Just 2.5 hours west of Milwaukee lies this agricultural, artsy belt—welcome to the Driftless Region.
Spring Green (pop. 1,628) has earned its designation as one of Wisconsin’s most eclectic communities. Tucked into the Driftless Region’s eastern edge — an agricultural area organic farmers flock to for its fertile soil—it’s easy to squeeze a lot of fun into a weekend. Spring Green is also the region’s culinary and cultural capital. Here’s your weekend itinerary:
Overnight options run the gamut from farm to fancy. Lucky enough to be with a group? Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s uncle’s former farm (Aldebaran Farm) is open for overnight rentals, with space for 12 people. Built in 1861, it’s adjacent to Taliesin, Wright’s homestead and first major project. While the $800 weekend cost (total for two nights) might seem steep, divide that by five other couples and suddenly it’s not.
Inexpensive accommodations are plentiful in the area. Architecture buffs love to bunk at the 35-room Spring Valley Inn (from $99), a Usonian-style property on 10 acres and designed by former fellows at the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin School of Architecture. Rates include breakfast and access to a pool.
Plenty of locals rent out rooms or the entire spread of their homes. Check Airbnb listings for more info. Isn’t this pretty blue farmhouse ($175) on 174 acres in nearby Highland charming? Or this cottage ($70) designed by a Taliesin alum?
Want to splurge? The House on the Rock Resort (from $162) is the poshest, with a golf course, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a restaurant.
Next, zip over to the timeless and delightfully retro Arthur’s Supper Club for a fish fry and classic cocktail — perhaps a Moscow Mule. The first evening of any weekend away deserves a nightcap, no?
Sit down to brunch at Spring Green General Store, a cute farm-to-table café in downtown Spring Green filled to the brim with artist-made retail items in the adjacent café, such as Fair Trade jewelry and chocolate bars, colorful clothing and kitchen dishtowels. On the weekend breakfast menu are items like two signature “cheese-curd scrambles” (either garlic-dill or Italiano ‘curds mixed with scrambled eggs) and buttermilk pancakes prepared with local grains and maple syrup. Grab a seat on the screened-in porch or out front. While you’re here, pull together a picnic for tomorrow. Artisan cheeses made locally, bottles of craft Wisconsin beer and more are sold at the store.
American Players Theatre reveals a major renovation this summer, with a revamped stage and amphitheater at the Hill Theatre, plus upgraded gift shop and café areas. This year’s plays at the Hill Theatre include William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Three Sisters (Anton Chekhov) and the French comedy A Flea In Her Ear (Georges Feydeau). A mix of afternoon and evening shows provide flexible options. But be sure to arrive at least an hour prior to the show so you can snag a nice picnic spot on the grounds (it’s okay to bring in food and alcohol; or, you can purchase on site).
Tour the home of Wisconsin’s most famous architect: Frank Lloyd Wright, most known for his Prairie style and adoption of organic architecture that still guides designers today. This month marks the 150th anniversary of his birthday. Taliesin’s Highlights Tour (10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; with an added 3:15 p.m. tour July-September) spans two hours and leaves no room unvisited. With a knowledgeable guide, you’ll visit the Hillside Theater, Hillside Drafting Studio (where Taliesin fellows now work), Assembly Hall, the Fellowship Dining Room and Wright’s personal studio and residence for 50 years. Check Taliesin’s online calendar before your trip because there’s a slew of fun events during the summer like a trio of farm dinners prepared with food grown on property and hosted by visiting chefs between August and October, and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society Summer Concert Series on Sundays in June.
Time for another tour? One of the state’s quirkiest attractions is right here in Spring Green: House on the Rock. This architectural marvel—a house built on top of a column of rock, created in 1959—by Alex Jordan, Jr., a notoriously reclusive guy, is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The property houses several vignettes, including a carousel, recreation of “Main Street” during the early 20th century and coin-operated musical instruments, not to mention tons of antiques. Admission is granted until 4 p.m. and it closes an hour later, at 5 p.m.
Before hitting the road, stop for a latte, sandwich to go and a literary read as a souvenir at Arcadia Books in downtown Spring Green, a fine example of an indie bookstore. Founded by drama director James Bohnen in 2011, it’s an homage to the now-shuttered Chinook Bookshop in Colorado (a former haunt of Bohnen’s) and inside Spring Green’s former post office, built in 1872.