookstores, boutiques and galleries.  During the holiday season it twinkles with thousands of white lights.  State Street Posters is one of our favorites and is the source of much of the art work in the Madison Lakes room at the Inn.

5.  University of Wisconsin Arboretum  1,200 acres of nature right in the center of the city provide residents and guests with ample space to walk off some of that fine dining.  The prairie and woodland areas and Lake Wingra attract abundant wildlife.  Occasional night-walks conducted by the naturalists on staff introduce participants to the wonders of nature that we seldom experience during our daylight encounters with the world.  Can you identify an owl by its hoot?

6.  Madison’s City and County Parks  Golf, picnics, and tennis give way to sledding, skating and skiing in the coldest months.  Most parks remain open in the winter and are a great spot for walking and admiring the city without the crowds of summer.  The lakeside parks are occasionally decorated with nature-made ice sculptures and the ice-fishing huts on the lakes themselves are, at the very least, a photo-op that proves how crazy those folks in Madison really can be.

7.   The Lakes  There are 5 of them here.  Two of the largest are right in the center of the city and we managed to just squeeze the downtown area between them and then spread the rest of the city around the perimeter of them.  What is more relaxing than watching the sunset across the water?  Hearty fishermen bobbing about in their boats under the sometimes stormy fall skies amaze us.  Ice boats flying across the frozen lakes are awesome.  Locals judge the ‘coldness’ of the day by the width of the open water under the Yahara River bridge on the Beltline Highway.  The waterfowl there are beautiful.

8.  A Wright Place  Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his youth in Madison and designed a Convention Center that was the inspiration for the one that the city actually constructed years after his death.  Wright also designed the Unitarian Society Meeting House, which is open for tours, and several area homes.  A concert at the Unitarian Society Meeting House is a treat for the senses.

9.   Wisconsin State Capitol  It’s simply a must see.  The architecture, the art, the history, or even the grandeur would be reason enough to go.  Tours are free and leave on the hour from the visitor info desk in the rotunda.  The tour guides have the keys to take you into the Supreme Court, The Legislative Chambers, and the Governor’s Conference Room but most importantly, they know all those fun little stories that bring the building to life.  Before the holidays local choral groups perform around the holiday tree in the rotunda.  The tree is lovely as it rises up three or more stories high and the acoustics of the performing musicians will give you goose bumps.

Overture Center in Madison WI

10.   Madison Civic Center  This is the Cesar Pelli designed home of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center for the Performing Arts.  It seems like there is always something going on.  The museum has rotating and visiting nationally acclaimed exhibits (and a very nice gift shop).  The Overture Center hosts everything from Broadway Shows, The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and opera to brown bag lunch performances.

Things To Do In Madison

March 1st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Capitol Square in Madison Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Folks who live in Madison, WI or who visited before know what a great city it is.  It seems like there is always something to do.  But visitors coming for the first time may not know what to do first so here is the list compiled by our staff at The Speckled Hen Inn.  There are the Top Ten Madison Experiences inside the city.  We will get to that long list of things to do, using Madison as a hub when you explore South Central Wisconsin, later.

  1. Take a tour of the Capitol.  Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the building is truly a treasure.  Do take the tour because the wonderful guides know all those fun stories that bring life to the building and they also have the keys to all the locked doors that you will want to see behind.  Tours leave from the info desk in the rotunda every hour on the hour.  You will miss the school kiddies if you go late in the day.  Take the elevator to the 6th floor balcony for a bird’s eye view of Madison.  It is free, of course.
  2. Wander down State Street.  This is the pedestrian mall that connects the Capitol Square to the campus of the University of Wisconsin.  It’s a fantastic place for people watching and doing a bit of shopping.  Our favorite shops are the gift shop at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Little Luxuries, Tellus Mater, the Art Poster Shop and University Bookstore.  The little ethnic restaurants are wonderful too.
  3. Stroll through Olbrich gardens.  Our public gardens are nothing short of amazing for a city our size or for a city of any size.  There is a rose garden, a rock garden, herb garden and butterflies in the summer.  In the winter the structure of the gardens shine and provide a serene spot for a bit of exercise.  The indoor tropical dome will warm you to the core in the winter months.  Don’t miss the beautiful Thai Pavillion.  Everything but admission to the dome is free.
  4. You must have cheese.  Wisconsin is The dairy state so it would be unthinkable to not try our finest cheeses.  They are easy to find.  Fromagination on the Capitol Square is a great artisan cheese shop featuring many different Wisconsin cheeses.  Carr Valley cheese store in Middleton is goat, sheep, and cow’s milk cheese heaven.  Why, even most of our local grocery stores have a cheese counter devoted to just the WIsconsin cheeses.  Try, buy, and take some home with you.  You will be back for more.
  5. Visit the Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin and have an ice cream cone for lunch.  The ice cream from the dairy at Babcock hall has a really high butter fat content that results in ice cream that is the smoothest and creamiest you will ever taste.  I think it is a meal all by itself.  Enjoy it on the Terrace overlooking the lake while listening to the musicians there and you have a memorable experience.
  6. Shop the Dane County Farmer’s Market.  It’s reported to be the largest true farmer’s market in the nation.  What is sold there has to be produced in Wisconsin and sold by the person who produced it  (let’s not quibble about tropical plants).  Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, year-round (check for location in the cold months) and again on Wednesday’s during the summer.  If fact, during the summer months there is a farmer’s market somewhere near Madison every single day of the week.  So, don’t despair if you can’t make it here on Saturday.
  7. Explore the Villas Zoo.  It is free, too.  Isn’t that amazing?  It is a great little zoo with much more than you would expect to find here.  Nice exhibits in great surroundings.  You can spend an hour or two here or the whole day.
  8. OK, this one will take a bit of advance planning.  Come go to a Concerts on the Square.  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays on the steps of the Capitol building on Wednesday evenings for 6 weeks beginning the last week in June.  The music begins at 7:00 but guests start spreading their blankets on the capitol lawn around 3:00 for the largest picnic of summer.  This is the essence of summer in Madison.  Bring your own picnic or purchase a box supper from one of the vendors.
  9. UW-Madison Arboretum 11-03-2011 207Experience the UW Arboretum.  An Arboretum is a collection of plants rather than a garden and you will find a wide range of plant materials at the Arboretum.  The lilac collection in the Spring is amazing, a really fragrant experience.  The nature walks on a moonlit night in the winter are inspiring.  The natural diversity of grassy meadows, swamp, pine plantations, and the plant collections that the University has established combine to provide a great venue for biking , hiking, and exploration.
  10. Pedal your way around the city.  Madison is a very bike-friendly city.  A bike trail network connects all parts of the city.  Several local vendors provide bicycle rentals and not just some old clunkers either.  You can try out some of Trek’s latest developments at some rental places.  Just ask us for information.  City busses and Green Cabs have bike racks to help you out when the old legs are too tired to go another mile.  Many of the Wisconsin State Bicycle trails come very close to Madison too.

Innspiration for your Super Bowl Party

January 24th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck

If you need a bit of inspiration for your Super Bowl Party, the innkeepers at the Speckled Hen Inn in Madison Wisconsin have a couple of suggestions for you.  Since Packer fans have a weekend off from watching football this weekend why not head to Madison to check out the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest.

Sample some of Wisconsin’s finest craft beers and specialty cheeses and decide which ones you will want to serve at your Packer’s party on Super Bowl Sunday.  There are even a couple of special sessions at the event that you won’t want to miss but need to sign up for early.  At 1:30 the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board will pair wonderful Wisconsin cheeses with the brews from Potosi Brewery.  That’s the great western Winconsin brewery that is also home to the Beer Museum.  At 3:00 there is a session on pairing beer with chocolate.  It even gets better.  The pairing is between Gail Ambrosius Chocolates (our local favorite) and the crazy craft brews from Furthermore Brewery.  (I’ve done this before and you have to try it to even imagine how good it is!)

If your entertainment plan is a bit more upscale head out to Wollersheim Winery in Prairie Du Sac for the party to celebrate the release of their 2009 vintage ports.  This year they will be adding a 2009 vintage White Port to their offerings and you can sample and celebrate any time between 10 and 4 on Saturday.  Enjoy a bit of live jazz and pair your port sample with a Combinacas Plate featuring Wisconsin-made Asiago cheese, a chocolate truffle, fresh bread, and dried apricots and almonds.  You will want to take home a bottle of Wisconsin Port or wine to toast the success of the Packers anyway.  Sampling is one sure way to find the wine that pleases you.

We still have rooms available on Friday night so that you can have a romantic getaway at The Speckled Hen Inn.  Enjoy our great breakfast and then head out to sample some of Wisconsin’s finest.

Photo of Downtown Madison Wisconsin

April 21st, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

The Twins

Downtown Madison is one of the prettiest, most romantic, places a person will ever see.  The lighted capitol dome pictured here ,is like the centerpiece of a bountiful banquet table.

Madison…Bicycle City

April 1st, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

   Unusually warm spring weather here in south-central Wisconsin has allowed bicycling enthusiasts to hit the trails early.  Our guests this week at the Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast rented bicycles from Machinery Row Bikes in Madison and had a great time exploring the city by bike.  They were fitted with Trek 7200 hybrid bikes.  Bike rental is only $20/ day or $60/ week and that includes bike lock and helmet too.  Madison has miles of great bike paths and also is close to a couple of the state bike trails.  So, bring your own bike or rent one here.  Have fun exploring and then return to the Inn to soak those muscles in one of jetted tubs.

Guests on bikes at the Speckled Hen Inn

Can you use 'blonde' & 'chub' in the same sentence and still be PC?

February 25th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

You can if you have attended Capital Brewery’s Bockfest.  Guests at our Madison WI Bed and Breakfast will be chatting Sunday morning about the wonderful time they had at this annual event.

First let me explain about the ‘Blonde” and the ‘Chub’.  Bockfest celebrates the release of Capital Brewery’s Blonde Dopplebock beer.  The ‘chub’ part comes into play mid-afternoon when Kirby gets up on the roof of the brewery and flings smoked chubs into the crowd.  Smoked chubs are delicious smoked 6″ or so fish that are dearly loved by all those who have been fortunate enought to taste one.  Why does Kirby throw fish from the roof?  You will have to go to a Bockfest and ask.  I think that he does it because it is just plain outrageous fun and that is what Bockfest is all about.

Other events during the day include the 1K Running of the Blondes, live music, a costume contest, and of course, brewery tours and much drinking of the Dopplebock.

The 13th Annual Bockfest is this Saturday, February 27th from 11AM until 5PM at Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin.  Bockfest is always held the last Saturday in February so if you have to miss it this time, you can mark your calendar for next year.

Cheers!

Madison WI Winter Festival this weekend

February 17th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

 

Madison WI will be celebrating winter at Madison Winter Fest this weekend on the capitol square in downtown Madison.  Events begin on Friday and continue through Sunday.  There are all kinds of things to get involved in as a participant or a spectator.  Watch ice carving and snow sculpting.  It is not the olympics but there will be running and racing and snowboarding and tubing and shoeing and xc skiing and just a grand winter fun time.  If you get chilled you can pop into the Wisconsin State Historical Society Museum on the Capitol Squate for a viewing of their Odd Wisconsin display.