Wisconsin and its large cities have had many descriptive nicknames over the years. “America’s Dairyland,” is the one that has stuck, but the most popular attractions in this Midwestern state have nothing to do with cheese. Endless miles of lakes and waterways combined with rugged cliffs and lush farmland have earned Wisconsin the reputation as one of the Midwest’s most beautiful and most active states.
Some of the most popular destinations in Wisconsin are perfect locations for outdoor enjoyment in almost any form. Whether you want to laze in a lounge chair or set out in a kayak, Wisconsin’s diverse geography has something for everyone. In the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, visitors can enjoy cultural excursions to museums, breweries, and many other notable attractions.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Wisconsin is well known for its natural beauty created thanks in part to its seemingly endless waterways, one stretch of which is called Apostle Islands. The National Lakeshore encompasses 21 islands and the 12 miles of coastline opposite the islands in Lake Superior. The islands are known not just for stunning views, but for unique rock outcroppings and caves that are well worth exploring if you can get to them. They are popular destinations for water lovers and land lovers alike with excellent kayaking areas and plenty of hunting grounds.
Wisconsin Dells is the name of a popular resort city in Wisconsin and the dells it was named for, a stretch of rock formations and canyons in a gorge of the Wisconsin River. The dells are known for their unique beauty and are often visited by boat.
The town of Wisconsin Dells has made its name known as a hugely popular tourist destination with enough indoor and outdoor water parks to be called the Water Park Capital of the World. In addition to water parks this playground of a city has attractions and entertainment for all ages including boat tours, golfing, mini golf, go-kart racing, water sports, amusement parks, and gambling at the casino.
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is comprised of three buildings on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee. The museum’s impressive collection includes more than 30,000 artworks from 15th to 20th century European and 17th to 20th century American artists of various mediums. Some of the most famous artists whose work is on display include Degas, Rodin, Monet, Frank Lloyd Wright, Picasso, Joan Miro, and Warhol. It is also known for its impressive collection of works by Georgia O’Keefe, a Wisconsin native.
In addition to the museum’s reputable art collection, it has also received attention for its unique construction featuring white, futuristic buildings designed by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Lake Geneva is a resort city located on Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin. Historically the city has been a popular destination for Chicago citizens due to its convenient location on the railway, and today that trend has continued, earning Lake Geneva the nicknames “The Newport of the West,” and the “Hamptons of the Midwest.” Some of the lakeshore attractions include beaches, a yacht club, and an observatory.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Located along one of the routes of the most recent glaciations (Ice Age) this 1,000 mile long National Scenic Trail is a popular destination for short and long distance hikers. The route follows the terminal moraine, or glacial debris path, of what was once an enormous glacier. Along the trail evidence left by the glacial period can be seen in the form of various natural features which would appear to the novice as holes, pipes, ridges, puddles, and other unique rock formations. More recognizable features of the trail are a host of native mammals including American red squirrel, red fox, porcupine, black bear, and the grey wolf.
Top Things to Do in Wisconsin
The entire area of Door County makes the list of Wisconsin’s top places to visit because every summer the population explodes from 28,000 to the hundreds of thousands as visitors come from near and far to what many have called “the Cape Cod of the Midwest.” For outdoor recreation, you’ll find five of Wisconsin’s state parks located within Door County, which are considered the best in the state, each known for excellent sightseeing, hiking, camping, fishing, and snowmobiling. Door County is also home to 12 lighthouses, most dating to the 19th century. Many historic cherry orchards are also located in the county that allow visitors to pick their own fruit.
The tiny town of Mineral Point, with only 867 citizens, is one of Wisconsin’s most visited tourist destinations because of its historic dwellings. During the 19th century the town was settled by Cornish immigrants from the Cornwall area of Great Britain, interested in lead mining, and today many of these Cornish dwellings remain at the state run historic site.
Great River Road
This section of state and local roads that follow America’s great river is a great choice for a scenic drive in Wisconsin. The Great River Road follows the course of the Mississippi River from its headwaters through 10 states to Louisiana. The Wisconsin section covers 250 miles, passing through 33 cities. Along the route recreational opportunities in the river and other natural areas offer excellent diversion from long hours in the car and farms, orchards, and wineries are perfect stopping points for nourishment and sightseeing.
Minocqua Lake is located in an area termed “Lakeland” in northern Wisconsin. The lake is a popular destination all year-round with excellent summer and winter recreation opportunities on or around the lake. There are also several resorts and vacation homes on the lake’s shores.
Wisconsin’s largest city has long been a forerunner in the beer brewing industry. At one point the city was even home to four of the nation’s largest breweries, Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller, producing more beer than any city in the world. Today, the brewing industry in Milwaukie has changed and the city is quickly gaining a reputation for having some of the country’s finest craft breweries. Whether you’re interested in the time-tested classics like MillerCoors, or one of the homegrown microbreweries, visiting one of Milwaukee’s breweries and sampling the suds is a definite must.
Things to Do in Wisconsin
Although Wisconsin is certainly home to some of America’s finest cheeses and dairy, fruit, and other products that might make your mouth water, the state’s nickname of “America’s Dairyland” might be one that is ready for retirement. From out-of-this-world summer vacation spots, to stunning caves, and water parks to thrill any daredevil, there’s a lot more to do in Wisconsin than eat cheese.