Wisconsin is a state in the Midwest in the United States of America. The name Wisconsin means "meeting of the waters" and is of Native American origin. Wisconsin borders Illinois, and Iowa to the south, Minnesota to the west, and Michigan to the north. To the east lies the long Lake Michigan shoreline and in the northwest a smaller Lake Superior shoreline. Wisconsin is known nationwide for its dairy heritage, or as "America's Dairyland". Being home to two Great Lakes, thousands of inland lakes and waterways, the state could easily be called the nation's "waterworld" instead. The southern portion of the state is mainly agricultural and urban while the northern half is mostly rural and forested and is more similar in appearance to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The central region acts as a transition zone with both forests, farm land and small cities. The state's largest city and urban area is Milwaukee located in southeastern Wisconsin. In south-central Wisconsin lies the state capital Madison. Green Bay is listed as the state's third largest city. Wisconsin is a popular Midwestern travel destination both in the summer and winter months.
| Southeast Wisconsin |
Southeast Wisconsin is the state's most populous region. The major cities are Kenosha, Milwaukee (Wisconsin's largest city), Racine, and Waukesha. The popular summer getaway destination of Lake Geneva is also included in this region; as well as the scenic areas of the Kettle Moraine, and Lake Country, Waukesha Co.
| Southwest Wisconsin |
The major cities are La Crosse and Madison (capital city and campus of the University of Wisconsin).
| Northeast Wisconsin |
The major cities are Appleton (Houdini central), Green Bay (home of the intensely beloved football Packers), and Oshkosh.The popular summer getaway destination of Door County is also included in this region.
| North Central Wisconsin |
The major city is Wausau, gateway to the northwoods.
| Northwest Wisconsin |
The major cities are Eau Claire and Superior.
- Madison - progressive university and capital city located between two lakes
- Eau Claire
- Green Bay - Packers and more Packers!
- La Crosse - Located on the mighty Mississippi
- Milwaukee — The City of Festivals, Wisconsin's biggest city
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore- Wild Beauty on Lake Superior
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail - hiking trail that spans the entire state
- Wisconsin Dells - Family tourist destination
- Door County - "Cape Cod" of the Midwest
Wisconsinites speak with a dry Midwestern accent and tend to emphasize their vowels. Perfect examples include the words "roof" and "Wisconsin"!
People in the state commonly refer to a drinking fountain as a "bubbler". Also note that unlike most of the Midwest, Wisconsinites in the eastern part of the state (especially the Milwaukee area) refer to soft drinks as "soda" rather than "pop".
It's common for people in many parts of the state to refer to ATM's as "Tyme Machines" (named for what was the most common type of ATM in numerous areas meaning Take Your Money Everywhere). Most people in the state also tend to refer to parking garages as "parking ramps".
Wisconsin is in the Central Time Zone, as are all neighboring states except Michigan, which is in the Eastern Time Zone (with the exception of a small portion of the Upper Penn. which borders Wisconsin also in the central time zone).
Unless flying to Milwaukee or Madison, it is often easier to enter Wisconsin by making a connection in another state. Midwest Airlines/Frontier Airlines, with a hub in Milwaukee, serves most Wisconsin cities and is known for its excellent service but has limited service nationally. The most comprehensive service from a hub/hubs to Wisconsin is provided by Delta Air Lines through Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. United also provides frequent service to the southern two thirds of the state via Chicago O'Hare. American has a substantial number of flights from Chicago O'Hare as well. Other carriers providing less frequent service include US Airways, AirTran, and Southwest. There is the CWA (Central Wisconsin Airport) that connects to the larger, more popular airports such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago O'Hare, and Detroit. It is located in Mosinee, WI, conveniently in the center of the state, around 10 minutes away from Wausau, WI, the largest city in the central region of Wisconsin.
Milwaukee handles a very limited number of flights from Toronto and some Mexican destinations. Travelers originating internationally will find the greatest number of flight options if they opt to make connections through Chicago O'Hare. Connections from international services are also available through Minneapolis and Detroit as well as Cincinnati.
These services are only available from late Spring through early Fall.
- Lake Express. Car ferry between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Muskegon, Michigan. Two and a half hour trip.
- S.S. Badger. Car ferry between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan. Four hour trip.
Greyhound and Megabus serve Milwaukee, Madison, and other cities. Also check Van Galder and Jefferson Bus lines. Check their websites from services, schedules, and fares.
- Amtrak connects Chicago to Milwaukee via the Hiawatha service. The Empire Builder line, strectching from Chicago to Seattle/Portland, travels through Wisconsin, making five stops in the state (Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Tomah, and La Crosse).
- The Chicagoland Metra also has a line that stretches up all the way to Kenosha.
- Getting Around Wisconsin Without A Car: A Public Transportation Guide (pdf) .
Unless there is a sign saying otherwise, it is legal to make a right turn after stopping for a red light.
Several bus companies provide service with-in the state.
- Badger Coaches. Runs 6+ daily roundtrips between Milwaukee and Madison.
- Greyhound. Greyhound busses provide travel throughout the state, along all major cities and towns along I-43, US 45, I-90, I-94, and more, servicing among others Appleton, Brookfield, Eau Claire, Fond du lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Racine, Stevens Point, Waukesha, Wisconsin Dells, and more. They also sell tickets (often cheaper) for other companies.
- Indian Trails, =. Daily service from (Chicago via) Milwaukee to Michigan's Upper Peninsula stopping in Marinette, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Sheboygan. Onward connections are available. Buses have wifi and power outlets.
- Jefferson Lines. Connects Milwaukee, Madison, and La Crosse daily with interim stops across Wisconsin. Jefferson prides itself on its 'eco-friendly' new coaches. Connections are available at Minneapolis.
- Lamers Coach. Daily. Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Waupaca, Stevens Point, Wausau.
- Wisconsin Coach, toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Wisconsin Coach offers several services around Southeast Wisconsin to/from Milwaukee. $26.
Wisconsin has two international airports, Mitchell International in Milwaukee (MKE), which is a hub for Midwest Airlines/Frontier Airlines, and Austin Straubel International in Green Bay (GRB). Regional airports with scheduled service exist in Madison (MSN), Appleton (ATW), Wausau/Stevens Point (CWA), Rhinelander (RHI), La Crosse (LSE), and Eau Claire (EAU). Service to the far western "Indianhead" region of the state can be found across the Minnesota border in Minneapolis (MSP) and Duluth (DLH). Travel by air within Wisconsin has become rather impractical in the last 25 years. Unless traveling to/from Milwaukee, travel between Wisconsin cities by air requires a connection in Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis or even Detroit. It is usually faster and less expensive to travel within the state via automobile.
Amtrak has two lines that service the state. The Hiawatha has 7 daily roundtrips between Milwaukee and Chicago, with additional stops outside of Racine and at Mitchell Field Airport. The Empire Builder runs once daily, and effectively parallels I-94 to Chicago coming all the way from Seattle, Washington. The Train station has recently been remodeled into a nice clean and modern looking building located downtown.
The following are the major routes in Wisconsin:
- Interstate 94: A major east-west route, I-94 enters Wisconsin in Kenosha County and connects Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee and Madison before it briefly merges with I-90. After splitting at Tomah, I-94 passes through Eau Claire before entering Minnesota and heading toward the Twin Cities.
- Interstate 90: Another major east-west route, I-90 enters Wisconsin in southern Rock County and connects Beloit, Janesville and Madison. It joins I-94 north of the city and services Wisconsin Dells. It splits from I-94 at Tomah and passes through La Crosse before entering Minnesota.
- Interstate 43: A major north-south interstate, I-43 originates in Green Bay and heads south along Lake Michigan and connects Sheboygan and Milwaukee before heading southwest and terminating at its juncture with I-90 in Beloit.
- Interstate 39: A north-south interstate route, Interstate 39 runs concurrent with I-90 when entering the state in Rock County and breaks off immediately north of Madison where it connects Stevens Point and Wausau.
- US 151: A major north-south route, US 151 connects Manitowoc with Fond du Lac and Madison before heading southeast and entering Iowa immediately northeast of Dubuque.
- US 41: A north-south route connecting most of the Lake Michigan cities including Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee before heading northwest and servicing Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay.
- US 53: A north-south route originating in La Crosse and connecting Eau Claire and Superior before crossing into Duluth.
- WI 29: An east-west route in Northern Wisconsin, WI 29 connects Green Bay, Wausau and Eau Claire.
- WI 11: An east-west route in Southern Wisconsin, WI 11 originates in Racine and connecting Janesville and Monroe before terminating at US 151 immediately northeast of Dubuque.
Milwaukee has a number of good attractions:
- Milwaukee Public Museum-has exhibits like a butterfly room, European village, and rainforest replica. There is also an IMAX theater
- Milwaukee Art Museum-is an impressive lakefront building designed to resemble a sailboat, and contains much great art
- Maier Lakefront Festival Park-This is where the world's largest music festival, Summerfest, is held. Other festivals are held here as well.
- Miller Brewery Tours - The Miller brewery, 4251 West State St, a couple miles west of downtown, offers tours and samples.
- Additionally, the city has many neighborhoods such as Bay View, Brady Street, Bronzeville (Martin Luther King Dr.), Riverwest and Third Ward which are known for shattering the stereotypical "beer, brats and bowling" views of many outsiders. These areas tend to pride themselves on their racial and/or social diversity and each are home to an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants, shops, clothing boutiques, bars and nightclubs.
Madison is the state capital. The capitol building has one of the world's largest domes. The University of Wisconsin has several small museums and a large hill crowned by Bascom Hall. Connecting capitol square and the university is State Street, with many shops and ethnic restaurants. Other attractions include the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, UW Arborteum, and Henry Vilas Zoo.
Wisconsin Dells has many touristy attractions:
- Noah's Ark - world's largest waterpark
- Mt. Olympus-Competing water and go-gart park
- Wisconsin Ducks & other tours-The Ducks and other boats provide tours of the scenic bluffs along the rivers of the area
- Mini Golf Courses-There are many, like Pirate's Cove
Door County is a scenic peninsula with numerous sites. Peninsula State Park is the third largest in the state and has beaches, campsites, a lighthouse, and an observation tower high on a bluff. There are several other lighthouses, and wineries. The county is also well known for its cherries, and there are many stands selling them. Boats run to Washington Island off the northern tip, through an area littered with shipwrecks.
Tourism is one of Wisconsin's largest industries, relying on Illini and others who enter during the summer for fishing and its parks and recreational facilities such as those in Wisconsin Dells, those entering during the fall for a very popular hunting season, and Winter for ice-fishing, ice-sailing, ice-skating, skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, and much more.
If you look at your left hand, palm facing away from you, it looks like the shape of Wisconsin. Door County would be your thumb, a peninsula extending far into Lake Michigan. Door County is well known as a vacation destination for family outing (esp. family reunions) and its laid-back vacations. It has numerous apple and cherry orchards, boating opportunities on Lake Michigan, and many B&Bs. As well, there is an active arts community with several galleries worthy of note like the Edgewood Orchard Gallery and the Potter's Wheel.
Noah's Ark is "America's largest Waterpark" in Wisconsin Dells. Wisconsin Dells is full of waterparks, amusement parks, shopping and shows. It also includes Tommy Bartlett's Watershow, one of the world's greatest waterski shows. Wisconsin Dells is also famous for its ducks, truck-like vehicles that can travel on land and sea that travel from lake to lake and along the rivers of "the Dells" to demonstrate the sights and nature. A good family destination.
Hiking, bicycling, and in the wintertime, cross-country skiing are popular overland activities. Wisconsin was one of the first states to begin conversion of abandoned railroad right-of-ways into bicycle trails. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail traverses all parts of the state, extending for more than 1,600 km (1,000 miles), and offering evidence of Wisconsin's recent natural history. The most popular segments of this trail, since they are nearest to large urban centers, are in the Kettle Moraine region.
As a consequence of the large German immigration to Wisconsin, German meals found their way into the local eating habits. Bratwursts are common and well liked, with Sheboygan claiming to be the home of the bratwurst. The Bratwurst is a state delicacy served during summer cookouts, preferably boiled in beer prior to being grilled.
The modern hamburger was said to have been first served as a meatball-like product when its creator realized they stayed on the bun better if flattened. It was first sold at a Seymour, WI fair.
Frozen custard is also a Wisconsin delicacy not found often outside the Midwest. Frozen custard is similar to ice cream (it is NOT yogurt!). It is unique in that there is far less air in it (making it less "fluffy" and far more smooth and creamy). It contains egg, making it richer and creamier. It has an inappropriate reputation as unhealthy relative to ice cream when in fact most frozen custards have less calories, less fat and less sugar, being less healthy only in that it has slightly more cholesterol than ice cream.
Wisconsin and the surrounding area is famous for its dairy products, and there are various regional specialties following this theme. Even fast-food chain restaurants in this region often give the option of fried cheese curds as a side in addition to the more common french fries.
Alcohol drinking age
The drinking age in Wisconsin is 21. However, persons under 21 and over 16 who are with a parent, legal guardian, or spouse (if the spouse is 21 or over) may, at the discretion of the establishment, be sold and allowed to drink alcohol beverages.
Milwaukee is home to the Milwaukee Brewers - both the baseball team and numerous breweries. Until Pabst closed its Milwaukee brewery and began contracting out its production during the late 1990s Milwaukee was the brewing capital of the nation. Although only one major brewer (Miller) remains in the city, it's brewing heritage lives on in the large number of micro-breweries and brewpubs it has to offer. Some more famous "small" breweries in Wisconsin include Point (located in the college town of Stevens Point), City (formerly G Heileman), New Glarus, Berghoff, Leinenkugels (in Chippewa Falls), Riverwest and Sprecher (both from Milwaukee, the latter also makes many fine sodas). Many restaurants and bars have their own local breweries inside the facility such that patrons can see the tanks as they eat.
Grays Brewing is well known for its sodas also using real grain sugar (rather than the fine, processed sugar used almost everywhere else in all American food) which gives the flavor a unique and outstanding flavor. Gray's makes primarily fruit-flavored sodas and reuses (not recycles) its bottles, so bring 'em back.
Point Brewing is now offering various sodas, including rootbeer, diet rootbeer, cream and other flavors. The tour of the brewery is said to be quite fun and extensive and concerts are held in the summer (Rock the Brewery).
Sprecher Brewing also is well known, and is gaining recognition nationwide, for its sodas, particularly its root beer and unique labels such as Orange Dream, Raven Red, etc. A Root Beer or Orange Dream float with vanilla Frozen Custard is about the best beverage one can find. Tours are held Fridays and Saturdays all year-round, and everyday during the busy summer season. The cost of the tour is $4 for adults and $2 for those under 21. The price is well worth it, however, considering that the tour includes plenty of social time with unlimited samples of their sodas, and up to 4 samples of their beer.
Wisconsin offers the usual assortment of chain motels, usually located just off the interstate highways, as well as a number of larger resorts. Bed & Breakfasts-- from the one bedroom in a home to large, historic, buildings, and inns are also popular. Some areas, such as Baraboo also specialize in casino hotels.
- Michigan - Michigan's Upper Peninsula lies to the northeast of Wisconsin and features stunning natural beauty.
- Illinois - America's crossroads and home of Chicago, Illinois lies across Wisconsin's southern border.
- Iowa - Rural Iowa is Wisconsin's southwestern neighbor and provides the opportunity to explore America's agricultural heartland.
- Minnesota - Known for cold winters and its ten thousand lakes, Wisconsin's western neighbor is an ideal destination for wilderness enthusiasts, while shoppers need to travel only twenty miles from the Wisconsin border to enjoy shopping in the Twin Cities at the Mall of America.