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End of summer, not end of things to do



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September 01, 2010 | 08:03 AM
When the calendar page is turned to September, I often feel as though summer has passed too quickly. If you are lamenting the fact that you have not had much vacation time this summer, there are still many fun, exciting and inexpensive places to explore during the autumn months.

Tourism in Wisconsin is big business, generating more than $12 billion in revenue last year, with nearly $3 billion coming in during the Fall. Our area of the state consistently ranks as one of the top destination stops for visitors from near and far, and I would like to offer just a few ideas of things to do and places to see right in your own backyard for your "stay-cation."

A must see on Geneva Lake is the U.S. Mailboat Tour, which provides a scenic tour of one of Wisconsin's most beautiful lakes. It is one of the few places left in America where mail is still delivered by boat on a daily basis from June 15 through Sept. 5. Marine mail tradition began on the lake in 1870. The Walworth, departs promptly for mail delivery at 10 a.m. every day of the week, including Sunday when they deliver the newspaper, to about 60 homes around the lake.

This process is truly an example of something that must be seen to be believed. A mailperson leaps off the bow of the boat onto the pier, drops off mail, picks up outgoing mail, and jumps back aboard the Walworth without the boat ever stopping. The Mailboat Tour has been featured on the Today Show, CNN, the Travel Channel's Bizarre World with Andrew Zimmern, the Chicago Tribune, People Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Details are available online at www.cruiselakegeneva.com.

While you are in the neighborhood, take a tour of the state's newest historic attraction, the Black Point Museum. Black Point Estate was built in 1888 as a summer home for Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp, and is now a historic landmark filled with one of the most intact collections of Victorian-era furniture in the Midwest. Starting at the Riviera Docks in Lake Geneva, you will take a 45 minute narrated boat tour before arriving at the estate for your guided tour. The Black Point Museum is open through Oct. 31.

Just down the road from Black Point is Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, which is the site of the world's largest refracting telescope and the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Dedicated in 1897 with its elaborate carvings and Romanesque architecture, this unique institution has hosted visits from such notables as Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan. For more information about their free Saturday tours, call: (262) 245-5555. Yerkes is also offering new weekday tours for a donation of $20. More information can be found at astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/visit.html.

Another historical venue to consider in our area is Old World Wisconsin near Eagle. Although Old World was hit hard by recent tornadoes, they are once again open to the public. The 576 acre site is the world's largest outdoor museum of rural life depicting the 19th Century. The museum accurately portrays the ethnic traditions of Wisconsin's early settlers. Learn more at www.wisconsinhistory.org/oww.

A real tourism gem located nearby is Ten Chimneys, the estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Many consider the pair to be the greatest acting team in the history of American theatre. Ten Chimneys, which is located in Genesee Depot, was their summer retreat during their careers. The interactive museum and estate is open to tours until mid-November. More information is available at www.tenchimneys.org.

If you are still looking for something to do over the Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop by the Walworth County Fair. Billed as the largest county fair in the Midwest, the Walworth County 4-H Fair has been a mainstay in Walworth County for 161 years. The fair runs from Sept. 1 through Sept. 6, and this year's theme is "Getting' Groovy at the Fair."

As is tradition, I spend all six days at the Fair, meeting and talking with constituents. Joining me are thousands of visitors from around the state and across the country. Whether it is the tractor pulls, farm animals, harness races, demolition derby, or abundance of good food, the Walworth County Fair offers something for everyone. I encourage you to discover these and the countless other opportunities to relax and enjoy the fall months, right here at home.

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