8 Insanely Wonderful Things To Do In Wisconsin (+ Cheese. Obviously)

things to do in Wisconsin
A few weeks ago, someone asked me about the world’s most underappreciated, overlooked travel destination.
I wish I could tell you I’d been all “(hair flip) Well, you know, the yak cheese and vistas of the Langtang trek in Nepal don’t get enough press. Those sweet little tea houses! I mean.”
(though seriously, it’s pretty great.)
Nope. Instead I nattered on with an awkward level of enthusiasm about Wisconsin.
What? Yes.
In all seriousness, I have no idea why Wisconsin isn’t a national tourism destination. It’s cheap. It’s gorgeous. It’s filled with a surprising number of things to do.
And because I’m not going to rest till you’ve been there, I’ve taken the liberty of outlining an itinerary for you. 

8 Things to do in Wisconsin

things to do in Wisconsin

1. Visit Mineral Point + Dodgeville

Oh, what’s that? You though Pleasantville was just a movie starring a young Reese Witherspoon? Wrong, my dude. Perfect small town America still exists and it just so happens that two of these flawless little towns are 12 minutes apart (!!!)
Mineral Point is filled with sweet, tiny art galleries and pottery studios and most of the houses are lovingly maintained historic homes (we stayed in this adorable, historically registered Airbnb.) Dodgeville is perfect for an afternoon of poking around, coffee drinking, and lunch at Bob’s Bitchin’ BBQ.

Related: Airbnb is always an affordable option and if you’ve never used it before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

things to do in Wisconsin

2. Discover Frank Lloyd Wright

Real talk: I’ve yet to visit Wright’s famous Taliesin house, mostly because I’d rather spend my $45 on cheese. But if you’re a nerd for architecture, this is probably your mothership. The 21,000 square foot home includes a “loggia” and a “garden room” which is just another reason I shouldn’t visit. Because it’ll just remind that two potted plants in my office do not a garden room make.
things to do in wisconsin

3. Eat your weight in cheese (obviously)

No visit to Wisconsin is complete without a stop at a dairy. If you’re really serious about cheese (which you should be) make time for a cheese factory or dairy tour. Eau Galle Dairies and Hennings Cheese both offer tours.
Pro tip: if you’re buying fresh cheese curds, they should not be refrigerated and they should really, actually squeak when you chew them!
things to do in Wisconsin

4. Visit breweries

While I’m more of a vodka gimlet type (because on the inside I’m a wealthy, 70-year-old woman), there are many beer lovers in my life. And those people won’t shut up about New Glarus. Like, they’ll talk about That One New Glarus Beer They Drank That One Time, over brunch, two years after the fact. New Glarus has won heaps of awards and they don’t distribute their beer outside of Wisconsin so it’s a special, local treat for you out-of-staters!
things to do in Wisconsin

5. Buy some Amish-made goods

About 15,000 Amish people make their homes in Wisconsin and they’re renowned for their amazing food, quilts, and woodwork. You can take a tour of an Amish community and learn about all sorts of interesting things – horse breeding, harness making, barn raising. Of course, you should also buy a home baked pie.
As a sidenote, most Amish people are super friendly to outsiders and happy to talk about their way of life but would prefer not to be photographed.
things to do in Wisconsin

6. Tube the river

River tubing is practically a state pastime in Wisconsin. As a veteran tuber I can tell you
a) have a separate, tiny tube for your cooler
b) wear way more sunscreen than you think you need
c) wear lace up shoes or strappy athletic sandals
There are heaps of tubing places; Wisconsin Riverside Resort is a personal favorite.
Honestly, I could probably write a 700-word love letter to each of these destinations and I doubt my editorial capabilities in describing them accurately. I will merely ask you “Have you ever felt like you wanted to live inside David Lynch’s brain?” If you just shouted “Yes!” at your computer screen, then you should plan visits to both of these places.
things to do in Wisconsin
things to do in Wisconsin

8. See a desert (!!!)

Did you know that Wisconsin has a desert? Because it does. Like, the kind with cacti and lizards and everything. I’ll spare you the geographic explanation for all those sand dunes, but know that it’s a fun little stop off in between all that cheese and beer.
What do you think is America’s most unsung travel destination? And if you’re from Wisconsin, what did I fail to mention?
images by wikipedia // wisconsin historical markers // THOR // Bob Familiar // Graeme Maclean // Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau // Bob Jagendorf // Evil Erin // Meredith Westin  // Milwaukee Art Museum

34 Comments

Lisa

Aw, seeing this made my day! What a perfect itinerary. I live in Madison, WI and love all of the above. Though I moved here almost 10 years ago it took me until this summer to splurge on the 2 hour Highlights Tour at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, and I'm so glad I finally did. Another must-see, only 5 min away from Taliesin, is Spring Green's American Player's Theater. The outdoor theater, surrounded by forest, is on top of a hill (so there is a little hike involved) and it's some of the best acting I've seen. They also have a cozy indoor theater for colder days, so you can go year round. Oh, and while you're in Spring Green make sure to visit Arcadia Books – besides books they also coffee drinks, wine and delicious food brought in from local restaurants (and sometimes you might even run into one of the actors :)). Thanks again for this beautiful roundup!

Reply
Lisa Sperling

Yes, yes! Definitely do (and bring a picnic too – there is a beautiful area where you can have your dinner before the play)! Abbigail, how fun to meet another Madisonian here 🙂

Reply
Manisha

I agree completely! I like to talk to geologist because every time I think of what I should have been I think I should have been a geologist. Anyway, many geologists I talk to say that while the grand canyon is interesting, it is Wisconsin that is the most fascinating place in the country. I live in Minneapolis but spend most of my weekend in north central Wisconsin. Every time my guy talks about taking a job somewhere else, I think I could maybe leave Minneapolis (although I would sobbing for the rest of my days), but I could never leave Wisconsin!

Reply
Anonymous

I am pretty sure that photograph is of Taliesin West, in Arizona, not the Taliesin I in WI.

Not that I'm an architecture nerd or anything – but I was in Arizona two years ago and visited the site.

Reply
Kate Johnson Metcalf

Oh my gosh. I say this exact thing to people all the time. Wisconsin is so underrated and wonderful. Most of my childhood vacations with my family were to Wisconsin and Minnesota, since that's where most of my family lives, and I adore going back whenever I get the chance. So lovely, so interesting, so perfect. Aside from consuming my weight in cheese (preferably curds so fresh they squeak!) I particularly enjoy going up to Bayfield and Madeline Island/the Apostle Islands. Kayaking around the islands, biking, visiting artists' studios, seeing some gorgeous foliage in the autumn, drinking at Tom's Burned Down Cafe (so dive-y!)… it's basically my dream vacation spot and will be until the day I die. 🙂

Reply
Abbigail Kriebs

Thank you, kind Minnesotan, for bridging the gap between our two fair states. 🙂 I love that you didn't visit the Dells and Lake Geneva and call it "Wisconsin," either. So many better places to visit to really get a taste of true Wisconsin living. You should now write a blog about "Places to visit in MN for Wisconsinites so that they Quit Hatin' on The State." I would like some suggestions. 🙂

Reply
Sarah Von Bargen

Ha! I love Redwing and Stillwater (great places to be a Lady and buy scented candles), a long weekend in Duluth is always wonderful, and (or course) I love the Brainerd Lakes area – but I grew up there, so I'm biased 😉

Reply
Rachel Ann

This is awesome. My family lived in Wisconsin for a little while when I was a kid (just outside of Milwalkee) and I remember loving it. We would go camping in the summer and swimming in Lake Michigan.

The only thing I can think of that you missed is The Dells? I haven't been there in a long time, and it's a bit touristy, but still fun. If I'm remembering right there's a gigantic water park somewhere around there called Noah's Ark that I loved as a kid.

Reply
saraholeson

This just about made me cry! I just moved to DC from Madison, WI and the homesickness has officially settled in. Wisconsin is so amazing, thanks for the fantastic recap 🙂

Reply
Kate

As a lifelong proud Wisconsinite, this makes me feel all happy and fuzzy. And although you're already my favorite blogger, you win extra points for your helpful tip about cheese curds. It sounds crazy but it truly breaks my heart when I see people buying refrigerated cheese curds at touristy cheese shops. It's just not the way to experience them.

Also, I love Minnesota–it's one of my favorite places to visit. It's nice that two such great states are right next to one another! 🙂

Reply
Megan

Being born in Minnesota and raised in Wisconsin, this makes me so happy! You were spot on about New Glarus (their beer-wine mashups are also soooo good, especially if you aren't a drinker!). I would only add the North Woods and Witches Gulch (in the WI Dells) to this list for the avid outdoors lovers… And Door County! But this was super well written and so true! Love the cheese curd tip too 🙂 I also went to school for earth science so the bluffs in La Crosse and areas like Devil's Lake State Park are so cool too me.

Again, this was awesome! Thank you 🙂

Reply
Antonija

I'm from Milwaukee, went to UW in Madison and lived in Viroqua for a short time. What a sweet, affectionate write-up of the best area of Wisconsin. Thanks!

Reply
Kati Rose

I'm from Minnesota too and I've always had that engrained "Ugh Wisconsin" mindset. Even though it's just across the border from me, I've only been there a handful of times and never really thought it was worth exploring. Your list made me realize I may have been mistaken about our neighbor to the East and there are more than a few things up my alley!

Reply
goprairie

Visit Mineral Point but also SHOP Mineral Point. The artists making the pottery and fiber art and paintings and wooden things cannot live on visits, but rely on SALES. When you go, think ahead to gift occasions and take a list and shop for people. Find unique and special holiday and anniversary and graduation and shower and wedding and birthday gifts and help support these artists that make the little towns have such character!

Reply
Andrea

I love your travel guide posts – thanks so much for this! Wisconsin has now skyrocketed up my to-visit list. You sold me on cheese 🙂

Reply
15 Ways To Catch Up With Friends That Aren't Grabbing Coffee Or A Cocktail - Noticias del dia de Hoy Noticias del dia de Hoy

[…] 7. Invite them on a long driveIt’s a scientific fact: time + car = bonding. Long car rides bring out the deep-and-meaningful conversations. Turn on the radio and reminisce about what was going on in your life when Wonderwall was popular. Pull over for weird roadside attractions or diners.  Stop and buy cheese curds and New Glarus as soon as you cross the border into Wisconsin. […]

Reply
15 Ways To Catch Up With Friends That Aren't Grabbing Coffee Or A Cocktail - I am Mumbai

[…] 7. Invite them on a long driveIt’s a scientific fact: time + car = bonding. Long car rides bring out the deep-and-meaningful conversations. Turn on the radio and reminisce about what was going on in your life when Wonderwall was popular. Pull over for weird roadside attractions or diners.  Stop and buy cheese curds and New Glarus as soon as you cross the border into Wisconsin. […]

Reply
Anonymous

I always cringe when I see dodgeville make these lists. That town is going down the drain and fast. In many areas including parks) you will more than likely find used drug needles laying around.

Anyway, what about devils lake, door county, the apostle islands? All beautiful places that make you feel like your in a whole different world.

Reply
Lisa

Great places to go: Old Wade House; high Cliff Park; the Domes in Milwaukee. So many, many places.

Reply
Michelle Stoffel

I have lived in Madison, WI for 2 years and just saw this post. I need to get me to House on the Rock SOON!

Reply

Leave a comment