(Photo credit: Travel Wisconsin)
Our family has five travel goals. In a prior post I talk in depth about one of those five goals, including about why we chose Midwest travel (in our own “backyard”) as a family travel goal. This post is part of a series of posts on our family’s bucket list destinations for each state in the Midwest. This post is focused things we would like to see and do in one of the closest states to us here in Minnesota: Wisconsin.
To see our progress on our travel goals and read about many of our travel destinations, you can look here. To get more bucket list ideas for your family, you can read our list of family travel bucket list ideas.
Where We’ve Visited
Considering how close we live to Wisconsin, it’s a shame we haven’t spent more time exploring there as a family. Most of what we’ve seen is either right over the Minnesota border or along I-94 and I-90, as we used to drive through Wisconsin often to get to Indiana.
If you are a family in the upper Midwest, there is a decent chance you have made a pilgrimage to the Wisconsin Dells area. Our family is no exception. We spent a long weekend there when our kids were younger, and we had a great time! While we spent a lot of time in our resort, we did venture out to the downtown area. It was too cold to experience the Original Wisconsin Ducks boat tours, unfortunately.
Further north, my husband and I spent a Memorial Day weekend in the beautiful Apostle Islands National Lakeshore over 20 years ago. Recently our son camped there for Boy Scouts (and loved it as much as we did). My featured photo above is taken at the Apostle Islands. (Photo credit: Travel Wisconsin)
But overall, there’s a lot of work for us to do to get a good taste of the Badger State.
Where We’d Like to Go
National Parks and Scenic Vistas
National Park Areas: Our family loves seeing national parks and scenic vistas. While Wisconsin doesn’t have any national parks, it does have a National Lakeshore (Apostle Islands) along the south shore of Lake Superior, two National Trails (Ice Age and North Country) and the St. Croix Scenic Riverway. I would love for us to get to the Apostle Islands as a family, as it’s a gorgeous area along Lake Superior’s south shore.
Mississippi River Bluffs: Another naturally beautiful area of Wisconsin is along the Mississippi River. While my husband and I explored some of the charming small towns on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi many years ago, we would love to do more of that with our kids.
Lake Michigan: In addition, Wisconsin is also lucky enough to border Lake Michigan! What an embarrassment of riches. I have spent a little time in Oconomowoc for work many years ago, and our family recently saw Lake Michigan from Chicago. I would love to see Lake Michigan as a family from the Wisconsin side.
Door County: A final beautiful place I have heard so much about and really want to see is Door County. So much shoreline, charm, and natural beauty! One activity I’ve come across that sounds really fun is Door County Kayak Tours. My husband and I haven’t kayaked before, but our kids and my husband’s family all love it. It would be a great way to see the Door County shoreline from the water!
Oshkosh Air Show: Over the years I have heard so much about the Oshkosh Air Show. Billed as “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” the air show, which is held in July, hosts fascinating and thrilling airplane feats. I think it would be fascinating to watch.
House on the Rock: Another quirky attraction I’m interested in seeing with my family is House on the Rock. I remember going there as a kid and being fascinated by the variety of collections found in this eccentric home. I’d love to see my kids’ reactions to it. I think the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, also located in Spring Green, would also be fascinating.
Madison: The capital of Wisconsin is a lively city, full of character and Badger pride. I spent a little time in Madison for work in the past, and I think our family would enjoy wandering State Street and spending time on their lovely lakes, Mendota and Monona.
Our family has a travel goal of experiencing as many zip lines as possible. Most (but not all) of Wisconsin’s zip line opportunities seem to be centered on the Wisconsin Dells and Door County areas, which probably means they have fantastic scenery. Travel Wisconsin and Trip Advisor each have a great summary of Wisconsin zip line opportunities. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Trollhaugen Zip Line Park, Dresser: This one is close to where we live, maybe an hour from the Twin Cities at the Trollhaugen Ski Resort. The reviews look excellent, so we’re game. 🙂
Northwoods Zip Line Adventure Tour, Minoqua: Set in beautiful northern Wisconsin, this adventure area has so much more to do than just zip lines. They also have a ropes course, kayaking, ATV tours, a kids ropes course (good for families with smaller kids), and cabin rentals.
Lake Geneva Canopy Tours: As pictured above, this zipline looks like it has a lot of fun features. It’s located east of Janesville in southeastern Wisconsin.
Advice from Wisconsin Lovers
As part of my research, I reached out to some Wisconsin-loving travel bloggers to get their ideas of more off-beat or lesser-known Wisconsin attractions. Here’s what they said.
Al Ringling Mansion, Baraboo
From Cindy Ladage, Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl
The Al Ringling Mansion offers a wonderful history of Al Ringling, the oldest of the Ringling Brothers. He lived in this home with his wife and sister. He home is open for tours, and you can learn more about it at http://alringlingmansion.com/about-the-mansion.
Wausau and Marathon County
From Chelsey Knuth, The Wisconsinista
The Greater Wausau Area in Central Wisconsin offers everything from breathtaking natural outlooks to quirky landmarks to a beautiful downtown. Some of its most notable attractions include Rib Mountain State Park and the adjacent Granite Peak Ski Area, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, and the world’s only accessible 45×90 Geographical Marker in nearby Poniatowski!
Joan of Arc Chapel, Marquette University in Milwaukee
From Sage Scott, Everyday Wanderer
Regardless of your faith, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to step inside the medieval French Chapel on the Marquette University Campus in Milwaukee. Here is the incredible story of how the 500-year-old Joan of Arc Chapel ended up in Wisconsin. https://everydaywanderer.com/joan-of-arc-chapel
Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron, Freedom
From Kovas Palubinskas, Midwest Basecamp
Less than 10 miles from the family friendly Devil’s Lake is a lesser-known destination that deserves a visit. Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron is a scrap yard/sculpture gallery with fantastical artworks that all ages will enjoy. With pieces ranging from small creatures to the bigger-than-a-house Forevertron, it’s easy to get immersed in this fantasy world. https://midwestbasecamp.com/dr-evermors-forevertron-wi/
Amnicon Falls State Park, South Range, Freedom
From Kovas Palubinskas, Midwest Basecamp
Tucked away in Wisconsin’s Northeast corner, Amnicon Falls State Park is the perfect accompaniment to a visit to the Apostle Island’s National Lakeshore. With four named waterfalls plus plenty of smaller ones, a nature trail, picnic shelters, and a playground, it’s an ideal family destination or for those of us who chase waterfalls. https://midwestbasecamp.com/amnicon-falls-state-park-south-range-wisconsin/
This post doesn’t scratch the surface of all there is to see and do in beautiful Wisconsin. I guess we better get busy!
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