Wisconsin’s free activities and attractions let you fill your calendar with fun, without emptying your wallet. From beautiful beaches to behind-the-scenes factory tours, here are our top tips for finding fun for free this summer:
In Wisconsin, we know how to make the most of the sunshine – we just add water. Here are a few of our favorite public beaches:
- North Beach, Racine: A Parents magazine Top 10 Family Friendly Beach and one of USA Today’s 51 Great American Beaches, this 50-acre stretch on Lake Michigan boasts volleyball courts, live music, a snack bar, and a Kids Cove Playground.
- Bradford Beach, Milwaukee: This beach is a mecca for people-watching, sunbathing, and playing. Beachgoers partake in swimming, soccer, yoga, Frisbee, and some serious volleyball action, fuelled by refreshments from Bradford Beach House and Northpoint Custard Stand.
- Pettibone Beach, La Crosse: This beloved urban beach on the Mississippi River offers volleyball courts and a bathhouse, and shares surrounding Pettibone Park with a disc golf area, fishing, and trails.
Wonder at Wisconsin’s varied wildlife in these incredible, accessible settings, all for free:
- Sandhill State Wildlife Area, Babcock: Drive the 14-mile Trumpeter Trail, and stop to climb the three observation towers. Will you spot the American bison herd, or a bald eagle? Open April through October – phone 715-884-2437 for dates.
- Iron River National Fish Hatchery, Iron River: Enjoy the visitor center, take a self-guided tour of the hatchery, or hit the three-mile trail system for some brilliant bird-watching. Open year-round.
- Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay: Discover nature through educational displays, live animal exhibits, and six miles of trails at this gem of an urban wildlife refuge. Open year-round.
Wisconsin’s inspiring, fun, and educational museums aren’t just for rainy days. Of course, there’s no better way to spend a rainy day than meeting a new museum – especially a free one:
- Wally Keller Tool Museum, Mount Horeb: Housed in Duluth Trading Co.’s flagship store, the museum displays Keller’s 3,147 fascinating collection of vintage tools dating from 1865-1950.
- Woodson Art Museum, Wausau: Their “Birds in Art” exhibit is internationally acclaimed, and their gardens feature heirloom flowers alongside large-scale sculptures.
- University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, Madison: with wonders like glowing minerals, meteorites and fossils, the whole family will agree that this museum rocks.
Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers have given rise to generations of water skiing prowess. Many local clubs, including these great groups, put on free shows weekly in the summer:
- Crandon Water Shows, Crandon: Local water ski addicts of all ages come together to give an impressive show on Lake Lucerne, featuring pyramids and barefoot acts. Wednesday 6.30pm, mid June through mid August, plus Monday 6.30pm in July.
- Aquanut Water Shows, Twin Lakes: The award-winning, family-focused Aquanuts perform on Lake Mary in Lance Park. Wednesday and Saturday 6pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
- Rock Aqua Jays, Janesville: 17-time national champs the Rock Aqua Jays perform elaborate shows at Traxler Park on the Rock River. 2013’s theme is “Hatfields & McCoys.” Wednesday and Sunday 7pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Wisconsin’s industrial heritage and sense of fun come together to make some great factory tours. Here are some choice free tours:
- Jelly Belly Visitor Center, Pleasant Prairie: Ride the Jelly Belly Express train through the candy warehouse and learn the secrets of making Jelly Belly jelly beans. You’ll even get a free bag of treats to take home. Tours daily, 9am-4pm.
- Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Chippewa Falls: After taking in the grounds, brewhouse, and bottling plant, sidle up to the bar at the Leinie Lodge for your free samples.
- Tours Monday-Thursday and Saturday 9:30am-4pm, Sunday 11:30am-3pm, and Friday 9:30am-6:30pm.
- Kohler Company Factory Tours, Kohler: Go behind the scenes, touring pottery, brass, foundry, and enamel shops, and learn about the work of the kitchen and bath fixtures giant. They’ll give you safety goggles, but remember to wear closed-toe shoes. Tours weekdays, 8:30am; ages 14+ only.
Find a world of fun things to do in Wisconsin.