Winter comes early to Two Rivers and lasts long. Famous for being the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, Two Rivers is nestled along Lake Michigan and the banks of the East Twin and West Twin Rivers. In Two Rivers the wind is biting, the skies are gray, the beer is cold and the accents are charming. Taking a morning stroll along the wooden bridge toward 22nd Street, you find yourself easily slipping into the Northeast Wisconsin dialect when you declare: “The ice. She’s tin.” Possibly not the most obvious tourist destination in late December, here’s what you need to know, if you go.*
5 p.m. 1) HOMEMADE BOOZE
En route to Two Rivers, somewhere in the outer limits of Chilton, Wisconsin, there is a farmhouse where, if you are lucky, you can sample some homeade blackberry elixir out of a quart-sized mason jar. The blackberry-infused vodka is a perfect apertif for a night out on the town in Two Rivers.
7 p.m. 2) CROOKED BARN AT THE HISTORIC WAVERLY
If you are looking to mingle with the locals, try the Waverly Inn in Two Rivers (1402 16th Street). Go for the cheap beer, stay for the live music. On this particular evening said music was provided by hometown heroes Derek Pritzl and Dan Walkner, the duo that makes up Crooked Barn.
Their anthemic song, “Old Fashioned” is Wisconsin’s (and the Waverly’s) unofficial theme song; sing along as Pritzl and Walkner croon about sipping on the popular Wisconsin cocktail while spinning on stools at this popular tavern.
10:30 a.m. 3) COFFEE (NOW, PLEASE)
After a brisk walk along the river, make your way toward Schroeder’s Department Store (1623 Washington Street), home of the Red Bank Coffeehouse. Grab that vegan blueberry muffin that you picked up at the Willy Street Co-op before leaving Madison out of the van (conveniently parked near Schroeder’s in the Waverly parking lot from the previous evening) and head into Schroeder’s for a hot cup of coffee.
11:30 a.m. 4) HOT OFF THE PRESS
After coffee, make a trip around the corner to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum (1619 Jefferson Street).
Dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type, the museum features 1.5 million pieces of wood type.
Hamilton Manufacturing Company, founded in 1880, was the largest wood type producer in the country, when virtually everything was letterpress printed.
A working museum, every year thousands of people make a voyage to Hamilton’s for workshops and to use the collection to make works of art.
The museum is also the topic of a documentary, Typeface, that was featured at the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival.
The staff members at the museum are friendly and knowledgeable, adding to the appeal of this must-stop in ‘Trivers.’
1:30 p.m 5) SECOND (OR THIRD)-HAND TREASURES
No trip to the lakeshore area would be complete without a visit to the Lutheran St. Vinny’s, Repeat Performance (4341 Enterprise Court), just down the road from Two Rivers in Manitowoc.
It can be hit-or-miss, but this visit was a success. Dan walked away with a vintage Green Bay Packer Super Bowl 1996 t-shirt and I am now the lucky owner of a chunky, plastic magenta bangle bracelet. If you can handle listening to the sound of the slowly-dying musical doorbell that blasts every time the door is opened (which is a lot), your patience will be rewarded with some awesome stuff.
2:30 p.m. 6) I LIKE TO RIDE MY BICYCLE
One of the greatest new businesses to open in Manitowoc is the Broken Spoke Bike Studio located at 1010 Washington Street.
At Broken Spoke you can rent bikes, buy new bikes and supplies (I ordered a detachable basket!) and drool over their collection of refurbished vintage Schwinns. The Two Rivers branch of Broken Spoke will be opening in March and will also serve coffee and gelato. Yum.
Just be on alert for the latest addition to Broken Spoke, the vicious watch dog, 14-week-old Iver.
3:30 p.m. 7) MAKE MINE HOT FUDGE PLEASE, AGNES
Although residents of Ithica, New York may argue differently, Two Rivers is the birthplace of the ice cream sundae. First served at Berners’ Soda Fountain in the 1880s, today you can visit the historic Washington House located at 1622 Jefferson Street and order one of these delicious ice cream treats.
5:00 p.m. 8) LET THE BAR CRAWL BEGIN
When it comes to nightlife, Two Rivers has lots to offer.
After a couple of pints and perch fish fry at Remedy (1513 Washington Street), head over to German-themed Kurtz’s (1410 Washington Street) for some German-themed beers and a pretzel with spicy mustard.
Next up is Lee’s Never Inn (1001 17th St), where you can buy a round for the bar for $5.50. The curtains are Packer-themed and the hours are iffy (as the name suggests), so if you see the light on, go in. It’s a Wisconsin tavern experience not to be missed.
After Lee’s, take a short walk down the road to Tippy’s (1713 East Street), the bar where Dan set pins for mini-bowling as an 11-year-old.
Much like Brett Favre did (the first time), Tippy retired too soon and sold his bar. After a year or so, Tippy bought his bar back and returned it to greatness.
9 a.m. 9) IT’S TOO EARLY FOR BREAKFAST
If you are looking for a traditional breakfast, head on over to M & M Lunch (1210 Washington Street). They can accomodate large groups and will bring you lots and lots of hot coffee. An added bonus, the mounted fish wear Santa hats, giving the place a festive atmosphere.
10:30 a.m. 10) IT’S ALWAYS COOLER BY THE LAKE
After breakfast be sure to make a stop to yell at the waves at Neshotah Beach, located along Zlatnik Drive on the shores of Lake Michigan.
11:00 a.m. 11) LONESOME TOWN
Our final stop in Two Rivers was in Willie’s shop, located in Dan’s parent’s driveway. A genuine Wisconsin renaissance man, Willie is a talented singer/ songwriter, carpenter and accordian player (and father to Dan).
His song, “Lonesome Town,” is Wisconsin’s other unofficial theme song. There is no better way to conclude a trip to T.R. than in Willie’s garage listening to Whad’Ya Know? on NPR and watching Willie spit Leinie’s on his woodstove (in a couple of minutes it fills the shop with a sweet aroma of malt). It was a magnificient way to say farewell to Trivers. Until next time, T.R.
*Thanks to the New York Times travel feature, 36 Hours, for the inspiration for this post.