Wisconsin’s Big-Fun Small Towns

Wisconsin may be known for hot spots like Door County, Madison and Milwaukee, but today is about showing love to the little guys. Budget Travel has already recognized Elkhart Lake as one of the coolest small towns in America. Here are some others we’re just as jazzed about:

#5 Hidden gem: Waupaca
Why we like it: Set on the trout-filled Crystal River, and near the Chain O’Lakes, this friendly town offers year-round outdoor fun. Try some angling, cruise the lakes on the “Chief Waupaca” or access hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. When it’s time to call it a day you can roast your s’mores at any number of campgrounds – or, if you’re ready for your creature comforts, some of Wisconsin’s coziest B&B’s wait to welcome you.

#4 Hidden gem: St. Croix Falls
Why we like it: The “City of Trails” puts you in the center of some of the most scenic and fun activities Wisconsin has to offer. It’s home not only to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Visitors’ Center, but also the southern trailhead of the 98-mile Gandy Dancer rail trail, and the western end of the Ice Age Trail. So whether you prefer exploring Wisconsin by foot, ski, bicycle, canoe, tube, or kayak, St. Croix Falls is a gem of a starting point. The picturesque town boasts a professional theater (the St. Croix Festival Theater) and a picturesque downtown district.

#3 Hidden gem: New Glarus
Why we like it: Historic charm and Alpine-style architecture make this town stand out. Dubbed “America’s Little Switzerland,” New Glarus was settled in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, and their culture is everywhere, including the local cuisine. Visitors love touring New Glarus Brewing Co and camping in New Glarus Woods State Park. No matter what time of year, there’s always something going on, from car shows to Taste of New Glarus to their Oktoberfest festival.

#2 Hidden gem: Minocqua
Why we like it: Surrounded by thousands of lakes, rivers and streams, “the Island City” is an ideal base for world-class fishing, boating and water skiing. A stroll through downtown Minocqua can be a step back in time, with old-fashioned ice cream parlors, shops and a fudge shop. The island’s first inhabitants, the Ojibwe, are still a vibrant presence. Learn about their heritage at nearby Waswagoning, a re-created Ojibwe Indian Village.

#1 Hidden gem: Stockholm
Why we like it: Stockholm epitomizes what makes Wisconsin great, and great fun – the marriage of old-world tradition and fresh creative energy, against a breathtaking natural backdrop (in this case, the Mississippi River). Founded by Swedish immigrants in the 1850’s and discovered by artists in the 1970s, Stockholm has a vibrant culture that permeates its shops, galleries and festivals. Foodies (isn’t that all of us?) will find gourmet Wisconsin treats alongside imported Scandinavian specialties.

For more of our best-kept secrets, take a stroll through our destinations page