Tag Archives: tours

Birders, brewers form flock

In the worlds of birders and craft beer lovers, there’s a new paradigm, and it involves searching for ales along with the eagles, pairing stouts with swans and enjoying some bocks in tandem with buntings.

Tours and events aimed at attracting both beer nerds and bird enthusiasts are popping up all over the country, attracting bearded microbrew lovers, field-guide-wielding bird buffs and folks with a passion for both suds and sparrows. Bird-and-beer happenings are taking place from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Hampton, New Hampshire.

Beer and bird hobbyists say they are united by their mutual love of minutiae, rarity and variety, whether searching for an Indian peafowl or a limited release of India pale ale.

Typically, the trips begin with a hike and end at a brewery.

One of the more successful tours is “Birds On Tap Roadtrip,” located in beer-loving, bird-rich Maine and now in its second year.

“There happen to be a lot of people who like birds who like beer — we’ve analyzed this,” said Derek Lovitch, who leads Birds On Tap Roadtrip tours. “And then, after the third or fourth pint, we really analyze this.”

Birds On Tap Roadtrip is coordinated by Freeport Wild Bird Supply, which is run by bird nut Lovitch and his wife, Jeannette. They partner with Maine Brew Bus, a lime green bus that shuttles people to the state’s many breweries and serves as a kind of Mystery Machine of Maine beer. The tours are $65 — libations are included, but binoculars are not.

This year’s slate of tours began in February and will run every several weeks until Dec. 11. Each trip has a theme, including “Surf and Suds,” which is a winter waterfowl tour, and “Grassland and Grains,” a late-spring search for sandpipers and sparrows on the Kennebunk Plains, a nature preserve.

This November’s tour was “Fall Ducks and Draughts,” a chilly march around Sabattus Pond on the hunt for waterbirds including hooded mergansers, common goldeneyes, buffleheads and green-wing teals. All were located, and the group of about a dozen hearty birders then departed by bus for trips to Baxter Brewing in Lewiston and Maine Beer Co. in Freeport.

The beer end of the trip was as successful as the bird bit. The group located a peregrine falcon resting on a steeple just outside Baxter after imbibing. At Maine Beer Company, the brewery was able to provide fresh glasses of Dinner, its sought-after double IPA.

Participants agreed there was no harm in having a lager along with the loons. (Though they actually saw only one loon.) Brandon Baldwin, 40, of Manchester, Maine, went with his mother, Carole Baldwin, 73, of Skowhegan, and said the trip appealed to both of them.

“She’s an avid birder who likes beer. I’m an avid beerer who likes birds,” he said. “It seemed like a perfect crossover.”

Bird-and-beer events sometimes take different forms. One, held on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, brought bird experts from the National Park Service to help people observe birds in an urban environment. Libations followed. In Minneapolis, a group called “Birds and Beers” gathers to brainstorm about secret hotspots and tips on how to take bird pictures using a digital scope.

Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, hosted a bird walk and brewery tour on the brewery’s own grounds. And in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, people met for a hiking and birding tour of Black Run Preserve in Evesham Township followed by tours of Berlin Brewing Co., Lunacy Brewing Co. and Flying Fish Brewery.

Some of the trips are organized by private companies and nature societies and others are the product of local meetup groups that form online. Prices vary from nothing to about the price of a pro football ticket.

Don Littlefield, a partner in the Maine Brew Bus company that hosts the Maine tour, said it has proved to be a way to make beer fans out of bird lovers — and vice versa.

“It allows us to reach another different demographic,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are not necessarily there for the beer. They are there for the birds. And then there are others who are not there for the birds — they are there for the beer.”

Philadelphia freedom: Going to the Democratic convention

The nation will focus on Philadelphia this month, as the city hosts the Democratic National Convention.

Some 6,000-plus delegates — including 96 from Wisconsin — will assemble there for the convention, which opens July 25. Counting media, technicians, dignitaries, politicians and candidates, as many as 50,000 will attend.

And when the crowds arrive in the birthplace of America, Philadelphia is ready to welcome them as they have eight times before: the Democrats in 1936 and 1948, and the Republicans six times, most recently in 2000.

Many special events are planned for convention-goers, with parties scheduled before, during and after the convention, which takes place at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia provides an abundance of sightseeing opportunities for convention-goers. It’s home to the Liberty Bell, of course, as well as Independence Hall, located just across the street. Independence Hall has been restored to look as it did during the constitutional convention and includes the chair in which George Washington presided over Congress. Another historical site is the house in which Betsy Ross supposedly sewed the first American flag.

But there’s much, much more.

Visiting a penitentiary

Though some might not think of a prison as a tourist attraction, one could spend days exploring the fascinating Eastern State Penitentiary. The now-crumbling prison was built in the 1820s as an alternative to the large, dirty rooms that housed the criminally insane, as well as the general prison population. A Quaker-inspired group that included Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Rush believed prisons should be places of penitence. Under what came to be known as the “Pennsylvania System,” Eastern State prisoners were placed in single cells. They were given only one book — a Bible — and encouraged to regret their misdeeds as they spent their days in solitude.

When constructed, Eastern State Penitentiary was the largest and most expensive public structure in the country. It also was one of the most advanced — it had central heating before the White House, as well as flush toilets.

Today, the prison is a National Historic Landmark and open to visitors. Audio guides are available that include the “voices” of long-gone inmates and guards.

Philadelphia arts 

Five blocks from the Eastern State Penitentiary is the Philadelphia Museum of Art — a complex that includes the Rodin Museum — and the Barnes Foundation.

The late Albert Barnes grew up “poor and tough” in working-class Philadelphia at the turn of the last century. He held a number of degrees, including one in pharmacology. Working as a chemist in his own lab, Barnes created a medicine to prevent eye infections and blindness in newborns. He bought out a partner and then sold the company months before the crash of 1929. Those resources underwrote his lifelong passion for collecting art. He built his collection with the idea that teaching people to “see” art would advance the cause of democracy. The Barnes Foundation collection includes the largest number of Renoirs in one place  (181 paintings), as well as paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.

Not to be outdone by the Barnes is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Everything from African art to textile art is featured, along with workshops on film, photography and music.

Philly theater ranges from Shakespeare and Broadway hits to experimental avant-garde. The Walnut Street Theatre, the nation’s oldest continually operating theater, is where Milwaukee Repertory Theater artistic director Mark Clements first opened a production he directed of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The show then transferred to Milwaukee for the 2014–15 season.

The list of actors who’ve appeared at the Walnut includes Wisconsin-born Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, the theater royalty of their day. The couple spent their summers at Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot. The Walnut comprises 1,100 seats on two levels. With 50,000 subscribers, the theater tops the nation in terms of annual subscribers.

Food and drink

It would be impossible to point out all the trendy, eclectic restaurants within walking distance or a short cab ride from the convention hall.

One surefire hit is the 1960s-inspired Continental Mid-Town, one in a collection of popular restaurants operated by Starr Restaurants — and a visual feast. Downstairs includes a cluster of old-style banquettes, complete with channeled backs. Upstairs, the vibe is slightly less frantic. Duos can dine while sitting in bamboo hanging chairs, bathed in the colors of aqua lights.

Start with one of the handcrafted cocktails — listed as “retro” or “pop.” Among the “retro” offerings is one near-and-dear to Wisconsinites: the old-fashioned. A number of special martinis are offered, including the delicious Grace Kelly. The city’s most famous sandwich, the cheesesteak, is represented here in a cheesesteak egg roll. There’s a taste of comfort food in the lobster macaroni and cheese, and another good choice for an entrée is the Chicken Tikki Masala, featuring Punjab-style chicken and curry. Prices are reasonable and reservations are recommended for this popular spot.

Finally, the convention hall is just a couple of blocks from one of the city’s must-see attractions, Reading Terminal Market. Dating back more than a century, the market is colorful, noisy and filled with an abundance of delicious smells. It is about five times the size of Milwaukee’s Public Market and holds 80 vendors.

For a Southern-style breakfast, check out the eggs and grits at Pearl’s Oyster Bar. Stroll past other oddly named places such as the Flying Monkey (a bakery), The Head Nut, and Beck’s Cajun Café. Although jambalaya and gumbo aren’t served at Pearl’s, you can get it here. At Beiler’s Pennsylvania Dutch Bakery, women dressed in Amish outfits twirl loops of dough and fashion them into delicious doughnuts. Or watch them make large, flavorful pretzels at Miller’s Twisted Pretzels. All of the baking is on-site.

And, yes, you can get a cheese-steak here, as well as a roast pork sandwich (rumored to be more popular with Philadelphians).

On July 28, when she makes her speech accepting the party’s nomination, all eyes will be on Hillary Clinton.

But before and after — between their caucus meetings, platform debates and protest actions — convention-goers can turn their attention instead to George Washington, Betsy Ross, Claude Monet and cheesesteaks.

If you go …

• Historic Philadelphia: Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets (historicphiladelphia.org).

• Democratic National Convention Updates. The convention is at Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. (visitphilly.com and phldnc.com).

• Eastern State Penitentiary. 2027 Fairmount Ave. Five blocks from Philadelphia Museum of Art. Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission charged. (easternstate.org).

• Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rodin Museum. Advance admission can be purchased by calling 215-235-7469. Pay-what-you-can admission is offered on the first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday night. The Main Building, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is closed Mondays, and the Rodin Museum is closed Tuesdays (visit philamuseum.org). The Barnes Foundation is at 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway (barnesfoundation.org). Admission charged.

• Walnut Street Theatre. 825 Walnut St. (walnutstreettheatre.org).

• Continental Mid-Town Restaurant. 1801 Chestnut St. 215-567-1800.

• Reading Terminal Market. A foodie paradise, opened in 1892, at 12th and Arch Streets. (readingterminalmarket.org).

— A.S.

Photo: B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin (played by Ralph Archbold) arrived in Philadelphia as a runaway apprentice from Boston. He’s pictured at Elfreth’s Alley.
Photo: B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin (played by Ralph Archbold) arrived in Philadelphia as a runaway apprentice from Boston. He’s pictured at Elfreth’s Alley.

The Sets List: BoDeans, Mac DeMarco, Punk Rock Maskerade and more

Mac DeMarco

8 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee. $25. pabsttheater.org.

Slacker rock? Yacht rock? Blue wave? Whatever you call Mac DeMarco’s unique brand of indie rock, the multi-instrumentalist will be bringing it to a much bigger venue than anyone expected, thanks to ticket sales blasting him out of the Pabst and into the Riverside. On albums like 2014’s Salad Days and new release Another One, DeMarco has proved he’s got chops, and his live show should be the nail in the coffin to anyone writing him off as just another 20-something singer-songwriter. Alex Calder and The Courtneys open.

Punk Rock Maskerade

9 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Majestic Theatre, Madison. $10. majesticmadison.com.

Break out your best mask. Deliberately anonymous pop punk band Masked Intruder is hosting a “maskerade” ball, but there won’t be any waltzes or gavottes — just good old rock ’n’ roll. Allegedly, Masked Intruder is from Madison — though they won’t admit it — so consider this a hometown show and rock out accordingly. Also on the bill are Smoke or Fire, The Copyrights, Not Scientists and Help Desk.

Gogol Bordello

8 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Barrymore Theater, Madison. $35. barrymorelive.com.

Gypsy punk act Gogol Bordello has so many international influences these days, bandleader Eugene Hutz has stopped trying to identify the band as any one thing. That’s what makes them so exciting, 10 years on — you’re getting a lot of everything, all at once. The band is currently touring to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, but they’ll surely squeeze in some hits from the rest of their 15-year discography too.

Midnight Reruns 

9 p.m. Nov. 14 at Cactus Club, Milwaukee. No cover. cactusclub.dostuff.info.

Milwaukee band Midnight Reruns rocked out so hard on their self-titled 2013 debut album, Tommy Stinson of The Replacements decided to produce their follow-up. And it’s here: Force of Nurture, another power pop gem that proves they’re more than just a one-time hit. They’ll celebrate the new record at this release party, with Space Raft, Sat Nite Duets and DJ Chris Schulist along for the ride.

The Chainsmokers

9 p.m. Nov. 15 at Liquid, Madison. $25 to $30. segredomadison.com.

You know “#Selfie,” the surreal, viral hit that made The Chainsmokers unexpectedly famous in early 2014. Now the EDM duo is working on broadening their reputation beyond that single song, one show at a time — and one of those shows is at downtown Madison lounge Liquid. They’ll appear with producer and DJ Matoma, as well as Shaun Frank and Louis the Child.

Drive-By Truckers

8 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Majestic Theatre, Madison. $25. majesticmadison.com.

Drive-By Truckers has been performing for nearly three decades, but their current iteration is one of their tightest lineups yet, with a stripped down feel that brought them rave reviews for their latest album, English Oceans. It should also be well-suited to the Majestic Theatre, where they’ll have a chance to prove that their reputation as one of the greatest live shows touring today is well deserved. The Dexateens — including DBT bassist Mike Patton — will open.


8 p.m. Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 at the Northern Lights Theater, Milwaukee. $39, $45, $49. paysbig.com.

BoDeans frontman Kurt Neumann has vowed to continue playing as long as the Waukesha-born band still has fans coming out to sing along, and that situation shows no signs of changing anytime soon. The alternative rock band helped define a genre and is considered one of the best bands to come out of the Midwest, so they’ll surely be making the most of their two-night residency here in Milwaukee. Expect “Fadeaway,” “Only Love,” “Dreams” and all the rest of their hits. 

Pizza tours offer a slice of culture in Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, NYC

In a city famous for its deep-dish pizza tourists wouldn’t know that the locals more often eat a thinner-crust, tavern-style pie topped with homemade Italian sausage and cut into squares, not slices — unless they went on a pizza tour.

Chicago is one of a handful of cities across the country, like Milwaukee, Boston and New York, with companies that offer tours of the local pizza scene.

Chicago Pizza Tours owner Jonathan Porter takes his customers on a bus ride around the city that includes four stops over 3 1/2 hours to sample deep-dish, the tavern-style popular in Chicago neighborhoods and other eclectic pizza variations.

“It’s just a different way to see the city,” Porter said. “Eat your way through the city. It was always designed to get people off the beaten path.”

Bonnie Burchett, 64, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was on a recent weekend vacation to Chicago with her husband when they took the pizza tour.

“I like that sausage,” she said after taking a bite at Pizano’s, a downtown pizzeria with a buttery crusted deep-dish pizza and tavern-style that was the first stop on the tour.

Elizabeth Goodwin, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, was on a weekend trip with her husband too. They were able to try Pizano’s, thin crust at Coalfire west of downtown, tavern-style with sauerkraut at Flo and Santos on the city’s South Side, and Pequod’s deep-dish on the North Side.

“I’ve always wanted to try Chicago deep-dish pizza, it’s famous,” Goodwin said. The couple took the tour, she said, because “otherwise we wouldn’t know where to go.”

The tour guide offers fun statistics as the bus travels from pizzeria to pizzeria. There are 2,200 pizza restaurants in Chicago. Thin crust outsells deep-dish in Chicago even though deep-dish was invented in Chicago in the 1940s.

Miriam Weiskind, a tour guide with Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York, happened to be on the recent Chicago tour, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a slice of pizza. She said she tries to focus on a particular pizza’s ingredients and explain to people on her tours “what goes into it so at the end they understand why they like it.”

If you go…

• Chicago Pizza Tours offers bus tours most days at 11 a.m. for $60. Check availability at http://www.chicagopizzatours.com

• Slice of Chicago Pizza Tours offers tours Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for $45. Check availability at http://www.sliceofchicagopizzatours.com


• Milwaukee Food Tours offers a three-hour pizza bus tour on select Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. for $55. Check availability at http://www.milwaukeefoodtours.com/pizza-tour.php


• Boston Pizza Tours offers two-hour guided walking tours of pizzerias in historic neighborhoods. There’s a Pizza and Little Italy Tour and a Pizza and Historic Tavern Tour. Both are $39. Check availability at http://www.bostonpizzatours.com


•  Scott’s Pizza Tours offers bus tours for $60 and walking tours in Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side for $38. Check availability at http://www.scottspizzatours.com

• A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour offers a four and a-half hour tour for $80. Check availability at http://www.asliceofbrooklyn.com/pizza.html 

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