By Sharyn Alden
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Summer is the perfect time to gather the family and explore Wisconsin together—parents and children, cousins and grandparents. Wisconsin is home to a dizzying array of intriguing places for all ages to play and learn together. That’s what family outings are all about.
No matter where you travel in the state, you’ll never run out of memory-making opportunities. Here are a few places that families have been exploring together for generations.
Search for Trolls in Mount Horeb
It’s easy to spot troll lookalikes in Mount Horeb’s shops and restaurants or standing sentry along roadsides. Mount Horeb is known for its trolls, and even more are said to be living deep in the forest and can’t be lured out of hiding too easily. After all, you are in the “Troll Capital of the World.”
Take a leisurely walk through the charming downtown with its strong Norwegian heritage before heading over to Schubert’s Downtown Restaurant for more Norwegian culture and food. Count on Swedish rye bread, rosettes and lefse to be on the menu. Ask family members to spot the trolls they’d like to bring home; where would you put a troll lookalike in your house or yard?
Hunt for Treasure at Cave of the Mounds
Go underground for your next adventure. No matter how many times you’ve visited the Cave of the Mounds, seeing the cave’s breathtaking “jewels” is mesmerizing each and every time. Be sure to bring a jacket, because this ‘cool’ place really is cool. It may be warm in outside in summer, but Mother Nature keeps the cave a comfortable 50 degrees year-round.
For over 75 years this geologic wonder has guided visitors along lighted walkways to show off crystal gems. Expect gasps of delight when a guide illuminates a dark cave wall and colorful treasures appear.
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Skip Rocks at Schoolhouse Beach Park
One of the best free family activities on the Washington Island is stone-skipping, and Schoolhouse Beach reigns supreme in that activity. Named for a long ago school, this unusual sand-free beach is covered with smooth white stones polished by glaciers thousands of years ago. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy views of the crystal-clear iridescent blue waters.
Stage a family “skipper’ contest or try building the tallest tower out of stones. Later, bike or drive over to the Albatross Drive-In, affectionately known to islanders as “the Alby,” for an old fashioned jumbo shake or malt.
Cruise the Great River Road
The Wisconsin Great River Road National Scenic Byway connects you with 33 historic river towns. A learning route for family members of all ages, you’ll form new memories when you stop to fish in the mighty Mississippi and enjoy a picnic along the river banks together.
Stop along the route and visit some of the local communities - each one has their own story to tell, and you’ll be passing through some of the oldest towns in Wisconsin.
Cast a Line in Alma
History comes alive in this picturesque riverboat town settled by Swiss immigrants in the 1850s. The entire town of Alma, built into the side of the bluffs, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you’d rather be on the river itself, you’ll find a special family-friendly way to fish and enjoy the sights and sounds. Hop on The Great Alma Fishing Float, strategically located below the roller dams, where anglers of all ages can try their hand at reeling in catfish, blue gill, or small and large mouth bass.