Cedarburg, WI is about as close as you can get to a New England seaside village without actually taking the commuter rail from Boston’s South Station. Cafes and antique shops sit side-by-side with old mills and refurbished brick buildings, a testament to its status as one of the oldest continually inhabited towns in the state. Located near Milwaukee, it’s a hell of a charming place to visit, and it’s easy enough to make a productive afternoon and evening out of it — make sure, among other things, you stroll across one of the quaint downtown bridges that ramble over the Milwaukee River.
Shopping — Downtown Dough sells par-baked bread, cinnamon dough, and cookie dough of high quality — and that’s swell — but the shop’s real treasure is its cookie cutter collection. The shop’s inventory features more than 1,400 varieties, most of which appear to be displayed on three large walls covered in the things from head to toe. Whether you’re looking for a dancing bear, a French horn, or a pelican, Downtown Dough has you covered; and if you never make it Cedarburg, you can still order online. [262.387.0311 / W63 N658 Washington Ave, Cedarburg, WI 53012]
Dinner — A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, The Anvil Pub and Grille in Cedarburg is a cunningly refurbished 19th century blacksmith’s shop-turned-upscale Midwestern eatery. The food poses as sophisticated, but there’s a lot of brute force going on: It’s not exactly challenging to make your Anvil chicken breast taste good when you stuff it with chive-laced cheese, wrap it in applewood-smoked bacon, and then drizzle maple syrup over it. Entrees are hearty and well executed if overpriced (expect to pay north of $15 for most options on the menu), but there are some nice touches that make the stop worthwhile — first and foremost, the stout beer-drizzled onion rings, which are fresh, crisp, and perfectly fried. [262.376.2163 / N70 W6340 Bridge Road, Cedarburg, WI 53012]
Dessert — Amy’s Candy Kitchen and Gourmet Caramel Apples is your go-to after dinner stop. Yes, your caramel apple will cost you $7-9, but look at it this way: you’re dealing with ingredients such as scratch caramel, Belgian dark chocolate, and sea salt, and once you’ve had the helpful counter staff whack up the apple, the wedges from a single fruit easily feed three for dessert. The Wall Street Journal called these the best caramel apples in the country, and once you’ve tasted them, you’ll have to admit they make a pretty strong case. [262.376.0884 / W62 N 579 Washington Avenue, Cedarburg, WI 53012]