Everybody appreciates a break when spending the day in the car. Make your next road trip memorable with these family-friendly stops worth adding on to your trek!
East to West: Milwaukee to the Dells
If you’re doing an east-to-west drive from Milwaukee over to the Dells, stop halfway in between in Madison, a city ripe for exploring on your way to or from the Waterpark Capital of the World.
History buffs should head over to the State Capitol building for a free tour every day of the week, and shoppers will love State Street, six blocks of shops and restaurants on a pedestrian thoroughfare. Be sure to grab lunch at one of the many sidewalk cafés.
Families with little ones should head over to the Madison Children’s Museum, a low-cost place for family fun with two full floors of exhibits and hands-on activities, plus an outdoor log cabin, rooftop garden, and chicken coop. Or, within a ten-minute drive is the free Henry Vilas Zoo, featuring a Conservation Carousel, goat feeding area, and huge playground.
South to North: The Great River Road
Firmly entrenched in the state’s Driftless Region, an area known for its interesting topography including high bluffs and deep river valleys, the Great River Road follows the Mississippi River along the Wisconsin/Minnesota and Wisconsin/Iowa borders.
In the far southwest corner of the state is the quirky Dickeyville Grotto, a grouping of stone shrines adorned with found objects from all over the world. Kids will enjoy searching for starfish, fossils and pottery pieces in the shrine walls.
For lunch, head up to Potosi Brewery, whose roots trace back to 1852. This small-batch brewery serves up tasty food in their restaurant—so grab a seasonally appropriate Wee Stein Wit or Steamboat Lemon Shandy and sit inside or outside. Potosi also houses the Great River Road Interpretive Center and the Potosi Brewing Company Transportation Museum, both informative resources to learn more about the area.
Drive up to Cassville and stop by Stonefield, one of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s 12 historic sites. This fun visitor attraction is low-cost and showcases a carefully recreated 1800s rural village, agricultural museum, 1901 farmstead and Governor Nelson Dewey’s summer estate. Another historic site along the Great River Road is Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, where visitors can explore life during the 19th century.
For a taste of life on a river town, La Crosse offers many things to do, including a La Crosse Queen riverboat ride, a children’s museum and beautiful riverwalk—and is a great place to stay overnight to break up your trek.
North to South: Minocqua to Stevens Point
If you’re on your way back from a trip to the Northwoods, a silly break for kids and kids at heart is at the Rhinelander Visitor Center, where visitors can see the legendary Hodag mascot. Described as a green lizard-like creature with white horns, residents proudly proclaim this area Hodag Country.
Driving down Highway 51 you’ll hit Merrill, where you can celebrate our agricultural heritage with a tour of the Van Der Geest Farm. Take in some cultural arts at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, where arts lovers can see historic and contemporary paintings as well as sculpture gardens outside of the English Tudor-style building.
Take a break in Stevens Point to let out some energy at KASH Playground in Mead Park, an accessible play place that’s worth the stop. To cap off your trip, drop by the family-friendly Mr. Brews Taphouse in Plover for 11 choices of burgers and delicious fresh-cut fries, sure to fuel you up for the rest of your journey home.