A Magical Holiday Escape: The Roost and Appleton, WI

The Roost Bed & Breakfast

Today the road has brought me to Appleton, WI.

Oh, what a difference a month or two can make.  Originally, I was going to be doing an earlier than usual Christmas review, but I ended up having to change plans when my selection opted to postpone its signature holiday event.  So I booked a different venue for the annual review and still found myself with an extra day off for the Thanksgiving weekend.  So I thought to myself, “Why waste a good day off?”  Thus, I scheduled a trip to Appleton to visit The Roost Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by De Ann Steffens.

I enjoyed a pleasant drive to Appleton while sitting on pins and needles as I listened to the Iowa Hawkeyes pull off a miraculous comeback against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  I lost the signal for the game’s final few minutes, but heaved a sigh of relief as I saw they had obtained the victory just as I pulled into the Roost.

De Ann greeted me at the door and gave me the nickel tour before leading me to the Tapestry Suite.  True to its name, a large tapestry does adorn one of the walls.  A cheery fire was going which added to the room’s ambiance.  A large two-person jacuzzi sat in corner while a high, four poster queen bed sat in the other.

I got things organized and immediately headed out to my car to experience some of the town.

Though this isn’t a formal Christmas review, I was able to scratch my Christmas itch with visits to Darboy Community Park to enjoy Fox Cities’ Festival of Lights and the nearby Oshkosh Celebration of Lights at Menominee Park.

The Festival of Lights is a half mile self-guided walking tour through a winter wonderland of lights that form elves, dinosaurs, toys, snowmen, and even Santa’s workshop.  It’s completely free and donations are cheerfully accepted.  You can even buy a hot beverage to ward off the chill.

But if you want a heavy shot of Christmas, you definitely need to visit the Celebration of Lights in Oshkosh.  It’s a drive through tour featuring twelve miles of lights and effects while you tune in to a dedicated radio station of Christmas songs to strengthen the magic.  Cost is $10 per car.  Aside from the dazzling display of lights, you can even stop by the workshop to visit that guy in the red suit who likes to say “Ho!  Ho!  Ho!”

Feeling the joy of the holiday, I returned to the inn and gamed a bit before curling up in my bed for the night.

I awoke the next morning and I was starved.  De Ann had prepared a fruit dish along with Baked French Toast that had a crust of brown sugar and cinnamon along with some bacon and eggs.  I was unable to finish the tasty meal and took a half hour walk to burn off some of the calories.  Then I hopped into the car to begin exploring some of Appleton.

First, I decided to get my history on with a visit to The History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton.  It’s not terribly huge and, at first, I was mildly disappointed.  The main floor featured an exhibit about famed writer (and Appleton native) Edna Ferber along with some tidbits about Appleton history including the first jukebox, X-ray machine, and new voting machine, but nothing with that wow factor.  I headed upstairs feeling overcharged for the $10 I spent, but then things took a turn.

History Museum at the Castle

The second floor features a little exhibit on social research and the history of toys, but its main attraction is the history of famed magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, and that was worth the price of admission by itself.

Houdini had claimed Appleton as his hometown and the museum goes into a detailed history of Houdini’s upbringing and rise to fame.  The museum even has a replica of the trick coffin (a new illusion) that Houdini was buried in as well as cuffs he escaped from, one of his straitjackets, a replica of his milk can escape, a representation of his Chinese Water Torture Escape, and you can even perform his famed Metamorphosis trick where he would be locked into a box and then switch places with his wife in 3 seconds. You can also perform one of Houdini’s famed jail cell escapes.  Houdini wasn’t shy about sharing secrets to some of his tricks so be forewarned to skip the backstage part of the exhibit if you want to keep the tricks a mystery.

From there I drove through downtown Appleton and enjoyed the Christmas decorations.  Appleton is actually a happening town with a lot of restaurants and activities and even boasts a pretty impressive performing arts center which I may have to visit at some point in the future.  But, for now, I had a quest.

My older and younger brothers, Brian and Dan, decided to utilize my being in Wisconsin to pick up some regional beverages.  So I began the search for Spotted Cow beer and Sprecher’s Grape Soda.  I went to a Super Target and was denied.  Then I reached a Festival Foods where I found Spotted Cow, but they seemed to have every flavor of Sprecher’s except Grape.  Brian opted for a cherry soda as a Plan B.

Flush with success I returned to The Roost to begin writing.  After a few hours I was off to worship at St Bernadette’s where I enjoyed a pleasant Advent service centering on a sermon telling us that Jesus, our Friend and Teacher, had come, will come again, and had never left us.  A truly blessed thought to warm the soul.

St Bernadette

With services completed, I grabbed an early dinner at Cinder’s.  This restaurant is famed for cooking over charcoal and I enjoyed the cindery goodness of a Northwoods Burger with a side of fries (bottomless, if you feel like more) while I watched the Minnesota Golden Gophers give the Iowa Hawkeyes an early Christmas gift in the form of a trip to the Big 10 title game with a victory over the Wisconsin Badgers.  Then it was back to The Roost to organize some photos, write a bit more, and grab a hot bath in my jetted tub on a frozen night while watching The Karate Kid before retiring.

At breakfast this morning, I met Fred & Sandy who seemed to love B & Bs as much as I do along with sharing a mutual love of theatre. As we conversed, we enjoyed sausage, eggs (over hard for me), granola & yogurt, and more Baked French Toast though with cream cheese and blueberries. I hated to end the conversation, but duty called, not to mention a fairly long drive.

And that wraps up this installment. Appleton is a nice little town with a lot of activities and Christmas cheer and Green Bay is not too far away if you happen to be a Packers fan. If you’re in the area, take some time to rest at the Roost and enjoy a little understated elegance.

Until the next time. . .happy travels.

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