If you’ve never tasted a Door County fish boil, biked through a mile-long pitch dark tunnel, or visited a mustard museum, this list is for you. Wisconsin’s off-the-beaten-track destinations offer delicious food, fun outdoor sports and fascinating history. Here are some personal favorites from the law firm of DeWitt Ross & Stevens and friends.
Northern Wisconsin Attractions
Eagle River Stadium – Eagle River
Built in 1933, this was Wisconsin’s first indoor hockey stadium. It is still in use. It seats roughly 2,000 with an elongated lamella truss-supported dome-shaped roof that consists of a network of wood rafters forming interlocking diamond shapes—an almost mythical edifice. It smells of the north woods. Attached is the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame with its non-fancy displays that celebrate this great winter sport.
AMSOIL World Championship Snowmobile Derby – Eagle River
Home of the snowmobile, this Vilas County institution sponsored the first race in 1964. It’s a winter tradition with over 30,000 spectators each year.
National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum – Hayward
Recognition and celebration of all things fresh water sport fishing. This is the world’s largest fishing museum famous for its iconic, 5-story building shaped like a musky.
Wisconsin Concrete Park – Phillips
Outdoor museum comprised of 237 embellished concrete sculptures built by retired lumberjack Fred Smith. Perhaps Wisconsin’s most romantic destination.
Door County Fish Boil – Door County
Lots of places offer this feast in the summer months. It’s different and unique.
Elroy-Sparta State Bike Trail Tunnels – Elroy
Set out heading east from the old Sparta Train Depot. After eight miles, tunnel three is three-quarters of a mile in length: so long and dark you can barely make out the buttonhole that marks the far end. Bring a flashlight because you’ll have to walk your bike through. Two more tunnels and several scenic villages separate you from the joys of downtown Elroy, 24 miles of hills and pastures beyond.
Warrens Cranberry Festival – Warrens
The last full weekend in September, this festival also features the well-regarded Cranberry Marsh Tours and Wisconsin’s biggest marching band parade.
Potosi Brewing Company and the National Brewery Museum – Potosi
Potosi has always been a one-street railroad stop in a ravine partly up the bluff from the Mississippi River, south of Prairie du Chien. Potosians have restored this old brewery and turned it into a destination. The museum details the rich history of America’s breweries. The Potosi Brewing Company sponsors an annual bike ride along the nearby scenic Great River Road.
Fort Crawford Museum – Prairie du Chien
The fort stood guard over Prairie du Chien from 1816 to 1856. Explore the story of the Black Hawk War and see the tools of frontier medicine through the work of army surgeon William Beaumont who pioneered the study of human digestion through his experiments at the military hospital.
Villa Louis – Prairie du Chien
An amazing 1840s Italian villa-like mansion and estate on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Pendarvis House – Mineral Point
Recalls the days when the Shake Rag neighborhood was a rough and tumble lead mining camp that attracted Cornish settlers who had arrived with expert knowledge of mining and stone masonry.
Central Wisconsin Attractions
World Dairy Expo – Madison
The very best of all things milk—cows, cream, cheese, machinery and products that make dairy farming hum. Score some unusual freebies at the vendors’ booths. I got a pair of plastic gloves that went up to my armpits. It was a nice accessory to my large animal veterinarian Halloween costume.
National Mustard Museum – Middleton
With more than 5,400 mustards from 50 states and more than 70 countries, the topic is well-covered. This is the temple to the “King of Condiments.”
The Famous Princeton Flea Market – Princeton
The largest outdoor flea market in central Wisconsin. Held every Saturday in the warm weather months in the tree-shaded City Park. Like many things in Wisconsin, until you show up, you never really know what you’re going to get.
EAA AirVenture – Oshkosh
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual fly-in convention. If you want to see airplanes, this is the place.
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge – Horicon
If you like birds and birding, this is a good place to be. The marsh is a huge natural wetland that serves as a stopover for thousands of migrating birds.
History Museum at the Castle – Appleton
Appleton is Houdini’s hometown. The museum gathers, interprets, and disseminates information related to this famous native son. (Edna Ferber, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and Greta Van Susteren also hail from Appleton.)
Basilica of St. Josaphat – Milwaukee
Built in 1896 to resemble St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The parish, in need of materials, purchased the U.S. Post Office and Customs House in Chicago and shipped the pieces by 500 flatcars to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee City Hall
Finished in 1895, it is a German Renaissance revival style masterpiece.
Ten Chimneys – Genesee Depot
A theater lover’s Balmoral Castle. The home and retreat of theater greats Alfred Lunt (he grew up nearby) and Lynn Fontanne. Here they relaxed, rehearsed, and entertained the likes of Noël Coward, Alexander Woollcott, Edna Ferber, Helen Hayes, Laurence Olivier, and Vivien Leigh.
Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill – Hubertus
A beautiful neo-Romanesque church surrounded by 435 acres of tranquility built in 1926 on a high hill. A place to renew body, mind and spirit.
Wisconsin’s Burger Belt
Start in Milwaukee and work your way west. Try Sobelman’s Pub and Grill, Solly’s Grille, Elsa’s on the Park, or A.J. Bombers. In Jefferson County, try Wedl’s Hamburger Stand, Zwieg’s Grill, or the American Legion Post #67. In Madison, it’s Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry or the Plaza Tavern. In Prairie du Chien, it’s Pete’s Hamburgers.
We hope you are able to explore a few of these destinations and enjoy all that Wisconsin has to offer.
Douglas H. Frazer, a tax attorney at DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, moved with his family to Fox Point in 1994. The couple’s children, Nathan and Jacob, both played youth and high school hockey, and the schedule of games and tournaments occasioned visits to many small out-of-the way destinations all over the state. Thus, the genesis of the list. Frazer, the lawyers and staff at DeWitt Ross & Stevens, and their friends, are delighted to share their compilation of terrific “off the beaten track” places to visit in Wisconsin.