Despite an image problem, Manitowoc has fun to offer
Along the way, on York, I noticed a tatty old storefront with a fabulous vintage facade and was unsurprised to find the crusty gem was the studio of renowned photographers J. Shimon and J. Lindemann. I'd have knocked, but the lights were out and there was no sign of life.
So, we quickly landed at Beernsten's, which is a lot like Ferch's in Greendale, but with way more candy. Walking into Beernsten's is like walking back in time; back to a super sugary-sweet time, that is.
You can order food from the wooden booths, which are located in the dining room behind the shop laden with chocolates, nuts and other treats, but we went straight to the sundaes and chose two concoctions from among many on the menu. The results were sinfully large. So large that one of us couldn't even finish (you know it wasn't me).
"Two Rivers is birthplace of the ice cream sundae, and Cedar Crest Ice Cream is made right here in town," says Ring, "and if you want to visit an old fashioned soda fountain then Beerntsen's is the place to go."
Though we could have done more downtown (and nearby) – including visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo and Rahr-West Art Museum or having still more ice cream at Historic Washington House, we opted to go check in at the Holiday Inn Manitowoc, where we got a room.
Located right off I-43, the hotel is convenient to downtown and other options in the area, including the respected Al Corso Restaurant, just west of the freeway in the town of Collins.
We explored the hotel a bit, as we always do, stopped to gaze down into the sprawling atrium and checking out the indoor rock pond, before diving (OK, wading) into the pool and passing the rest of the afternoon in the water.
Some other attractions near Manitowoc that are worth a visit are Henning's Cheese, London Dairy Alpacas (we wanted to visit but the owner was out of town), Woodland Dunes Nature Center and some great hiking on the Mariner and Rawley Point Trails. Manitowoc's shoreline is lovely and boasts some fine lighthouses, too.
"Neshotah Beach which spans 50 acres along Lake Michigan is (the best-kept Manitowoc) secret," says Ring.
"It is a groomed sand beach with areas for swimming, volleyball, launching jet skis and kayaks. The beach also offers playgrounds, access to the Rawley Point Bike Trail, and park shelters for picnicking and grilling. There is a Beach House with concessions, changing area, restrooms and indoor/outdoor showers. Until I visited Neshotah Beach I didn't realize Wisconsin had beaches of this quality. It really is one of the best beaches in Wisconsin."
Sunday morning, we hit the hotel restaurant for breakfast and then hit the road. We had time for one more stop before going south, and we passed up the Point Beach Energy Center (that's the visitor's center at the nuclear power plant) and the other options – after our idea of hanging with alpacas tanked – for a rollicking romp up and down the dunes at Terry Andrae State Park.
Despite the overcast skies and the nippy wind, we ran and climbed and explored at one of the best day-trip-from-Milwaukee state parks.
But, hey, Manitowoc, we'll be back to see you again soon.
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My mother was from Manitowoc and most of her family is still there. I loved to visit her and when my mother retired from her job in Chicago she went back to Manitowoc. Lots of very good memories there.
Manitowoc/Two Rivers is my choice to overnight on the way to Door County from St Louis.
Lighthouse Inn in Two Rivers is a great lakefront stay for the overnighters. Great clean (but cold) lake water. Used to stay there once a year for the "Manito-walk-in-the-park" disc golf tounament.
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