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For better or for worse, there’s no place like Wisconsin. If you don’t soak your brats in beer or have never been to a supper club, then you probably don’t know what we’re talking about, but you will by the end of this list. Wisconsinites are warm and friendly people, especially after a few brandy old fashioneds, so treat this round-up of Wisconsin must-dos like it came from an over zealous local standing uncomfortably close in a crowded bar telling you everything you should do while visiting us here in the Dairy State.  

RELATED: Could this be the Midwest’s most underrated city?

Flickr CC: Ryan Dickey

1. Bowl the oldest lanes in the country

Dust off your bowling shoes and head to the oldest sanctioned bowling lanes in the country, and arguably the world. Located in Milwaukee, the Holler House (2042 W Lincoln Ave) is a place that is so old school they still use human pin setters. Add your name to the list of people who have hurled balls down these lanes that have been open since 1908. It’s a must on any legit Wisconsin itinerary. 

2. Gorge yourself on frozen custard

Another Wisconsin tradition you really need to get acquainted with is the insanely rich and delicious dessert known as frozen custard. It’s similar to ice cream, but it’s only recently this frozen wonder caught on outside state lines (thanks, Shake Shack). And while Wisconsinites may never agree on who has the best frozen custard, most will tell you it’s far superior to regular old ice cream. Our local favorite is Kopp’s Custard in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale (5373 N Port Washington Rd).

3. Drink copious amounts of brandy old fashioneds

Officially, the state drink is milk, but if Wisconsinites were allowed to have an official mixed drink, it would be the brandy old fashioned. If you grew up in Wisconsin, you likely have a predisposed affinity for brandy in your old fashioned rather than whiskey, but more likely you don’t even know an old fashioned any other way. We’re partial to the one served at the drink’s namesake bar, The Old Fashioned, located near the Capitol in Madison (23 N Pinckney St).

Flickr CC: Bobbylight

4. Spread your love for Wisconsin over at the National Mustard Museum

Of all the strange things you’ll run into in Wisconsin, it doesn’t get much more bizarre than the National Mustard Museum outside of Madison (7477 Hubbard Ave, Middleton). With over 5,300 jars of mustard from more than 60 countries around the world, its claim to fame is having the largest display of prepared mustards and mustard memorabilia in the country. We owe this state treasure to Barry Levenson, a former Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin and owner of the museum’s initial 12 jars of mustard.

5. Fill your glass with Wisconsin beer history (or just beer) 

At one point in time, Milwaukee was the beer capital of the world, producing more beer than anywhere else. Much of that history can still be seen today in places like the Pabst Mansion (2000 W Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee) or the current Miller Brewery (4251 W State St), both offering tours (with beer, of course). Along with the old big breweries, a new generation of brewers have made Wisconsin a great place for beer again. There are plenty of microbreweries across the state to fill your trip and your glass, from Lakefront Brewery and Capital to New Glarus and Tyranena. 

6. Visit the country’s largest water park

Why not build the biggest water park in the country in a place where you can only swim without the fear of hypothermia for three months of the year? Well, that actually happened. Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells (1410 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy) is the largest in the United States and one of the best places to visit in Wisconsin. This massive water park spans more than 70 acres and is home to more than 50 H2O-filled rides and attractions.

7. Laugh or cry your way through The International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center (ICHOF)

No, really—this is a real thing. The International Clown Hall of Fame’s dedicated curators have collected all things clown and set them out for display in Baraboo (102 4th Ave), a town with a deep circus history. Love em’ or hate them, the clown museum pays tribute to the great clowns throughout history and has live entertainment for all visitors who dare stop in. 

Flickr CC: aaronmjr

8. Pay a visit to the Upside Down White House

No matter your political affiliations, you can’t help but marvel at this one-of-a-kind upside down recreation of the president’s house. Built purely for entertainment purposes in the tourist town of the Wisconsin Dells (527 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy), this quirky site is fun on a rainy day. 

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Apostle Island Sea Caves

Apostle Island Sea Caves

9. Walk to an ice cave in the middle of a frozen Lake Superior 

Probably anywhere else in the country this would be ice overload, but not in Wisconsin. The adventurous who make the journey up north to the Apostle Island Sea Caves (415 Washington Ave, Bayfield) during the winter will be rewarded with an amazing sight. During the winter months, these small caves fill with stalactites of ice, making for otherworldly photos. If all this ice sounds too cold for you, plan your visit for the summer where these sea caves are still pretty impressive (and less icy). 

10. EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh

Every August, a small airfield in the middle of Wisconsin becomes the nation’s busiest airport for the annual AirVenture (525 W 20th Ave) put on by the EAA. More than a half million aviation geeks and pilots from around the world descend on Oshkosh for a giant air show featuring over 10,000 aircraft. 

Flickr CC: Ed Bierman

11. Harley Davidson Museum

While in Wisconsin, home of the Harley, it would be a sin not to stop into the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee (400 W Canal St). Everything from handlebars to tailpipes throughout the history of the motorcycle is housed here. Located on the river just a few blocks from the center of downtown, the museum is one of the most fun things to do in Milwaukee.

12. Put on your snow pants and come tailgate in sub zero weather

Wisconsinites aren’t afraid of a little snow and cold weather, and that sure as heck isn’t going to stop them from tailgating when ‘Da Pack plays a home game in January. If you find yourself in the Green Bay area on a Sunday in the middle of winter, you owe it to yourself to check out the Packers and their one-of-a-kind tradition at Lambeau Field. 

13. Friday fish fry with live polka

It wouldn’t be Friday in Wisconsin without a fish fry. Most places in the country reserve a fish fry for Lent, but not up here. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is: If it’s Friday, there’s fish in the fryer. Kick up the Wisconsin-ness with a live polka band providing the entertainment while you dine at Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery (1872 N Commerce St).

14. Catch a snowshoe baseball game

Another Wisconsin tradition that may leave you scratching your head is the summer sport of snowshoe baseball. Since 1961, people in northern Wisconsin have strapped on snowshoes in the middle of July and ran around a saw dust covered diamond. As you might imagine, it’s not the most graceful sport, but that’s part of the fun. If you make it to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, you are not going to want to miss this must-see sport. One great place to catch it is in Tomahawk (7246 Main St).

15. Polka your way to A World of Accordions Museum

The unofficial state instrument of Wisconsin is none other than the accordion. There’s no better place to find out more than you’ll ever need to know about this unique instrument than at the A World of Accordions Museum in Superior (1401 Belknap St). These walls hold more than 1,300 accordions, some dating back hundreds of years.

16. See all kinds of the world’s largest stuff

If it’s the quirky superlatives you’re after, Wisconsin has you covered here, too! Home to a handful of “World’s Largest” random items, Wisconsin has no shortage of crazy things to pull you off the road to gawk at. Probably the most Wisconsin of them all is “Chatty Belle,” the world’s largest talking cow. But really how many talking cows can there be? Or it’s the World’s Largest Penny, weighing 17,000 pounds, that will get you to pull over? How about the World’s Largest Six-Pack, containing enough beer to fill more than 1,000,000 standard size six-packs. Last but not lightest is the World’s Heaviest Ball of Twine, which is kept together by a man known as JFK. 

Flickr CC: Bradhoc

17. Visit a cheese castle 

Whatever you do, don’t leave “America’s Dairyland” without some cheese. One of the most popular and quirky places to grab a slice is the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha (2800 W Frontage Rd). While this castle isn’t made of cheese (disappointing, we know), it is full of it, including several flavors of Wisconsin’s famous cheese curds. This place makes for a cheesy roadside attraction, puns most definitely intended.


Tagged: Midwest, Milwaukee

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Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog

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