16 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Wisconsin
Although it is far from being the largest or most visited state in the country, Wisconsin offers one of the most beautiful state parks in the country. Besides, it's only a short flight or drive away from most of the country's major cities, and its capital, Madison, is one of the most charming cities in the Midwest, as well as an excellent choice for exploring one of the state's top tourist attractions.
Indeed, Wisconsin is famous for its abundance of natural wonders and parks, including the awe-inspiring rock sculptures of Devil's Lake and the Bison Trails of Baraboo, as well as the charming orchards of North Central Wisconsin. Add in the state's beautiful capital and cultural heritage, and you have everything a first-time visitor needs to know about the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Plan your visit with our list of the top places to visit in Wisconsin.
Monona Terrace is a recreational park and day-use area of the Wisconsin Dells in southeastern Wisconsin. It includes a 1,350-foot-long suspended-footbridge walkway, restaurant seating, miniature golf, a large swimming pool and a water park with a ropes course, slides and geysers. The park can be reached by an electric train or by a public bus system that takes visitors along several nature trails.
Located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is a huge city, with more than 300,000 people, and a major shipping port and the capital of the state of Wisconsin. Travelers arriving from the east will most likely see Milwaukee through the dramatic bays of the Port of Milwaukee. The Freedom Trail winds its way through the city's historic downtown, passing notable buildings such as the original Brown’s Menagerie, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. Milwaukee's attractions include the enormous Milwaukee Art Museum, which houses one of the world's most significant collections of art and craft. The Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, a few blocks from the art museum, is a stark reminder of the city's long connection to manufacturing. Other great attractions include the acclaimed Linden Museum, which hosts changing exhibitions on the history of the region; and Heidelberg Project, a stunning collection of public art and sculptures, one of which is a massive golden fish, which many people erroneously believe is a sculpture. The city is easily explored on foot, and the local beer is legendary.
Lake Park, located south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a well-designed city park with many attractions. It's home to the famous Milwaukee Art Museum and the lakefront promenade of Lakeshore Drive, offering views of the harbor, Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The state-of-the-art MECU Sports Center features many features, including an 18-screen IMAX theater, an IMAX Adventure film, and interactive exhibitions. More than 30 restaurants, shops and bars line the lakefront promenade and offer a wide range of entertainment, including dining, comedy and live performances. The renowned Milwaukee Mile race track is a few miles from the park, which is also known for its fishing.
When you think of the great American vacation destination, images of snow-capped mountains and the beauty of the Niagara River don't immediately spring to mind. But by all means head to Wisconsin's stunning Mount Horeb. Set amidst endless pine forests in the southwestern corner of the state, this scenic lakeside town is the gateway to Wisconsin's beautiful Driftless Area, one of the state's wildest and least-explored regions. Wisconsin Dells began life as a silver mining town and a river port on the rapids of the Wisconsin River, which still runs just below the town. This scenic waterway is known as the "River of a Thousand Locks," and is accessible on foot and in a number of watercraft. On land, what makes the Dells unique is their "Horse and Buggy Country," the "Vermillion County State Park" and the lakeshore amusement park, Wisconsin Dells Park and Water Park.
Milwaukee Art Museum
A center for fine arts, architecture, and history, the Milwaukee Art Museum is the third largest art museum in the United States. With more than 450,000 objects in its permanent collection, the museum is a favorite among art lovers. It has two wings that tell the story of art through the ages, including the Ancient World and Medieval European and North American Collections. Highlights include renowned, life-sized wooden carvings from medieval Europe, Egyptian royal jewelry and tomb reliefs, a magnificent collection of classical sculpture, and German expressionist paintings from the early 20th century. The museum also has several planetariums that showcase the constellations in the night sky and a gallery of illuminated natural history specimens. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and art-related events, such as the artist-in-residence program, which has led to the work of some of the world's best-known artists.
Pierce Park is a two-mile nature trail on the shores of Lake Superior in Oak Park, a Milwaukee suburb. It was the creation of landscape architect Luther Burbank, whose fondness for urban parks has left a legacy of more than 200 park projects. Burbank envisioned a series of walking and riding paths that follow streams and wooded hollows, but the park, which is now considered one of the finest in the United States, takes a casual and less formal approach to its landscaping. Highlights of the park include the Swiss chalet-style boat house that doubles as a nature center, the pine-shaded swimming pond, the gazebo, and the Rose Garden. But the real beauty of Pierce Park lies in its natural environment and is best appreciated on a warm summer evening when the parks fills with friendly visitors strolling or rollerblading along the paths.
Door County, population 16,000, is a haven of natural beauty located on Lake Michigan in the middle of the Northwoods, where rain-soaked forests shelter quiet valleys and streams. The beaches here are some of the best in the Midwest, and much of the county's natural beauty is protected in the state-run Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in nearby Sturgeon Bay. Many of the area's thousands of lakes are excellent for fishing, and its small, picturesque towns have unusual charm. Besides the main tourist towns, such as Sturgeon Bay, Park Point, Sturgeon Bay Harbor and Ludington, there are also numerous beautiful state parks. Note that Door County has few public transportation options except to get to the main towns. But if you do have a car, scenic roads in the county offer much to see.
Madison Museum of Art
Madison's Madison Museum of Art is one of the most celebrated institutions in Wisconsin. Madison's leading art museum features works by Old Masters, early-20th-century Modern masters, and contemporary artists from around the world. The highlight of a visit is always the gallery's collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, the first time such a large collection of these has been seen in the U.S. outside Italy. The Gallery of Wisconsin Art is the state's leading museum of fine arts, with works by more than 20th-century American and European artists.
Blue Mounds State Park
Capped by a ring of naturally eroded limestone cliffs, the Blue Mounds State Park (it can also be found as Blue Mound State Park) is one of the best places in the Midwest to spot wildlife. Reptiles such as turtles, birds, and turtles are common in the park. In addition, the state park has geologic formations of blue, white, brown and black clay mounds and fossil beds and an abundance of prehistoric cave formations. You can walk on a boardwalk and view man-made, as well as natural, features.
Kettle Moraine State Park
Kettle Moraine State Park, in southeastern Wisconsin, is one of the first things to draw your attention if you visit Lake Geneva. It is one of the best-preserved habitats of original forest, making it a good stop for birders, but its main attraction is the park's trail system, which provides an excellent opportunity to see the park's wildlife. Thirteen miles of developed trails range from an easy one-mile loop to a 16-mile scenic path that crosses the park's topography, leading to more than 60 campsites that are situated throughout the park, offering a relaxing spot for the night. Also, within the park, is the Cedar River Falls, with a glistening suspension bridge that spans the Cedar River and a large cave that is said to hold a strange creature. Another site worth visiting is Kettle Moraine Cavern, which is the first natural cave open to the public in the United States and offers interesting cavern-like features.
Glenbeulah State Park
Wisconsin's Glenbeulah State Park offers 2,800 acres of unspoiled beauty. Natural features include glacial lakes, creeks, forests, prairie, and wetlands. With abundant wintertime snow cover, the parks are popular during the winter. On the park's primary attractions is the Akers-Fisher Biological Research Center, established in 1932 by J.C.A. and Adelaide Akers, who collected insects and described over a thousand species for the Smithsonian Institution. The center's buildings, featuring a log cabin house and stable, are open to the public, and a number of birdwatching and butterfly-watching excursions are available. Perhaps the most popular thing to do in the park is to hike the trails. There are more than 40 miles of hiking trails, including two ski trails.
Located in the northwest corner of Wisconsin, the small town of Tomahawk sits amid lush farm fields. It is the home of a museum featuring the world's largest collection of Western film memorabilia and art, along with a tribute to the heritage of the Iron Mountain Road, the original route of the Pony Express. The city has a population of only 3,700 but every summer, visitors from all over the world descend upon the town in their droves for the Tomahawk Days Festival, a celebration of all things country and Western.
Prairie du Chien
Prairie du Chien was founded in 1836, and was at one time the largest port on the Mississippi River and a place for the transport of buffalo to market. Located on the Wisconsin-Illinois border, it is known as the "Gateway to the Mississippi" and is now a pleasant and peaceful place with one of the largest squares in the Midwest. It has a large historical museum as well as a zoo and a number of interesting sites, including a beautiful white church and numerous historic houses.
Lake Michigan is a great place to visit if you love the great outdoors and a leisurely holiday. This large fresh water lake straddles the borders of Illinois and Michigan, stretching a distance of 50 miles along the Wisconsin and Michigan borders. Covering a total of 1,823 square miles, Lake Michigan has a 6.5 miles long sand-and-shingle beach. The Lake Michigan State Park at Forestville is one of the largest parks along the Great Lakes shoreline. Here you will find a number of camping areas, public pavilions, two campgrounds, lodges and a restaurant. The visitor's center provides excellent facilities to find out everything there is to know about the beauty of Lake Michigan.
Alliant Energy Center
The 50,000-seat Alliant Energy Center, home to the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, is the largest ballpark in Wisconsin. It was designed by the California-based architectural firm of HNTB. The design is simple but it's the structural engineering that sets it apart. A five-sided "lantern" rises from the center of the field where 18 concrete columns connect to the roof, supporting the roof of the building as well as the upper deck. It took more than a million man hours to build. Get close to the action, which takes place in front of the stands, at a capacity of nearly 3,000 fans per game. An almost 3,500-foot-long, suspended deck extends all the way around the top of the stadium. With exhibits, an interactive youth learning lab, and more than 100 food and souvenir stands, the Alliant Energy Center has a center for families to enjoy. Tickets cost between $13 and $20, depending on the game, while bleacher seats are about $6.
Lake Winnebago is the largest natural freshwater lake in the United States. It's located in the heart of Wisconsin and covers some 28 square miles of land and water. The lake is surrounded by forests and farmland and is bordered by numerous hiking trails, though by far the most popular is the easy 2-mile Blueberry Falls loop trail. Along the lake's western shore are campgrounds, campgrounds, and numerous nature parks, wildlife reserves and wetlands. During the summer, plenty of events are held at all the parks, including concerts, dances, marathons, festivals and more. In addition to hiking, you can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards and paddle out on the lake and try your hand at fishing.