Historic Cambridge BeckonsVillage’s art, eats and exercise options make for a great day trip
Just 20 minutes east of Madison, in a village bordered by farmland, prairies and trails, the fruit of the new season bursts forth in Cambridge. Though rural in nature, the village’s shops and restaurants bloom with contemporary offerings. Its historic district, dating to 1847, reflects the flair of its many artists in residence.
More than 15 shops—many owned or run by women—and 30 artists call Cambridge home. Start your visit with a quick stop at The Daily Grind on Main Street, which serves Door County Coffee and often displays local artists’ work. This coffee and ice cream shop is owned and run by a local church, and its friendly, great service—free of coffee snobbery—enhances its appeal. Manager Chloe Mehall says its customer favorite is the mocha affogato, which uses ice cream—any flavor— instead of steamed milk.
Take a quick jaunt down Main Street to Rowe Pottery Works. The studio, where artists throw, decorate and fire their clay works, has operated out of its original, historic building since 1975.
The pottery is beautiful, functional and original, with each piece carrying both potter and decorator marks, says owner Bev Semmann. Photos of the artists, along with their bios, hang on the shop’s walls.
Follow the crosswalk to 214 W. Main Street. Inside you’ll find a hothouse of creative expression. Christianne Laing’s Avid Gardener showcases an eclectic selection of plants, bulbs and repurposed garden goods for decoration or actual use; don’t miss the shop’s lovely iron gated and grapevine-wrapped outdoor garden terrace.
Pop into Cambridge Furniture Traders, Rebecca Remmich’s boutique filled with new, vintage, post-modern and antique furniture, much of which she has restored herself. Local artists’ works, from oil paintings and wood-fired pottery to fused-glass jewelry, find space here, as well.
Refuel at CamRock Cafe and Sport, where owners Sherie and Derek Nelson infuse their biking enthusiasm into the menu, which sports items like Tires, a roasted veggie taco, and Chainring, a pesto-seasoned chicken sandwich on sourdough, along with 100 beer varieties. The shop also rents bicycles for you to pedal through the area’s prairies and woodlands along CamRock Trail, a 14-mile mountain bike track, out the café’s back door.
After a day of biking and shopping, you can ease tired muscles at Living Well Studio, just a short walk from the café, with massage and foot-soaks. Then, ease into the evening with a glass of wine at Cambridge Winery, a quick drive from downtown. The winery is housed in the former Matt Kenseth Museum, which paid homage to the village’s native stock car driver. The redesigned sophisticated, industrial atmosphere is an inviting space to sip and savor Wisconsin and Californian wines by the glass or bottle.
As the sun sets and the smell of freshly turned earth lingers, the sidewalks and streetlights beckon you back into town. Plow restaurant, housed in a refurbished 1848 feed mill, provides perfect days-end punctuation with its high-end wine list. The uncomplicated menu often features locally sourced foods, including herbs, meat and vegetables from owners Treena and Charles Fiesel’s own farm.
Rest your weary head at the Oscar H. Hanson House B&B, which offers claw foot soaking or Jacuzzi tubs, gardens, a solarium and in-room breakfast. If the night is warm enough, and a window is opened just a tad, the country air will shift a bedroom lace curtain as you doze off, recalling the richness of your Cambridge visit.