200C Water St.
Lake Mills Wisconsin 53551United States
Midwest Living Recommends
The so-called City of Pyramids offers a pleasant weekend of shopping and small-town charm, plus a bit of mystery in the form of lake-bottom archaeology.
On a beautiful summer day in June, families line up for lunch at the American Legion hamburger stand in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. That's the kind of Rockwellian small town this is. Attractive 19th-century buildings surround Commons Park, a well-manicured old-fashioned town square where kids enjoy picnics and adults gather for Wednesday night concerts in the gazebo. Though not as well known as Mineral Point or New Glarus, Lake Mills holds its own as a southern Wisconsin getaway destination, just 20 minutes east of Madison and an hour west of Milwaukee. Lake Mills' history runs deep -- as in, under the deep. The town calls itself the City of Pyramids because mysterious stone structures have reportedly been found on the bottom of nearby Rock Lake. Legend has it that in 1066, after suffering a long and terrible drought, Aztec Indians appealed to their gods for help by building and using sacrificial pyramids. In answer to their prayers, great waters soon covered the pyramids and created the lake the Indians came to call Tyranena, meaning "sparkling waters." In 1836, white settlers renamed the lake, and in 1838, the Lake Mills settlement was established, with its own sawmill and gristmill, on its shores. Today, Rock Lake is a pleasant recreational spot, and the Tyranena Brewery pays tribute to the lake's former name. Aztalan State Park and Museum is an interesting place to learn about the region's pre-Columbian roots. But beyond that, Lake Mills offers typical small-town attractions: a handful of interesting shops and restaurants, a nice bed-and-breakfast and access to the nearby Glacial Drumlin bike trail. The most unique attraction is Ephraim Faience pottery, famous for its Arts and Crafts-style pieces.