Newbie heading for Wisconsin, looking for ideas and guidance

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Jason_Chinn

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Jun 2, 2005
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Jumping in with both feet here - my father bought a fifth wheel and truck last fall, something of a lifelong dream I think. Anyway, he's parked it in Wisconsin, I have a friend there with a little land. Dad's "convinced" me I should go and use it so this summer I'm taking the family for 3 weeks to see my friend and go RVing!
I've been to and driven in the States before but I've never driven a fifth wheel before - my friend has and is going to give me some lessons and then we'll be off!
So, the flights are booked - 1st to the 22nd August. The RV and truck will be there ready to roll.
The big question is how the heck do I plan this out? Where do I aim for? The only place I'd really like to go see is the Mall of America and then I only really want to go there for the day! The rest of the time I'd like to have a mix of lazy country living, some activities for the kids (2 girls 9 and 14) and maybe a bit of sightseeing/shopping for the wife.
Now we are townies, we live in the Thames Valley in the UK, that's on the river Thames about 40 miles inland from London so a bit of driving in the country will be great!
We don't mind covering some ground during our stay, we were thinking some driving and then stop at a site for a couple of days and strike out from there before moving on. Accepting Mall of America could be our first aiming point we'll be heading west from my friends home in Catawba. Apart from that I really haven't given it that much thought apart from to ask around and see what people think - so people, what do you think :)
 

Tom

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Jan 13, 2005
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Hi JC and welcome to our forum.

You could look at a couple of areas here in the forum for previous ideas posted by forum members:

  • Click the Library button above and select either Places to see and things to do or Trip reports.
  • Look in our Trip reports message board.

When you have a better idea of where you want to go and what you want to see, folks here can recommend some campgrounds and additional things to see and do.

It would help you a lot if you could either pick up a U.S. map (maybe in the Travel section at Smiths) &/or view maps online at Yahoo Maps.
 

Lorna

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Mar 7, 2005
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Hi JC and welcome,
Several things come to mind for WI, first the Baraboo area has much to see including the Circus World Museum and Wisconsin Dells.  Both are great for your children.  These places are straight south of Catawba and north of Madison off of I-90-94.  Highway 13 would take you straight south but you would be driving through many small towns and two bigger cities (Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids).  WI Dells is very commercial but lots of fun for children and the boat tours of the Dells on the Wisconsin River are very scenic especially the Upper Dells.  The whole area is very scenic but if you are coming from Mall of America in Minnesota you can stay on I-94 which goes between Baraboo and WI Dells.  Door County is interesting and located north of Sturgeon Bay between Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  I am sure your parent's friends can give you more places but at least this is a start.  Milwaukee has lots to do but much bigger and more traffic.  If you have more questions just feel free to ask us.  My husband and I lived in Wisconsin most of our lives.
 

rhmahoney

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Feb 9, 2005
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Other interesting trips in Mn area include:

N shore lake superior, Duluth to Canadian border. Favorite CG is city owned on the harbor at Grand Marais.

Another nice little quiet CG is in Grantsberg, 2 blocks from the tiny downtown. Just N of town is a bird sanctuary wetlands. N on I-35, exit 165, East on hywy 70.

I like the Mississippi river road SE of Minneapolis from Red Wing to Prarie Du Chein Wi

Black Hills of South Dakota is doable. From Minneapolis, go SW to I-90 and go west. 606 miles.
Sioux Falls SD-rapids/waterfalls near downtown
Mitchell South Dakota. Gigantic sporting goods store, corn palace
Wall drugstore. famous tourist attraction due to thier extensive set of road advertisements.
Badlands. erosion run wild
Black Hills- mt rushmore, dinosaur museum, custer state park with buffalo herd you can drive through, caves, mammoth site with fossils laid out in situ, giant mining pit, Deadwood-old west town, Sturgis- motorcycle mecca.
 

Karl

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Joined
Mar 3, 2005
Posts
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Location
Elkhart Lake, WI for the summer. Work at Road Amer
Jason,

Road America, in east central Wisconsin, is argueably among the world's best (and America's longest at 4 miles) road racing courses, and will be featuring the Generac 500/American Le Mans Series races August 17th thru the 20th. Come and see some of the fastest cars and famous drivers up close and personal! I may even be able to wangle a visit for you and your family inside the control center, so you can see and hear what goes on behind the scenes - something not many people get to do. ;D Here's a link for more info: http://www.roadamerica.com/2006/races_ra500.htm Sites for RV's are available AT THE TRACK with many more at the Sheboygan County Marsh just a few miles from the track -  that's where I stay during the summer months. Send me a PM for my phone number and more details if you're interested. 
 

Jason_Chinn

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Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
Thanks guys, much appreciated. Road America looks good, I'm into cars, mainly old stuff from the 60's - we have two classic Triumphs in the UK and that's how I met my friend in Wisconsin, over the bonnet of a virtual Triumph (we both have GT6s). I'm not sure I would get away with spending much time around a race track as the kids aren't that into it but I will ask and thank you for your kimd offer - I'll let you know the response I get from the family :)
I've sent away for a site guide and my Dads sent me some maps so we'll get planning. Do the sites get booked up in August? Should we book or can we just roll up?
 

Karl

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Elkhart Lake, WI for the summer. Work at Road Amer
Jason,

You would be wise to book well in advance. The on-track sites are limited in number, but I'm sure I could get you a site at the Sheboygan Marsh. Don't be put off by the name - it's a well developed area with both permanent residents (RV's, 5'ers - no park models) and temporary guests (RV's, 5'ers, pop-up's, tents), restaurant, hot showers, playground for the kids, canoes to rent, etc. (and I know the owner's quite well!) If you'd like, send me a PM and I'll give you a contact name and number for reservations there. 
 

Jason_Chinn

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
Will do Karl.

What about other sites areoung the South and West of WI? I'm just trying to get a feel for how busy it will be and how lazy I can be in booking :) I've never been to WI, never driven a fifth wheeler come to think of it, I've never actally seen one in the flesh either! Aww, it's just a motor and wheels right? OK, lot's of wheels and it's big, very big :eek:
 

Smoky

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Mar 11, 2005
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wherever we are parked
Jason:

When you get there try to hook up with Karl if you can.  He is from Wisconsin and is an experienced RVer of many years.  I am certain any help you get from Karl will enhance your visit to Wisconsin.
 

Ned

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Feb 1, 2005
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In the summer, most campgrounds in WI are filled with seasonal renters.  Many people rent their sites by the year and their RVs never move.  That's what we did when we lived there.  Around the Dells, the campgrounds are filled with families and are often booked up for weeks in advance.  I would recommend that you call ahead for reservations when you decide you want to visit a particular area.

A central location can let you visit much of the state without moving the RV as WI isn't as large as some of the western states.  From the Madison area, for example, you can see the many attractions in SW WI by car.
 

Jason_Chinn

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Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
Thanks for that - I'd better get planning then :) The intention was to spend a couple of days with my friend either end of about 2 weeks travelling around. He lives near Catawba. I'd like to drive a little so we figured 3 or 4 stops would do - don't want to be driving hard all day, want to be seeing what's to see  ::)
 

Jason_Chinn

Member
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Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
More thought and some map gazing, surfing and general information gathering has gone on and I've got a better idea of what's needed. So here's the idea - strike out North from Catawba and stay somewhere near Bayfield up near the Apostle Islands - looking for a site there, seems Apostle Islands Area Campground gets good reviews but I'm having trouble finding it on the maps and they don't seem to have a web site (despite Goodalls saying they have WiFi). From here stay a day and take a boat trip, see some bears on the islands maybe? (We don't get bears in the UK so it would be nice to see some).
From Bayfield, head South (there isn't really any other way to head!) to Chippewa Falls area - no real reason other than it's a nice name and it's on the way to St Paul (well sort of) I need to see what's to do, see and where to stay here.
From Chippewa head West towards St Paul and find Lebanon Hills camp site for a couple of days. This has been reccommended as a good site to stay for a couple of days. From here, do Minneapolis - Mall of America etc
From Lebanon Hills I'd like to drive down alongside the Mississippi for a while so I thought we'd head for Onalaska / La Crosse but I've yet to see what's there or where to stay.
From La Crosse we head East towards Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells Area - here we'd better do the whole Jellystone/Yogi Bear thing. Not for the kids, they don't know what we're talking about! More for me and the wife :) I think there's lots to do here so it might be where we stay for 3 or more days.
Form WI Dells we go East to Oshkosh, I know we'll have missed the air show (damn!) but I'd like to see lake Winnebago, maybe stay somewhere on the shores
From Oshkosh we head North to Green Bay and stay somewhere on the bay - I haven't really looked to see what's there yet.
From Green Bay we head towards Wausau - again, I haven't looked for a place to aim at there yet.
From Wausau we return to Catawba and a few days wind down and tall tales telling with my friend and his family before the long flight home.

All places, timings and ideas are approximate!

So, I need some help filling in the blanks, getting activity and campsite ideas and reccommendations. We're taking a 30 foot fifth wheel (I think, I'll check) anyway I've never driven it before so the idea of a pull through appeals ;-) Also, I'd like sites with internet access (WiFi) if available but it's not a "must have" - I will need to keep in touch. As a family we love food and eating, I really like BBQs. Whilst I'm happy to go to theme parks I wanted to experience and to show the kids that America isn't all McDonald's and Disney!

All opinions greatfully received!
 

Ned

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There are several campgrounds in the Bayfield area.  Do take the boat tour of the Apostle Islands, it's a very pleasant and informative tour with lots of photo ops.  On your way to the Twin Cities, stop at Grantsburg and stay at the city campground.  Lebanon Hills is an excellent campground but they do fill up so plan on making reservations as early as you can.  We've stayed there on several occasions.  There are some Core of Engineers campgrounds on the Mississippi that you can stay in.  If you have a Golden Age Passport or National Parks Pass, you can stay for half price.  In Oshkosh, do visit the EAA museum.  There are several campgrounds close by.

Again, the campgrounds in WI are very full in the summer, many with seasonal campers, so plan on calling for reservations whenever you can.
 

Jason_Chinn

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Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
Thanks for the tips Ned - do you mean the James N McNally Campground here http://www.grantsburgwi.com/parks.htm? That looks really nice and seems good value to me. I can find Granstburg and West Olson Drive but I can't pinpoint the site (I'm using Microsfot Streets & Trips 2005 to help me route plan and creating a set of pushpins to keep track of these reccommendations.
You'll have to be gentle with me here - what's a Core of Engineers campground and where are they listed please?
There seem to be several disocunt cards or membership clubs all clamouring for my money - bearing in mind we'll be on the road for 14 days max do you think any will offer value for money and if so which ones should I look at?
Oshkosh - to the wife it's a range of childrens clothes, but to me it's an airshow :) Is this http://museum.eaa.org/ the museum you're referring to? Looks good and as I've always loved planes I think I'll drag the family round ;-)
Thanks again for your help and interest, it's really good to find some support - this really is anther world to me!
 

Ned

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Yep, James N. McNally CG is the one.? It's on the west side of town next to Lions Park and the river.? Easy to find, Grantsburg isn't that big :)? I believe there are signs too.

COE parks are found near COE projects, usually dams, and are almost always well taken care of.? Water and electric only for the most part.? The Golden Age Passport is available for those over 62 and the National Parks Pass is an annual pass available for $50.? Both give free admittance to all national parks and monuments and half price camping in all COE and, I believe, NFS campgrounds.? Not a good value for your itinerary.

Yes, that's the EAA museum web site.? Definitely worth a visit.
 

Wendy

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The Golden Age and Golden Access passes give free entrance and half-price camping. The National Parks Pass give free entrance but not discounted camping.
 

Ned

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Oops, I did it again, Wendy.  I keep forgetting the the NPP is limited to entrance.  Thanks for correcting that.
 

rhmahoney

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Feb 9, 2005
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Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore/ Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore
2864 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55407
http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/

Really good new and used bookstore specializing in science fiction and mysteries.
 

Jason_Chinn

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2005
Posts
9
Thanks for all the posts, I don't think any of these discount passes will be cost effective for our trip but I'll keeo my eyes out for any "specials"
 

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