This year, I have done my best to share my knowledge of all things Wisconsin with you, my perceived loyal fan base. From opening up about my family’s shady margarine-smuggling past to detailing proper Packer party etiquette and explaining why Wisconsinites use their hands as maps, I have treated this column as an insider’s guide to understanding the many quirks of the Badger State.
However, my time at the University of Wisconsin is running short. Before I graduate and say “goodbye” to the Dairyland and “hallo” to Vaterland, a.k.a. Germany, I want to take this column as an opportunity to share a few more tips and tricks for making it in Wisconsin. It has taken me years to acquire such wisdom, and yet, out of the goodness of my Midwestern heart, I will spill a few more of my Sconnie secrets.
Since summer is on everyone’s minds right now, I thought I would give each secret a summer theme.
There is life outside Madison
From sailing on Lake Mendota to exploring the UW Arboretum or simply hanging with pals on the terrace, Madison has a lot to offer in the summer. However, if you’re not from Wisconsin, you might not know this secret: Madison does not represent the state as a whole. In fact, if you leave the protected bubble of our state’s capital, you’ll find people who actually like Gov. Scott Walker and who would not dream of shopping at Whole Foods or a co-op.
If that sounds scary to you, fear not. No matter their political beliefs, there are friendly people all over Wisconsin who are eager to show others what makes this state great. I recommend exploring all corners of the state as the scenery and type of people you will meet will vary from region to region.
Beware the Wisconsin Dells
I have a love-hate relationship with the Wisconsin Dells. Sure, Noah’s Ark is an aquatic adventure that all should embark upon at sometime in their lives, but the so-called “water park capital” has a dark downside. It’s one big, gaudy tourist trap. After years of family trips to the Dells, I believe I can accurately identify what’s worthwhile and what’s not.
First, know that Noah’s Ark and the Kalahari are the best water parks, outdoor and indoor, respectively. Some other resorts are decent, but if you don’t go to one of these two parks while you’re there, you’re selling yourself short.
Next, some attractions are just plain rip-offs. Although the Internet tells me the Wonder Spot no longer exists — thank God — there are plenty of other seemingly cool places that will steal your money and leave you feeling empty inside. I have vague memories of Robot World, but even as an eight-year-old, I knew it sucked. Also, don’t even think of going near that upside down museum thing. If you’ve driven by the Dells, you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I am talking about, don’t worry. Just trust me. It’s lame.
Finally, be sure to take a tour on the Wisconsin Ducks. These repurposed World War II vehicles can traverse land or water, and you’ll see some beautiful scenery, including sandstone bluffs.
You can buy them here! If that’s not a secret or surprise to you, then let me explain further. Not only can you buy fireworks in Wisconsin, you can buy awesome fireworks in Wisconsin. I am not talking about those dinky fountains that only reach three to five feet in the air. In Wisconsin, you can buy artillery shell-style fireworks that launch into the air and explode, creating a glittering, sparkling display for the whole family. Not all firework stands sell the more dangerous variety, but if you search long enough you’ll find them.
After years of serving as an apprentice at my dad’s annual firework show, I have learned exactly why they are illegal in other states. Let’s just say if you’re planning a firework show, please make sure your audience is agile in the event that exploding fireballs mistakenly get fired in their direction.
So Many Secrets, So Little Time
My friends, I wish I had more time to share more insider tips about Wisconsin, but I do not. You may be wondering, “How will I ever make it in this cruel, cruel world without you, Holly?” Although there are plenty of topics I haven’t addressed yet in this column, I am confident that I have give you the basics to make it in Wisconsin. I believe in you!
However, if you should ever find yourself in a jam, remember two things. Strangers are your friends in Wisconsin and will probably help you out. And finally, any debate, awkward silence or uncomfortable situation can be remedied with one simple phrase: How ‘bout dem Packers?
Holly Hartung ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and communication arts. She hopes the Dairyland Down-low made you laugh at least once this year.