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. People from Wisconsin are called cheese heads.
|Southeast Wisconsin |
Southeast Wisconsin is the state's most populous region. This area, located on Lake Michigan, includes the larger cities of Milwaukee (Wisconsin's largest city), Kenosha and Racine (industrial cities separating the Milwaukee Metro Area from Greater Chicagoland), and many suburban towns, such as Waukesha. The area includes the popular summer getaway of Lake Geneva and the scenic forests, glacial deposits, and trails that are parts of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
|Southwest Wisconsin |
Southwestern Wisconsin, many parts of which are also referred to as the "Driftless Area," is a very diverse area on many levels. Including the college towns of La Crosse and Madison, which is also the state capital. Located on and around the Mississippi River and Wisconsin River, Southwestern Wisconsin is full of artsy towns, picturesque landscapes, and a plethora of parks, lakes, and trails.
|Northeast Wisconsin |
Located on the Green Bay of Lake Michigan, Northeastern Wisconsin puts nature on full display. The area includes the Fox Cities, such as Appleton and Oshkosh, which are located around Lake Winnebago. The area extends to the tourist towns and cherry orchards of summer getaway Door County. The area also includes the industrial city of Green Bay, home to the Packers, and the many forests that stretch towards the upper peninsula of Michigan.
|North Central Wisconsin |
A quieter part of the state, North Central Wisconsin is made up of mostly forested areas, being nicknamed "The Gateway to the Northwoods". Including the college town of Stevens Point and the larger city of Wausau, North Central Wisconsin is mainly small towns and communities located in between the many lakes and rivers that run all the way up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
|Northwest Wisconsin |
Including the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Northwestern Wisconsin is full of nature. This region runs from the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior, through the major cities of Eau Claire and Superior, and the St. Croix River and Mississippi River. This area includes many apple orchards, cheese factories, and ATV trails.
- 1 Madison — Progressive university town as home of the University of Wisconsin main campus and capital city located on an isthmus between two lakes
- 2 Appleton — largest of the Fox Cities (a region named due to its position on the Fox River), childhood home of Harry Houdini
- 3 Eau Claire — Largest city in northwest Wisconsin, home to many different music festivals and museums
- 4 Green Bay — An industrial town on the Green Bay of Lake Michigan, home of the Green Bay Packers, the last small town team in the NFL
- 5 La Crosse — A college town that features many beautiful nature areas, located on the mighty Mississippi River
- 6 Kenosha — An exurb that has a connection to the RTA Metra that makes it more a part of Chicagoland
- 7 Milwaukee — The 'City of Festivals,' Wisconsin's largest city and known for its breweries and Harley Davidson, located on the coast of Lake Michigan
- 8 Racine — A Lake Michigan industrial city.
- 9 Wausau — Gateway to the Northwoods
- 1 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore — Wild beauty on Lake Superior with boat tours just off the Bayfield shore
- 2 Wisconsin Dells — Family tourist destination with scenic Duck boat tours and amusement parks
- 3 Door County — "Cape Cod" of the Midwest. beaches, nature, museums and historic sites
- Ice Age Trail — 1,200-mile hiking trail that spans the entire state
Wisconsin has been home to a wide variety of cultures over the past 14,000 years. The first people arrived around 10,000 BCE during the Wisconsin Glaciation. The first European explorers made their way to Wisconsin in the 1650s and 1660s. Explorers got to the state through the Great Lakes. The cities of Green Bay and Prairie du Chien were founded as explorers made their way down the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway, eventually ending up on the Mississippi River. These cities were critical in Wisconsin's growth throughout the Fur Trade. Some of the first permanent settlers came to the state after the British took complete control of the state following the French and Indian War. Some of the first settlers were French-Canadians, New Enganders, and some freed African-Americans.
The state became a US territory in 1783, after the Revolutionary War. In 1787, it became part of the Northwest Territory. As territorial boundaries subsequently developed, it was then part of Indiana Territory from 1800 to 1809, Illinois Territory from 1809 to 1818, and Michigan Territory from 1818 to 1836. Throughout this time, the British remained in control of the state. Around the late 1830s, many settlers came to cities such as Mineral Point and Dodgeville with promising ore deposits of lead and zink. These people dug holes in the hills of the "Driftless Area" to live in. These were called "badger holes," giving birth to the state's nickname, "The Badger State."The sudden influx of white miners prompted tension with the local Native American population. The Winnebago War of 1827 and the Black Hawk War of 1832 culminated in the forced removal of Native Americans from most parts of the state. Following these conflicts, Wisconsin Territory was created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1836. By fall of that year, the best prairie groves of the counties surrounding what is now Milwaukee were occupied by farmers from the New England states.
The Erie Canal facilitated the travel of both Yankee settlers and European immigrants to Wisconsin Territory. Yankees from New England and upstate New York seized a dominant position in law and politics, enacting policies that marginalized the region's earlier Native American and French-Canadian residents. Yankees also speculated in real estate, platted towns such as Racine, Beloit, Burlington, and Janesville, and established schools, civic institutions, and Congregationalist churches. At the same time, many Germans, Irish, Norwegians, and other immigrants also settled in towns and farms across the territory, establishing Catholic and Lutheran institutions. The growing population allowed Wisconsin to gain statehood on May 29, 1848, as the 30th state.
With its location between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin is home to a wide variety of geographical features. In the north, the sea level is lower, and there are a lot of rocky hills, forests, streams, and sandy areas near Lake Superior. Just to the south, you will find massive mixed hardwood and coniferous forests including the nearly 665,000 acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, as well as thousands of glacial lakes, and the state's highest point, Timm's Hill. While Wisconsin considers smaller bodies of water to be lakes, when moved up to Minnesota's requirement, Wisconsin still has more lakes than "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes." Moving along, the middle of the state has some unique sandstone formations like the Dells of the Wisconsin River in addition to rich farmland. The Southeastern part of the state some high ridges and lowlands, with lots of marshy areas, such as Kettle Moraine State Forest. Six of the state's largest cities (by population) are located in the southeastern part of the state. In the southwest you'll find a rugged landscape with a mix of forest and farmland, including many bluffs on and near the Mississippi River. This region is part of the Driftless Area, which also includes portions of northeastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois, and southeastern Minnesota. This area was not covered by glaciers during the most recent ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation. Overall, 46% of Wisconsin's land area is covered by forest. Langlade County has a soil rarely found outside of the county called Antigo silt loam.
Wisconsin can have one of the most diverse climates in the United States. Just like nearly everything else in the Badger State, the climate depends on what part of the state you visit, and when you visit. Winters can be very cold, with temperatures averaging from between 20°F to 10°F in the Winter (in Madison), with the wind chill dropping below 0°F on many different occasions. During the wintertime, the state also receives a lot of snow, averaging nearly 40 inches of total snowfall. However, some areas, such as the Lake Superior Snowbelt, can average over 150 inches of snow every year. This can make for lots of opportunities for Wisconsinites and tourists to go snowmobiling or go ice fishing. The snowy season will usually begin in Late October/Early November and run to Mid March, but snow and cold temperatures can hit the state as early as September and as late as May. If you want to avoid the snow, Late April to Mid October is usually going to be safe, but check the forecast if you visit right at the end or beginning of snow season.
However, Wisconsin has a very different climate in the Summertime. High temperatures (in Madison) usually average between 75°F and 85°F on the hottest days in July, but there are never any guarantees with Wisconsin weather. There can be random week-long stretches of temperatures over 90°, growing even higher due to the high amount of humidity that there is in Wisconsin; when looking at average humidity in Madison during the summertime, an 80°F day can feel like it's closer to 95°F due to how thick and heavy the air feels. Just remember that the humidity will not also be this high; it will vary based on day and location in the state (proximity to water). However, temperatures will drop into the 50s and 60s most nights. Another thing to watch out for is storms. Most of the time you will know when bad weather is coming, via your phone, or a local broadcast. Severe Storms in Wisconsin can include very high winds, torrential rainfall, and occasional hail or tornadoes (of which most occur between May and July). However, on a mild summer day, there may be sun in the sky at noon, and a ten-minute long downpour under an hour later. The moral of the story is to be prepared for anything when it comes to weather. Check the forecast while packing for your trip, and make sure to bring appropriate clothing in case the weather shifts.
If you are traveling to Milwaukee, don't be surprised if you are encountering windier conditions, or if the temperature is ten degrees cooler than it is in Madison (one hour to the west via the Interstate). This is affectionately called the "Lake Effect" by Wisconsinites. You never know what meteorological oddity Lake Michigan will throw your way.
Depending on what part of the state you visit, you will find many different people. Wisconsin is made up of mostly white people of European descent from countries such as England, Germany, Norway, Ireland, and Poland. 6.3% of the state is made up of African-Americans, with the remainder of the population being Hispanic, Asian, or of Native Descent.
Here is the make-up of religion practiced by Wisconsinites: Christian 81% (Protestant 50%, Roman Catholic 29%, Mormon 0.5%), Jewish 0.5%, Muslim 0.5%, Buddhist 0.5%, Hindu 0.5%, and unaffiliated 15%
Most Wisconsinites are very friendly- especially in smaller cities, where everybody knows everyone else in their community. If you find yourself in a smaller town without many restaurant reviews, don't be afraid to walk up to somebody on a sidewalk, say that you are visiting, and ask for food recommendations! The person you meet will most likely be happy to help familiarize you with the area you are visiting.
Wisconsinites speak with a specific type of Midwestern accent (similar to that of Minnesotans) and tend to emphasize vowels, using the longer pronunciation and drawing them out. Examples include the words "bag" and "rag" (using the same vowel sound found in "bagel," sounding like "bayg" and "rayg").
People in the state commonly refer to a drinking fountain as a "bubbler". Unlike much of the Midwest, Wisconsinites in the eastern part of the state (especially the Milwaukee area) refer to soft drinks as "soda" rather than "pop".
People in some areas may use the phrase "Uff da!" as an exclamation.
It's common for people in many parts of the state to refer to ATMs as "TYME Machines" (named for what was the most common type of ATM in numerous areas meaning Take Your Money Everywhere).
Some people will use the phrase "Stop 'n Go Lights" to refer to traffic lights.
You might also hear parking garages referred to as "parking ramps".
In some more rural areas where farming is common, the noon meal may be referred to as "dinner" with the evening meal being called "supper".
You may also hear "real quick" added onto phrases, such as, "Can you stop by da store, real quick?". It would also be common to hear the ending "or tree" added onto phrases, such as, "Can ya get me a beer, or tree (or three)" meaning, "Can you get me a few beers".
When asking about directions, most Wisconsinites will give the distance between location in time, not miles or kilometers, as most of these people know how to get everywhere they need to go by heart and how long it takes to get there. Another thing to remember, is that when somebody says they are "going up" to something/somewhere, they aren't necessarily go North. Somebody in Green Bay might say they are going up to the Brewer game in Milwaukee even though the drive is directly South. The same might go for somebody in Milwaukee "going up" to the Badger game in Madison, even though it is a drive that goes straight west
While these phrases are specific to the Midwest, and sometimes specifically Wisconsin, it is not super challenging to comprehend what locals are saying if you use context.
Wisconsin is in the Central Time Zone (GMT-6 hours during the wintertime, and GMT-5 hours during Daylight Savings Time), as are all neighboring states except Michigan, which is in the Eastern Time Zone (with the exception of a small portion of the Upper Peninsula, which is also in the central time zone).
If you are traveling to southern Wisconsin, Milwaukee Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee or Dane County Airport in Madison are good choices. If you are traveling to northern Wisconsin, Appleton International Airport in Appleton is a good choice with fares competitive with large airports such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis. At these airports, Delta Air Lines provides frequent flights from Minneapolis, Detroit, and Atlanta. United also provides frequent service from Chicago O'Hare and Denver. American has a lot of flights from Chicago O'Hare. There are also a few other airlines like Southwest, Frontier, and Allegiant who offer a couple of daily flights from these airports.
In addition to the airports noted above, there are also airports with commercial service in Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Mosinee, and Rhinelander. Use caution when choosing these airports, however, because they tend to have higher fares than Milwaukee, Madison, and Appleton.
If you want to fly into Wisconsin in your own plane, there are well over 120 GA airports where you could fly.
These services are only available from late Spring through early Fall.
- Lake Express. Car ferry between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Muskegon, Michigan. 2½-hour trip.
- S.S. Badger. Car ferry between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan. 4-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 six stops in the state (Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Tomah, and La Crosse).
- The RTA's Metra also has a line that stretches up all the way to Kenosha.
By public transportation
- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation puts out Wisconsin Get-Around Guide: Intercity Public Transportation Information.
Several bus companies provide service within the state.
- Badger Coaches. Runs more than 6 daily round trips between Milwaukee and Madison.
- Greyhound. Greyhound buses 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, Columbus.
- Wisconsin Coach, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Wisconsin Coach offers several services around Southeast Wisconsin to/from Milwaukee. $26.
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. The Milwaukee train station has been remodeled into a nice clean and modern-looking building in the downtown.
As is with most of the United States, travel by car is one of the most popular ways to get around. 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 southwest and entering Iowa immediately northeast of Dubuque.
- US 41 now also marked Interstate 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, MN.
- 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, IA.
Unless there is a sign saying otherwise, it is legal to make a right turn after stopping for a red light.
County road-naming system
First-time travelers in Wisconsin will notice that county routes are often given letter designations instead of numbers (for example, County A instead of County 12). Lettered county roads will often change lettering when entering a new county and thus, for example, County A in Milwaukee County does not necessarily connect or in any way correspond with County A in Waukesha County. Also, please note that County A is a different roadway than County AA. Some people call County Roads "County Highways" in certain parts of the state.
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: an impressive lakefront building designed to resemble a sailboat, and contains a lot of great art.
- Maier Lakefront Festival Park: 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.
- 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 is 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-kart 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 many 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. A ferry runs to Washington Island off the northern tip, through an area littered with shipwrecks. Most cities are located along the western, Green Bay side of the peninsula. These cities are littered with shops, restaurants, and activities that families and couples can enjoy. Heading further north, there are more old fishing cities. This area of the county is more heavily wooded and desolate than where the main line of towns are. The county is also well known for its cherries, and there are many stands selling them in cities, and many markets and orchards in the central part of the county. Most destinations in Door County are located north of Sturgeon Bay.
There are four places in the state managed by the National Park Service, they include;
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - an area on Lake Superior that consists of 21 Islands, Lighthouses, and many caves eroded into the coastline
- Ice Age Trail - a trail in forested areas Central Wisconsin that is 1,200 miles long. This is one of 30 Nationals Scenic or Historical Trails
- North Country National Scenic Trail - a 4,600-mile-long footpath stretching from Vermont to North Dakota
- Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway - a federal protection of over 200 miles of riverways in Minnesota and Wisconsin
There is one place in Wisconsin managed by the US Forest Service, being the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
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, etc.
Wisconsin Dells, in the Greater Madison Area, is known throughout the Midwest as a major family fun destination due to the number of water resorts located there such as Noah's Ark, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari and others. Wisconsin Dells is full of water parks, 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.
Wisconsin also has three professional, and many other armature, sports teams. Green Bay is home to one of the oldest teams in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers. With countless Hall-of-Fame players, MVP's, and 11 league championships under their belt, you can't go wrong with a day at Lambeau Field. If you are planning on going to a Packer's game, get there many hours before the game starts for one main reason: tailgating. Tailgating is very popular among Midwestern sports fans, and is a great way to get the full experience of going to a game. Pull up to a spot in a lot surrounding the stadium, and pop the trunk. Many fans will bring a small TV to watch other games happening that day, cornhole (also called "bean bags" in this area) boards and bags, a football, and LOTS of brats, cheese, and beer. Tailgating is a great way to meet locals and get the full the full experience of Wisconsin life. Just remember- dress warm!
Another place you will find a ton of tailgaters at, is just outside of Miller Park on a summer afternoon in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is home to the Brewers of the MLB. After tailgating, head into American Family Field for one of the best experiences in the league. If a Brewer hits a home-run, be sure to catch Bernie Brewer going down the slide! Another thing you won't want to miss out on, is the Famous Racing Sausages.
However, heading a little bit further into the City of Milwaukee, you will find another professional sports team in a very different environment. This being, the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. After threatening to move, the City of Milwaukee agreed to build the team an all-new facility and surrounding district. A few years later, the team and city got one of the most state-of-the-art areas in the NBA, the Deer District and Fiserv.Forum. Explore the district before the game. Grab a beer or a burger at the many restaurants (but don't eat too much...) and go shopping at some of the nicest stores in the Milwaukee area.
However, some of the most popular sports teams in Wisconsin are the teams run by the University of Wisconsin-Madison that compete in Division I-A of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The Badgers have had much success on the late 2010s with their Men's Basketball, Women's Ice Hockey, Women's Volleyball, Women's Lightweight Rowing, Men's Rowing, and Men's Cross Country, all making deep runs in the NCAA Tournaments specific to the sports they compete in. Madison has been voted as the top college town by Sports Illustrated multiple times over the past few years. There are also many traditions that Badger fans relish such as the playing of House of Pain's "Jump Around" at Camp Randall Stadium. Badger fans also tailgate across the city, at locations such as Union South, a building between the Kohl Center and Camp Randall that works as a study space, tailgating center, restaurant, bowling alley, hotel, etc.
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.
Boating is a major activity throughout the spring and summer. In addition to Lakes Michigan and Superior, Wisconsin is dotted with other lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lake Winnebago and the various recreational lakes in the Greater Madison Area, like Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. You'll find many of these busy with boats and jet skis. Many streams and rivers also have active boating, canoeing and kayaking.
Wisconsin's strong agricultural industry has contributed to strong growth in agritourism. Each year, thousands of people come to locations such as Door County to pick apples, berries and, most commonly, cherries. Throughout the fall, corn mazes, farm stands and apple picking also dominated rural areas throughout the State.
Like other Midwest states, Wisconsin has a very strong county and State fair tradition. These annual celebrations tend to occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day include a number of different parts including shows, auctions, agricultural competitions, concerts, rides, fair food (think deep fried everything) and demolition derbies. You'll often find neighboring counties will schedule around each other to avoid conflicts, meaning there's almost always a fair going on during any given weekend in the summer.
The State Fair is held annually at State Fair Park in West Allis, usually in early August.
The state of Wisconsin, especially the greater Milwaukee area, hosts many festivals. In fact, Milwaukee is even known as the "City of Festivals!" Throughout the summertime, you will find many cultural festivals, such as Scottish Fest, Polish Fest, Greek Fest, Bastille Days, Asia Fest, African Cultural Festival, Festa Italiana, Croatian Fest, Armenian Fest, German Fest, Puerto Rican Festival, Irish Fest, IndiaFest, and Mexican Fiesta. That's a lot of festivals! If you are looking for one for the premier music festivals in all of the United States, be sure to look into Summerfest. This festival takes place yearly at Henry W. Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee and is home to many performances from mainstream artists.
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 (but do not call it ice cream!) 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.
The quintessential Wisconsin Friday night involves a supper club. There's no real definition which separates a restaurant from a supper club, but most supper clubs focus on nostalgia, old timey atmosphere and specific food, such as prime rib and fish fries. A relish tray is often also served with dinner. Since many of these clubs originated as speakeasies, there's a very strong sense of tradition and you'll likely see that, with the exception of the beer and wine list, the original food and cocktails from the club's opening are most likely still on the menu. Anyone visiting is strong encouraged to visit a local supper club.
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.
Beer and pop
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, its 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.
Though Wisconsin is known for beer, it has a small but growing wine industry. Three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) cover Wisconsin - the Wisconsin Ledge (which covers Door County and some areas to the south), Wisconsin Lake (which covers portions of Southeast Wisconsin and Southwest Wisconsin) and Upper Mississippi Valley (which includes the entire Driftless Area). Famous wineries include Wollersheim (located near Baraboo) and Parallel 44 (near Kewanee). Many farms have also started producing local varieties.
Wisconsin has no official state cocktail, but if you asked, most Wisconsinites would probably say it's the Wisconsin Old Fashioned, a variation on the traditional bourbon cocktail. The Wisconsin version uses brandy and is served either "sweet" (with lemon-lime soda) or "sour" (with sour mix). Sour Old Fashioneds are sometimes served with olives for saltiness. Traditionally, Korbel is used as the brandy, but applejack is also popular.
With a large Nordic and German community, old world spirits like Aquavit (flavored with caraway or dill) are more common than in other areas. Aquavit is commonly served on the rocks, but it can also be mixed in cocktails. It tends to be better with more herbaceous flavors (such as Angostura Bitters or Chartreuse). Some bars may have a house cocktail using it as well - be sure to ask about it before trying it though as Aquavit can be an acquired taste.
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 20 miles (32 km) from the Wisconsin border to enjoy shopping in the Twin Cities at the Mall of America.