By Hywania Thompson

You don’t have to travel far to find a few historic Wisconsin towns that feel worlds away. Hop on Highway 69 southwest of Verona, travel several miles and you’ll find a rural landscape punctuated by unique shops, food, live music and great beer.

Paoli—nestled along the scenic Sugar River—is little more than a wide spot in the road that’s home to many shops, galleries and restaurants. But it can get to bustling on summer weekends.

Paoli Schoolhouse Shops & Café on Paoli Road is a former one-room schoolhouse built in 1854, shortly after the town was founded. Now you can find one-of-a-kind clothes, accessories and home accessories and decor there. Have lunch or dinner in the beautiful dining room or, on a warm summer day, enjoy your meal on the patio.

Across the street at Abel Contemporary Gallery, paintings, pottery, jewelry and more from artists across the country fill the delightful space. The gallery hosts an opening reception for new shows every seven weeks.

Walk down Paoli Road to Paoli Mill Terrace & Park and you might catch a glimpse of a wedding. At Hop Garden Craft Beer Tap Room, you can grab a beer made from hops grown at a local farm and listen to live music in the garden. A few steps away is the Paoli Bread and Brat Haus where you can order tender smoked brisket, brats, homemade bread and pastries and Babcock Hall ice cream.

You’ll discover jewelry, furniture and other treasures at vintage shop The Cottage Goddess. The owner recently received a liquor license and plans to host wine tastings. You can also visit Zazen Gallery and Paoli Secret Garden before you walk to Cluck the Chicken Store. The store sells supplies for people with backyard chickens, art, books, toys and other gifts.

As you head farther along Highway 69, exit to New Glarus, known as “America’s Little Switzerland” because it was founded by settlers from—you guessed it— Glarus, Switzerland. The town’s quaint Swiss-themed buildings set the historic scene.

Hungry? Cow & Quince is the perfect stop for a hearty meal. The restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients, many of which are available for purchase, that come from small farms using sustainable practices within 30 miles of town. The restaurant also sells its own jams, rubs, sauces and ice cream.

Another spot for good eats is just a block over at Glarner Stube, known for its cheese fondue, weinerschnitzel and steaks, as well as the Prime Rib special on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Grab some chocolate and cheese at Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus before driving the short distance to New Glarus Brewing Company. The brewery recently expanded its gift shop and beer depot. Enjoy a world-famous Spotted Cow in the beer garden and take a free, self-guided tour.

Back to the sleepy suburbs south of Madison lies Verona, which has recently upgraded its Main Street with a wider street and sidewalks. Enjoy a farm-fresh meal— from tacos to chili to fresh baked goods–all day long at Jordandal Cookhouse on Verona Avenue, where the ingredients come from Jordandal Farms. Down the street, The Purple Goose has what you need for fashion and unique gifts. Five businesses— Make-up by Francesca, Elephant Wisdom Massage, Fringe Boutique, Fortae Gifts and Three Painted Birds—have space within The Purple Goose building, once a private home. You’ll also find unique gifts at JNJ CraftWorks on North Edge Trail. The gift shop has handmade items from 84 artists across Wisconsin.

In a tiny shop on Main Street pick up fresh flowers or order arrangements for your special event at Blooms by Brandi, where new flowers, colors and designs are featured every day.

Hop Haus Brewing Company, also on Main Street, recently celebrated its second anniversary. It specializes in IPA and Belgian brews but has something for everyone. You can hear live music once a week and get good eats from food trucks one to two times a week. Freeman Brothers BBQ and La Fortuna Pizza are frequent trucks, with Cali Fresh and WeGo Waffles in the rotation.

Happy exploring!

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