Wisconsinites have built a well-deserved reputation for knowing how to have a good time. You can travel to virtually anywhere in the state, and you’re guaranteed the best of the best when it comes to grub, pubs and clubs. Here are just six of my favorite Wisconsin cities to explore after hours:
Appleton is a hidden gem of a destination, particularly when it comes to the city’s nightlife. Downtown A-Town (as the locals like to say) really comes alive in the evening with more than 30 venues to choose from. Hit up College Avenue where you’ll find fun locales like Cleo’s Brown Beam Tavern, Dr. Jekyll’s, Déjà vu Martini Lounge and OB’s Brau Haus. If you have time, grab some grub at Stone Cellar Brewpub but prepare yourself, they serve up cube-shaped cheese curds (mind=blown!). Following dinner and cocktails, take in a show at the nearby Fox Cities PAC or unleash the inner kid in you at Funset Boulevard, home to 100 arcade games, Laser Tag, outdoor mini-golf and more!
Alright La Crosse, if there were a medal for “Best Nightlife Town,” you’d win gold. I’m a big fan of The Starlite Lounge, Bodega Brew Pub and Dublin Square Irish Bar & Eatery—all great choices in my book! When in town, put in an order of bacon-wrapped cheese curds at Pogreba Restaurant and wash those down with an Apple Weizen at Pearl Street Brewery. If you’re feeling fearless, lace up those skates for a couple hours of silly fun at High Roller Skating Center. (P.S. Before heading out of town, take a selfie in front of the World’s Largest Six-Pack and Gambrinus, King of Beer.)
If you’re seeking an exciting night out, the Capital City is a wonderful place to start. Grab dinner at The Old Fashioned right on the square, order a martini at Opus Lounge, watch dueling pianos at Ivory Room Piano Bar or laugh so hard your cheeks hurt at the The Comedy Club on State (if you do all that in one night, color me impressed!). Don’t even think about hailing that cab before grabbing a slice of heavenly mac ‘n’ cheese pizza at Ian’s. If you’d rather head off the beaten path (State Street), dance the night away at Plan B on Williamson “Willy” Street, listen to some amazing music at High Noon Saloon or enjoy pizza and improv comedy courtesy of Monkey Business Institute at Glass Nickel Pizza on Atwood.
Milwaukee’s reputation of the Brew City is no coincidence… this city knows how to party! From the bustling pubs and clubs on Water Street to the funky spots all along Brady Street, you’re pretty much guaranteed an unforgettable night. If a little physical action doesn’t scare you, take on the PedalTavern. Want swanky? Sway to jazz and blues music at BLU Bar & Lounge or escape to another time at The Pfister Hotel’s Lobby Lounge. Prefer dive bars over the fancy schmancy? You’ll get a kick out of Wolski’s, Blackbird Bar or Y-Not II Tavern. Think outside the box, and stay and play at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, take in a show at Organ Piper Music Palace or challenge your buds to a round of bowling followed by a karaoke sing-off at Landmark Lanes.
Take a break from big city nightlife and head to America’s “Little Switzerland.” Some of my favorite nights out have been in Wisconsin’s smallest towns and this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Swiss town can compete with the best of ‘em. First of all, there’s New Glarus Brewing, the company responsible for eliciting enthusiasm amongst Wisconsinites everywhere upon hearing the words “Spotted” and “Cow” in succession. Also in New Glarus? An impressive array of restaurants, which include Glarner Stube, New Glarus Hotel Restaurant and Sugar River Pizza just to name a few.
I know what you’re thinking: The Dells is for the kiddos. But au contraire, sweet reader! This tourism hot spot caters to moms, pops, local folk and bachelorettes alike in big ways thanks to popular and oh-so-diverse drinking establishments. For the truly iconic taverns, pop in at Showboat Saloon (um, free bacon=YES.), Nig’s Bar (‘Tis a privilege to relish a “Swig at Nig’s”) and Marley’s (Required: dancing shoes. Preferred: the ability to flawlessly execute the Running Man).
Each of these destinations will offer a unique experience but let’s not forget it’s really all about the company you keep. Round up your best pals, take lots of pictures, drink responsibly and celebrate life the way Wisconsinites do!
Mariah Haberman is one of the hosts of Discover Wisconsin, the nation’s longest-running travel TV show. She hails from Evansville, where she was brought up in a family of seven in a small farmhouse outside of town. Some of her favorite memories include Lake Michigan fishing trips with her Dad, showing sheep at the Rock County Fair and buzzing around the farm on an ATV with her little brother. Tweet her: @MariahHaberman