BLAST LEA MICHELE’S “LOUDER”Album hits store shelves March 3Spring Awakening-sweetheart-turned-Glee-superstar Lea Michele’s debut album officially drops, and after getting a preview on iTunes, we can already tell “On My Way” is our new workout song, “Louder” is an awesome driving track and “What Is Love?” will be reserved for bawling-our-eyes-out sob sessions. Buy the album! RAISE A TOAST TO THE GREAT COMETClosing March 2 at the Kazino Off-BroadwayGrab a shot glass and your favorite Russian vodka, because it’s your last chance to drink to one of the season’s must-see musicals, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The immersive extravaganza invites you to pass love notes with Pierre, learn secrets from Natasha and swoon over Anatole, all in a tent in the middle of Times Square. Oh, and it comes with pierogis. Click for tickets! Star Files WATCH IDINA MENZEL “LET IT GO” LIVEMarch 2 on ABCThe day is finally here! After weeks of belting in the shower, braiding our hair and making snowmen, we’re finally ready for the highlight of our year: Idina Menzel is singing “Let It Go” at the Oscars! Idina, we hope you’ve had plenty of rest, steamed your voice and had your pastilles, because it’s show time. Knock ‘em dead (and bring home an EGOT for Frozen composer Robert Lopez)! View Comments SING THE HITS WITH NORM LEWISMarch 8 at the Allen RoomYou’ve seen him swoon over Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess, go under the sea in The Little Mermaid and survey the stars in Les Miz—now see Norm just be Norm! In his American Songbook concert, the Tony nominee will pay tribute to the performers that inspire him. Plus, this gorgeous view is included. Click for tickets! Winter: Will it ever end? We’re actually starting to believe this ridiculous weather might last forever, but instead of pouting about it and hiding under a blanket, we’re (gasp) venturing out of the house to check out a few of the awesome events happening in the real world. (But just in case you’re still hibernating, we’ve also included two completely indoor activities you can do without opening the front door—you’re welcome!) Check out our picks of the week! GO ALL THE WAY WITH LBJOpens March 6 at the Neil Simon TheatreBreaking Bad fave Bryan Cranston is trying his hand at Broadway—no, not as the mastermind behind an underground meth ring, but as a U.S. President. Cranston will recreate history as Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way, the story of the 36th president’s first tumultuous year in office. Yes we can! Oh wait, wrong guy. Click for tickets! Idina Menzel
Blount County, Tennessee, sits in a sweet spot in the Smoky Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) takes up the southeastern third of the county, forming a wild and formidable playground. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, to the northeast, offer a bit of flashing-lights-airbrushed-shirt-kettle-corn reverie (plus Dollywood, a legit excellent amusement park). Knoxville presents city distractions and is an outdoorsy locale in its own right. But Blount County and its pastoral charm, friendly faces and abundant natural distractions—fly fishing, cycling, hiking, tubing (hey, you gotta’ have a little lazy time, right?)—make it the place to be. Pack the cooler, put the bike on the rack and get your road trip playlist queued up, it’s time to head to Tennessee.Tubing Townsend, TN.Day 1Show up early because one way or another, it’s a big first day. Anglers and those with the desire to try fly fishing in a place guaranteed to wow you with the scenery at the very least, head to Maryville, the largest town in Blount County (and home of the airport serving Knoxville and the region), where Frontier Anglers awaits. This fly fishing guide service can point you to some great spots or they can take you out on guided wading or float trips for trout and bass. They fish in the National Park (some prime streams there) or tail waters like the Clinch, Holston and Caney Fork Rivers. (You can also make your 48 hours simple and stick with Frontier for a two-day fishing and camping extravaganza, but save it for another trip). Spend the whole day or part of it on the water, then head to Townsend, 30 minutes east. Or start off with a big hike. How big? Iconic big. The hike to Rocky Top (yes, that Rocky Top) is 12 miles round trip and gets you on the AT, and it makes for a big day (or a speed hike with a return in the dark if you try to make an afternoon of it). The payout is a spectacular view where, on a clear day, you can get an idea of what the Smoky Mountains are all about. Take lunch at Barbob’s Burgermaster Drive-in where a monster burger—and fries ad a shake—will satisfy and fuel you up for the afternoon ahead. The hike to Abram’s Falls, in GSMNP’s Cades Cove, is an easy one—5 miles out and back—so make that the afternoon delight. Drive into the park, make for the 11-mile loop that is Cades Cove and enjoy the crowds (it can become a bit of a traffic jam as people who act as if they’ve never seen a tree or field stop for photos every 100 yards) as you circle to the halfway point of the park and the trailhead. The falls aren’t big, only 20’, but there’s a lot of water flowing over them, which means no swimming as the current is strong at the base of the falls. Hike back to the car and head out of Cades Cove, stopping for another short hike near the picnic area or campground.Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Camping in Cades Cove is an option, if you can get a campsite (it fills up fast), but go back to Townsend and stay at one of the cabins, a flashy mountain resort, or one of the bargain-priced chain hotels. Wherever you lay your head, clean up and grab dinner. Trailhead Steakhouse serves a decent steak (and an all you can eat salad bar if you’re feeling the need for roughage), Chicken House has some good fried chicken, and Riverstone Restaurant is one part down-home cooking, one part burgers. Day 2Get up early and go back to Cades Cove. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings from May to late September, the loop is closed to auto traffic until 10 a.m., which means you can rent a bike (get there early, like 6:30 a.m. early to rent a good bike) or bring your own and ride the loop at your own pace and without the threat of gawking drivers who aren’t used to cyclists being around. Riding this early means great photo opportunities, plenty of wildlife (deer, bear, fox…), and the chance to see some of the historic buildings—churches, homesteads, cabins, schoolhouses—before the crowds get there. Bear in mind it is an 11 mile loop, so if you’re not used to cycling, pace yourself.The Palmer Church in Cades CoveIf you are used to biking and you brought your own mountain bike, you can do something a little different: ride out of Cades Cove on Rich Mountain Road. You’ll want to shuttle one car to the parking area at the end, near Townsend, and drive you and the bikes to Cades Cove in the morning, but it would make for a fun ride. The road is a wide, gravel track up and over the mountains. Bear, deer and turkey are frequent sights on Rich Mountain Road, and there are a few good overlooks providing panoramic views of the Smokies and Cades Cove. (If you’re feeling like you need a little more of a leg workout, bring your boots and take one of the hikes to Indian Grave Gap or Rich Mountain Trail.) This isn’t singletrack riding, so don’t expect anything technical aside from the gravel surface and the chance encounter with a bear, but it is an unusual ride in the national park.Rich Mountain Trail.That afternoon, cool off, after all you biked and it’s warm. In Townsend there are five places where you can rent tubes and go for a float on the Little River. It lives up to its name as it’s a gentle float with plenty of places to splash and swim and wash the trail dust off.You can also head underground to Tuckaleechee Caverns where it’s always 58˚. The tour groups can get a little big, but if you’re there later in the season, things slow down a bit (so much so they close for winter and reopen in spring). The cave was discovered by two boys who would slither in and play by the stream running through the cavern, but you don’t have to play nightcrawlers to get in, there’s a nice entrance and a steep set of steps leading into the depths, where you’ll be wowed by the dual nature of the cavern (there’s a wet and dry side) and one humongous room—seriously, it’s almost a cubic football field—where they turn out all the lights and give you a taste of real darkness. The Best of the RestStayDancing Bear LodgeTremont Lodge and ResortBest Western Cades Cove InnDineDancing Bear Appalachian BistroCountry Steak N’ EggsLittle River BBQLibations and NightlifeMake your own, brother. Stop in at The Casual Pint in Maryville for a good selection of bottled beers.Related Content:
Sophomore Elle Ohlander and the Badgers hope to get a big win over the Phoenix.[/media-credit]In its final tune–up before Big Ten play begins next week, the Wisconsin volleyball team will hit the road to take on the UW-Green Bay Phoenix tonight at the Kress Events Center.The Badgers (4-4) are coming off a second- place finish in the Notre Dame invitational, where they first lost to Notre Dame before sweeping New Mexico State in the tournament finale.Senior Brittney Dolgner and 6-foot-6 sophomore Elle Ohlander were both named to the all-tournament team. The two tallied 39 combined kills against Notre Dame and New Mexico State. They both credit their teammates for giving them the opportunity to make an impact on the court.“I think it hasn’t really been what I improved on, it’s been what all of us have done together as a team,” Dolgner said. “The team is taking away attention from the outside hitters and we’ve just had a lot more openings — it’s been really great.”“[Coach Pete Waite] and I were talking, and he was just telling me to go out and hit every ball as hard as you can,” Ohlander added. “We’ve also been having really good passes and sets, so that makes things much easier for us too.”The Badgers will have to contend with two strong Phoenix outside hitters, seniors Nikki Hintze and Holly Visser. The two lead Green Bay in kills, averaging 3.42 and 2.94 per set. However, while the two may pose a threat to the Badgers, UW head coach Pete Waite said the team hasn’t been focusing too much on defending the duo. Instead, the Badgers are concentrating on improving their own play, not defending others’.“We’re watching [Green Bay] on tape and looking for tendencies, but really we’re working on our side of the net and creating a really strong tempo, a really steady focus, and really consistent play,” Waite said.Sitting at 4-4, Waite and the Badgers are a bit disappointed with their record going into the Big Ten season. However, while in years past the team had performed better in the early goings, its schedule hasn’t been as difficult as it is this year, according to Waite.“We scheduled pretty strong this year, and we’re trying to get ready for Big Ten play,” Waite said. “We’ve accomplished what we wanted to as far as improvement, but now it’s about sustaining a high level of play going into and throughout the Big Ten season.”For the Badgers, improving their record against the Phoenix may not be so difficult. Wisconsin has never lost to Green Bay, beating them seven times in as many meetings. However, the two teams haven’t met since 2000 and the Phoenix return three starters, including Hintze and Visser.“It’s an in-state rivalry, it’s great for volleyball around the whole state,” Waite said. “They’re excited for us to be coming into town, and we’re not going to overlook anybody. They can play really good ball.”For many players on the team, facing the Phoenix has personal implications as well. In pPlaying an in-state rival, several of the athletes have former teammates who they will be competing against for the first time.Ohlander, for example, will be facing a high school teammate, setter Whitney Schott, who she has never matched up against in college. Regardless, the sophomore is excited for the opportunity to play against an old friend.“I think it’s going to be fun., I haven’t seen her in a long time, and it’s going to be weird to see her on the other side of the net,” Ohlander said. “We’re going to go in there and play our best volleyball and bring it to them.”In their last match before returning home to begin conference play, the Badgers will hope to end their preseason on a high note. While the Sept. 23 match against Iowa might be seen as a more important and exciting contest, Waite and his squad are looking to keep their focus on Green Bay before shifting their attention to Iowa.“Even when we mentioned it today, they were excited about their first home match and Big Ten match,” Waite said. “They always love playing at home, the crowd is great here. But first of all, we’re taking care of Green Bay, and then we’ll start looking at Iowa and getting ready for that and the rest of the Big Ten.”—Extra notes:Dolgner was named to her second all-tournament team this season after averaging 3.57 kills and 2.00 digs per set at the Notre Dame Invitational. She had a team-high 13 kills against the Fighting Irish and tallied 12 kills in the Badgers’ win over New Mexico State.The Badgers are 7-0 all time against UW-Green Bay, with six of the seven wins coming at the Field House.Sophomore setter Janelle Gabrielsen, in her first year as the Badgers’ only passer on the court, is averaging a team-high 9.29 assists per game. While she was also a hitter last season, Wisconsin switched its offensive scheme to a 6-1, with Gabrielsen adjusting her role accordingly. She earned all-tournament honors for her passing in the Badgers’ first tournament this season, the InnTower Invitational at the Field HouseWisconsin begins its Big Ten season next Wednesday, Sept. 23 against Iowa at the Field House. Last year, the Badgers split the season series with the Hawkeyes, losing the first match 3-0 and returning the favor at the Field House, winning 3-0.