Wisconsin is one of the Midwest's most beautiful states, offering hundreds of miles of coastline along the gorgeous Lakes Michigan and Superior. Area residents and visitors can easily day trip to some of the Midwest's most vibrant tourist destinations, including metropolis Chicago, resort town Wisconsin Dells, and Gurnee, home of acclaimed theme park Six Flags Great America. Towns such as Chippewa Falls and Mineral Point are renowned for their local art scenes, while Racine and Spring Green preserve some of the greatest architectural works by Frank Lloyd Wright. Unique regional foods abound, from Madison's famed fried cheese curds to the Swiss delicacies that are sold in shops and restaurants throughout New Glarus. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
Door County is a charming peninsular region located between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, named in honor of the infamous Death's Door strait passage between the Door Peninsula and nearby Washington Island. Visitors can explore the region's shipwreck and maritime history at the Door County Maritime Museum, which is home to several preserved historic watercraft. A plethora of historic lighthouses are showcased throughout the county, including the National Register of Historic Places-listed Cana Island Lighthouse, Baileys Harbor Range Lights, and Pilot Island Lighthouse. Lovely Peninsula State Park offers excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming on charming Nicolet Beach, while Newport State Park is home to a plethora of wilderness trails. City centers such as Sturgeon Bay are home to delicious restaurants serving area classics like Belgian-style booyah stew.
2.Aztalan State Park
Aztalan State Park is a National Historic Landmark that preserves one of the most important archaeological sites in the state of Wisconsin. The park, which is located in the city of Jefferson, preserves an ancient Middle Mississippian indigenous village that was heavily populated between the years of 1000 and 1300 A.D. Its name refers to an historic belief that the village may have been connected to the ancient Aztec residence of Aztalan. Pyramid-shaped mounds are preserved at the site, which are believed to have served both defensive and ceremonial purposes for the culture. Visitors can also explore the park's 172 lovely preserved acres of oak woods habitat, which are home to excellent opportunities for boating, canoeing, and catfish and walleye fishing on the Crawfish River.
N6200 County Rd Q, Jefferson, WI 53549, Phone: 920-648-8774
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Chicago is the largest metropolis in the American Midwest, home to some of Illinois' top cultural and recreational attractions. The "Windy City," which is best known as the birthplace of the skyscraper in the 19th and 20th centuries, is a top tourist destination for arts and culture, home to renowned attractions such as the Broadway in Chicago theatrical organization, which presents touring Broadway productions and professional musicals at locations like the Chicago Theatre and the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The city's Magnificent Mile is home to some of the country's best upscale shopping and most beautiful Gilded Age landmarks. Internationally-renowned museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago are open to the public, showcasing exhibits by major Impressionist artists. Visitors can also explore the vibrant Navy Pier entertainment complex, which offers a massive observation wheel, an historic carousel, and a plethora of shopping and dining destinations.
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Chippewa Falls is a charming city in Chippewa County, named in honor of the Ojibwa indigenous tribe that once populated the Michigan region. The town, which is located on the banks of the Chippewa River, is best known as the home of famed Leinenkugel Brewing Company, which offers a delicious tasting room sampling its craft microbrews and guided tours of its brewery operations throughout the year. The Heyde Center for the Arts presents live theatrical performances and art gallery exhibitions throughout the year, while the Chippewa Falls Museum of Industry and Technology documents the life and career of Seymour Cray, known as the father of modern supercomputing. Family-friendly attractions include the 318-acre Irvine Park Zoo. Each year, the city hosts major special events such as the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and the annual Country Fest music festival.
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Dubuque is a delightful Iowa city located along the banks of the majestic Mississippi River, originally established in the 18th century as a lead mining town. Today, the port city has become a major center for the arts, culture, and outdoor recreation, home to renowned attractions like the family-friendly National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which explores human and animal life on the river over the years. The 1,439-acre Mines of Spain Recreation Area is home to 12 miles of hiking trails and four miles of skiing trails, as well as rare animal species like bald eagles and flying squirrels. Nearby, the gorgeous Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are home to rose and Japanese garden areas, while the 19th-century Mathias Ham House preserves an opulent mansion and historic log cabin. Visitors can also catch performances by the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, explore the collections of the Dubuque Museum of Art, or ride the world's steepest and shortest scenic railway at the Fenelon Place Elevator.
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Eau Claire is renowned as the "Indie Capital of the Midwest," located just an hour and a half east of Minneapolis at the confluence of the beautiful Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers. The city, which is named for the French term for "clear waters," is home to a wide variety of family-friendly attractions, including the Children's Museum of Eau Claire, the lively Chaos Water Park, and the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum. Culture lovers can check out performances at the Pablo Center, the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, the National Register of Historic Places-listed Sarge Boyd Bandshell, or the city's many bars and clubs that host local independent music acts. The delightful Chippewa River State Trail is open to bikers, while Riverview Park and Carson Park offer opportunities for swimming and boating. The city is also renowned for its craft beer scene, home to hip breweries like K-Point Brewing, the Brewing Projekt, and Lazy Monk.
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7.Fond du Lac
Fond du Lac is a charming city located at the southern end of Lake Winnebago, named after the French term for "bottom of the lake." The city is known for its four historic downtown districts, which are home to more than 20 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spacious Lakeside Park, which spans more than 400 acres, is home to the 1933 Lakeside Park Lighthouse, which can be explored as part of summer guided tours. The park also boasts a miniature train, antique carousel, petting zoo, and annual holiday dancing lights display. Each year, the city hosts the annual Foot of the Lake Synchronized Skating Classic event.
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Galena is one of the most picturesque small towns in Illinois, known for its splendid 19th-century architecture and attractions connected to former United States President Ulysses S. Grant. Visitors can tour the beautiful Italianate-style Ulysses S. Grant Home, which is open today as a living history museum. Many of the city's beautiful National Register of Historic Places buildings have been preserved as part of the Galena Historic District, earning the city a reputation as one of America's most beautiful small towns. The city's all-American Main Street district, acclaimed by publications such as Forbes and Travel and Leisure, is home to delightful shopping and dining destinations. Nearby, Horseshoe Mound preserves an historic indigenous ceremonial mound site.
Gurnee is a delightful Illinois city located within the northern end of the Chicago metropolitan region, best known as the home of the acclaimed Six Flags Great America theme park, which draws more than three million annual visitors. The park, which was opened in 1976, is considered to be one of the top 20 amusement parks in the world, home to major thrill rides such as the wooden hybrid roller coaster Goliath, the wing coaster X-Flight, and the record-breaking multi-launch coaster Maxx Force. The park's Hurricane Harbor water park operates seasonally, offering a plethora of family-friendly water attractions. Visitors can also explore more than 200 manufacturer and retail outlet stores at Gurnee Mills, or hit the links at the 18-hole Bittersweet Golf Course.
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, Michigan beaches
La Crosse is a lovely Mississippi River city in western Wisconsin, known throughout the state as a major technology, medical, and commercial hub. Its delightful Riverside Park is home to the beautiful International Friendship Gardens, which showcase landscaping styles from locations around the world. Visitors can embark on riverboat excursions aboard the American Queen or Julia Belle Swain at the park's harbor, or view exhibits of restored classic cars at Dahl Auto Museum. More than 30 arts organizations present performances throughout the year, including the Pump House Regional Arts Center, the La Crosse Symphony, and the award-winning La Crosse Community Theater.
Lake Geneva is one of the top tourist resort getaway areas in Wisconsin, located on the banks of gorgeous Seneca Lake. The city is known for its stunning Gilded Age architecture, including locales such as Black Point Estate and Gardens, originally constructed for beer tycoon Conrad Seipp. Beautiful preserved mansions and summer estates line the city's lakefront Shore Path, which is open to the public for self-guided tours. The Geneva Lake Museum, housed within a former waterworks facility, showcases exhibits related to local culture and history. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound, including chances for swimming, canoeing, hiking, and camping at Big Foot Beach State Park. In the winter months, visitors can ski or snowtube at the Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort.
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Madison is Wisconsin's delightful capital city, located west of Milwaukee between the shores of Lakes Monona and Mendota. The city, which has been named as one of the United States' best places to live by Money Magazine and Livability, is home to one of the nation's most acclaimed culinary scenes, with several restaurants in its downtown district helmed by James Beard Award-winning chefs. Visitors can enjoy delicious regions foods like Wisconsin cheese curds or blue moon ice cream, dine on supper club-style fish fry or prime rib specials at many area restaurants, or attend the annual Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer festival, one of the nation's most exclusive beer festivals. The Wisconsin Historical Museum details the region's pioneer and industrial history through a variety of exhibits. Many biking paths traverse the city, including the Capital City State Trail, which passes Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace.
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Manitowoc is commonly referred to as the "Maritime Capital" of Wisconsin, located on Lake Michigan at its mouth at the Manitowoc River. The beautiful city is the home of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, which showcases World War II submarines such as the USS Cobia living history ship. The full-service Manitowoc Marina offers opportunities for boat launches, while the 13-mile Mariners Trail stretches to nearby Two Rivers. The National Register of Historic Places-listed Rahr-West Art Museum showcases beautiful art exhibits throughout the year. 13 beautiful beaches line the city's shores, including the 50-acre Neshotah Beach and the ADA-accessible Red Arrow Beach.
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Marshfield is a quaint Wood County city that has been named as one of the United States' best small cities to raise a family in by Forbes magazine. The city, which is best known as the home of the Marshfield Clinic, is home to delightful historic attractions like the 1880 Upham Mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public as a living history museum. 60-acre Wildwood Park and Zoo is home to more than 200 animal species, while Foxfire Gardens display natural landscaping from Eastern and Western cultures. Grotto Gardens and Wonder Cave offer beautiful landscaped areas for relaxation and reflection. Americana lovers can also view the unique World's Largest Round Barn, the central focal point of the Marshfield Fairgrounds campus.
Mineral Point is a charming small town located approximately one hour west of Madison within Wisconsin's Driftless Area. The town is renowned for its vibrant art scene, home to dozens of art galleries and studios within its downtown district, including the unique Mayday Press letterpress workshop and boutique. Delicious local cuisine highlights traditional regional dishes like Cornish pastries. The restored Pendarvis, named as one of Wisconsin's 12 Historic Sites, recreates a Cornish mining village. Orchard Lawn, constructed in 1868 for William Gundry, hosts a summer concert series each year. Annual special events include a Fall Art Tour, a candlelight holiday shopping event, and the Driftless Film Festival.
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New Glarus is a lovely village in Green County that was originally established in the mid-19th century as a Swiss colony. The village retains its Alpine character today, known for its unique Old World architecture, including Swiss-style chalets and historic businesses. Visitors can sample a wide variety of traditional Swiss dishes rarely served outside of Switzerland, including röschti, kalberwurst, spätzle, and landjäger. Old World meat markets and Swiss bakeries sell traditional delicacies, while folk art galleries and museums highlight the culture of Switzerland and tell the tale of early Swiss immigrants. Visitors can also enjoy delicious craft beers at the New Glarus Brewing Company, the United States' 17th-largest craft brewery.
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Oshkosh is a charming city in Winnebago County, located at the confluence of the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. The city, which is commonly referred to as Wisconsin's "Event City," presents a nearly-endless list of special events throughout the year, including the weekly Waterfest concert series, hosted at the Leach Amphitheater. The Downtown Oshkosh Gallery Walk, held each first Saturday of the month, opens the doors of the city's art galleries and studios to visitors and residents. Long-running community festivals hosted throughout the year include Menominee Park's Sawdust Days and the five-day Country USA music festival. Family-friendly attractions abound, including the Oskhosh Public Museum, the Paine Art Center and Gardens, and the EAA AirVenture Museum.
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© The City of Platteville, Wisconsin
Platteville is Grant County's largest city, located in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin and best known as the home of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus. The university's campus serves as a cultural hub for the city, home to the Center of the Arts, which presents live theatrical and comedy performances throughout the year, and the Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery. Visitors can explore family-friendly attractions such as the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums, which are home to a 19th-century lead mine and 1931 zinc mine train. The "Big M," a monogrammed letter that was originally constructed in 1936 for the former Wisconsin Mining School, holds the record as the world's largest letter M.
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Port Washington is a charming town located on Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline, located within easy day trip distance from downtown Milwaukee. The Ozaukee County city offers New England-style charm and beautiful harbor town attractions, including a gorgeous Art Deco-style lighthouse, a half-mile pier, and ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and beach walking. The 1860 Light Station Museum shares stories of 19th-century lighthouse keepers, while the Port Exploreum features interactive high-tech exhibits on maritime history and ecology. An impressive collection of pre-Civil-War-era buildings includes the historic Edward Dodge House, which is home to the city's visitor center. The city's award-winning downtown district is home to a plethora of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
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Racine is a charming city on the shores of Lake Michigan near the mouth of the Root River, located less than half an hour south of Milwaukee. The highly-cultural city is acclaimed for its preserved architectural works by renowned 20th-century artist Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Johnson Wax Headquarters and the Keland House. Visitors can tour the S.C. Johnson corporate campus, explore the impressive contemporary craft collections of the Racine Art Museum, or take in theatrical performances by the Racine Theater Guild, which presents musicals, dramas, and children's theater productions. Beautiful North Beach, named as one of America's greatest beaches by USA Today, spans 50 acres and offers beach volleyball courts, lifeguard staff, and a nautical-themed children's playground.
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Spring Green is a lovely Sauk County village that is best known as the birthplace of famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, considered to be one of the greatest master architects of the 20th century. The town is best known as the home of Wright's beautiful Taliesin, which served as the architect's home and studio throughout much of the 20th century. Today, the home sits on a resort campus that is also home to a restored carousel and a windowed walk over the surrounding valley. The American Players Theatre, one of the nation's most-attended classical theaters, presents five plays each year between June and October, attracting over 100,000 attendees. Visitors can also canoe and kayak on the Wisconsin River, view some of the state's rarest flora and fauna at the Spring Green Prairie Nature Conservancy, or enjoy year-round hiking opportunities at Tower Hill State Park.
West Bend is a lovely summer getaway area located just minutes from downtown Milwaukee, nestled within the beautiful rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine. The charming city, which serves as the county seat of Washington County, is home to lovely cultural attractions such as the Museum of Wisconsin Art, which showcases the works of prominent state artists. The beautiful Eisenbahn State Trail offers opportunities for walking, biking, and roller skating, part of the 1,000-mile National Ice Age Trail. Each year, the city hosts an annual Music on Main concert series, which brings local bands to Old Settler's Park each week. The city also hosts the Washington County Fair each summer and is home to one of the state's largest seasonal farmer's markets, boasting over 65 vendors.
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Wisconsin Dells is one of the top family-friendly tourist destinations in the American Midwest, located along the banks of the Wisconsin River in the city's southern area. The resort town has been acclaimed as the "Water Park Capital of the World" for its high-thrill water rides and attractions at locations such as Noah's Ark Water Park, the largest water park in the United States. Mt. Olympus Water Park and Theme Park is home to high and mild thrill rides, including the unique Hades 360 looping wooden roller coaster. A plethora of souvenir shops, family fun centers, and family-friendly restaurants line the city's vibrant Strip, which is also home to larger-than-life attractions like the Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum. Adult visitors can hit the gaming floor at Ho-Chunk Gaming or enjoy leisurely excursion train rides aboard the scenic railway of the Mid-Continent Railway Museum.
23 Best Day Trips in Wisconsin (Small Towns, Beaches)
- Door County, Photo: Mosto/stock.adobe.com
- Aztalan State Park, Photo: ronnarong/stock.adobe.com
- Chicago, Photo: olegkor/stock.adobe.com
- Chippewa Falls, Photo: Jacob/stock.adobe.com
- Dubuque, Photo: Dimitrios/stock.adobe.com
- Eau Claire, Photo: Jason/stock.adobe.com
- Fond du Lac, Photo: Chee/stock.adobe.com
- Galena, Photo: EJRodriquez/stock.adobe.com
- Gurnee, Photo: Blanscape/stock.adobe.com
- La Crosse, Photo: Erwin/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Geneva, Photo: ezellhphotography/stock.adobe.com
- Madison, Photo: Maryna/stock.adobe.com
- Manitowoc, Photo: Henryk Sadura/stock.adobe.com
- Marshfield, Photo: Tyler Rickenbach/stock.adobe.com
- Mineral Point, Photo: soupstock/stock.adobe.com
- New Glarus, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- Oshkosh, Photo: Henryk Sadura/stock.adobe.com
- Platteville, Photo: The City of Platteville, Wisconsin
- Port Washington, Photo: ASP Inc/stock.adobe.com
- Racine, Photo: doncon402/stock.adobe.com
- Spring Green, Photo: K. Thalhofer/stock.adobe.com
- West Bend, Photo: Yakov/stock.adobe.com
- Wisconsin Dells, Photo: Jacob/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Riverwalker/stock.adobe.com
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