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Wisconsin is an outdoor lover’s playground for people all across the Midwest. Chicagoans regularly make the trek up north to experience small-town life and big-time outdoor adventure. Weekends in Wisconsin are a way of life for Midwesterners, with plenty of boating, rock climbing, quirky roadside attractions, and delicious cheese to keep you coming back year after year. To help you plan your next trip, these are our top picks for a weekend getaway destination in Wisconsin.
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Made up of 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland, you can visit Apostle Island National Lakeshore at the very the northern end of Wisconsin. This is a fun place to hike, sail, paddle, see lighthouses, and learn about the unique history of the area. One of the most interesting parts about this park is the ice caves, which are at the western end of the Mainland Unit of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Bayfield County. The state park’s Facebook page is a good place to learn about the ice cave conditions. To get to the islands, you can take your own kayak or boat, ride the excursion boat, or take a car ferry to Madeline Island. There is camping available on 19 of the 21 islands and also at the mainland campsite.
Door County, Wisconsin is always a popular weekend getaway spot, and it’s located between Green Bay and Lake Michigan on a peninsula. You can experience 300 miles of shorelines here with amazing sunrises and sunsets, five state parks, and 11 historic lighthouses. There are 19 communities that make up this region, and each one has a little something different to offer travelers. Come here for a culture-packed weekend getaway with art galleries and fine dining. There are also great local events, like fish boils and jazz concerts. The Northern Sky Theater, Cave Point County Park, Door County Creamery, and Schoolhouse Beach are all popular things to do here.
Amnicon Falls State Park is about seven miles from the town of Superior and open year-around. This is an incredible place to see waterfalls and rapids along the river from hiking trails and foot bridges. You can also camp here in one of the 36 campsites. There are no electric hookups at the campground, but there are vault toilets and drinking water. Explore the 1.8 miles of trails for scenic views, and consider taking a dip in the water on a warm day. There are no designated beaches here, but swimming and wading are allowed. In the winter, there’s a 1.5-mile designated snowshoe trail.
Popular for weddings and among boating enthusiasts, Lake Geneva is a prime spot for a weekend getaway. This resort city has lots of entertainment shows, shops to browse, spas to relax in, and restaurants to try. The colorful fall foliage is spectacular to see, and the town gets festive with lights and special events during the winter holiday season. Top things to do here include catching a show at the Tristan Crist Magic Theater, hiking along the Geneva Lake Shore Path, and checking out Big Foot Beach State Park.
Eagle River is a popular vacation and retirement destination because of the many lakes in the area. Boat tours are very popular here among weekend travelers. Families with kids should definitely check out the Northwoods Children’s Museum. Conover, Land O’ Lakes, Phelps, St. Germain, and Three Lakes are all close by for day trips too. This is a nice place to go snowmobiling in the winter as well.
Madison is an exciting city to visit in Wisconsin because it’s a college town with lots of activities and events scheduled all throughout the year. It’s easy to get your arts and culture fix here at popular spots like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and also to experience the beauty of the area at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. There are also tons of breweries in town for craft beer lovers, including One Barrel Brewing Company and Vintage Brewing Company.
Rock climbers and hikers flock to Devil’s Lake State Park every year for outdoor adventure. This is the best and closest place to go outdoor climbing near Chicago, and there are lots of great local guide companies that will show you the ropes. Over three million people visit this park every year. There are three public camping areas on the north shore of the lake and over 29 miles of hiking trails that vary in level of difficulty.
Bayfield is known as the gateway to the Apostle Islands, but there are lots of other things to do in town too. This small town is an ideal place to come to relax for the weekend. The Madeline Island School of Arts offers workshops to embrace your inner artist, and there are local theater productions you can check out too. The Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua is a fun theater, and Stone’s Throw is an art gallery worth seeing.
You can also plan a weekend getaway to Wausau to experience nature, visit a casino, explore an art museum, or catch a theater performance. The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum makes a great weekend stop, and the Granite Peak skiing area isn’t far away. Local gems are the Bull Falls Brewery, the hot air balloon festival, and the Sylvan Tubing Hill.
Craft beer and wine lovers love traveling to the Chippewa Valley for the weekend. This is where the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, the River Bend Vineyard & Winery, and the Autumn Harvest Winery & Orchard are located. It’s also fun to bike the Chippewa River Trail and check out Irvine Park to get outdoors and active here.
Another great natural area we’ll mention here is the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The forest spans over 1.5 million acres of woods in various Wisconsin counties. There are 47 campgrounds, cabin sites, and picnic areas here and plenty of opportunities for blissful solitude. Check the park’s website for its recreation conditions report to verify which trails are open for hiking.