By Hilary Burg
When the flurries start flying and the temperatures drop down, Wisconsin gets to work on creating some of our most unique events and activities. Ice caves, sled dogs, grumpy trolls and more await you at these Wisconsin winter destinations, perfect for the whole family!
*These wonderous, winter attractions are weather dependant and may not be available each year. Check out their individual websites prior to planning your trip.
Journey Through the Ice Castles* - Wisconsin Dells
Who says the Dells is just for waterparks and summertime? Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park has transformed into something right out of "Frozen" with their Ice Castles. Made completely of ice and snow, tens of thousands of shimmering blue icicles are glimmering in what typically is an almost tropical destination. Strap on the boots, load up the kids and grab the sled. Your very own fairytale awaits.
Travel Tip: Get tickets ahead of time! By buying a ticket, you get assigned an arrival time. Once you're in though, stay as long as you'd like!
Celebrate the Lake Superior Ice Festival - Superior
Taking place at the end of January, the Lake Superior Ice Festival is the perfect event for the whole family. It includes a kids' zone complete with snow slide and Ice Princesses to entertain the young ones! Watch the ice sculptors and get your picture on the ice throne or watch the pond hockey classic. Looking for something less active? Browse the many art and craft booths or warm up by the bonfire and toast a s'more.
Travel Tip: The Orb365 Ice Orb Art Project is a must see at the festival. Anyone interested can get involved by creating their own orb to be assembled into the display.
Explore Ice Caves* - Bayfield
Thunderous waves crash into the shore every summer along Lake Superior, but winter weather conjures stillness and—if you’re lucky—spectacular ice caves. Accessible only when Lake Superior is frozen to form a bridge from land to caves, these Wisconsin ice caves look like the work of a snow queen. Thousands of gigantic icicles jut down from rock ceilings, and frozen glass floors reveal the lake below. After hiking around the caves, be sure to take advantage of Bayfield’s other outdoor activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Travel Tip: Try dog sledding and zoom through northern Wisconsin’s winter wonderland. If that’s too much adventure, you can simply watch the dogs bound through the snow at the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race each February.
Climb the Ice* - Dodgeville
Ice climbing in Wisconsin has become a new popular pasttime. Group ice climbs are offered at locations such as Governor Dodge State Park. While mountains are nice for ice climbing, frozen waterfalls and the shores of the Great Lakes are prime spots as well. Similar to rock climbing, ice climbing can be done top-roped -- with the rope anchored to the top.
Visit the Ice Castle* - Eagle River
You don’t have to trek up a mountain or fend off snow monsters to catch a glimpse of an ice castle in Wisconsin. Each year, a different ice castle dominates Eagle River’s downtown. While not actually magic—it’s the hard work of sawing 12-inch-thick, 60-pound ice blocks from a frozen lake and artfully constructing them by hand. A tradition since the 1920s, Eagle River’s ice palace is a fairytale come to life.
Travel Tip: Spend the day snowmobiling on the Eagle River 500 and then visit the ice castle at night to see it illuminated.
Spot the Troll - Mt. Horeb
Rooted in Scandinavian folklore, trolls are small, stout rock-dwellers with prophetic powers and a trick up their sleeve. As the Troll Capital of the World, Mt. Horeb features 15 hand-carved trolls in its quaint downtown. Many stand guard to Mt. Horeb’s classic storefronts, like Open House Imports which sells beautiful Norwegian clothing and troll trinkets. Kids will love scouting out each funny troll face on the main “Trollway.” Most are friendly, but don’t miss the grouchy troll at the award-winning Grumpy Troll Brewpub. With a “Grumpy Hour” special and brewery tours, the local brewery is a must-visit.
Travel Tip: Plan your visit to coincide with the Scandihoovian Winter Festival to take part in troll making and Koob, an old Viking game.
Plan the perfect winter getaway that's just right for you and your family.