Photos: Cassie Walker
The history is rich-Wisconsin’s nickname, “Badger State,” comes from “badger” holes miners dug here during the lead rush of the 1830s and ’40s-but today visitors come for the art, concentrated near the intersection of High and Commerce streets, the heart of the town’s gallery scene. Start at Longbranch Gallery (203 Commerce St.; 608-987-4499), which boasts a sizable selection of regional work including that of the 86-year-old folk artist Peg Miller and Tor Faegre of Evanston, a rustic furniture maker. A few doors down, drop in on the space shared by Chestnut Hill Studio and Howdle Studios (225 Commerce St.; 608-987-3335). Most galleries are staffed by the artists themselves, so the person behind the register is uniquely poised to talk about the creative process-and to haggle a deal. This mom-and-pop feel makes shopping fun for collectors, but also makes gallery hours unpredictable, so call ahead.
Sack out at Brewery Creek (23 Commerce St.; 608-987-3298), a cozy bed-and-breakfast and popular restaurant with four rotating homebrews. The strong but sweet Keeping Ale soothes, as do the whirling hot tubs in each guest room. Next morning, catch the spectacular changing fall leaves from the best vantage point in southwestern Wisconsin: the Military Ridge Trail. To reach the trail, which can be walked or biked, pick up a connecting path behind the Comfort Inn on Highway 151 or drive 17 miles to the trailhead in Dodgeville.
Or try the sandwiches and homemade desserts at Gundry & Gray (608-987-3636), which bears the name of the prominent Cornish family, the Gundrys, who built Orchard Lawn. Before leaving town, make a pit stop at Brewery Pottery Studio (276 Shake Rag St.; 608-987-3669) near the intersection with Highway 151. The converted brewery houses the Johnston family’s studio, gallery, and living space. Their affordable, warm-hued pottery makes an excellent souvenir, as does a chat with the affable owners, whose lives, like so many residents, are happily entwined with their art.
Mineral Point, Wisconsin, lies 200 miles northwest of Chicago. The drive takes about three hours.