By Shelby Deering

ALTHOUGH SUN PRAIRIE IS renowned for being home to Jimmy the Groundhog, what most people don’t know is that it’s the third-fastest growing city in Wisconsin. “The city’s boom is evidenced by a windfall of new boutiques and eateries just waiting to be discovered.

Sun Prairie’s penchant for novelty is intertwined with quiet, Midwestern appeal. Classic brick buildings line downtown streets, and the city takes great pride in its Chase Grain Elevator; constructed in 1922, it’s the state’s last known tile elevator.

With a past steeped in farming, Sun Prairie can also claim an artistic visionary as its own. “The painter Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie in 1887, and although her childhood home was destroyed in a fire, a historical marker designates the spot where the home originally stood.

Sun Prairie is quickly becoming a weekend destination for out-of-towners. “The Shoppes at Prairie Lakes is a recent addition, and as of this May will include Dragonfly Hot Yoga. Plus, it seems as if new restaurants open every day. But in the midst of all of this growth, Sun Prairie stays true to its roots with several local events, including the Taste of the Arts Fair, June 13, featuring handmade items and food tastings; the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, dates still to be determined; and its famous Sweet Corn Festival, Aug. 20-23.

Whether for a day or the weekend, it’s just 15 miles up the road from Madison to get your dose of Midwestern charm mixed with modern flair, Sun Prairie style, “That welcoming charm starts with some classic comfort food. During your venture here, have a real-deal Wisconsin fish fry experience at Buck & Honey’s Restaurant. Grab a handcrafted, authentic pizza at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies. Or, find stick-to-your-ribs mac and cheese at Macs—enjoy the gooey goodness of the Loaded Baked Potato Mac or the Jalapeno Popper Mac.

After dinner, think about some sweet stuff and head over to Beans ‘n Cream Coffeehouse located in the town square and order an organic, fair-trade coffee. If you have room, eat a slice of cake at the locally famous Carl’s Cakes, located at the Market Street Diner and Bakery. German chocolate, anyone?

“Then, settle in for a good night’s sleep at one of the nearby and highly acclaimed bed and breakfasts less than 15 minutes from Sun Prairie. At the Speckled Hen Inn, you can overlook grazing sheep and stay in one of four guest rooms with dreamy names like the “Rising Sun Room.” Or, lodge at the Crafstman-style Token Creek Eco-Inn, where you can take an eco or foodie related class, savor organic gourmet breakfasts, visit with the resident chickens or simply watch the sun rise and set over the prairie.

The Piano Gal Shop is music to a performer’s ears. The shop is, of course, filled with pianos available for purchase or for trying out sheet music before buying. You’ll also find music-inspired gifts and accessories and other instruments like clarinets or guitars. Rock on.

“Nothing you need. Everything you deserve.” That’s the motto of Splurge, where you’ll find fun non-necessities like Lilac Hill bath products, glitzy jewelry from Anne Marie Chagnon and hand-painted martini glasses. Fun is the new practical.

The Ironstone Next is a lot like Sun Prairie–giving new life to old classics. Reclaimed antique pieces are restored and turned into one-of-a-kind home decor, refreshed furniture and jewelry that no one else will have. Sign up for a workshop so you can make your own vintage treasures.

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