Wisconsin might be known for its cheese and beer, but this state is so much more than that. This Midwestern state, snuggled up against two Great Lakes, is full of natural beauty, culture, art, and tourist attractions too.
Whether you’re taking a road trip elsewhere in the country or Wisconsin is your final destination, there are countless ways to spend your time in the Dairy State.
Here are 18 things to do in Wisconsin that you need to add to your bucket list!
MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
A work of art in itself, the Milwaukee Art Museum is a gem situated on Lake Michigan. With over 30,000 works in their collection, the museum began as the city’s first art gallery back in 1888. This four-floor museum has more than 40 galleries of art from their rotating permanent collection and visiting exhibits as well.
MAM has one of the largest collections of art by Georgia O’Keeffe, a Wisconsinite, as well as other prominent collections as well. Among the works in the museum are pieces by Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Pablo Picasso.
Details: 700 N Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202 | Website
ICE AGE TRAIL HWY 67 TRAILHEAD
Among Wisconsin’s natural marvels is the Ice Age Trail, a thousand mile-long walking path that begins at the trailhead on Highway 67. Its name is derived from the glaciers that made their way through the landscape. Not only did these giant ice blocks carve magnificent natural beauty into the state, but they also gave the environment truly unique features, like bluffs.
Some segments of the trail lead visitors through forested areas, while others take them straight into downtown streets. The Ice Age Trail Alliance says this is intentional, as their hope is that the trail blends the landscape into the communities themselves while also preserving the ancient markings of the Ice Age.
Even still, don’t miss the hike to Gibraltar Rock! The view is sensational.
Details: Eagle, WI 53119 | Website
MILWAUKEE COUNTY ZOO
Like the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Milwaukee County Zoo has been a staple in the city’s community since the late 1800s. The zoo was founded in 1892, and has developed a reputation for its conservation mission, as well as its community outreach initiatives through the years.
Over 2,100 animals from nearly 350 different species live at the Milwaukee County Zoo. There are giraffe meet and greets, a petting zoo, ropes courses and ziplines, and the beloved Safari Train, which takes riders all around the zoo in charming open boxcars.
Details: 10001 W Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226 | Website
You can’t talk about things to do in Wisconsin without mentioning the Wisconsin Dells or, as too many radio ads will constantly remind you in the summer months, the Water Park Capital of the World. The Dells is the most heavily visited part of the state, with tourist attractions amongst the rows of hotels, resorts, and — you guessed it — water parks.
But the Dells’ history as a tourist destination wasn’t always about theme parks or water slides. The beauty of the area, along the Wisconsin River, inspired visitors to seek out the area to hang out on boats, see Stand Rock or other amazing rock formations, and just enjoy nature.
Don’t forget to check out the historic downtown area of the Dells, where you get a real glimpse of how the area used to be. The area really is a gorgeous place to visit.
DEVIL’S LAKE STATE PARK
Not too far from the Dells is Wisconsin’s largest state park, which is also its most popular. Devil’s Lake State Park, located along the Ice Age Trail, highlights much of what the natural beauty of the state has to offer. From 500-foot tall quartzite bluffs to the gorgeous lake (that you can even scuba dive in!), this is a favorite nature spot for residents and visitors alike.
No matter the time of year, there are wilderness explorers wandering around this park. Its 30 miles of hiking trails, breathtaking vistas, and history make Devil’s Lake a year-round destination.
Don’t forget about the nearby skiing and winter sports activities!
Details: S5975 Park Rd, Baraboo, WI 53913 | Website
In addition to the other things Wisconsin is known for, motorcyclists know that Harley-Davidson is one of them. Obviously, the birthplace of the iconic motorcycles is also home to the Harley-Davidson Museum, which is one of Milwaukee’s top attractions.
There are interactive permanent and temporary exhibits throughout the museum celebrating the history of the brand and motorcycle culture. From Harley cycle displays to engine exhibits, there is a lot to learn even for the most dedicated HD buff.
Don’t think they haven’t thought up things to keep the kiddos occupied too! They can even virtually build a bike in one area, so be sure you check out the whole museum.
Read More: 18 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN MILWAUKEE
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT SITES
Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin, and many of his most iconic buildings still reside in the state. True FLW fans can follow the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail to take in more of his works, but there are some that are more well-known than others.
Taliesin in Spring Green, for example, was Wright’s home and studio for a long time. Tours are held in the home daily and begin in the visitor center. The name is derived from Welsh, in honor of Wright’s heritage, and it means “shining brow” in reference to a druid bard according to Wright in Wisconsin. Because Wright spent so much time here, it is particularly special for fans and visitors.
Another of Wright’s designs, the Unitarian Meeting House, is home to Madison’s First Unitarian Society. It’s considered one of the most innovative pieces of church architecture. Though it is still used as a gathering space, tours are also held here.
The Monona Terrace Center was designed by Wright as a “dream civic center” on the shore of Madison’s Lake Monona. Monona Terrace was finished after Wright’s death in 1959.
Built of Cream City brick and limestone, historic Cedarburg is a charming place to visit, particularly if you’re a fan of cozy Midwestern towns. Beyond its cultural touches and year-round festivals, it’s also a place largely unspoiled by tourism.
Cedar Creek Winery downtown is a favorite among locals and visitors. Their sister winery, Wollersheim in Prairie du Sac, is also a must-stop for wine lovers and an easy road trip. (Get the Prairie Fumé…you’re welcome.)
If staying in the city is more your speed, be sure to hit up The Stilt House for some grub. This place got its name from its original owner Nick Schuh, who went around city permits to add a second floor to his tavern by building it on stilts.
If you’ve heard of Spring Green, it’s probably because you heard about Taliesin or American Players Theater. APT is an incredible repertory-style theater with an outdoor space unlike any we’ve seen. Their classic work takes place there, while their contemporary work is done in their indoor theater. House on the Rock Resort is right across the street from the theater and is a quirky, yet charming, place to relax.
This artsy small town is also home to some lovely shops, restaurants, and a well-known sense of community.
APOSTLE ISLANDS NATIONAL LAKESHORE
Didn’t know Wisconsin could look like the East Coast, did you? The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore makes sure visitors remember that the Wisconsin landscape cannot be beaten. With more lighthouses than any other site of the National Park System, nearly 250 types of birds to spot, and the shimmering waters of Lake Superior, how could you possibly want anything more?
But there is more! The islands are also home to a bunch of explorable sea caves. These passages have been cut into the area’s bluffs and rock formations over thousands of years of water movement from the lake. Even in the winter, explorers love to make their way to the caves to see some of the coolest ice formations. If you go that route, be sure to bundle up. It is frigid.
Details: 415 Washington Ave, Bayfield, WI 54814 | Website
OLBRICH BOTANICAL GARDENS
With its 16 gardens and their conservatory, Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a place to remember. The oldest of the gardens is The Sunken Garden, themed after a traditional English-style garden with hedges and terraces. Whereas the Olbrich Rose Garden is two acres of roses woven in with grasses, shrubs, and other gorgeous plant life.
Fashioned after Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style, the Rose Garden is a sterling example of American-style gardens as Prairie Style was the first authentically American architectural style.
COPPER FALLS STATE PARK
While it might not be as popular as Devil’s Lake, Copper Falls State Park is often considered the most scenic of the Wisconsin parks. Remnants from ancient lava, glacier-carved gorges, and waterfalls are plentiful at Copper Falls.
Hiking trails will lead you to overlooks with spectacular views. Plus you can take a swim in Loon Lake to relax from all that hiking.
Details: 36764 Copper Falls Rd, Mellen, WI 54546 | Website
NATIONAL RAILROAD MUSEUM
There was a time in the country’s history when traveling by rail was the best way to get around, before the invention of the airplane. While we still have some trains around, they have evolved from their ancestors. Still, organizations like the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay are here to preserve the by-gone eras of rail travel and commerce.
Learn all about locomotion in their permanent exhibits as well as their temporary ones. There are trains to admire, hands-on experiences for the young or young at heart, and even train rides. Hop aboard a full-sized train for a roughly 25-minute tour of the museum grounds to learn about safety and, evidently, hobo culture.
Details: 2285 S Broadway, Ashwaubenon, WI 54304 | Website
We’d be remiss not to mention the home of the only fan-owned NFL team, Lambeau Field. Home to the Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field is a must-see destination for football fans, (even if you aren’t a Cheesehead). Here you’ll find merchandise shops, the Packers Hall of Fame, exhibits on the team, and even delicious food options.
Plus, for the really hardcore fans, you can take tours of the stadium. Make sure you don’t wear other team merch if you visit though, okay? Packer fans are nice, but they aren’t that nice.
In Wisconsin, there are generally two places folks go on vacation: The Dells or Door County. Unlike the Dells, Door County is still largely focused on its historic, natural experiences. Over 300 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline greet visitors in this beautiful area. Known for their cherries, lighthouses, art, and wine, Door County is a more grown-up Wisconsin destination.
Because the county is long, you can see almost 20 different communities to get a different experience every time you visit. Also, you absolutely cannot visit without attending a fish boil, it’s tradition.
AIRVENTURE AND MUSEUM
Oshkosh, Wisconsin is home to the international organization known as the Experimental Aircraft Association. Given the nature of this association for aircraft enthusiasts, EAA has built out quite a reputation for itself. Their annual Airventure expo every summer is attended by even famous piloting hobbyists, like Harrison Ford. This annual fly-in brings planes in from all over to demonstrate their skills in the air for the public and other enthusiasts alike.
Otherwise, EAA’s year-round destination is their Aviation Museum, which has some of the best aviation attractions around. They house over 200 planes, along with exhibits and displays celebrating the history of flight. There are also hands-on exhibits and even airplane rides!
Details: 3000 Poberezny Rd, Oshkosh, WI 54902 | Website
As German immigrants made their way to Wisconsin, the state became known for its beer. Per the state’s historical society, brewing in the state dates back to the 1830s. Wisconsin’s brewing history is famous and by the 1890s there were over 300 breweries around the state, according to the state historical society. The most famous of the state’s breweries include Miller, Blatz, Schlitz, and Pabst.
Guests can visit Miller Valley to take a tour of the brewery to learn about the history of brewing, as well as what the process is like now. Tours include tasting and souvenir glasses. Tours are free for folks under 21–though they can’t drink on the tour.
For Pabst fans, you can take a guided or self-guided tour of the Pabst Mansion in another part of Milwaukee. Learn about the family, their brew, and their stunning 1890s mansion.
If you still haven’t had enough Brew City history, you can always stay the night at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites. This hotel lives at the original Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, which gives guests a unique experience as many of the features of the brewery are still present. That includes the picturesque stained glass window depiction of King Gambrinus who the hotel says is considered the patron saint of beer.
CAVE OF THE MOUNDS
When it comes to Midwestern caves, Cave of the Mounds is among the best. Since 1940, this cave has been a favorite attraction for families, as well as geologic fanatics because of its array of growths.
The cave’s site says that the limestone was formed over 400 million years ago when warm seas covered this area of Wisconsin. Stalactites, speleothems, and other crystallized elements can be found throughout the caves.
Self-guided, guided and VIP tours are offered frequently throughout the day.
Details: 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, WI 53517 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO WISCONSIN
- MADISON: 23 Fun Things To Do In Madison, WI You’ll Love
- LAKE GENEVA: 18 Amazing Things To Do In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
- MILWAUKEE: 18 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN MILWAUKEE
- TOP 15 BEST PLACES FOR APPLE PICKING WISCONSIN
- ROMANTIC GETAWAYS: 11 Absolute Best Romantic Getaways In Wisconsin
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