So, you’re looking for things to do in Wisconsin? While some might only know the state for cheese, snow, and the Packers, there’s a lot more to Wisconsin than meets the eye. There are plenty of well-known sights, along with some hidden gems. From beautiful landscapes to peculiar tourist attractions, the Badger State has it all! Whether you’re a Wisconsinite or just a visitor, here are 15 popular attractions that you should consider checking out.
#1 – Wisconsin Dells
The Wisconsin Dells is easily the biggest tourist destination in Wisconsin, and with good reason. Not only is it known as the “Water Park Capital of the World” but it also has an assortment of activities for all ages. From kid-friendly hotels to campgrounds, you can choose the perfect vacation for you when visiting the Dells.
Ziplining, museums, and theaters are just some of the many attractions you can choose from. Not to mention the variety of restaurants available. This destination is best in the summer since many events are seasonal, but some places operate year-round.
#2 – Door County
While the Dells is for busy families who love some adventure, Door County is one of the best things to do in Wisconsin if you’re looking for relaxation. It’s a peaceful location along the water, between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island.
It’s an ideal spot for outdoor activities, including swimming, hiking, and sailing. Door County is full of charming sights, including a lighthouse, historical structures, and the country’s oldest Icelandic settlement. This location is much more easygoing and relaxing, but equally as fun as the other attractions.
#3 – Summerfest
Summerfest, also known as the “Largest Musical Festival in the World”, is an annual festival that takes place throughout a few weeks of the summer in Milwaukee. It has been going on since 1968, and in recent years, it’s hosted over 800 different musical artists. Some of the bigger acts perform one the big stages at night while newer artists occupy the smaller stages throughout the day.
But Summerfest is about more than just music. Over 800,000 people attend to eat, shop, and get beautiful views of Lake Michigan, all while listening to their favorite artists. It’s a popular social event, and it’s every music lover’s dream come true.
#4 – Cave of the Mounds
Cave of the Mounds in Dane County, Wisconsin is one of the most beautiful tours that Wisconsin has to offer. It’s a natural limestone cave found near Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. Its beautiful sights have earned it the name, “the jewel box” of caves in North America. But make sure to pack layers even in summer because it can be fairly chilly underground.
This cave was accidentally discovered by quarry workers in 1939, and it opened to the public in 1940. The natural crystal formations and eerie lighting have made this a popular destination for years. Above ground, there are lots of other paths and gardens to explore near Cave of the Mounds. So, it’s the perfect nature adventure.
#5 – Milwaukee Art Museum
If you’re driving near Lake Michigan, it’s impossible to miss the Milwaukee Art Museum. The gorgeous winged structure sits along the water, with a massive window facing out at the sights. There’s even a path along the water for walking and biking on a nice day. If you’re an art fanatic, this location should be on your vacation bucket list.
The Milwaukee Art Museum holds over 35,000 artworks and four floors to visit. The pieces vary from ancient works to modern art. In addition to a museum, the artistic pavilion also houses events, a cafe, and temporary exhibits. In fact, the building itself could be classified as a work of art.
#6 – Wisconsin State Capitol
While on the topic of beautiful buildings, check out the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison. Madison itself is a fun city to visit with waterfront views and an exciting college campus. But you can’t visit this city without at least walking past the Capitol. It’s the tallest building is Madison, surrounded by Capitol Square. It houses all three branches of government and has been well preserved to ensure that none of the nearby buildings surpass its elegance.
The current building is the third Wisconsin Capitol building. The first was rebuilt for more space while the second burned down. This current structure is full of designs unique to the state, including badger statues inside and fossils in the stone of the building’s interior. The public is free to access this historical structure as they please, but many tours are also conducted, showing areas that are normally closed off.
#7 – Wisconsin Great River Road
Are you the type of person always looking for a road trip? The Wisconsin Great River Road has the most scenic view of the state. The road stretches for 250 miles and touches 33 cities along the way. It passes through mesmerizing lake views, unique rock formations, and historical towns. It’s great for outdoor adventurers since there are plenty of locations to fish, camp, and hike nearby.
This is the perfect opportunity to listen to your favorite playlist or chat with your close friends and family. It might not be the ideal trip for those who love to be on their feet, but sometimes it’s a good idea to stray off the main roads for a change.
#8 – AirVenture Show and Museum
The EAA AirVenture museum in Oshkosh is a great way to look at historical aircraft and fascinating facts. It has indoor and outdoor exhibits that include over 250 planes and five museums. In the summer, it even has a tram that travels to the nearby Pioneer Airport to show you a demonstration of what air travel used to be like.
While the museum itself is plenty interesting, most families are more fascinated by the AirVenture show at the Wittman Regional Airport. It’s a celebration that usually takes place at the end of July. During this one-of-a-kind show, thousands of aircrafts take flight, with about half a million people gathering to watch.
#9 – Harley-Davidson Museum and Factory
Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson Museum is a must-see for riders and anyone with a motorcycle fascination. It holds over 450 classic motorcycles since Milwaukee is where the brand was born. The museum tells the story of how these motorcycles were first created in 1903 and how they developed over time. It even has some interactive displays so visitors can experience gear tinkering for themselves.
Not far from the museum is the Harley-Davidson factory in Menomonee Falls. It’s about 20 minutes away from Milwaukee, but if you’re itching for more motorcycle knowledge, this can be another exciting stop. The factory runs tours so people can learn how these iconic motorcycles are created.
#10 – Olbrich Botanical Gardens
For those visiting the Wisconsin State Capitol, there are plenty of other stunning sights in Madison. Olbrich Botanical Gardens is one of the many scenic attractions in the area. It’s one of the best things to do in Wisconsin during summertime since it has 16 acres of outdoor gardens. It includes a rose garden, herb garden, and a Thai pavilion.
In total, the place is divided into seven sections, each with unique flowers and sculptures. It’s a relaxing getaway, and many like to spend the whole day there just to get a break from everyday life. Botanical gardens are often the perfect fairy tale vacation, and perfect for those seeking a simple activity.
#11 – Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva is considered a resort destination in southeastern Wisconsin. It has an adorable downtown area with lots of shopping and dining. Close by, there’s a gorgeous lake with a public beach area. It’s an ideal destination for summer days, especially if you’re planning to rent a boat or have a picnic. Even just walking around is an excellent way to spend the day since there are many elegant homes nearby and trails to explore.
One of the most notable parts of Lake Geneva is the Geneva Lake Shore Path, which wraps around the entire lake. It’s a 26-mile path that crosses through the area’s lovely estates. It would take about 8 to 10 hours to complete the path in its entirety, but there are public bathrooms along the way. Many people walk it in multiple trips since bikes and scooters are not permitted due to its bumpy surfaces. For active families, this could be a fun adventure to take on with lots of sights along the way.
#12 – Devil’s Lake
Like the Geneva Lake Shore Path, Devil’s Lake is another great destination for hiking and exploring. It’s located in Baraboo, Wisconsin near the Wisconsin Dells. It’s a 9,000-acre park with trails that go up into its many rock formations. From the top of the hills, you can see beautiful nature sights, including the water and surrounding hills. Dedicated rock climbers even use this as a climbing spot.
There’s plenty to explore during this outdoor adventure, and many visitors choose to camp at the park too. It also has other activities for all ages, including a Nature Center, beaches, and boat rentals. This is a great summer adventure for those feeling adventurous, unless you happen to be afraid of heights.
#13 – House on the Rock
House on the Rock isn’t for everyone, but if you live in Wisconsin, you might as well check it out once. This bizarre attraction is located between Dodgeville and Spring Green, and the unique structures and collections were designed by Alex Jordan Jr. Most of this event is inside, but there are also some beautiful gardens outside if you visit in the summer.
This attraction is split into three parts. The first one is a house built on a giant rock, with lots of twists and turns and peculiar styles. Then, the other areas showcase massive collections and designs, which leave a lot of guests confused. There’s no doubting that it’s an odd place to visit, but sometimes weird things are the most entertaining. If you’re looking for something fun, but very different from your typical nature views, then this is the place for you.
#14 – National Railroad Museum
In Wisconsin, you can learn about planes, motorcycles, and even trains! The National Railroad museum in Ashwaubenon is one of the oldest U.S. institutions dedicated to railroads. It has over a century of railroad history and contains some of the largest steam locomotives. Of course, you can even take a train ride during your visit.
The museum contains a movie on locomotives, along with both indoor and outdoor exhibits. During Halloween, they even host a special event, which is a haunted train ride at night. People of all ages can find something to enjoy at this historical attraction.
#15 – Kohler
For those still looking for the most relaxing things to do in Wisconsin, the town of Kohler should be at the top of your list. It’s a quiet village of only 2,000 people, and it’s located in Sheboygan County along the Sheboygan River. It might not have water parks or roller coasters, but it’s a resort getaway that many adults need.
Kohler has plenty of luxurious hotels, where you can pamper yourself. You can also spend your time in the village shopping, golfing, or admiring art displays. It won’t be a wild vacation, but it’s the peaceful destination that many people are looking for.
No matter what vacation you’re looking for, Wisconsin has it all! Even for Wisconsin residents, there are plenty of unique things to do that will keep things exciting. So, if you haven’t tried all 15 of these attractions yet, what are you waiting for?