Chasing Sunflowers and Family Fun in Middleton, WI
We've seen fields of sunflowers when we've driven through Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, but never had an opportunity to take any photos when they were blooming. I recently learned about a place much closer to home and they were at peak when we visited the Pope Farm Conservancy near Middleton, Wisconsin this week. Stunning. Amazing. Wow. Beautiful. These are just some of the words we heard describing the six acres of sunflowers planted across the rolling landscape. And it's not just sunflowers one can see. There are seven miles of trails through wildflowers, native grasses, and maybe even wildlife viewing. The farm is open from sunrise to sunset. Admission and parking are free.
We brought a picnic, entered on the Blackhawk Road side of the farm, and ate high above the parking lot, perched on some large limestone rocks. What a glorious view! We could see the ski jump at Blackhawk ski club across the street through the trees. Then we hiked around for a short while, though the bees were seriously worrying my son.
Middleton has lots of other fun places to visit, so we checked them out. First, there's a nice splash pad at Lakeview Park. From the parking lot, you walk through a nice wildflower patch in a rain garden, created as a way to prevent runoff into the lake, I'm guessing. The lake and a workout circuit are on the left. Playground and splashed on the right with bathrooms available on site. Young kids will love this park, but if you have a teen with a skateboard, you might check out Quarry Skate Park. If you're into hiking, Middleton has many great trails with wildlife to see. Check out Pheasant Branch Conservancy, or walk along Lake Mendota. For kayaking, there are rentals available through Marshall Boats at Marshall Park for the first time this year.
After the park, we visited the free Mustard Museum. This is a newer location since I visited years ago. The lower floor has some exhibits and a movie. The upper floor is all about tasting and sales. If you love mustard, I think you'll enjoy it. It's not a place that takes long to see. We bought a couple jars of mustard and a large bag of pretzels.
Right next to the museum is the mecca of pies- Hubbard Avenue Diner. It didn't disappoint. They have a complete calendar of special dates for pie celebrations located inside the menu. We came on Lemon Meringue Day, so I had lemon pie. The staff wear T-shirts with clever pie sayings.
Our last stop was an independently owned book store located in a strip mall- Frugal Muse. As an author, I love and support these wherever we find them. My son, Omar, just received birthday money to buy Goosebumps books and he scored big time, finding four he didn't have. As a bonus, all the kids' books were 25% off. I found Lawrence in Arabia, a book that looked interesting because of the traveling we have done through the middle east. We both left happy.
Middleton has been on many lists over the past decade as the most liberal city in Wisconsin, or as one of the best places to raise kids. We found it a nice place to spend the day. We'll likely be back again soon to do some more outdoor exploration.