If you follow any Midwest travel blogs, you’ve probably read about a trip of theirs to Wisconsin. The state is full of scenic vistas, memorable experiences, and good food (and beer). And I haven’t been yet! So, I’ve started dreaming of the ultimate trip to Wisconsin, and then created this bucket list of things to do if time and money were no obstacles.
What would you add to the Wisconsin Bucket List?
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1. Go to the Apostle Islands
I have a habit of becoming infatuated with Midwest islands (see Mackinac Island for a prime example). After seeing pictures from fellow travel writers’ trips to Wisconsin and falling in love with their images from Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, I’ve decided I must go there.
These 21 remote islands, nicknamed “the jewels of Lake Superior,” are really the inspiration behind planning a road trip to Wisconsin in the first place. You can take a ferry to explore it (the ferry is from Bayfield to Madeline Island, home to the charming village of La Pointe and Big Bay State Park.
Why? Their jagged shorelines and stunning, clear water surrounding them makes me want to kayak there right this instant.
2. Attend a quirky festival or event
Local festivals are a great way to learn about a region, whether it’s a celebration of something grown nearby, a hometown hero, or a sport. In the case of Hayword, Wis., their unique event each year is the Lumberjack World Championships.
3. Travel to Little Switzerland
Founded by Swiss colonists 1845, New Glarus has become known as Little Switzerland for good reason. Like Switzerland, New Glarus has good food and good beer. In fact, they have one of my favorite craft breweries there, aptly named New Glarus Brewing Co.
PS – I can’t buy New Glarus Brewing Co. beers in Nebraska, so it’s another reason why I have to stop.
4. Eat all the cheese
When in Wisconsin, amiright? If I’m going to be in America’s Dairyland, I’d better eat some cheese. National Geographic’s “Great American Eating Experiences” recommends a few Wisconsin places to find plenty of cheeses to sample, but I think Mullins Cheese in Mosinee, Wis. sounds absolutely charming. A variety of cheeses are made by these fourth-generation cheesemakers, including a Wisconsin-invented cheese called a brick (apparently close to German beer cheese).
5. Cruise by a haunted canyon
Everyone has heard of the waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells, but you know what intriguied me when I started researching things to do in that area? There’s something called the Witches Gulch.
Apparently, this canyon is as scenic as it is haunted, so a boat tour is in order. The Dells Ghost Boat Tour sounds perfect for wannabe ghost hunters.
6. Go to a supper club
A while back, I read the book “Iowa Supper Clubs” and it got me thinking about what it’d be like to dine at one of the historic restaurants making a comeback. Wisconsin is the state most associated with supper clubs, though.
On my wish list to visit: Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee; Sullivan’s Supper Club in Trempealeau; The Roxy Supper Club in Oshkosh; and Toby’s Supper Club in Madison.
There are even some that combine Wisconsin’s love of fish fries and fish boils with supper clubs. One I’m eyeing is Buckhorn Supper Club. Look at that picture above and tell me that doesn’t look like a fun evening.
7. Try some beverages
Speaking of supper clubs, I heard they serve a unique after-dinner drink that’s an ice-cream cocktail. Yes, please. One to try is the grasshopper.
And beers. You’ve heard about Wisconsin and their beers? Since my road trips are typically a family affair, I’m making note of the Wisconsin breweries that have family-friendly atmospheres.
My friend Val at Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids told me the New Glarus Brewing Co. offers a family-friendly environment. I think i can happily plan a pit stop at either while on a family road trip.
8. Have a meal on a farm
Sticking to the subjects of food and beer, I’m obsessed with the idea of farms having dinners (even Nebraska is starting to get on the action). I’m glad I stumbled across Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, Wis. They serve up wood-fired pizza and beer brewed on-site on Friday and Saturday nights.
I sense a pizza farm tour in the works.
9. Chase waterfalls
There are very few state bucket lists that I write that don’t include finding a waterfall. I just don’t get to see a lot of them in my part of the country, so I seek them out. Wisconsin has some beauties I’d love to see.
There are several regions with waterfalls in Wisconsin, but I think Marinette County sounds promising; after all, it is known as Wisconsin’s Waterfall Capital.
10. Visit Door County
Everyone who is remotely familiar with Wisconsin tells me I need to go to Door County. I hear it’s picturesque, with charming towns and delightful beaches. There are also lighthouses, which are sometimes reason enough for people to travel.
I’m particularly eying the unique Schoolhouse Beach on the shore of Lake Michigan. Instead of sand, it has smooth limestone pebbles.
I’m also pretty sure we’re going to stop for Swedish pancakes and Belgian pie (a rice pudding-filled pastry) at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. (It’s the place with the goats on the roof!)
11. Take a cranberry marsh tour
Cranberry bogs and the whole harvesting of the fruit is a bit foreign to me. Wouldn’t it be something to put on waders and go out into a bog…if only just to say you did it? You can take a cranberry marsh tour and do just that in Wisconsin.
Tip: Fall is a good time to go. There’s the Wisconsin Cranberry Highway that traverses about 50 miles of central Wisconsin’s cranberry growing region.
12. Hike for some stellar views
I love that my kids are now at the age that we can take longer hikes. We’re not backpack camping or anything, but we’re taking a few hours on the trails now.
In Wisconsin, I’ve read about must-see views like Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wis., and Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wis.
13. See a BIG curiosity
One of the biggest oddities in Wisconsin has to be The House on the Rock. I have to see it to believe it, because everything I’ve read so far sounds like a marvelous wonder house. Not only does it have the world’s largest indoor carousel (why?), it has a floating infinity room and collections of circus wagons, suits of armors, and a 200-foot sea creature. Again, why?
I must go and find out.
14. Watch a waterskiing dance routine
I’m fairly obsessed with this idea of waterski teams that perform elaborate routines. It seems straight out of a movie, and I’m here for it.
Wisconsin has a few waterski teams that practice on certain lakes throughout the summer. I’m making it a goal of mine to watch one!