Looking for affordable, family-friendly, diverse experiences for your next vacation? Wisconsin tourist attractions offer all this and more.
Along with our list of top attractions, this Midwest state boasts stunning lakes, bluffs, and rolling hillsides through four seasons of exciting travel.
15 Best Attractions in Wisconsin in 2023
While many vacationers zero in on California, Florida, or Hawaii when considering traveling in the United States, Wisconsin delivers unforgettable experiences as well. This state, located in the Upper Midwest, offers attractions both well-known and under the radar.
Wisconsin is well known for its primary industry: dairy. Today nearly 6,500 dairies exist in the state, producing milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, and many other beloved foods.
Farming remains one of the primary ways Wisconsinites make their living, including tourism. Natural wonders abound in Wisconsin.
This state features the Driftless Area on the western border, showcasing jaw-dropping bluffs and the famous Mississippi River valley. To the north and east, the Great Lakes provide borders and stunning scenery for vacationers.
These features and more make Wisconsin an exceptional place to visit. Read on to get further details about the attractions you can’t miss the next time you are in America’s Dairyland.
1. Wisconsin Dells Water Parks
The Waterpark Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells is endless fun, even during the winter months! This town transforms into an aquatic paradise, with elaborate slides soaring high above this small town. Wisconsin Dells holds a population of just below 3,000 residents.
Wisconsin Dells gets its name from the rock formations popping up everywhere. French explorers originally called these “dalles”, meaning “slab-like rock”.
The slabs emerged from glacial influence, first attracting tourist attention in the 1800s. Some of the most famous water parks include Noah’s Ark and Mount Olympus. These offer heart-pounding waterslides, relaxing lazy rivers, invigorating wave pools, and more.
All together, Wisconsin Dell has more than 20 water parks, making it the largest collection anywhere in the world. Summertime brings thousands of visitors to Wisconsin Dells, transforming this sleepy part of Central Wisconsin.
In addition to water parks, The Dells also offers mini-golf, attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, water ski shows, and outdoor activities like hiking or boating.
In the 2000s, Wisconsin Dells evolved to offer indoor water parks, such as the enormous Great Wolf Lodge and the Kalahari Resorts. That means revelers get to race through tubes and splash in pools even when the temperature is below zero outside.
2. Wisconsin Ducks
Once you leave the water park, get on the water again by taking a ride in one of the Wisconsin Ducks. This multi-terrain vehicle lets guests experience the Wisconsin River and Lake Delton up close.
Some of these trails exist in areas that cannot usually be traversed. The versatile Wisconsin Ducks take passengers on exclusive trails only accessible by using these aquatic vehicles. The tours last one hour and spend equal time on land and water.
Ducks tours launched in 1946 and were once very popular in this tourist town. However, there is now only one amphibious vehicle company still in operation. This last survivor effortlessly moves over sand bars and floats down the river for a unique outdoor experience.
3. House on the Rock
There is nothing like House on the Rock anywhere in the world. This appropriately-named attraction takes architecture to an unexpected place. It opened in only 1960, making it a relatively new fixture in the landscape of Wisconsin tourism spots.
But this spot, which is near the similarly magnificent Taliesin, made its mark quickly. House on the Rock owes its existence to Alex Jordan, an architect who built his dream house atop a glacial rock formation in south-central Wisconsin.
This formation, named a chimney rock, extends 60 feet into the air, and it is where Jordan allowed his imagination to run wild. First, the architectural feats of House on the Rock are remarkable.
One room is called the Infinity Room, which extends 218 feet and has 3,264 windows. The final 140 feet dangle unsupported over the Wisconsin wilderness. That is made possible because 105 yards of concrete provides a counterbalance.
As is likely evident, Jordan had intense passion. Not only did he want this house to display mind-boggling physics, but also his extensive collections.
The House on the Rock holds enormous deep-sea displays, like a 200-foot-long sea monster. One of the most famous fixtures is the largest carousel in the world, located inside this house and featuring nearly 270 animals.
The recommended tour of House on the Rock takes three hours and is not for the faint of heart. Visitors should know this is more of a funhouse than a museum, with many staircases and ramps leading down seemingly endless hallways.
4. Mississippi River Valley
On the western side of Wisconsin lies stunning scenery. Scientists claim this part of the United States was untouched by glaciers. Instead, this land serves as a monument of high cliffs and deep river valleys left untouched, while glaciers flattened land like the Great Plains to the west.
The Driftless Area characterizes 24,103 square miles in the Upper Midwest, including a significant portion of southwest Wisconsin. This landscape provides the largest collection of cold water streams found anywhere in the world.
Caves, sinkholes, and springs are also extensive. Due to this, amateur archaeologists will enjoy seeing the incredible rock formations lining the highways.
Abundant fossils lie close to the surface, showing that this land was once the final resting place for marine animals. These formations feature lines marking receding water, a remarkable kind of timeline for planet Earth.
Besides nature, you can explore various small towns along the Mississippi River. Here, visitors will encounter warm hospitality and, often, a local festival.
Notably, Prairie du Chien and Gays Mills throw huge community celebrations to celebrate their history and agricultural abundance. In particular, Gays Mills is known for its impressive apple orchards.
5. Grandad Bluff
Along the Mississippi River sit gorgeous bluffs. These rock formations provide a rare opportunity to climb to the top of something in the Midwest and look out over rolling, tree-filled hillsides.
LaCrosse, Wisconsin offers Grandad Bluff, a popular destination easily accessible by car. This impressive lookout point is equipped with viewing machines and a paved viewing platform for maximum convenience.
From this vantage, you can see miles of the Mississippi River and even get glimpses of neighboring Minnesota and Iowa.
Exploring this part of Wisconsin will make you feel connected to an ancient past. This land shows what our country may have looked like before crushing glaciers carved today’s familiar topography.
6. Door County
Door County is the pointy arm of Wisconsin and heads into Lake Michigan. Just like Western Wisconsin abounds with bluffs and fossils, this area is also blessed with natural wonders!
This region is a veritable wonderland for anyone interested in the great outdoors. Yet, despite that, Door County also boasts high-end amenities. Whether your idea is fishing for sturgeon or fishing an olive out of your martini, Door County delivers.
Door County offers 300 miles of shoreline and 19 distinct regions to travel through. Towns like Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, and Washington Harbor dot the landscape.
Popular activities in Door County include wine tastings, taking in art galleries, and high-end shopping. This region boasts several signature crops including cherries and apples.
If you’re visiting in the spring, make sure to watch out for the annual cherry blossom bloom! When it comes to nature, Door County has fantastic activities like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and sailing.
Elsewhere, you’ll have opportunities to explore caves and delve deep into the peninsula’s five state parks. Don’t miss the 11 historic lighthouses in Door County, all open to the public for daily tours.
Door County food traditions include Scandinavian fish boils and lots of breweries, distilleries, and wineries, all washed down with a slice of cherry pie, a local favorite. Try a local supper club for true Midwest hospitality (and portion sizes)!
As Wisconsin’s premier tourism region, Door County does rank as one of the most expensive regions to visit in the state. Hotels, restaurants, and other amenities will likely cost more than other more affordable attractions in the Dairy State.
7. State Capitol
Built in 1917, the Wisconsin State Capitol building is conveniently situated in a bustling neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.
Like many states’ capitol buildings, this structure displays elaborate architecture, a stunning rotunda with a 284-foot tall dome, and several monuments and exhibitions celebrating Wisconsin’s history.
The State Capitol building dominates the landscape just down the road from Madison’s downtown. This district contributes gravitas to the capitol building, as there are no skyscrapers or other buildings distracting from its majesty.
In addition to the beauty of the building, you may get a glimpse of legislators chatting or rushing from place to place within this historical monument. Wisconsin’s State Capitol building remains one of the best free attractions available in Madison.
8. Capitol Square
The capitol building anchors the larger Capitol Square, a busy neighborhood with fun restaurants and boutiques. While a small city, Madison boasts a thriving cultural and artistic scene as well as the notable University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Be sure to check out the local calendar of events for the Capitol Square and Madison waterfront districts.
Community events and festivals are held year-round, from farmer’s markets to elaborate light displays during the holidays. Whatever time you visit, you’ll feel like a local when you are in downtown Madison.
9. Olbrich Botanical Gardens
A short walk from the Capitol Building rewards tourists with the 16-acre Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Established in 1952, these gardens swelled to include a dazzling assortment of exotic plants, fragrant flowers, and gorgeous architecture.
The Olbrich Botanical Gardens features a “sala,” a stunning Thai pavilion donated by the government of Thailand.
It is one of only four Thai pavilions located outside the continent of Asia. This intricate gold structure provides a peaceful, open-air environment, ideal to take in the beauty all around you.
10. Lambeau Field
If you are a sports fan, then a visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay is a can’t-miss destination. Lambeau is home to the fan-owned Green Bay Packers, who represent one of the tentpole franchises of the National Football League.
At Lambeau Field, you get the chance to step back in time to the very beginning of the NFL. Tours of the stadium are available, offering visitors the chance to delve into the rich history of the franchise.
Lambeau has a Hall of Fame dedicated to the team’s great players, while there are also statues honoring Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau.
Keep in mind that the NFL season runs from September to February. That means many games occur during brutal winter weather, and Lambeau Field itself is nicknamed “The Frozen Tundra”.
Fans eagerly sit on uncomfortable bleachers in below-zero temperatures to experience this iconic franchise. Besides football, Lambeau has been host to plenty of music events and a Pro Shop teeming with all manner of Packers merchandise.
Lambeau is conveniently located within Titletown District, which has been developed at the initiative of the Green Bay Packers. There, you’ll find restaurants, shopping, and more.
11. Walk of Legends
The Green Bay Packers hold much of the NFL’s early history as they were the winners of the first few Super Bowls. In fact, the highest trophy for football players is still named the Lombardi Trophy, after the Packers’ legendary coach.
As you take a guided stadium tour to get a taste of the team’s rich history, don’t miss out on the Walk of Legends outside.
This collection of 24 statues honors the best players and coaches in Green Bay Packers history, like Reggie White and coach Mike Holmgren. The Walk of Legends also honors the Oneida tribe of Native Americans.
This tribe works together with the football team to share their history and traditions through a tourism partnership. Appropriately enough, some of the first players on the Green Bay Packers in the late 1800s were members of the Oneida tribe.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin provides another architectural wonder to explore. Located near House on the Rock, this rugged, isolated central Wisconsin corridor provides an unexpected snapshot of American architectural history.
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous American architects of all time. Wright popularized the “prairie style,” which dominated American interior design during the 20th Century. Taliesin is 37,000 square feet and served as Wright’s own private residence and studio.
It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a National Historic Landmark At Taliesin, you can learn more about Wright’s achievements, his early life, and his inspirations.
What’s more, you will have access to numerous preserved artifacts from his life and career.
There are multiple tour options, giving you the chance to explore the gorgeous grounds or discover the history behind the remarkable interiors of Taliesin and the nearby Hillside Studio.
13. Pattison State Park
One of the most stunning regions of Wisconsin is its north shore, dominated by Lake Superior. This is the largest of the Great Lakes and gives ocean vibes in an otherwise landlocked state. Plan a visit in any season for a unique and unforgettable nature experience.
Outdoor activities reign at Pattison State Park. You can partake in one of the winding hiking trails that snake through this gorgeous wilderness. Or, you can enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, and guided tours.
If you choose to camp, you’ll be glad to hear that there are 60 family-friendly campsites available, including some with electricity. Visitors must check out two spectacular waterfalls within Pattison State Park.
Appropriately named Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls, these are a big draw for the state park. Big Manitou Falls is Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall and the fourth-tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
Read Next: The Best National Parks in the United States
14. Circus World Museum
Located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, this museum celebrates the long, quirky history of the circus. Interestingly, Baraboo was once the home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, who set up in the area in 1884. The circus used Baraboo for its headquarters until 1918.
This museum is home to more than 250 authentic circus wagons, once used to transport animals across the country. These intricate wagons stand beautifully restored within the extensive collections at Circus World.
In addition, the museum holds numerous artifacts of circus history inside a sprawling multi-building complex. You can explore the original buildings used by the Ringling Brothers Circus and have a glimpse of authentic winter quarters for circus performers.
The complex is a designated National Historic Landmark site. If you visit in the summer, you’ll get to see daily circus performances! Keep in mind that the circus still uses elephants and other live animals.
15. Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and delivers a pretty terrific zoo! It boasts a diverse collection of animals located, but that’s not all Milwaukee County Zoo has to offer.
Little ones will enjoy the various rides and charming amusements perfect for a curious mind. They can ride the adorable Safari Train or carousel and make time to visit the zoo playground.
The Milwaukee County Zoo sits on more than 190 acres and cares for 1,800 animals. Visitors will get to view cheetahs, elephants, orangutans, chinchillas, and king cobras. This zoo offers free family days year-round to make your visit even more enjoyable.
This zoo, in operation since 1892, is open March through September, with varying hours depending on Daylight Savings Time. If you are traveling near a holiday, like Father’s Day or Halloween, be sure to check out their special events.
Things to Consider
Wisconsin offers abundant beauty, but certain parts of the year deliver brutal weather. Winters in Wisconsin can be challenging, particularly when it comes to navigating snow and ice.
With that in mind, pack warm layers (including gloves, hats, and scarves) and plan for road safety. But winter weather is not the only consideration! Summers in Wisconsin can be taxing in their way.
Wisconsin is extremely humid in the summer, and that can cause its own discomforts. Also, mosquitos and other bugs are plentiful, especially when you are near water.
Be sure to pack light ventilated clothing for your comfort. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses are also recommended. Don’t forget bug spray, sunblock, and plenty of water to keep spirits high while you vacation in Wisconsin!
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to know more about Wisconsin? Read on for simple answers to frequently asked questions:
What food is Wisconsin known for?
Known as America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin offers numerous dairy products. Seek out fresh or deep-fried cheese curds for one of the state’s signature treats. Wash it down with a beer, another iconic food item from this great state.
Are there any national parks in Wisconsin?
Yes! There are two national parks in Wisconsin. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore sits within the many islands of Lake Superior in the far north. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, meanwhile, is near the start of the Mississippi River on the northwest coast.
Are there any national monuments in Wisconsin?
Yes! There are 44 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin. These range from Milwaukee City Hall to fur traders’ mansions and many ancient Native American sites.
Who are the most famous people from Wisconsin?
Actors Chris Farley, Oprah Winfrey, and Willem DeFoe hail from Wisconsin. NFL player Tony Romo, pianist Liberace, and Golda Meir, the first prime minister of Israel, also called Wisconsin home.
What does the name “Wisconsin” mean?
Wisconsin’s name has a fascinating history. Historians believe it comes from an English interpretation of a French translation of a Native American phrase. That word was “Meskonsing,” which means “this stream meanders through something red,” referring to the unique topography of Wisconsin.
Tourist Attractions in Wisconsin: Final Thoughts
Visitors to Wisconsin won’t be disappointed by the wide range of activities in this underrated state.
You can dine on local harvests after a long day of fun in the sun, explore unique architecture, or delve into the history of the Green Bay Packers. Whether you choose water parks, architectural wonders, or a soothing day in nature, Wisconsin waits for you.