Wisconsin is the nation’s largest producer of the cranberry, which has led to a bounty of festivals, unique destinations and tours all centered on the fruit.
This season, experience the cranberry as it’s meant to be experienced – with a self-guided tour of Wisconsin’s Cranberry Highway. For 50 miles along century-old cranberry marshes in central Wisconsin, hop on Highway 54 and meander through Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Cranmoor and other small cranberry towns, not to mention nearby Warrens, Pittsville, and Tomah. You’ll learn about the history of the cranberry and taste all the delicious treats made from it.
See a Marsh for Yourself
Fall is cranberry harvest season, which means that cranberry marshes are open for business. Take a tour of a working cranberry marsh for an only-in-Wisconsin experience.
Splash of Red Cranberry Tours in Pittsville offers weekday tours for groups of several different area marshes. Tours start at the end of September and run through the end of October, and are led by students from the nation’s only Cranberry Science Class. Immerse yourself in all things cranberry on this tour, where you’ll pick fresh fruit off the vine, observe the cranberry process from testing to freezing, and indulge in a few cranberry treats. Be sure to call ahead and reserve your spot!
Stop at the Discovery Center
Your trip around cranberry country isn’t complete without a stop in the heart of it: Warrens, the “Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin.” Follow highway 173 from Wisconsin Rapids and you’ll eventually find the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center.
The museum is home to interactive exhibits that display Wisconsin’s unique history of the cranberry, from a staple of Native American life to its importance today as Wisconsin's top fruit crop. If you're around in early October, be sure to check out the Cranberry Arts Weekend's installations inspired by the harvest, with cranberry wine and food sampling included.
In fact, the best way to truly appreciate the cranberry is by sampling. Visit the ice cream parlor to taste cranberry creations. We recommend the cranberry ice cream, cranberry pie, cranberry bread, cranberry scones, cranberry cookies ... well, you get the idea.
Check out Fests Galore
Plan your trip around the world’s largest cranberry bash. The Warrens Cranberry Festival is the end-all-be-all for cranberry lovers. More than 100,000 people attend each year for three miles of shopping, arts and crafts, flea markets and a cranberry parade. But the real treat of the festival is the treats themselves. You’ll find just about any cran-inspired food imaginable, like cranberry brats, cream puffs and wine.
Can’t make it to Warrens? Don’t worry. There are a number of other cranberry festivals that take place this season. Check out Manitowish Waters’ Cran-A-Rama, the Stone Lake Cranberry Festival or Eagle River’s Cranberry Fest.
Rest and Refuel at a Restaurant
All that cranberry sampling and touring have you ready for a break? We recommend you grab some dinner at Burnstad’s in Tomah. It’s a quick 20-minute drive from Warrens and is a popular stop for its cranberry-related foods.
In the fall, menu items are changed to include the fruits of the local harvest. The most popular dessert item is the Cranberry Crunch Pie. It’s a homemade pie shell with cream cheese and cranberry filling, baked and then topped with cranberry crunch topping.