Some people call this part of the heart of the United States flyover country. They usually do it with a slight, holier-than-thou sneer.
Problem is, those who still do also usually have never been here. And, they’re missing some of the best experiences of their lives.
So, I’m about to introduce you, to a day-by-day excursion into the heart of Flyover Country, Wisconsin, and the region around its largest lake, Winnebago, located only a half-hour or so from that other town that only football freaks care about, Green Bay.
If you’re here in summer, things to do include witnessing possibly the next baseball superstar take the field at Time Warner Cable Field in Appleton, a short drive away. It’s where the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, have been hitting the ball under different monikers since 1891, in other words about since the game was invented. Among others, it’s where A-Rod broke in to pro ball.
The Rattlers and mascot Fang now play out of a newly renovated stadium and regularly pull in a quarter million to its games each season. It’s a great, cozy stadium and if you’re a baseball fanatic, one that you need to visit.
The area is also home of a interesting winery, Kerrigan Brothers, not only for its product including great apple-cranberry and raspberry dessert wines, but also for its owner. Troy Landwehr is one of only a handful of cheese carvers, making art out of food the way ice carvers do with their product. Be sure to pay him a visit and enjoy the left-overs of his creations in cheddar.
Your first night, or sometime during your visit, head also to downtown Neenah, on the Winnebago shore. Its Midwet hometown, cozy charm, complete with a mini statue of the Statue of Liberty downtown, will charm that Flyover remark from your vocabulary forever. Especially after a visit to Cannova’s (Facebook: Cannova's). You’ll will definitely be glad that the Cannova family, who founded the original restaurant in tiny Freeport, IL, west of Rockford, in 1921, decided to branch out and move here a few decades later.
First, it’s not a pre-made pizzeria, despite the sign, and despite that pizza is its specialty, having been favorably written up for its innovative toppings in several trade magazines. It’s a true Italian restaurant and also a true downtown gathering spot. We were here on a mid-week evening and the place was packed.
Of special note: order the tomato-mozzarella salad. Tomatoes, all locally grown, served surrounded by tender dollops of fresh mozzarella, and drizzled with wonderfully sweet balsamic vinegar. Absolute the best you’ll try.
Of several pizzas, I sampled both my favorite, a maragarita, with perfectly toasted rounds of mozzarella, and thin, crusty dough so great you can still taste the yeast it was made with, and the Caesar pizza, also great and unusual, made with all the ingredients that turn the traditional pizza into a salad.
Lasagna is a usual on the menu of any Italian eatery, and this version was also great, served smothered in a sweet, red tomato sauce and a hint of cilantro under it that made it a standout among lasagna in my memory.
Then, head back to your choice of surprisingly elegant hotels, including the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, complete with two golf courses—one mini and another full—size, on or adjacent. These great facilities seem out-of-place in flyover country, I’m sure, but they’re here not only to serve tourists, but also business types for the likes of Kimberly-Clark, which is headquartered here along with lots of other businesses that you may not want to now sneer at and call flyover again.
We’ll have more on the area in the next several days. For more information, go to the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.