If you had parents who were swing and big band fans, you probably heard all about the great trumpeter Bunny Berigan, who hailed from Fox Lake, Wis., and achieved fame with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra before his untimely death at age 33. Visit his gravesite in St. Mary's Cemetery south of Fox Lake, and the historic marker about his life at Adams Spring Park on Spring Street (Hwy. 33) in Fox Lake.
Theater greats Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne maintained a summer home, Ten Chimneys, in Genesee Depot in Waukesha County. It's now open to the public for tours and theatrical events. Lunt, who was from Milwaukee, loved the rustic life; the couple farmed and sold produce at a roadside stand as well as entertained such figures as Noel Coward. The thespians are buried in Milwaukee's Forest Home cemetery.
Kentucky has the birthplace and Illinois the law office, but Abe Lincoln slept here. He really did - in the Tallman House, in Janesville, sometimes dubbed the Lincoln-Tallman house. Lincoln stayed there in 1859 while in the state to give a speech. It's also documented that in 1832 Lincoln went from Beloit to Lake Koshkonong, along the Rock River, as a member of the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War.
Grafton is an unlikely shrine for blues lovers. Some of the Delta greats traveled there for recording sessions at Paramount studios, and the records were pressed there as well. A few crumbling monuments are left to see; the self-guided Paramount Historical Walking Tour booklet is available at the Grafton Library, Chamber of Commerce, or the Paramount Restaurant. More info can be found here.
Neil Gaiman, the graphic novelist and creator of Coraline, lives around Menomonie, Wis., a setting he uses in his novel American Gods along with Spring Green's House on the Rock and the Round Barn Restaurant. A much-discussed American Gods homage/pilgrimage weekend is supposed to take place at House on the Rock near Halloween 2010, but details have not yet been finalized.
Golda Meir grew up in Milwaukee, and the current Golda Meir School, 1515 N. Martin Luther King Dr. (originally the Fourth Street School), was the elementary school that the future prime minister of Israel attended from 1906 to 1912. She later attended North Division High.
It used to be that freethinking baby boomers would make pilgrimages to Wisconsin senator and anti-communist zealot Joe McCarthy's grave in order to spit on it, but nowadays, it might actually attract more admirers (e.g., Ann Coulter) than those full of contempt. It's in St. Mary's cemetery, Appleton. Info here.
John Muir, one of this nation's greatest naturalists, grew up in the town of Buffalo, in Marquette County. He later climbed Bascom Hill as a student at the UW-Madison. Take a short hike at Fountain Lake, within the current John Muir Memorial Park, where the Muir family settled after coming to this country from Scotland; John Muir was 11. The park is 11 miles north of Portage and 8 miles south of Montello, east of County Highway F, 1.25 miles north of County Highway O.
Carson Park, Eau Claire, was where 18-year-old Hank Aaron began his baseball career playing for the Eau Claire Bears, a Boston Braves farm team. A statue commemorating Aaron was dedicated there by the baseball great himself in 1994.