Exploring on Columbus Day

Climbing the Tower at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin

The decision was made to brave the rainy fall weather and go exploring in honor of Columbus Day (we were bored, had the day off, and wanted some adventure) so we climbed into the car and set off on a two and a half hour journey to Hubertus, Wis. I had been seeing posts on social media about the Tower at Holy Hill. It was being touted as one of the top spots in the state to admire the blazing fall colors and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. A bit of minor preliminary research on the website gave me hours of operation, a bit of background, and a warning about steps and weather closings. Yup, time for some adventure!

My daughter, my granddaughter, my son and I climbed into the car and headed down the highway in the fog and the rain. We had some minor navigational issues, but Holy Hill is easy enough to find if you aren’t gabbing and you pay attention to the road signs. The weather was much clearer in that part of the state and the sweatshirts stayed in the car. We lumbered up the steps from the parking lot to the main church entrance, and from there we went into the Tower and started climbing. The lower level steps were wider, but as we climbed the staircase narrowed considerably. I am uncomfortable with heights and open stairwells, but on a scale of 1: comfortable to 10: super scary, this climb was 5: only slightly nerve-racking. Due to the recent weather, the tower was quite damp and the handrails were wet and sticky. Most of our fellow climbers were courteous when it came to taking turns on the stairs and waiting on the landings.

And then we got to the first open-air landing. It was beautiful. The wind was blowing through and the church bells were ringing in the adjacent tower. The view through the window grill was breathtaking. You can see forever when you are that high, and the trees were exploding with the red and gold colors of fall. And then I looked up. The open spiral staircase to the upper level rose up in the center of the room like a dark cloud on my super sunny day. I didn’t want to go any farther. Thank goodness for small children!!! My son took off up the steps but my granddaughter decided she had had enough and didn’t want to go any higher. Thus begun our slow descent. Granny first, toddler in the middle, and mama taking up the rear and offering encouragement. Isn’t coming down always harder than going up? My right hand on the railing and my left hand reaching behind me to keep a firm grip on the poor girls rear end to make sure she wasn’t getting too far from me. Mama had a death grip on the

rail and a death grip on her baby. We made it all the way down though!!! Phew. What was I thinking?

After that, we wandered into the church and admired the vast quiet space. There were beautiful stained glass windows and row upon row of smooth, ornate pews. We pondered trinkets in the adjacent gift shop and visited the tidy, well-appointed restrooms. Other than the case of descending heebie-jeebies, it was a lovely way to spend the morning.

There are a few particulars to keep in mind if you decide to visit. The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill are thirty miles north of Milwaukee. From Hwy 41N you simply get onto Hwy 167 and take the Holy Hill Rd exit 57. Travel west for six miles and the entrance will be on your left. If you get turned around, just look out over the treetops and you can see the beautiful spires of the church towers rising above the trees. Parking was simple and ample for a Monday morning, but I am sure weekends are a bit more crowded. Parking and admission are free, but an offering is encouraged for help with maintaining the Basilica. You must keep in mind that this IS a church, and masses are held regularly. Please be considerate. There are picnic areas as well as a café on the premises. Again, you can visit their website here for Tower hours of operation, information about the café and gift shop, as well as the Mass schedule.

On our way back to the highway, we stopped at the Tally Ho Pub and Grill for some lunch. It was a quiet Irish pub with spacious table seating and very friendly staff. We enjoyed our sandwiches and homemade chips before the long ride home. You can visit their website here or find them on Facebook @tallyhoerin and say hi. (Sorry for the toddler fit over spilled lemonade…)


4 thoughts on “Exploring on Columbus Day

  1. Read your post and it should say 2 and a half hour journey TO Hubertus!? And you spelled lemonade wrong. I liked the story especially after watching the video with the kids yesterday. I could almost feel going up the steps with you!!!  


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