The Ultimate Wisconsin Travel Guide

The Ultimate Wisconsin Travel Guide

Ultimate Wisconsin Travel Guide

Wisconsin: Bordered by Lake Michigan on the east and Lake Superior on the north, Wisconsin is home to several miles of stunning shoreline lined with historical lighthouses, sea caves, and unparalleled coastal vistas! However, the list of attractions continues beyond its coastal views, including several museums, waterfalls, gorgeous lakes, sandstone rock formations, theme parks, and more. Here is my Wisconsin travel guide outlining all Wisconsin attractions!

To make it easy for you to navigate the content, I have organized my Wisconsin travel guide into two sections. (1) A brief introduction to Wisconsin, a little history, some geography, commute, and weather. (2) Major Wisconsin attractions, if you wish, you can skip the introduction and move on to the next section, Wisconsin Attractions

History: Wisconsin was admitted to the union as the 30th state on May 29, 1848. Wisconsin was named after the Wisconsin River, Wisconsin means “grassy place” in the Chippewa language. The state got its nickname, the Badger State, from the lead miners, who dug hillside tunnels and sometimes lived in them to save time and resources, which reminded people of the burrowing badger. Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of dairy products.

Geography: Minnesota and Michigan border Wisconsin n the north. Illinois on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, and the west by Minnesota and Iowa. It’s said that thousands of years ago, Wisconsin was visited by glaciers that left behind rich earth deposits and beautiful lakes.

Getting There

Flight: Milwaukee – General Mitchell Intl. Airport (MKE) and Madison – Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) are the major airports in Wisconsin.

Drive: If you live in any of the neighboring states you could drive to Wisconsin, you could even take a ferry from Michigan.

Train: Amtrak offers a couple of rail services (1) Hiawatha connecting – Milwaukee and (2) Empire Builder connecting – Chicago, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Spokane, and Portland/Seattle, stopping at – Columbus, WI (CBS), Portage, WI (POG), Wisconsin Dells, WI (WDL), Tomah, WI (TOH) and La Crosse, WI (LSE).

Wisconsin-Know-Before-You-Go

Climate: Summers are comfortable in Wisconsin, with average temperatures below 90°F. Winters are cold, snowy, and temperatures around -30°F. Early spring is cold and rainy, while late fall feels chilly, mid-autumn is very attractive due to the beautiful fall foliage drawing a lot of visitors. Check current weather conditions in Wisconsin.

Time zone: Central Daylight Time UTC-5

Getting around: I highly recommend renting a car, but there are some regional and intercity bus rail services – Train: Amtrak and Metra, Busses: Indian Trails, Lamers, Greyhound, Badger, Megabus, Ferry: SS Badger, Lake Express and Lake Michigan Car.

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Things To Do in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Attractions Map

Wisconsin Attractions Map

Wisconsin, bordered by Lake Michigan on the east and Lake Superior on the north, is home to several miles of stunning shoreline featuring some of the nation’s most spectacular sea caves, lighthouses, and lake vistas. However, the list continues beyond what coastal Wisconsin has to offer, as mainland Wisconsin is equally fascinating, with varying landscapes and man-made spectacles, including lovely waterfalls, gorgeous lakes, museums, theme parks, and more.

The attractions in Wisconsin are scattered throughout the state, with Southeastern Wisconsin popularly known for famous museums in Milwaukee, Northeastern Wisconsin famed for its many lighthouses and lake vistas, Northern Wisconsin boasting a rugged coastline featuring stunning sea caves, and Southern Wisconsin known for its many attractions near Wisconsin Dells. 

Here’re the must-see places in Wisconsin, starting at Southeastern Wisconsin, followed by attractions in Northeastern Wisconsin, Northern Wisconsin, and Southern Wisconsin, traversing the state in an anti-clockwise direction!

Wind Point Lighthouse

Windpoint Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Wind Point Lighthouse

Located in Southeastern Wisconsin, Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest operational lighthouses of the Great Lakes, which has been guarding the Racine Harbor since it was first lit in the 1880s. The lighthouse features a museum and gift shop and offers seasonal tower climb tours during the summer months.

Harley-Davidson Museum

Harley-Davidson Museum

Whether or not you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, a trip to Harley-Davidson Museum will surely make you one! The vast campus features the Harley-Davidson museum, Motor Bar & Restaurant, H-D shop, & H-D Outlet. The H-D Museum offers several exhibits, including the Engine Room, Harley Davison Journey, Tank Wall, Motorcycle Galleries, & more.

Harley-Davidson Museum | Wisconsin

Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse

Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse

Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse, an iconic red steel light tower in downtown Milwaukee, Southeastern Wisconsin, is an active lighthouse aiding maritime navigation since established in 1872. The interior of the light tower is inaccessible but offers a small pier with distant views of the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse and onsite parking.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum, an iconic architectural landmark of downtown Milwaukee, featuring a massive collection of artwork from all around the globe in its three buildings – War Memorial Center, Quadracci Pavilion, and Cudahy Gardens, designed by world-renowned architects, is a must-see on a trip to Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Art Museum | Wisconsin

North Point Lighthouse

North Point Lighthouse | Wisconsin

North Point Lighthouse

Marking the entrance of the Milwaukee River in Lake Park, southeast Milwaukee, North Point Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse on Lake Michigan with a 74-foot tall light tower & attached Queen Anne-style Keeper’s Quarters that served as a navigational aid from 1855 – 1994 and now operates as a museum offering tours & several exhibits.

Port Washington Lighthouse

Port Washington Lighthouse

Port Washington Lighthouse is an art deco lighthouse, also home to the historical society museum, located on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in Port Washington. The first light station at the location was constructed in 1839 and was later replaced with the current structure in 1860, followed by two pierhead breakwater lights in 1888. 

Port Washington Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Manitowoc North Breakwater Lighthouse

Manitowoc North Breakwater Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Manitowoc North Breakwater Lighthouse

The gorgeous Manitowoc North Breakwater Light in Northeastern Wisconsin, built in 1918, is a 52-foot tall multi-story & multi-purpose white steel frame lighthouse at the end of a 400-foot breakwater, whose basement served as a boathouse, the first story as a power room, the second story as keeper’s quarters, & the top still houses the light.

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, showcases the rich maritime history of the Great Lakes & Wisconsin via its several indoor & outdoor exhibits, including Maritime History Gallery displaying several historic vessels, the Engine Room showcasing marine engines, USS Cobia Below the Surface experience & many others.

Wisconsin Maritime Museum | Wisconsin

Maribel Caves Park

Maribel Caves Park Wisconsin

Maribel Caves Park

Shaped by glacial activity & varying climate conditions, the Cherney Maribel Caves Park in Maribel, Northeastern Wisconsin, features several caves, including New Hope Cave & Tartarus Cave which are accessible only via guided tours, and Pancake Cave, Cooper’s Cave, & Cave of Treasures which are open to the public during park hours.

Rawley Point Lighthouse

Rawley Point Lighthouse

Located in Point Beach State Forest, Northeastern Wisconsin, Rawley Point Lighthouse was first constructed in 1853 and later replaced in 1894 with an octagonal skeletal light tower measuring 113 feet tall, making it the tallest lighthouse in Wisconsin. The lighthouse is not accessible, but Point Beach offers a trail with stunning views of the lighthouse.

Rawley Point Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Marking the entrance to Kewaunee on Lake Michigan, Kewaunee Lighthouse, constructed in 1931, is a concrete square tower with a white exterior & red roof with the backdrop of a deep blue lake is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Wisconsin. The lighthouse can be seen from Harbor Park in Kewaunee and offers seasonal tours.

Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse

Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse

The Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse also referred to as the Algoma Light, is Algoma City’s iconic red 42-foot tall steel pierhead lighthouse that was originally built in 1983 and later replaced with the current structure in 1908. The interior is not accessible, but the light tower can be seen from the adjacent Crescent Beach & Boardwalk.

Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse Wisconsin

Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouses

Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouses | Wisconsin

Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouses

Sturgeon Bay is home to two iconic lighthouses marking the Sturgeon Bay & Lake Michigan ship canal entrance. The bright-red Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light, built in 1881, and Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower, a white cylindrical steel tower built in 1899, operated by the US Coast Guard and can be seen from outside.

Cave Point - Clay Banks

Cave Point – Clay Banks

Located in Sturgeon Bay, in Northeastern Wisconsin, along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline, Cave Point – Clay Banks is a natural coastal wetland and forest area featuring a stunning rugged coastline with several outstanding rock formations, sea cliffs, caves, dunes, old-growth trees, and several miles of hiking trails.

Cave Point Clay Banks Sturgeon Bay | Wisconsin

Baileys Harbor Lighthouses

Baileys Harbor Lighthouses | Wisconsin

Baileys Harbor Lighthouses

Baileys Harbor in Door County is home to two lighthouses – Baileys Harbor Upper Range Light which has an attached keeper’s quarters, and Baileys Harbor Lower Range Light, connected via a wooden 950-foot boardwalk, built in 1869 to aid ships carrying lumbar safely cross the harbor when the lumbar industry was in boom.

Cana Island Lighthouse

Cana Island Lighthouse

Cana Island Lighthouse, Door County’s most iconic lighthouse located on Cana Island in Baileys Harbor, which is connected to the mainland only via a causeway, has been watching over the shores of Lake Michigan since 1869. The lighthouse offers haywagon rides and seasonal self-guided tours of the light tower, keeper’s quarters, and oil house.

Cana Island Lighthouse Wisconsin

Port des Morts Park

Port des Morts Park Wisconsin

Port des Morts Park

One of Door County’s hidden gems, Port des Morts Park in Ellison Bay, offers stunning views of Death’s Door – a maritime passageway between the mainland and Pilot, Plum, Detroit, and Washington Islands, known for its several shipwrecks. The Park also offers distant views of Plum Island lighthouses and a staircase providing access to the shore.

Door County Curvy Highway

Door County Curvy Highway

Known for its several twists & turns, Door County’s Curvy Highway, Highway 42 between Timberline Road & Ports des Morts Drive, is a fun drive and makes a tremendous photo destination! The curvy design has no official reason; some say the road was built around utility poles, and some believe architect Jens Jensen intentionally designed it.

Door County Curvy Highway | Wisconsin

Death's Door Maritime Museum

Death's Door Maritime Museum | Northern Wisconsin

Death’s Door Maritime Museum

The Door County Maritime Museum operates in three locations in Northeastern Wisconsin, including Cana Island Lighthouse in Baileys Harbor, Sturgeon Bay, and Gills Rock. The Door County Maritime Museum at Gills Rock offers several exhibits and artifacts related to the area’s fishing heritage and infamous shipwrecks of “Death’s Door.”

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

Located in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse overlooking the blue waters of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay and has been operational since 1868. The lighthouse is maintained & operated by the Door County Historical Society, which offers seasonal tours from mid-May through mid-Oct.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Sherwood Point Lighthouse Wisconsin

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Sherwood Point Lighthouse is a very charming lighthouse overlooking Green Bay in Nasewaupee, Northeastern Wisconsin. However, unlike other lighthouses, Sherwood Point Lighthouse is not accessible to the public. You can only see it from the road and photograph it using a telephoto lens, as you cannot go anywhere close to the lighthouse.

Wequiock Falls

Wequiock Falls

Wequiock Falls is a seasonal waterfall of the Wequiock Creek, which plunges down a Niagara Escarpment rock formation located in Wequiock Falls Park in Brown County, Northeastern Wisconsin. The waterfall is at its best during spring, and in winter, it forms stunning icicles, but the water flow significantly reduces during summer.

Wequiock Falls | Wisconsin

Neenah Lighthouse

Kimberly Point Neenah Lighthouse Wisconsin

Neenah / Kimberly Point Lighthouse

Located on the shores of Lake Winnebago in Kimberly Point Park on Lakeshore Ave, Neenah, Northeastern Wisconsin, Neenah Lighthouse was built in 1945 and is also known as Kimberly Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse isn’t open to the public but can be seen from outside and features a deck, picnic tables, and restrooms.

Asylum Point Lighthouse

Asylum Point Lighthouse

Situated on a small island on the shores of Lake Winnebago, Oshkosh, and connected to the mainland via a wooden bridge, the Asylum Point Light is a charming light tower built in 1937. The name “Asylum” stems from the area’s mental health facility, initially named “Asylum for the Insane,” later renamed to Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

Asylum Point Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Bray's Point Lighthouse

Brays Point Lighthouse Wisconsin

Bray’s Point Lighthouse

The Bray’s Point Lighthouse is a privately owned lighthouse constructed by the former Wisconsin State Senator, William Bray, who failed to convince the government of the need for a lighthouse in the area. With the help of his architect friend, George Andrews Rockwell, Bray completed the construction of the light tower in 1909.

Lakeside Park Lighthouse

Lakeside Park Lighthouse

Located in Lakeside Park, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the Lakeside Park Lighthouse, also often referred to as the Fond du Lac Light, was built on the shores of Lake Winnebago in the year 1933. The light tower features a top deck accessible via a wooden staircase, offering stunning views of Lake Winnebago and Lakeside Park.

Lakeside Park Lighthouse Fond du Lac Light Wisconsin

Wisconsin Concrete Park

Fred Smiths Wisconsin Concrete Park

Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park

One of the hidden gems of Wisconsin, Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park, located in Phillips, Northern Wisconsin, features a massive collection of lifesize concrete sculptures depicting people, animals, different cultures, and history, created by Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack and self-taught artist between 1948 and 1964.

Ashland Mural Walk

Ashland Mural Walk

The eight-block Main Street Business District in Ashland, Northern Wisconsin, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its Ashland Mural Walk, featuring over 20 murals created by artists Kelly Meredith and Sue Martinsen. The vibrant murals depict storefronts, buildings, nature, and people from different walks of life.

Ashland Mural Walk North Wisconsin

Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center | Northern Wisconsin

Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, a couple of miles west of Ashland, just off US HWY 2 in Northern Wisconsin, is a visitor center & natural history museum offering visitor information & insights into the local history & culture of the Northern Great Lakes Region through its several exhibits & Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

Apostle Islands Cruises

Apostle Islands Cruises

The crown jewel of Northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands, an archipelago of 22 islands in Lake Superior, featuring unparalleled rocky shoreline lined with sea caves, beaches, sandstone cliffs, & lighthouses, is a must-see in Wisconsin! Apostle Islands Cruises offers a few great tours & excursions of the islands during the summer months.

Apostle Islands Cruises | Wisconsin

Superior Entry Lighthouse

Superior Entry Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Superior Entry Lighthouse

The Superior Entry Lighthouse and the nearby beaches of Wisconsin Point are popular destinations in Northern Wisconsin! Wisconsin Point is located on the world’s longest freshwater sandbar measuring about 10 miles, one half of which is in Wisconsin, known as Wisconsin Point, and the other half is in Minnesota, called Minnesota Point.

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells, named after the Wisconsin River “Dale,” which means “Valley,” in Southern Wisconsin, is home to several waterparks, state parks, & tourist attractions, making it the most happening city in Wisconsin! However, the city’s main attraction is its awe-inspiring sandstone formations, best experienced via Dells Boat Tours

Wisconsin Dells | Wisconsin

Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake State Park | Wisconsin

Mirror Lake State Park

Named after its tranquil and reflective waters of Mirror Lake, Mirror Lake State Park is a Southern Wisconsin State Park located in the Wisconsin Dells region in Baraboo and is a popular spot for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts seeking peaceful woodland camping and picnic experience away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Circus World

Circus World

Circus World, located in Water Street, Baraboo, Southern Wisconsin, is the original home of the Ringling Bros. Circus, which today is a historic site and museum complex depicting the fascinating history and heritage of several American circuses through its several exhibits, artifacts, and even an actual performance in its famous “Big Top Tent.”

Circus World | Southern Wisconsin

Devil 's Lake State Park

Devil's Lake State Park | Wisconsin

Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake State Park, in Baraboo, Southern Wisconsin, named after its 360-acre Devil’s Lake, featuring several miles of hiking trails, towering bluffs, spectacular rock formations, glistening beaches, picnic areas, camping sites, rock climbing, and water sports, is the most popular and visited State Park in the State of Wisconsin.

Taliesin

Taliesin

Taliesin, a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Spring Green, Southern Wisconsin, is the estate of the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Taliesin offers several seasonal guided tours of the estate and the gardens, featuring several of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legendary architectural works.

Taliesin | Wisconsin

The House on the Rock

The House on the Rock | Wisconsin

The House on the Rock

Built atop a chimney of rock in Southern Wisconsin, The House on the Rock is Alex Jordan’s dream estate, built in 1960, featuring several galleries & sections filled with awe-inspiring collectibles, including Tribute to Nostalgia, Sculpture Garden, Asian Garden, The Carousel, Infinity Room, & several others. 

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Planning Your Trip To Wisconsin

Manitowoc North Breakwater Lighthouse | Wisconsin

Visiting outside the winter & early spring months, spending a minimum of two weeks or breaking down your Wisconsin trip into multiple visits, and staying close to the attractions is the best way to explore Wisconsin!

As you have seen above in my Wisconsin attractions list, Wisconsin is home to a plethora of breathtaking vistas spread all over the state, primarily in its Southeastern, Northeastern, Northern, and Southern regions. Moreover, every attraction is so charming and unique that picking one over the other becomes very difficult. If you can’t see all that Wisconsin has to offer in a single trip, I recommend breaking down your Wisconsin trip into multiple visits, covering one or two regions of Wisconsin at a time. 

Best Time To Visit Wisconsin: While Wisconsin is a year-round destination, it receives a good amount of snowfall in winter, turning it into a winter wonderland, limiting your recreational activities to winter sports, exploring ice caves, and a few great indoor activities. If you are primarily visiting for sightseeing and outdoor activities, you should visit Wisconsin in the summer and fall months. Fall, especially mid-September through mid-October, is the best time to see fall colors in Wisconsin.

Time Required In Wisconsin: With several remarkable experiences and attractions in Wisconsin spread across its Southeastern, Northeastern, Northern, and Southern regions, and considering the long drives between these regions, I highly recommend spending at least two weeks to see all that Wisconsin has to offer. Or divide your Wisconsin trip into multiple visits, exploring one region of Wisconsin at a time. No matter how you plan your trip, I recommend spending a minimum of two days in Southeastern Wisconsin, five days in Northeastern Wisconsin, three days in Northern Wisconsin, and four days in Southern Wisconsin. 

Hotels In Wisconsin: While camping and vacation rentals are available in several parts of Wisconsin, but if you’re like me and prefer the comfort and convenience of a hotel room, here are my top picks for hotels in the Southeastern, Northeastern, Northern, and Southern regions of Wisconsin –

Restaurants In Wisconsin: While there are plenty of food choices and various restaurants in “America’s Dairyland,” here are a few restaurants and Wisconsin delicacies you must try on your trip to Wisconsin – Obviously Wisconsin cheeses & dairy items – Fried Cheese Curds, Wisconsin Cheese available in several places, but if time permits do visit the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Frozen Custard at Kopp’s Frozen Custard in Greenfield, Brookfield, or Glendale, Kringle – official Wisconsin State Pastry at any bakery throughout the state, and finally Wisconsin’s Original Butter Burger at Solly’s Grille, Milwaukee.

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Featured Posts From The Blog

Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouses | Wisconsin

I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Wisconsin Travel Guide, and I hope it will help you plan your trip to Wisconsin. You can find other US attractions and destinations in my USA Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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2 comments

Supraja August 9, 2023 - 8:32 am

Thank you for this ultimate Wisconsin travel guide, Shreyashi! You have covered so many interesting and fun places to visit in Wisconsin. I am impressed by your passion and enthusiasm for traveling and exploring new cultures. I would love to follow your footsteps and see the places you have recommended.

Reply
Travel The Food For The Soul August 9, 2023 - 11:00 am

It’s my pleasure, Supraja! I’m delighted to hear that my travel guide for Wisconsin was helpful to you. There’s no doubt that the state is full of exciting sights and activities, and I was genuinely impressed by everything it had to offer.

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