For a trip that will transport you and your crew straight to the Swiss Alps, look no further than New Glarus in southern Wisconsin. Known as “America’s Little Switzerland,” this city was founded by Swiss pioneers over 150 years ago and has since become a lively hub of authentic Swiss heritage and culture. So, if you’ve been contemplating an overseas getaway, your next European vacation just got a lot closer.
From the whimsical chalet-style architecture to the rolling green countryside to the magical sounds of alphorn players throughout the city—not to mention the mouth-watering Swiss cuisine—there’s so much to discover on a trip to New Glarus. Read on to learn about more special stops in this unique city.
Immerse Yourself in History
In 1845, a group of 108 Swiss settlers came to this area and were happy to discover that the rolling countryside dotted with small towns and farms reminded them of home. Today, you can experience what those settlers lived through by visiting the Swiss Historical Village and Museum. Explore 14 original and replica buildings including a one-room cabin built in the 1850s, a blacksmith’s shop, cheese factory, schoolhouse, church and more. Each is filled with genuine artifacts from the time period that create a totally immersive experience. Learn from a tour guide or take a self-guided tour and soak up over 150 years of culture. The village is open late May through October and is wheelchair accessible.
For even more Swiss history, head to the nearby Chalet of the Golden Fleece Museum, a Swiss Alps chalet-style home filled to the brim with extraordinary artifacts from Switzerland and beyond. The Swiss Center of North America is also in New Glarus, and is dedicated to archiving, showcasing and celebrating Swiss culture with engaging exhibits that tell the Swiss emigration story. With so much history preserved in one place, it’s easy to see why New Glarus is truly America’s Little Switzerland.
Enjoy Savory Swiss Food and Lively Music
An important part of experiencing any culture is tasting their traditional food and drink. Luckily, New Glarus has this covered, and many area restaurants regularly offer live music for an extra fun atmosphere.
Grab friends and family and head to Chalet Landhaus to share decadent Gruyère fondue and crispy fried Wienerschnitzel. The Chalet is also an inn, so you and your crew can stay a while and relax in the pool before snapping a selfie with one of the cute cow statues outside—part of the New Glarus Cow Parade made up of 14 statues imported from Switzerland and painted by local artists. See who in your group can find the most throughout the city during your stay.
For some American fare, stop in at Tofflers Pub and Grill in historic Backtown New Glarus. This popular tavern has been around since 1880 and hosts local and national music acts of all genres on their Swiss Chalet-style patio perfect for unforgettable summer nights with friends. Order a burger and choose from ten local beers on tap, six of which are from the New Glarus Brewing Company.
Speaking of the award-winning New Glarus Brewing Company, go straight to the source while you’re in town and take a tour of the place famous for its delicious Spotted Cow and Moon Man brews that are only available in Wisconsin.
Wine-lovers, meanwhile, must stop in at Bailey’s Run Vineyard and Winery for a large variety of handcrafted wines as well as brick oven pizza and live music almost every weekend year-round.
Still hungry? Puempel's Olde Tavern, Glarner Stube and Ott Haus Pub & Grill each serve up tasty fare in cozy locations perfect for spending time in with your favorite people. And don’t forget to stop for ice cream and some award-winning Swiss cheese to go at Chalet Cheese Haus.
Celebrate All Year Long
Festivals are another way New Glarus invites visitors to join in the fun and immerse themselves in Swiss culture. Wear your dancing shoes to Polkafest in early summer for a weekend of lively music throughout downtown. Work up an appetite on Friday night for Saturday’s Beer, Bacon and Cheese Fest, where you and your friends can sample the region’s tastiest flavors.
A favorite Wisconsin festival is Oktoberfest, and New Glarus knows how to do it right. While Lederhosen and dirndls are optional, you’re sure to see many residents donning theirs proudly as they dance to polka, Bavarian, rock, blues and country music all weekend long. Grab a local brew and take a horse-drawn carriage ride with friends and family to get a great view of all the gemütlichkeit (good cheer) around town. Watch the chainsaw wood carving contest, see who gets crowned king and queen, bring the kids by the free petting zoo and be sure to catch the tapping of the keg full of tasty Staghorn Octoberfest brewed by the New Glarus Brewing Company.
The first Sunday in August is reserved for Swiss Volksfest, a tribute to the traditions of Swiss settlers and celebration of Swiss Independence Day dating all the way back to 1291. Experience unique Swiss traditions such as yodeling, flag throwing, alphorn playing, a children’s choir and more as you see how New Glarus has continued to honor its roots for over a century.
The fun continues into September with Wilhelm Tell Festival, which centers around a theater performance put on by over 200 volunteers each year (including live animals that star in the play) to tell the Swiss independence story. This special pageant has been happening since 1938 and includes a children’s lantern parade, a yodel choir, art show, street dance and more cultural events sure to transport you back in time.
Explore other spirited happenings to enjoy with your crew in New Glarus at www.SwissTown.com!