Lafayette County boasts the state’s third-oldest community — Shullsburg — and is well known today for its cheeses and festivals.

In 1818, Jesse Shull and other white settlers began mining lead in the area. By 1827, a lead rush began, causing the population to explode. By the 1860s, Shullsburg and nearby Galena, Ill., provided most of the nation’s lead for musket balls used in the Civil War.

The county seat of Lafayette County, Darlington, makes good use of the Pecatonica River. It is also home to where Alfred T. Ringling, of circus fame, established himself in the 1870s at the age of 20.

The county is one of the leading agricultural counties in the state, with 1,400 farms averaging 285 acres in size.

Darlington

Check this out: Blue Bird Nest Nature Center, 308 Main St., 608-726-2143. Opened in 2014, it features displays, programs, presentations, a gift shop and bluebird bird houses for sale.

Places to stay: Driver Hotel, 123 W. Ann St., 608-482-5339; River View Lodge, 245 W. Harriet St., 608-482-2172, or Trailview Cabins, 231 Washington St., 608-482-2934.

Don’t miss this: Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1905, it was named to the

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National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Johnny Depp filmed a scene from his movie “Public Enemies” in 2009.

Cheese County Recreation Trail

  • , a 47-mile trail that goes through town, north to Mineral Point and southeast to Monroe.

Lafayette County Fair,

  • July 10-14.

When you’re hungry: Bridges, 201 Christensen Dr. 608-776-2450; the Coffee Cup, 232 Main St., 608-776-3373.

A night on the town? City Service Brewing, 404 Main St., 608-482-1930; Fayette Saloon, 10990 County F, 608-776-2982.

More on Darlington: darlingtonwi.org/index.html

Shullsburg

Check this out: Badger Mine & Museum, 279 W. Estey St., 608-965-4860. Experience what early lead miners did during guided tours of the museum’s artifacts and down into a hand-dug mine. It is said there are more than five miles of mining tunnels running under the city.

Places to stay: John & Deb’s Place, 201 W. Water St., 608-482-5047; Gratiot House, 20950 Rennick Road, 414-303-4374.

Don’t miss this: Gravity Hill, about a mile south of town on County U (Judgement Street). Stop and put your vehicle in neutral just before the 25 mph sign, at the mark in the road, and watch it roll backward, up the hill.

Music in the Park,

  • 7-8:30 p.m. every Thursday, July-August, in Badger Park. Variety of musical genres will be offered throughout the series.

When you’re hungry: Wheel-Inn, 324 Wisconsin 11, 608-965-4455; Miner Alley, 133 W. Water St., 608-965-4515.

A night on the town? The Burg, 134 W. Water St., 608-965-3700; Water Street Place, 202 W. Water St., 608-965-3228.

More on Shullsburg: shullsburgwisconsin.org

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