The Wisconsin Cranberry Trail

The only thing that makes fall color even brighter and more beautiful is when it’s paired with a red sea of cranberries. Wisconsin is the nation’s largest producer of the cranberry, which has led to a bounty of festivals, unique destinations and tours all centered around the fruit.

This fall, experience the cranberry as it’s meant to be experienced -- with a self-guided tour of Wisconsin’s Cranberry Highway. For 50 miles along century-old cranberry marshes in central Wisconsin, hop on Highway 54 and meander through Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Cranmoor, and other small cranberry towns not to mention nearby Warrens and Tomah. You’ll learn about the history of the cranberry and taste all the delicious treats made from it.

Get out in the Field

Fall is cranberry harvest season, which means that cranberry marshes are open for business. Take a tour of a working cranberry marsh for an only-in-Wisconsin experience.

Glacial Lake Cranberries and the Cranberry Link Visitor Center in Wisconsin Rapids is right off of Highway 54 (or Highway 173 depending on where you’re coming from) on County Road D. The marsh offers tours of one of the oldest cranberry marshes in central Wisconsin. Tours start at the end of September and last through the third week in October. Tours are offered Monday through Saturday, but be sure to call ahead! These hour-long tours, which start at the visitor’s center and end in the marsh, are popular and fill up fast.

The Cranberry Highway isn’t the only place in the state where you can see cranberries. Tours are also offered in other places “Up North” including Manitowish Waters and Eagle River.

A stop at the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center

Your trip around cranberry country isn’t complete without a stop in the heart of it: Warrens, the “Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin.” Follow highway 173 from Wisconsin Rapids and you’ll eventually find the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center and Museum. The museum is home to interactive exhibits that display Wisconsin’s unique history of the cranberry from early beginnings as a staple of Native American life, to its importance today. And, the best way to truly appreciate the cranberry is by sampling. Visit a test kitchen and ice cream parlor to taste cranberry creations. We recommend the cranberry ice cream, cranberry pie, cranberry bread, cranberry scones, cranberry cookies... well, you get the idea.

Cranberry Festivals Galore!

Plan your trip around the world’s largest cranberry festival. The Warrens Cranberry Festival is the end-all-be-all for cranberry lovers. More than 100,000 people attend each year for three miles of shopping, arts and crafts, flea markets and a cranberry parade. But the real treat of the festival is the treats themselves. You’ll find just about any food imaginable made from cranberries, like cranberry brats, cream puffs, and cranberry wine.

Can’t make it to Warrens? Don’t worry. There are a number of other cranberry festivals that take place this season. Check out Manitowish Waters’ Colorama Festival, the Stone Lake Cranberry Festival or Eagle River’s Cranberry Festival.

Cranberry Rest Stop

All that cranberry sampling and touring have you ready for a break? We recommend you grab some dinner at Burnstad’s in Tomah. It’s a quick 20-minute drive from Warrens and is a popular stop for a couple of reasons.

Reason one: Cranberry food! In the fall, menu items are changed to include the cranberry. The most popular dessert item is the Cranberry Crunch Pie. It’s a homemade pie shell with cream cheese and cranberry filling, baked and then topped with cranberry crunch topping.

Reason two: Burnstad’s is actually located in a mock “European village” and is a hot spot for bus tours and travelers alike. There’s antique shopping, an Amish country store, gift shop, ladies boutique, and candy shop (can you say chocolate covered cranberries?).

This entry was posted in Things to Do, Local Foods, Farm Markets & Pick Your Own, Other Specialty Foods and tagged Features and Profiles