Wisconsin Getaway: 48 Hours to Explore Wausau


Fitness travel sounds like a fine idea when the grass is green. But what about when said grass is snow covered, as is the case for about half the year in Wisconsin?

Try this trick: Embrace the season. Find what you love to do outside, balance it with some indoor pursuits, and let the fun roll in.

If you’re looking for a place to test this wellness theory, give Wausau a whirl, where skiing, skating and tubing are tops, and hot yoga, spas and farm-to-table dining help warm up the days.

Day One

5 p.m. – Leave work early and check in at a foot-of-the-mountain or city-center digs. If this getaway includes your ski-centric group of friends, book at Rib Mountain Inn, located at the base of Granite Peak Ski Area. It’s been recently renovated while still retaining its “lodge-y” feel and the Fireside Studio suites all have wood-burning stone fireplaces.

In the city, the Jefferson Street Inn is a cool boutique hotel with spacious suites, many with fireplaces, too. Get in a workout at the fitness room and then take a dip in the indoor pool. If you’re a B&B devotee, the historic Everest Inn is your spot, with gourmet breakfast and within easy walking distance of downtown shops and restaurants.

Day Two 

9 a.m. – Commit to good eating from day one with breakfast at The Mint Café, an old-fashioned diner in downtown Wausau where the locals go for the homemade muffins. Tack on a side order of veggie sausage, fresh fruit or oatmeal. 

10 a.m. – Ask any skier-type and they’ll tell you Granite Peak at Rib Mountain State Park is the place to ski in Wisconsin. It is one of the nation’s oldest ski hills at 70+ years and has the greatest vertical descent in the state at 700 feet. There are 74 runs here, a new high-speed chairlift, night skiing, and events with live music and food. The snowboarding is stellar, too. Family festival weekends include on-hill fireworks and a bonfire.

If cross country skiing is more your thing, Nine Mile Forest Recreation Area is your ticket to glide, with 20 miles of groomed trails – a portion of which are lighted for nighttime skiing, plus a heated chalet and ski patrol on site. There are even free learn-to-ski opportunities. Snowshoers gravitate to this area, too, with five miles of groomed trails throughout the forest offering a solid workout.

Snow tubers, take note: Sylvan Tubing Hill, a ski hill-turned tubing hill, has the longest tubing runs in the state. It’s an exhilarating experience and the wire tows are a big step up from your neighborhood sledding.

Let’s not leave out ice skaters either. The downtown rink in the storied 400 Block is a real gem, lit for night skating and with its own warming shelter. 

Side note: Marathon County has the most miles of snowmobile trails – nearly 800 - of anyplace in the state. So when you’re ready to sit down, why not zoom around?

Noon – Unless you’re at the ski hill for the day, hit up Thrive Foodery, a chef-owned and community-driven restaurant that works closely with local purveyors to bring guests an ever-changing menu of deliciousness. Located in a renovated warehouse, this restaurant has a chic industrial vibe with open chef’s kitchen.

2:30 p.m. – Need new snow gear? Trek over to Shepherd & Schaller off the 400 Block. This long-running family-operated store is one-stop shopping for performance gear covering just about every winter outdoor challenge there is in Wisconsin. There’s a great rental list, too, that includes skis, skates, snowshoes and snowboards. The Granite Ski & Sport Shop in the base village of the Granite Peak Ski Area also stocks outerwear and ski apparel. Pick up a logo tee or pullover to proclaim your ski prowess.

7 p.m. – Make it a special dinner out at Back When Café, a pioneer in farm-to-table cuisine. For a true supper club experience with a farm-to-table twist, try Pinewood Supper Club on Half Moon Lake. This restaurant has its own farmstead and is big on being environmentally conscious. Or for the ski bums, extend your day at Granite Peak to include dinner; try a pasta dish at Carmelo’s, an Italian eatery with wonderful views to the ski hill. After all, carbs are allowed when you work out this hard.

Day Three 

8:30 a.m. – For an insider breakfast find, try he Downtown Grocery which has local and organic groceries, fresh food market, an incredible bakery and deli, plenty of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options and a sit-down area if you prefer to eat in.

10 a.m. – This is a wellness trip, so sweat it out. Give heated power yoga a go at Community Soul Yoga or kick it up a notch with yoga body boot camp. Croí Cróga Studio has hot yoga, total barre and cardio-yoga fusion. The Woodson YMCA offers a day pass for just $10, which gives you access to two Olympic-size pools, running track, free weights, a variety of group classes and more.

Or try something completely different and take a curling lesson. Wausau has the largest curling facility in the U.S. Learn from some of the best when you take a lesson at the Wausau Curling Center. See, ice is nice indoors, too.

11:30 a.m. – Soothe sore muscles with a traditional Swedish massage at DaySpring Health Spa. Hot Waters Spa has secluded outdoor whirlpool soaks that remain open all winter long. Now this is après ski.

2 p.m. – Satisfy your soul with a viewing of the wildlife art at the internationally acclaimed Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. Admission here is always free. Be sure to slow down and appreciate the garden sculptures, which happen to look quite magical with a coat of snow.

Game Changer

Wausau is the permanent home of the Badger State Games, where Wisconsin residents can compete for the fun of it or to chase their Olympic dream in winter sports like Nordic skiing and ice skating. This sports festival runs through the end of January. The annual Leinenkugel's Classic Adult Pond Hockey Tournament is held in mid-January on Sunnyvale Lake. Families may want to time their visit to Wausau’s Winter Fest at the end of the month. This downtown gathering features a carved snow slide, ice skating and horse-drawn wagon rides.


Find more winter fun in Wausau with our Wisconsin 360 video series!

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