I had recently spent the past couple of month in Southeast Asia and southern Mexico, both of which are tropical areas, so I haven’t had a chance to get into the holiday spirit. Nothing says the Holidays like Christmas lights and snow, so I’ve decided to road trip around southern Wisconsin to get into the holiday spirit.
I flew to Milwaukee from Phoenix the other day and have been in southern Wisconsin for a couple days now, but today I arrived in Janesville. I was up and on the road pretty early, so my first stop when I arrived into Janesville was to find a place for some breakfast and a cup of joe. While driving along Main Street I noticed Bodacious Brew, so I quickly found a place to park and headed in. Downtown Janesville is quite charming with some great historic buildings, along with what looks like some revitalization happening.
Bodacious Brew is a newly opened place, as are some of the other nearby shops. Thew view looks out on the Rock River with a boardwalk that follows the banks. I was chatting with one of the baristas and he asked where I was from. When I told him I was from Phoenix, he informed me that he was moving to Prescott to finish school. I was telling him all the things I enjoyed about Prescott and was soon on my way.
I walked just down the street and across the river to explore some of the shops. I spent a fair amount of time at the the Raven’s Wish Gallery talking with owner/artist Alicia Reid about her place. Alicia has discovered some wonderful local artists displaying a wide range of talent. From mixed-media, acrylic and water color paintings, to wood, metal and glass works, there is something for everyone. I was also quite impressed by how affordable much of the display of work is. I think I will be going back before I leave to do a bit of Christmas shopping.
Just a couple doors down was a really interesting place called, Mantiques. This is an antiques shop geared toward men, which I think is just brilliant! From old tools, toys to comic books and so much more, Mantiques has carved out a niche with a really catchy name.
After perusing Mantiques, I walked into the most extraordinary music store. Voigt Music Center is in a large space in a wonderful historic building right on Main street. Beautiful old hardwood floors run the entire length of the space, while spot lights accent the acoustic guitars on one side and electric guitars on the other. There is a loft where brass, strings and other instruments are on display. At the front of the store are chairs and couches, where I assume someone could sit and strum a guitar to see if it is to their liking. The space feels like a hip coffee shop, but this place is for music enthusiasts. Even if you don’t play an instrument, Voigt’s is a place that anyone would appreciate visiting. In the back of the store are a bunch of studio type rooms for music lessons. The coolest area however, is the adjacent room to the main space, which is set up with a stage and spectator seating. Many days/nights per week there are jam sessions and other performances. As a matter of fact, Tony, the owner, was telling me that yesterday Todd Sucherman, the drummer from Styx, had put on a clinic. How cool would that have been to see! I’m going to head back to Voigt’s on Sunday afternoon to see if I can catch some live music.
While I was wandering around Voigt’s, Tony suggested that I head upstairs to the Venue, just to check it out. The Venue is a place for weddings and other events, but was once a Methodist Church. The historical building is from the 1870s and the woodwork and craftsmanship is stunning and beautifully restored.
After lunch I headed to the Wisconsin Wagon company for a tour. This place feels like one of Santa’s little workshops, where each wooden coaster wagon is built by hand. The company just celebrated it’s 100th year and is still going strong today with a line of hand-crafted wooden products.
I then headed to the Lincoln-Tallman House, which is decked out for the holidays, with many Christmas trees, lights and other ornaments on display. The home was built and owned by William Tallman, but today has the name “Lincoln-Tallman” as Abraham Lincoln was once a guest. I felted transported back in time as as I walked the halls and entered the rooms while my tour guided explained the history of the house and the Tallman family.
After my historic tour of the Tallman House, I went to check into my accommodations for the next couple of nights at the Guardian Angel Bed & Breakfast. When I drove up I was quite impressed by the stately manor, which was surrounded by an expansive estate. The Italianate mansion is quite remarkable, but what really impressed me was how elaborately decorated the home is for Christmas—and here I thought the decorations at the Tallman House got me into the spirit. Carol, the owner/innkeeper of the Guardian Angle appears to go all out for the holidays, each room is decorated with Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, Santa animations that sing when you walk by. Not only are the living areas decorated, but so too are the guest rooms. Everywhere I turned there was holiday cheer. I asked Carol how should could possibly store all the decorations and apparently she has a multi-room basement where each room is dedicated to storing decorations for different season.
After I got settled I headed to the Cozy Inn for dinner, which is the oldest Chinese restaurant in the entire state of Wisconsin. After dining at the best restaurants in China last year, the American version of Chinese food just doesn’t compare. The service was quite good and I enjoyed talking with my server about the places in China I had visited.
My evening was capped off with a performance of Miracle on 34th Street at the Janesville Performance Arts Center. The intimate 600+ seat venue is part of a restored historic high school and there is not a bad seat in the house. I had never seen Miracle on 34th Street before, so this was yet another element that supported my effort to get into the holiday spirit.
I have a full day of stuff planned for tomorrow, so please check back to the Road Diary for my next update from Janesville. If you have any suggestions of things I shouldn’t miss while in town, please post a comment below. Click here to read the next Road Diary update from Janesville.