Wisconsin is a beautiful state filled with small towns, charming downtowns and outdoor adventures. Since I live in the Chicago area, and therefore, only about an hour from the Wisconsin border, I visit Wisconsin a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the windy city and a Wisconsin road trip is just what I need. Luckily Wisconsin has a variety of fun places to enjoy. Here is our list of 6 of the best day trips in Wisconsin.
New Glarus is a Swiss village that has retained its alpine architecture and small town charm. It also has a quaint downtown area filled with shops and pubs.
New Glarus is also home to the New Glarus Brewing Company that makes the famous Spotted Cow Ale. The claim to fame with this brewing company is that you can only buy their beer in the state of Wisconsin. In fact, Spotted Cow is so popular in the Midwest that I know of many people that live in the Chicago suburbs who will make a monthly trip to go across the border to Wisconsin just to buy Spotted Cow.
The brewery itself is now open and is worth a visit if you are in the area. You can sample different varieties of the beer, visit the gift shop and simply have a good time with friends.
Bailey’s Run Vineyard and Winery is another great place to hang out with friends on the weekend. And it is situated in a beautiful setting and has live music and good wine to sip and enjoy while hanging out with friends. So New Glarus has a lot to offer and is one of the best day trips in Wisconsin.
Dane county, in southern Wisconsin, is the second most populous county in Wisconsin. It is home to Madison, the state capital and also home to University of Wisconsin at Madison. The surrounding area therefore has a great college town feel and has plenty of bars and recreation. Lake Mendota is also beautiful and is a great spot to go boating in the summer months.
Madison is also known for a nationally recognized farmer’s market that is held every Saturday from summer through late fall.
Finally, Dane County is also home to “Epic” headquarters. Epic is a medical software company that built one of the nation’s largest company headquarters in Verona Wisconsin, which is in Dane County. It is so unique that it is worth a visit if you are in the area. The Epic campus employs a workforce of nearly 10,000.
It has incredibly unique workplaces. You can find yourself working in a Star Wars themed meeting room, an Indiana Jones themed hallway, a giant auditorium five stories underground that seats 11,000 or an intricate Harry Potter themed space. It literally sounds like working in a theme park rather than a company that designs medical software. Epic Campus offers self-guided tours so you can see all the amazing themes yourself. (These tours may be on hiatus so check their website often to see when they are available)
Door county is a popular tourist destination on the east- central side of Wisconsin. It is situated on a peninsula that juts out into Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east. As a result, it is known for miles of shoreline and state parks that are criss-crossed with hiking trails. Because of its natural beauty, Door County is a perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of outdoor activities including cross-country skiing in the winter and cherry picking in late summer. The best time to visit really depends on what you want to see and do.
With its miles of endless shoreline, Door County is home to 11 historic lighthouses. Each of these are unique and have their own story to tell. When you visit Door County, you certainly won’t be able to see all of it in a day. There are over a dozen distinct communities here. Each are beautiful places with their own charm and personality. So make sure to prioritize what you want to see and do your research to pick the place that is just right for you.
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and has so much to offer. It is a perfect place for a day trip in Wisconsin. Milwaukee is a great destination for families, couples, and groups of friends.
If you are a beer aficionado, Milwaukee is the place for you. It is known as the “Beer Capital of the World” for good reason. In fact, several iconic beer manufacturers have been located here. Schlitz, Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Sprecher are just some of the examples of beers that made Milwaukee famous.
Milwaukee county zoo is one of the nation’s best. I can remember my mom taking me and my brothers here when we were young for a day trip from the Chicago area. Open since 1892, the Milwaukee County Zoo is a great place to bring your family for the day.
Finally, during the summer, Milwaukee is famous for hosting “SummerFest”. Billed as the “World’s Largest Music Festival” it attracts top musicians every summer.
Lake Geneva is a charming city in southern Wisconsin that is situated on the 5,401 acre Geneva Lake. It is home to a variety of resorts, gift shops, a quaint downtown district, and plenty of tourist attractions. And it is only about an hour from the Chicago or Milwaukee areas making it a great day trip in Wisconsin.
This charming town offers seasonal fun year round. Firstly, the summer is the perfect time for boating, swimming and water sports. There are several places you can relax at a public beach or rent a boat or pontoon and spend a sunny day on the lake. We also enjoy the various dining establishments and we never leave without having some ice cream!
Secondly, in the autumn, Lake Geneva comes alive in gorgeous fall colors. The shops are filled with fall and halloween decor. It’s also easy to find pumpkin pancakes on the breakfast menus around town. During the holidays, the town is shimmering in Christmas lights and you can’t beat the beautiful blooms of spring.
Regardless of the time of year, we LOVE being in Lake Geneva. It is a good place to take a day trip in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Dells is about an hour north west of Madison. It is billed as the “Water Park Capital of the World” and during the summer months the area is a popular tourist attraction site. One of the main attractions of the area is the stunning natural beauty of the sandstone rock formations of the dells of the Wisconsin river. “Dells” comes from the French word “dalles” which means “slabs”. And the rock formations of the dells look like slabs or plates of rock layered on top of each other.
It is best to see the Dells from the Wisconsin river on a boat tour. I highly recommend the Original Wisconsin Ducks which takes you to the best places on the lower Dells. You will also drive through the beautiful forest groves of the area. We have been on this tour at least a dozen times and it never gets old.
You could also take a leisurely tour of the Upper Dells on the Dells river boat tour where you can get out of the boat and explore Witches Gulch and Stand Rock where you will see an incredible dog leap across some sandstone formations.
Some of my favorite things at the Dells in the summer months are the water parks. Noah’s Ark is the largest outdoor waterpark in the United States and Mt. Olympus has a water park and even some roller coasters making both of these water parks popular attractions.
Other things to do in the Dells on a day trip includes the Wisconsin Deer Park where deer will walk right up to you to be fed by hand, ropes courses, go- carting and of course, some great restaurants. We are also particular fans of Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty for breakfast. They offer some mouthwatering buttermilk donuts and all you can eat sausages, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes. We always make time for Paul Bunyans!
If you live near enough, the Wisconsin Dells is one of the best day trips in Wisconsin that you can take. However, if you don’t live close, luckily there are plenty of resorts in the tourist town that you and your family will love to stay in.
The great state of Wisconsin is a great place to live or visit in the United States. If you live nearby, I hope you are able to take advantage of some of these great day trips in Wisconsin. If you think we are missing something from our list, please let us know in the comments!
Do you live in or near Wisconsin? Which of our recommendations have you done? Which of our recommendations are you going to try? Do you disagree with any of our suggestions? What are we missing? Join the conversation and share any tips, questions or additional thoughts in the comments!
For more travel ideas be sure to check out our other posts!