The valleys between the Mississippi River and Madison cradle some of the Midwest's most diverse pockets of culture: highbrow, hole-in-the-wall, farm-fresh, ethnic and even kooky. Plan on stops in Spring Green, under an hour west of Madison; the Village of Mount Horeb, 20 miles southwest; and Cornish mining town Mineral Point, 30 miles farther.

By Maria Duryee
August 13, 2014
Southern Hills, Wisconsin

Things to do

American Players Theatre Pack a picnic to enjoy on a blanket spread in the meadow or at a table beneath oaks, then walk up a hill to the under-the-stars amphitheater for plays June through late October in Spring Green. (608) 588-2361;

Cave of the Mounds Hour-long guided tours explore a cavern of colorful stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and other mineral formations. Aboveground, enjoy beautiful rock gardens and walking trails. In Village of Mount Horeb. (608) 437-3038;

Photo courtesy of

Cheese Country Trail ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles make it a busy trail for hikers or bikers, but everyone is welcome on this trail that roughly parallels the Pecatonica River for 47 miles from Mineral Point to Monroe.

House on the Rock Into quirky? We finished the self-guided tours thinking this was a bizarre, trippy riff on Frank Lloyd Wright. Not into quirky? Skip the Spring Green house and its collections, which feature every freaky image of childhood nightmares. (608) 935-3639, (800) 334-5275;

Johnston Gallery One of the many galleries, artists' workshops and specialty shops filling Mineral Point downtown storefronts, most more than a century old. This one showcases works of more than 100 artists. (608) 987-3787;

Orchard Lawn Victorian mansions built by 19th-century mining magnates and wealthy merchants line Ridge Street of Mineral Point and grace surrounding residential areas. A tour of Orchard Lawn provides a look into that era's architecture and garden design. (608) 558-1937;

Pecks Farm Market East Families come to this Spring Green spot for the petting zoo and train rides, but they don't leave without a big watermelon, salsa or other fresh find. (608) 588-7177;

Pendarvis State Historic Site Costumed guides lead tours of stone cottages, a row house and Cornish pub dating to Mineral Point's early mining days. (608) 987-2122;

Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts Creative writing, blacksmithing, bookmaking and painting are just a few of the workshops at this nonprofit arts center in Mineral Point. Classes for both novice and experienced artisans last up to a weekend. (608) 987-3292;

Taliesin Estate Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie-style home anchors the 600-acre Spring Green estate where the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture still functions. Tours of the home and hillside studio explain Wright's genius. (877) 588-7900;

Taliesin. Photo by Ginger Crichton.

Where to eat

Brewery Creek Brewpub Only the finest local ingredients make it into the upscale brewpub food at this Mineral Point pub. (608) 987-3298;

Driftless Depot Organic Market, Deli and Cafe This Spring Green stop sells gourmet soups and sandwiches, and organic and imported groceries. (608) 628-1001;

The Spring Green General Store Beyond the big blue front porch, this cottage-style restaurant serves savory and comforting food with a global, health-food bent. The retail side of this Spring Green spot stocks unique gifts, boutique clothing and groceries. (608) 588-7070;

Red Rooster Cafe Come to this casual Mineral Point spot for Cornish specialties like pasties (hearty meat, potato and vegetable turnovers) and figgyhobbin (a raisin-studded dessert). (608) 987-9936

Where to stay

Brewery Creek Inn At this 19th-century inn, 20th-century luxury makes for pleasant stays above the brewpub by the same name. (608) 987-3298;

Shake Rag Alley Mousehole Lodging Look forward to plush furnishings, cozy quilts and a kitchen stocked with tea at these townhouse suites in Mineral Point. (608) 553-1966;