Local Secrets: Where to Go in Northwest Wisconsin

By Jeniece Smith
Managing Editor

Looking to add some “extra” to the “ordinary” in your getaway? Venture beyond the expected to find these nine brag-worthy local secrets in northwestern Wisconsin, from a popcorn farm to a bed & breakfast train to a beach where the sand “sings”!


Delta DinerDelta

Owners Todd and Nina Bucher have restored much more than this 1940 Silk City diner car set against the backdrop of a national forest – they’ve preserved the best from-scratch food traditions of yesteryear.

From Burger Mondays to weekend fish fries (and the best breakfast around most days in between), you’ll find plenty to please on the menu, including traditional blue plate specials!

Watershed CaféOsceola

A handful of Osceola-area and Minnesota farms supply the ingredients that go into Watershed’s homemade comfort food. The café is right on Osceola’s main drag, but what makes the setting special is its perch above Cascade Falls.

Take in the best views of the St. Croix River from the deck as you feast on favorites like “Hippie Cakes” with a granola and blueberry compote or “Country-Style Chicken” sourced from an Amish farm.

Mona Lisa RestaurantEau Claire

This upscale Italian eatery might be an unexpected find in northern Wisconsin, but you’ll be sold once you try the seasonally changing menu, which offers pasta, seafood and pizza topped with house-made mozzarella.

The mysterious smile of the Mona Lisa intrigues over the wine bar, while a stone fireplace in the dining room adds a touch of comfort.

Places to Stay

Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad Excursion TrainSpooner

In addition to a dinner train and special holiday excursions, the Great Northern Railroad offers America’s only moving bed & breakfast train May through December! Book a 1950s sleeping car, or upgrade to the 1914 Business Car, which offers luxe staterooms and a private lounge for up to six people.

Enjoy dinner as you chug through the Northwoods on a three-hour trip, followed by some fun in the dance car and cocktails. A hot breakfast buffet will send you on your way in the morning with a full belly.

Lake Superior BarnMaple

You can’t get much more north or west in Wisconsin than the Lake Superior Barn, a 4,250-square-foot overnight rental with its own stretch of Great Lakes shoreline on 320 acres of natural land bordering the Brule River State Forest.

The barn sleeps up to 20 people and boasts its own hot tub and sauna, stone fireplace and massive wrap-around deck made with reclaimed lumber.

Stout’s Island LodgeBirchwood

A ferry will spirit you away to this private 18-acre escape on Red Cedar Lake, once a summer retreat for a wealthy family from Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive. Lumber baron Frank D. Stout purchased the island in the late 1800s, building a huge log mansion in 1912 with imported timber and stone that today serves as the main lodge.

You’ll have more than 40 overnight options to choose from across the island’s two lodges and eight cabins, with fireplaces, Jacuzzis and full kitchens available in many of the rooms.


Neumann Farms – Osceola

Family-raised meat, produce and canned goods are in the spotlight here, but everyone’s favorite is the authentic popcorn. Bring home some red corn to pop right on the ear in the microwave!

Chicken, pork and beef also are available seasonally, along with fresh and pickled vegetables, jams, jellies and honey.

Straight Lake State ParkLuck

This 1,888-acre park is open to foot traffic and carry-in, non-motorized boats only, making for one of the quietest public natural areas in the whole state. Four miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail bisect the park, offering meditative views of Straight and Rainbow lakes.

You’ll see century-old sections of forest, and the park is home to eagles, trumpeter swans, bears and river otters.

Julian Bay, Stockton IslandApostle Islands National Lakeshore

An Apostle Islands Cruises shuttle or kayak outfitter can help you make the journey from the Bayfield Peninsula to Stockton Island, one of the 21 pristine little islands that form the very tip-top of Wisconsin – the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The islands are prized for their untouched beauty and stunning sea caves, but an extra-special treasure awaits in the rare singing sands of Stockton Island’s Julian Bay. Quartz in the finely rounded sand grains produces a squeaking – or “singing” – sound beneath your feet.


Looking for more to do in the area? Check out these seven man-made wonders in northwest Wisconsin!