Looking for a meeting place between the Twin Cities and MilwaukeeA friend with a 1-year-old is moving to Milwaukee this summer. Where can we "meet" that won't be too far for both of us but friendly to the toddler crowd? I thought the Dells at first, but now I'm not so sure. - Alissa, Minneapolis
Wisconsin Dells would be fine — you don't have to stay at one of the big waterparks, which would be overwhelming to 1-year-olds, anyway. There's a charming place there that's just a mile north of the town but very quiet, the Thunder Valley Inn. It's family-friendly and has farm animals kids really like. For more, see The quiet side of the Dells.
There's also a quiet mom-and-pop motel just south of Baraboo and just north of Devil's Lake State Park, which has a fantastic beach your toddlers (and you) would love. It's the Willowood Inn, and it has a playground, small heated outdoor pool and fire pit where there are campfires in the evening. You're also really close to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, which is a lot of fun.
My top choice is more evenly distanced between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. The Dorset Ridge Guest House is just northeast of Wilton, less than 15 minutes south of the junction of I-90 and I-94. It's a very tidy, comfortable three-bedroom house next to Betty and Dennis Boeder’s farm, and the prices are the same they were when I stayed there seven years ago with my two kids and two nieces: $90 for two, $80 per night for a two-night stay and $70 for three or more nights; $15 for each additional person. They don't have a web site; call 608-463-7375.
You can gather eggs for breakfast, play with the many barn kitties and buy pastries at nearby Amish farms. Wilton is on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, and if you want to ride bikes, you can rent child carts as well as bikes in Kendall and Elroy.