Distinctive buildings, places in Wisconsin

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Located right on the water, the Milwaukee Art Museum shines out over Lake Michigan.

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You may not be an architect, but who would want to go to Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower? Or to San Antonio and not see The Alamo? Or to Sydney and miss the Opera House? Right. No one. If you're headed to Wisconsin, here are some truly unique buildings that are delightful to visit. Bring a camera, but don't worry - you'll remember what you see.

Taliesin is the life-long masterwork of America's most noted architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The prairie-style house, located at County Hwy. C at Spring Green, embodies Wright's energy, technique and creative vision. It stands as the longest on-going project of Wright's career. The Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center was also a Wright-designed building. Visitor center, estate and tours are free. May 1 - Oct. 31. 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (877) 588-7900. www.taliesinpreservation.org

House on the Rock
"Indescribable." That's how many visitors attempt to explain the House on the Rock, Wisconsin's preeminent tourist attraction, off Hwy. #23 that overlooks Wyoming Valley between Spring Green and Dodgeville. "Beyond words," they say. The house seems an architectural mash-up of Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Waters, the Playboy Mansion, Camelot, Star Gate and Dante's Inferno. It's filled with astounding collections of dolls, organs, glass, music machines and wonders. Don't miss Alex Jordan's masterpiece: an 80-foot carousel with 269 fantasy creatures and 20,000 lights and angels hovering overhead accompanied by a booming calliope. Admission is fee. April 30 - Oct. 31 (regular season. Some exhibits close in winter and spring). (608) 935-3639. www.thehouseontherock.com

Yerkes Observatory
This beautiful 1890s Victorian building, which looks similar to a castle out of a Vincent Price film, is most famous for the 40-inch refracting telescope, which is the largest in use for scientific research. Currently located at 373 W. Geneva St. in Williams Bay, Yerkes Observatory was built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The observatory also houses other telescopes. It offers evening observing sessions for adults and kids 12 and older. The observatory offers free public tours every Saturday year-round. The 45-minute programs begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. (262) 245-5555. astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/index.html

Milwaukee Art Museum
This incredible, winged art museum looks as if it is ready to fly off over Lake Michigan. The Quadracci Pavilion is the first Calatrava designed building to be completed in the United States. The Burke Brise Soleil, the movable, wing-like sunscreen is comprised of 72 steel fins and rests on top of a glass-enclosed reception hall. It's raised and lowered to control temperature and light in the structure. The wings open daily at 10 a.m. They flap at noon and close as the museum closes each day. Hours: Mon. through Labor Day: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tues-Sun: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thurs: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. (414) 224-3200. www.mam.org

Tom's Burned Down Café
You'll have to travel to Bayfield on the shore of Lake Superior at the top of Wisconsin, catch a ferry to Madeline Island and walk about a block to discover one of Travel and Leisure's Best Beach Bars in America. Tom's Burned Down Café is a kind of tiki-bar-bistro, northern exposure nightclub and shrine to creative individualism hunkered under a canvas awning in little La Pointe. The walls are covered with wise and wiseacre sayings painted on bits of board. A hulk of a Cadillac is under the floor. Grab a seat, and have an adult beverage. You'll meet a nice mix of sailors, philosophers, accountants, artists, bikers, professors, sailors and wandering musicians. You certainly won't forget this one. Open spring to fall. www.tomsburneddowncafe.com

Gary Knowles is a Madison-based travel writer, photographer and consultant to travel industry. He serves as the travel advisor on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show.