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Free and Cheap Summer Trips in Wisconsin for College Students

By Jonathan Eckelberg
Staff Writer

For many college students, elaborate summer vacations tend to be out of the question. Getting a group of friends together to take a trip near or far can be costly. In Wisconsin, there are plenty of options to keep it cheap as you spend some exciting days with your best buds. Check out these great summer trips for students on a budget.

Group Camping                                                                     

Kohler Andrae State ParkSheboygan

This scenic gem offers an away-from-it-all getaway with two group campsites – a combined capacity of 50 people. No need to leave anyone out of this camping trip! Not only are there several opportunities to hike on nature trails, dune cordwalks or along the Lake Michigan shoreline, but you also have your pick of boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming or fishing. Round up a game of volleyball or baseball, and hit up the provided grills. The best part is, your only lodging expense will be the low price of admission at Wisconsin's state parks!

Wolf River CampgroundNew London

Close by the Wolf River, this rustic camp allows for a larger group of friends to get together to celebrate summer. For only $15 per person each night, up to 20 adults can stay on one site. With access to one of Wisconsin's most popular rivers for tubing, along with a boat landing and a fishing dock, you won't run out of things for everyone to do. And yes, you can drink on the river with proof of a valid ID. Stay two nights between Sunday and Thursday and get a third night free so the fun can last even longer!

Wisconsin Beaches

Bradford BeachMilwaukee

When it's hot in Milwaukee, the place to be is Bradford Beach. Make a trip there with your buddies to experience the city's most popular and largest public beach for some swimming and sunbathing. Take part in organized sports like soccer, sand volleyball and yoga, play pick-up games of Frisbee or bask in the inactive splendor of simply lying on the beach. The Beach House offers food, snacks, drinks and live music on weekends. And be sure to stop by the Northpoint Custard Stand.

North BeachRacine

Spend a day or two on 50 acres of pristine sand and clear water at this certified Blue Wave clean beach. There's free parking and live music June through Labor Day. North Beach is home to many special events as well, including EVP Professional Beach Volleyball, the U.S. Grand Prix of Watercross and the Ironman 70.3 Racine Triathalon.

Milwaukee's Free Festivals

Summer Soulstice Music Festival

Milwaukee's official celebration of the summer solstice is the largest free showcase of top music acts in the region. Also check out visual artists, an arts fair, creation stations, delectable dishes from East Side chefs, dodgeball, BMX stunt bikes and more. You and your friends will love the endless amounts of top talent, various sounds and different vibes being put out throughout the festival. Each stage kicks off with a Young Musicians Showcase, where you'll see the city's budding rock bands with members from grade school to high school.

Bastille Days

Enjoy a unique setting as one of the nation's largest French-themed celebrations returns to downtown Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park. This free, four-day bash attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year. If you enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, and French and Cajun cuisine, this summer festival is for you. Haven't traveled to Paris before? Get a chance to see a 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, with a light show every hour like the real thing. This event is known for impromptu street performers, roaming minstrels and a variety of interactive and musical entertainment. Experience the culture without spending the money to travel to Europe.

Locust Street Festival of Music and Art

Take to the streets with a good pair of shoes and start your day with the traditional 1.8-mile Beer Run/Walk, followed by dancing in the streets with continuous entertainment on six outdoor stages. Bands include local favorites playing a variety of musical styles spanning rock, blues, bluegrass, reggae, acoustic and Latino rhythms. If you prefer to make your own music, try your hand at the popular Drum Circle. And there's no need to hunt for a refreshment – you'll find plenty of food booths along the way to satisfy your taste buds.

Wisconsin Dells Deals

Ambers Hideaway

Pack up your mom's minivan and head to Ambers Hideaway this summer. Stay Friday and Saturday and you'll receive four one-day passes to Noah's Ark Waterpark, four unlimited passes to Kalahari Indoor Theme Park and four unlimited passes to Chula Vista's indoor/outdoor water park. Be sure to check valid dates on their website before booking. If you're looking to spend even less money on a trip to Wisconsin Dells, make a trip during the week to stay a night at Ambers Hideaway and still receive the free passes. Within walking distance of many downtown Dells shops, restaurants and nightlife, the hotel also offers many discounts to area attractions!

Mt. Olympus

Tickets to the Mt. Olympus Theme Park and Water Park are always free when you stay at any Mt. Olympus Resort. Visitors are treated to a variety of comforts and stay options at Hotel Rome, Mt. Olympus Villages and Mt. Olympus Camp Resort. Find the right kind of style for you and your posse. The camp resort boasts the option to sleep in a treehouse – and who doesn't want that? Book early for any of these comfortable resorts and save even more.

Sherwood Forest Camping and RV Park

If you want to stay right in the thick of the Dells action, and do so for a reasonable cost, pack up the tents or camper and head to Sherwood Forest. From the basic, no hook-up sites to camping trailer and cottage rentals, they have every style of camping you could need. The forest location and Tudor-style facilities will transport you back to the legends of merry olde England while offering you the best in modern camping comfort and convenience. Take just a short walk to the Dells' nearby downtown, various water parks, mini golf, river boat tours, dining and more. Just want to hang at the campground? They offer an outdoor heated swimming pool. Plus, the showers are free.


Wisconsin is the perfect summer getaway that won't break the bank, so don't delay! Why wait until the fall to see everyone again? Start planning this year's summer reunion before schedules get busy. 

Want some more ideas for traveling on a budget? Check out our insider tips on Door County.

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