7 Wisconsin Cities With Can't-Miss Shopping Experiences

By Lindsey M. McKee
Special to TravelWisconsin.com

Shopping is often approached as a basic search for a specific product, rather than an adventure in finding something new and different. A trip through Wisconsin may help shoppers consider a more exceptional retail experience.

Historic Third Ward in Milwaukee

The Historic Third Ward’s rich and diverse history has produced an eclectic mix of businesses, including its shops.

“The Third Ward is known as the art and fashion district,” said Nancy O’Keefe, executive director at the Historic Third Ward Association. “We are getting bigger and bigger. There is just a lot of shopping.”

3rd Ward Jewelry has variety of artists giving customers a unique accessory experience. Its alternative jewelry pieces not only offer stylish fashion but wearable works of art.

And the art of the Third Ward is seen even in its food offerings. Red Elephant Chocolate makes it difficult for a customer to decide whether to eat their candies or display them as masterpieces. But despite the beauty, the intent is to indulge in eating its chocolates and bakery as well as its coffee and tea drinks.

Clear Water Outdoor has more than just great outdoor clothing options for men, women and children as its goal. The shop also aims to give customers fun experiences with the right gear for getting out and being active.

“We also have over 35 galleries and over 30 restaurants and of course the Milwaukee Public Market,” O’Keefe said. “You can spend an entire day in the Third Ward!”

Monroe Street in Madison

Monroe Street gives travelers a neighborhood, specialty shopping experience in close proximity to some of Madison’s top attractions.

“That’s what makes a community special, when you are shopping at places that you don’t find in other cities or in a mall,” said Carol “Orange” Schroeder, chair of the Monroe Street Merchants Association and co-owner of Orange Tree Imports.

The specialty shop, which has a wide range of options from kitchen items to food to soaps, recently celebrated its 40-year anniversary and has been voted “Best of Madison” by Madison Magazine for more than 20 years.

Another Monroe Street staple is Wild Child and its organic clothing. The baby and children’s clothing, toys and accessories are made with natural fiber and non-toxic dyes.

Katy’s American Indian Arts is right next door for shoppers looking for inimitable Native American jewelry, crafts and artwork.

The Wine & Hop Shop has homebrewing and winemaking ingredients, equipment and expert advice. Customers may even bring in their homemade wine or beer for staff to taste and assess.

For a more international shopping experience, Art Gecko offers furniture, housewares, clothing and accessories from Bali, China, India and Nepal. There is a State Street location as well.

Green Lake Country

Berlin, Green Lake, Markesan, Princeton and Ripon make up Green Lake Country, and its shops make up an excellent network of choices.

“These are not your traditional souvenir shops,” said Linda Ruggeri, executive director Green Lake Country Visitors Bureau. “You can tell the owners put a lot of thought into the products that they’re bringing.”

Violet & Company is a clothing store that boasts simple sophistication and is a must stop for women of many different shapes and sizes.

A Well-Feathered Nest has an uncommon selection of home décor, garden gifts and collectibles. 

Where does daiseye get its unique name? According to the shop, “Daisy flower was the original sunflower called ‘eye of day.’” The shop’s offerings are earth-friendly, fair trade and artisan home décor, the majority of which are one-of-a-kind, handcrafted.

TWiGS fine goods store has a broad product mix. From distinctive treats to toys and games, shopping here is anything but dull. Teak & Soxy wants customers to make a statement in their home design with singular art, accessories and furniture.

Watson Street Teas & Treats’ selections include loose leaf teas, flavored popcorns, nuts, candies, spices and tea accessories. Vine & Rushes Winery, located on a Ripon family farm, sells several wines and gifts.

River District in Wausau

This charming community gives travelers a variety of shopping along the Wisconsin River.

“The eclectic mix of stores that we have is pretty outstanding,” said Elizabeth Field, executive director of the Wausau River District Inc. “You have so much in this small proximity. There is something unique in every store.”

Nicole’s Boutique offers trendy, artsy fashion with personal assistance for customers looking for the right look. The shop was named “Best Women’s Clothing Store in Wausau” by the local City Pages publication.

An individual’s perfect piece of art can literally be at their fingertips at Clay Corner Studio. Customers can make their own décor by painting on pottery, canvas and wine glasses at the studio.

Field also recommends Evolutions in Design, an innovative flower shop selling jewelry, home décor and more. Combine shopping and dining at the 319 Art Gallery and Bistro showcasing local artists and serving delicious cuisine.

City of Hudson

Located along the St. Croix River, Hudson’s population has grown by more than 50 percent since 2000.

“With that growing population, we do have a very vibrant community economically,” said Mary Weller, director of tourism for the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “We have two industrial parks and we also have a historic downtown that has many unique shops and restaurants.”

Although a museum and home to the St. Croix County Historical Society, the Octagon House gift shop has vintage home and garden items. These include bird houses, tea sets, old fashioned ornaments and silver pieces.

Knoke’s Chocolates & Nuts has expanded from just a chocolate store to another space for roasting nuts. In addition to candies and nuts, ice cream and baked goods are sold.

“We truly are a destination for shopping and dining as well as our beautiful outdoors,” Weller said.

This barely scratches the surface of shopping options available in these areas. From a historic Milwaukee neighborhood to a booming city in the western part of the state, there is something for every shopper and traveler throughout Wisconsin.

Bonus: Add even more to your shopping travels with these popular shopping destinations in Wisconsin.

Door County

With thousands of years of history, this Wisconsin peninsula offers more than great driving and scenic views. Arts and crafts shops, farmers markets, grocers, and specialty stores make a trip to Door County a shopping adventure.


The Fox Cities have been often dubbed a top location for shopping in Wisconsin, and downtown Appleton is a key contributor to that reputation. Local stores offering everything from apparel and art to flowers and photography make the city a popular retail option in the state.


Ready to shop some more? Check out these small-town destinations with big appeal and the state's most luxurious shopping spots.

This entry was posted in Shopping