As someone that originates from the UK, when it comes to USA tourism, we are only really ‘shown’ places like Orlando/Disney, New York, Vegas, The Grand Canyon, LA…the Midwest is relatively unknown so to speak. So when I moved to Iowa (20 minutes from the WI border), I was pleasantly surprised by Wisconsin as it was somewhere that had never really been on my radar before. In this post I share with you some of my favourite Wisconsin attractions that should be on your Wisconsin bucket list! Wisconsin is pretty well known for its love affair with cheese (and cheese curds) but as someone that hates the stuff, unfortunately you won’t find any cheese related things in this round up!
Disclosure: I have previously worked with some of the attractions and destinations mentioned in this post, however all opinions are 100% my own.
Things To Do In Wisconsin
The Dickeyville Grotto is like a smaller version of Iowa’s Grotto of Redemption. It consists of several different shrines that were built during the 1920’s by a German Catholic priest. The shrines are like giant mosaics, made with materials such as: shells, gems and colourful rocks, many of which were imported from Europe. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, even donated 100s of old fashioned car gear stick knobs (the little balls that sit on the top of the stick) that were used in some of the designs. You don’t need to be religious to enjoy the Grotto, I loved it for the artistic design!
The Grotto is free to visit (although donations are appreciated) and there is a small seasonal gift shop. You can read more about the Dickeyville Grotto in my blog post, where I talk about some of the different shrines in detail, which can be found here: Visiting The Dickeyville Grotto Wisconsin.
Mineral Point – Most Cornish Town In The USA
Maybe I’m a little bit biased because of this Wisconsin town’s connection to an area of the UK, but I love Mineral Point! Back in the 1800’s immigrants from Cornwall settled in Mineral Point to mine the area which was rich in lead and zinc. They built their houses in a similar style to those they had lived in back home, which gives the area a unique feel. You can go on a guided tour of some of the houses to see how the miners lived during these times (Pendarvis Wisconsin Historic Site).
Mineral Point celebrates its heritage once a year with the Cornish Fest, where you can eat Cornish food and discover Cornish traditions (The Red Rooster Cafe has a couple of traditional menu items year round). The downtown area is home to many art galleries and studios where you can buy unique one of a kind pieces. Shake Rag Alley hold various creative workshops and retreats throughout the year.
Find out more about Mineral Point here: The Best Things To Do In Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells – Waterpark Capital Of The World
I love a good adrenaline rush and the Wisconsin Dells is the perfect place to get your fix regardless of the time of the year! With both indoor and outdoor waterparks , you could go back multiple times and still not visit every one of them! I’ve only visited during the winter, so have yet to check out the outdoor parks, however my favourite indoor waterpark is the Kalahari, it has plenty of slides for adults as well as children!
The Wisconsin Dells is jam packed full of other attractions, not just waterparks! The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory is an interesting hands on science museum, WizardQuest is a fun interactive story based scavenger hunt, Pirates Cove Mini Golf has a total of 91 holes and there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the outdoors. Here is my guide for Tips And Things To Do In Wisconsin Dells For Adults!
Go & See A Waterski Display Team
There are waterski show teams all around the USA, but there is a particularly high concentration of them in Wisconsin! A couple of years back I saw the Rock Aqua Jays in Janesville. They perform twice a week during the summer season (weather permitting) and the shows are free to watch. Each year the shows have a different theme and the stunts they perform are awesome to see!
The Wisconsin Dells has the Tommy Bartlett show where the water-ski show team perform twice every day during the summer season. Adult general admission starts at $21.50.
Hike The Ice Age Trail
The Ice Age Trail is a 1200 mile ‘National Scenic Trail’ across Wisconsin. For those hardcore adventurers, you could plan on hiking the full length, but it’s also possible to break it up and just hike a small section. I checked out the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ section which runs alongside the Rock River in Janesville. I parked at the Riverside Park and then after a while just double backed, retracing my footsteps back along the trail, back to where I began. This section was an easy walk, slightly overgrown in a few places and with a couple of stairs to navigate. My highlight was seeing a large owl, sitting right next to the trail up in a tree!
Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour – Kenosha (Pleasant Prairie)
Kenosha has a whole host of museums and attractions (some of my favourites include the Southport Light Station Museum and the North Pier Lighthouse which houses a very small art gallery). But a fun and unique ‘museum’ is the Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour! The Kenosha location isn’t a working factory, it’s just a giant distribution warehouse. Jump aboard the Jelly Belly Express train and learn about the history of the company and how jelly beans are made. The tour and entrance to the warehouse is free AND you get free bag of Jelly Belly’s at the end PLUS you can try even more free samples at the Jelly Belly sample bar! Who doesn’t love free sweets?! There is a large gift shop though, so the chances are you’ll end up spending a fortune anyway!
Harley Davidson Museum – Milwaukee
Harley Davidson Motorcycles originated in Wisconsin and Milwaukee is home to the Harley Davidson Museum. The museum follows the history of the company, from the first motorbike being designed in a shed, right up to the global icon that the company has become! There is one of every bike ever made, spanning over 100 years. Even if you aren’t a biker, the museum is still interesting. 80% of visitors are actually non riders, so you’re not alone! There are several different exhibits, including a bike that was found in a shipping container washed up after a tsunami, it was interesting to see how the salt water had corroded the bike. And of course you can sit on some of the bikes too!
On My Bucket List
House On The Rock – Spring Green
I honestly don’t know how to explain what the House On The Rock is. It’s like a museum mixed with a crazy collection of STUFF. There’s a massive indoor carousel, an infinity room, collections of doll houses, miniature circus’, an outdoor Japanese Garden and a whole bunch of other things! At Christmas time they have a room with over 6000 Santa models (although I’m not sure if that would be a little creepy!), but other sections of the house are closed while this exhibit is on display!
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
(Photo Credit: Travel Wisconsin CVB)
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is in the far north of the state, in Lake Superior (most of Wisconsin’s ‘coast’ is on Lake Michigan). There are various rock formations and ‘sea caves’ which can be reached via a hiking trail or another popular option is to kayak to them or take a boat trip. From looking at photos, I’d imagine that the best views of the caves are from the water.
Devil’s Lake State Park – Baraboo
(Photo Credit: Travel Wisconsin CVB)
Devil’s Lake State Park also sits along part of the National Ice Age Trail. There are 29 miles of trails, some of which go high up onto the bluffs and cliff faces that tower over Devil’s Lake. I really like the look of the Balanced Rock Trail, the Devil’s Doorway Trail (featured in the photo above) and the Potholes Trail. Typically most of these trails are listed as difficult and include lots of stone steps and narrow pathways! The trails can become slippery and dangerous during the winter so it’s probably best to visit during the summer if you plan on tackling the difficult trails! Other summer activities include: swimming, boating and fishing.
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