Creative to Eccentric: 7 Man-Made Wonders of Wisconsin

You’ve probably noticed this state is home to creative thinkers. And by creative thinkers, we mean the kind of people who believe no idea is too big or too out there to give it a go, those who refuse to take no for an answer.

It’s that kind of aplomb that went into the creation this list, which could go on for pages but was unscientifically culled down to just seven (plus one honorable mention). Here are our picks and the personalities behind those places.

In alphabetical order:

Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum – Hayward

This museum is anything but stuffy. After all, how could anyone feel elitist when walking through a replica of a leaping musky that is four-and-a-half stories tall, half a city block long, and with an observation platform in its mouth?

This “Shrine to Anglers” is the most visible landmark at the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum complex located in Hayward, a haven for fishing enthusiasts and lovers of the Northwoods vacation. This is the only place in North America to display the history and heritage of freshwater sport fishing at such an extraordinary level.

Unrivaled Addition: In 2011, An exact replica of Lauri Rapala's 1950s-era workshop in Finland was added and is the only one of its kind in North America, complete with all the artifacts supplied by the Rapala family. According to the Rapala website, their fishing lures have caught more world-record fish than any other lure.

Lambeau Field – Green Bay

Calling it the “crown jewel of National Football League stadiums” is no exaggeration. Lambeau Field in Green Bay is a mecca for NFL fans of all affiliations. Lambeau Field is open year-round, not just on game days. Take the stadium tour and visit the Packer Hall of Fame to see the four Lombardi trophies.

By the way, Lambeau Field is the longest continuously occupied stadium in the NFL and was ranked the No. 1 NFL stadium two years in a row by Sports Illustrated. For a great photo opp, have your picture taken with the towering bronze statues of team founder Curly Lambeau and legendary coach Vince Lombardi in front of the stadium.

Insider Tidbit: During a major renovation of the stadium in the early 2000s, head coach Mike Sherman had a concrete slab of the old players’ tunnel (dating back to the Lombardi era) inlaid in the current players’ tunnel ensuring the history and tradition of Lambeau Field would remain intact. Each Packers player running out of the tunnel onto Lambeau Field on gameday has run over that same piece of concrete.

Milwaukee Art Museum – Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Art Museum, with its steel wing-like structure known as the Burke Brise Soleil perched atop the 2001 Quadracci Pavilion addition, is a landmark example of architectural and engineering genius. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the wings of the Brise Soleil open and close daily, conjuring up images of a bird in flight or ship under sail.

The structure has become an iconic image in the Milwaukee skyline. The museum is actually composed of three separate-but-connected buildings, with the first dating back to 1957, housing more than 25,000 works spanning antiquity to the present date.

Special Accolades: After its completion in 2001, the Quadracci Pavilion was named “Best Design” by TIME Magazine. The museum also has hosted many television and movie shoots – from "American Idol" to "Transformers 3."

Noah’s Ark Waterpark – Wisconsin Dells

Here are your basic stats on Noah’s Ark Waterpark, considered the center of the universe in Wisconsin Dells (the community better known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World"): Opened more than 30 years ago; the largest outdoor waterpark in the country; a whopping 57 rides, slides, lazy rivers and tot playlands spread out over 75 acres; Black Anaconda, America’s longest water roller coaster; Time Warp, the world’s largest bowl ride; and Scorpion’s Tail, the country’s only and world’s largest looping waterslide that sends you plummeting at 40 mph once the trap door below you opens.

Don’t Miss: On dry land, the original Ark building has a nifty timeline that shows the park from first shovel to present-day pandemonium.

Taliesin – Spring Green

Taliesin in Spring Green isn’t just one building; it’s actually a 600-acre estate with five Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings. The oldest design goes back to the 1890s, when Wright was just in his late 20s.

But the Taliesin residence is perhaps the most famous of the grouping. It was at the drafting studio at Taliesin where Wright designed Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum.

The entire Taliesin estate is a National Historic Landmark and it’s also been nominated to the United Nations’ World Heritage List; quite incredible, really, for an enclave in a little town in southwest Wisconsin.

Little Known Fact: Following the second devastating fire at the Taliesin residence in 1925, Wright mortared into the walls pieces of statuary he had collected in Japan during his commission of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

The House on the Rock – Spring Green

The House on the Rock, also in Spring Green, is one of those dazzling places that nearly defies description. It is the brainchild of Alex Jordan, a man with such a passion for collecting that he turned his home into a repository for the myriad of fanciful, whimsical and artful collections that spoke to him.

Jordan was not a man of means. In fact, any money he earned in odd jobs he put back into his collections and the home he designed (with no formal training). His main source of sustaining income was actually admission prices.

He began building the house in the 1940s atop a chimney of rock. The Infinity Room, completed in 1985, is an engineering marvel – it juts out more than 200 feet over the scenic valley below with 3,264 windows for walls affording guests spectacular views.

Check This Out: From early November to early January, the place is decorated with more than 6,000 Santa Clauses.

Wisconsin Concrete Park – Phillips

Wisconsin Concrete Park, an outdoor museum of 237 embellished concrete sculptures and other objects, was created by folk artist Fred Smith. Smith, a humble lumberjack born to German immigrants who had settled in northern Wisconsin, could neither read nor write, but was driven to create these sculptures beginning in his sixties after he had stopped working in the logging camps.

He did not want his works displayed inside a museum, but rather along the roadside where people could find them. The park is a panorama of local, regional and national history combined with legends of Wisconsin’s northwoods’ culture.

The sculptures use wooden armatures wrapped in wire, covered with layers of hand-mixed cement and embellished with found objects. Many of his statues are massive and required the help of neighbors and relatives to assemble.

Eventful: A Fred Smith Studio/Classroom was built on the grounds, thanks to the contributions of many. Here, regular workshops are held on a wonderful array of topics from art and theatre to gardening and snowshoeing.

Honorable Mention: Kovac Planetarium – Monico

Would you be surprised to know that the largest rolling mechanical globe planetarium in the world is in the tiny community of Monico? The Kovac Planetarium, opened in 2007 and named in memory of the father of creator and curator Frank Kovac, Jr., is also the only planetarium where the night sky is replicated with luminous paint.

All other modern planetariums use projecting systems to display the night sky. But most fascinating of all, perhaps, is that Kovac built it himself in his backyard with no formal training in astronomy, even hand-painting all 5,000 stars. It took him 10 years to accomplish this feat.

Browse more of Wisconsin's man-made wonders by region, and find amazing architecture near you in our state directory

This entry was posted in Architecture History & Heritage Tours