A house surrounded by colorful flowers

Earth to Wisconsin

April 22nd, or Earth Day, is as good a time as any to go off the grid, even momentarily. Can’t bring yourself to completely power down the PDA on the nationwide celebration of the environment and natural living? Try these three ideas for a green weekend in and around Monroe, Wisconsin:

  1. Carbon-neutral quarters
    Just outside the town of Monroe, Inn Serendipity (W7843 County P, Green County; 608-329-7056, innserendipity.com) isn’t your usual bed-and-breakfast. The innkeepers John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist maintain a “carbon negative” business, meaning they take more carbon out of the atmosphere than they put in. The couple’s converted, turn-of-the-century farmhouse runs on wind and solar power; in 2005, Natural Home magazine named Inn Serendipity one of its top 10 eco-friendly destinations in the U.S. Other green touches include VOC-free paint on the walls (harmful gas emitting “volatile organic chemicals “ are found in most paints and caulks), locally made organic soap and organic cotton linens, and vegetarian meals made from seasonal produce. Guests are encouraged to explore the property’s dairy barn and perennial flower garden. Rates range from $110 to $125 a night.
  2. Go gasoline free
    For a lovely bike ride, head for the Sugar River Trail (about one mile miles from the Inn Serendipity), which is prime bird-watching terrain. The trail includes a section— from Bump Road to Exeter Crossing Road—that is part of the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the glacier-sculpted terrain created by the vast ice sheets long ago. Headquarters for the Sugar River State Trail is located in the historic New Glarus train depot near the intersection of Railroad Street and Fifth Avenue. For more information, click here.
  3. Eat Your Green
    An hour-long scenic drive from Monroe, check out the Dane County farmer’s market, which runs from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in Capital Square in downtown Madison. A weekly event since 1972, the market features 150 vendors selling Wisconsin produce, street performers, and arts and crafts booths nearby.

Where to eat: Monroe, Wisconsin may be the nation’s Swiss cheese capital—at least according to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. One of the best places to sample the holiest of sandwich staples is Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern (Courthouse Square, 1023 16th Ave.; 608- 325-6157, baumgartnercheese.com), where, since 1931, the fare has included cheese-centric dishes (limburger, cheddar, and brick cheese featured alongside the Swiss) and locally brewed beer. Alp and Dell Cheese shop in the Roth Kase Cheese Factory (657 Second St.; 608-328-3355, alpanddellcheese.com) is also worth investigating. While the factory and shop have only been open in Monroe since 1991, Roth cheese dates back to 1863, when 20-year-old Oswald Roth began crafting his handmade dairy products in Switzerland. These days, the master cheesemaker Tony Zgraggen is often on hand to answer. For an upscale, locally sourced meal try The Dining Room at 209 Main (209 N. Main St., Monticello; 608-938-2200, 209main.com), where grilled quail and ginger ravioli are among Chef Wave Kasprzak’s signature dishes.