Looking for the perfect respite outdoors this summer? Whether you’ve got just a couple of days or a couple of weeks to spend, there’s plenty to keep you busy among Wisconsin’s natural wonders and attractions. Better yet, it’s easy for the whole family to get involved. From nature hikes to outdoor obstacle courses, to afternoons spent on the lake, to water parks and city strolling, your visit to Wisconsin won’t be something you forget anytime soon.
After growing up in Wisconsin, I’ve chosen with care among the best summer fun Wisconsin has to offer. This is your chance to explore, rewind, and enjoy the great outdoors like never before.
#1 Milwaukee County Zoo
For all animal lovers in the family, the Milwaukee County Zoo offers a unique experience up close with wildlife from around the world. The zoo stretches 200 wooded acres, and includes over 2,000 mammals, bird, fish, and amphibians. Visit the manatees in the aquarium, lions in their natural grasslands habitat, and colorful bird species. The zoo offers daily live shows and petting zoos to give kids a chance to see all that these animals can do up front, while gaining an education about their natural habitats, the risk of endangerment, etc. The zoo is open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during summer months (end of May through September). During peak summer season, adults pay $14.25, children pay $11.25, and adults over the age of 60 pay $13.25. Children under the age of 2 enter free.
#2 The Dells
A family trip to Wisconsin is incomplete without a visit to the Wisconsin Dells. In fact, the Dells are the epitome of a summer well spent in the state’s northern half. While the resort town really fills up during summer months, there’s fun to be had all year long. Noah’s Ark Waterpark is the perfect remedy to a hot day in July. Check out the body slides and roller-coasters inner tube slides such as the Bermuda Triangle, Black Thunder, Flash Flood. or Scorpion’s Tail. Opening hours vary throughout the summer. For specific scheduling, take a look at calendar.
At Pirates Cove golf course, the whole family can take a shot at meeting par. For mini-golf experts and beginners alike, the course offers special effects that will enchant everyone.
While there’s still some debate from city to city and state to state, Wisconsin claims its spot as the operators of the Original Wisconsin Duck Boat Tours. These amphibious boats, designed after those used in war combat, can travel on pavement, then tuck their wheels in and cruise along the river. It’s a great chance to see the Wisconsin Dells from a new perspective. If you’re lucky, you and the kids may even get a chance to drive; Duck Boat operators are often known to hand over the wheel once safely coaxed into the water. Learn more at about the tours!
From land to water, to aerial acrobatics: Bigfoot Zipline is a ropes course that challenges people to face their fears and take their adventurous spirit to a new level. You’ll swing from tree tops and scale your way across teetering platforms—a sure test of your nerves and wit.
#3 The House on the Rock
House on the Rock is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s some kind of real-life funhouse, where reality and imagination are closely intertwined. You’ll step inside the mind of a creative mastermind as you’re transported to an alternate world.
The House on the Rock site includes the main Attraction, the Inn, and the Resort, each with an interior that could only exist here at House on the Rock. You’ll step into the belly of a whale, watch sky-high carousels of dolls spin round, and step out onto an infinity passageway that you’ll swear is never-ending. Here’s more about their visiting hours.
For information about visiting hours, visit their site or call 608-935-3639.
#4 Devil’s Lake
Stretch your legs at Wisconsin’s Devil Lake. Located nearly two hours northwest of Milwaukee and an hour north of Madison, the natural scenery at Devil’s Lake is well worth the stop.
Here, you’ll experience some of the best hiking trails in the state, with jaw-dropping views of the lake below. Hiking trails will wind you up and down, and around the perimeter of the lake. Trails are labeled with level of difficulty so you can plan ahead as a family. Afterward, take a dip in the water, or rent rowboats, paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes.
Devil’s Lake also offers camping arrangements. The park grounds are open year-round from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. The Visitors’ Center is open in summer from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., and in fall, spring, and winter from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
#5 Lake Geneva Cruise
Lake Geneva Cruise Line
Get out on the water at Lake Geneva. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mansions and boat houses, best seen from the water. At Lake Geneva, spend a day out on the water with Lake Geneva Cruise to relax and rewind. Tours generally last from 3 to 4 hours, and the captains at Lake Geneva Cruise are extremely knowledgeable about the area.
Once you’ve docked again, check out the shops and restaurants in downtown Lake Geneva. Other recreational activities nearby include golfing, museums, hiking, water parks, and beaches.
#6 Door County
Door County is just as synonymous with a summer in Wisconsin as the Dells. Door County is filled with family activities, most of them set in the outdoors. Door County is famous for hiking trails, biking, camping, and golfing. But it doesn’t stop there.
Kayak up to the sea caves at Cave Point County Park and discover some nearby shipwrecks. Take a ride in the fire-engine-red Door County Trolleys stationed at Egg Harbor. Pick your own cherries at orchards at White Gull Inn and Fish Creek to cook up for a warm, homemade pie. Horseback to the outskirts of town, towards Sturgeon Bay.
#7 Washington Island
Washington Island is the largest of Door County’s 30 islands. It spreads 35 square miles and includes pristine beaches and clear blue water. Do some hiking and make your away along the island’s rocky shores, before relaxing for the evening in one of many quaint family hotels and resorts.
Family fun activities on the island include visiting the orchards at White Gull Inn and Fish Creek, horseback through the island’s grassy plains, scaling the Mountain Park Lookout Tower, and visiting museums such as the Jacobsen Museum.
#8 Packer’s Lambeau Field
What could be more Wisconsin than a visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay? Home of the Green Bay Packers. Get a look behind the scenes at training facilities and the stadium itself, which has housed a record of 80,000 fans. Picture yourself among all the excitement there on game day, holding your breath for that first touchdown. Four different tour options are available, including the Classic Tour, Champions Tour, Legendary Tour, and Alumni Tour. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. on Sundays at the Hall of Fame front desk. Times may vary before and after home games. Tours can be arranged online.
#9 Taliesin East: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home Tour
Some of the best glimpses of the outdoors are from the inside out. Take the whole family to Taliesin East to see the internationally acclaimed work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd’s geometric structured buildings that jut out into the natural surrounding landscapes speak wonders best admired in person. A visit to the ground is simply on a new level from anything you could read about in a textbook. The regular tour season lasts from the beginning of May until the end of October. House tours begin on the weekends during the months of April and November as well. Visitors can end their tour with a visit to the Taliesin Bookstore or Riverview Terrace Cafe. For more information see their site.
#10 State Street in Madison
Go back in time to your college days with a visit to Madison’s State Street. With university students totaling over 40,000 in this mid-sized city, you’ll feel like you’re in the heart of College Town, U.S.A. Energy is always high and nearly electrified on game days as the Wisconsin Badgers go up against neighboring rivals. State Street runs through the center of the downtown area, filled with local bars, vintage shops, quirky arts stores, and university bookstores. Venture off State Street towards the lake, a 5 or 10-minute walk through the university’s pristine campus. Must-visits include Paul’s Books, Fresco Restaurant, the Soap Opera, and State Street Brats.