Harry Houdini was legendary for his daring escapes, but he's still never escaped the public's imagination. To wit: AKA Houdini, whose artifacts offer a hands-on glimpse into some of his most infamous tricks. Along with the Appleton-raised illusionist, The History Museum at the Castle's award-winning exhibits focus on other notable Fox Valley natives, including Senator Joseph McCarthy. Dating back to the 1840s, the museum's collection of Fox Valley artifacts includes 35,000 photographs and 20,000 pieces, such as parts of a vintage gas station. At an exhibit tracing the origins of the area's most famous foods, such as frozen custard and fish fries, visitors can even spear sturgeons inside a life-size virtual ice shanty.
These pieces of Fox Valley history are housed inside a Masonic temple listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1923, the temple exemplifies the medieval, Norman Revival style with rough-hewn stone, vaulted ceilings, and fire-breathing dragons guarding its entrance. Designed as a community center, the temple continues to serve that function by hosting the museum's year-round events, including papermaking programs and magic workshops.
Ticket stubs, needlework, oil paintings: the experts at The Great Frame Up have handled them all, turning them into wall-ready hangings. Their selection of hundreds of frames, matting options, and varieties of glass makes it easy for clients to find the right colors and textures to complement their artwork. In addition to custom framing, the professionals offer conservation framing for paintings with monetary value or used napkins with sentimental value. Three-dimensional objects are also a specialty: The experts can slip hockey pucks and musical instruments into acrylic cases or send clients home with one to keep empty in anticipation of finally acquiring that unicorn horn. Inside the store, customers can peruse a selection of ready-made frames and framed art work.
Resting beneath natural light from the skylights mounted above it, the hulking figure of the 1.2 million-pound Union Pacific Big Boy cloaks visitors in a shadow that stretches for nearly 50 yards. As guests ascend the monstrous cab of this steam locomotive, they enter the centerpiece of the National Railroad Museum, a chamber echoing with more than 150 years of American railroading history.
After exiting Big Boy, guests can view a computer-generated porter that recounts how African-American rail workers formed the nation's first all-black labor union, and another stop invites passengers to view inside a portion of General Eisenhower's WWII command train. Elsewhere in the museum, various collections are housed with more than 15,000 photographs, archives such as maps and engineering drawings, and more than 5,000 artifacts including uniforms and tools.
The National Railroad Museum has over 60 pieces of rolling stock, including diesel, steam, and electric locomotives, and passenger and freight cars. Among these are some of the most influential and unique pieces in railroading history, including a number of items that pertain to the state of Wisconsin.
Other must-sees of the museum include General Motors’ experimental Aerotrain; the streamlined Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4890, a GG-1 electric locomotive; and the Frederick Bauer Drumhead Collection, the largest, single collection of railroad drumheads known to exist in the United States. Most facilities are accessible, except where rolling stock cannot be altered due to their historic nature. The Museum’s train ride is accessible, and a wheelchair lift is available.
A train ride is offered on a daily basis from May through September and guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Museum also hosts a variety of special events for all ages.
Being a health-conscious foodie can be a challenge, because it’s not always easy to determine the history of how and where food is produced. The owners of Armstrong Apples Orchard and Winery have created such a narrative for their clients, growing fruit deeply rooted in their commitments to community and homegrown produce.
Sixteen years ago, they planted their first apple orchard, calling on friends and neighbors aged 8 to 80 for help. Since then, the farm has expanded and now grows 14 varieties of apples, peaches, pears, and grapes, which they serve fresh, baked into pies and turnovers, and pressed into their award-winning wine. Of these libations, apple wine is the owners' specialty, and it ranges from the very dry—best paired with meat—to the cinnamon sweet—best paired with Halloween costumes.
In addition to fresh fruit, baked goods, and adult beverages, the farm boasts entertainment for kids and adults alike, including a playscape and a zorb ball, which is a 12-foot high hamster-ball-like contraption that guests climb inside to travel across an open 5-acre field.
Amber Flanagan's grandparents moved to Milwaukee from Mississippi in the 1960s, bringing with them their culinary heritage and their firm belief in the importance of good eating. Today, Amber carries on their passion for gastronomical traditions by leading walking food tours of the Silver City District and the Historic Third Ward. Milwaukee’s history as a hub for immigrants from all over the world is reflected in the city's diverse ecosystem of restaurants: tours may bounce between Vietnamese, Peruvian, Thai, and Mexican cuisines on their journey. Some restaurant outings incorporate cooking demonstrations, which could otherwise only be glimpsed after donning an elaborate busboy disguise.
Not just a pretty face... Founded in 1924, the Oshkosh Public Museum is a local history museum housed in the beautiful Sawyer home, with luxurious interiors designed by Tiffany Studios. In addition to the historic Sawyer home, the museum has 10,000 square feet of immersive exhibits that bring the region's history to life.