22 Essential Wisconsin Bucket List Activities & Food

Updated

Wisconsin may be known for its cheese making, but it’s also home to stunning state parks, caves, the largest music fest in the world, and delicious must-try foods. If you’ve never considered adding Wisconsin to your bucket list, we hope to change your mind.

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Keep reading for the best activities, year-round adventures, places to explore, and foods to try from all across the state. Whether you plan to travel solo, go with friends, or bring your family, there’s something to do for everyone here.

Wisconsin Bucket List Trip Destinations

If you’re looking for several destination spots for your bucket list trip, we’re sure you’ll be happy with these options.

1. Explore gorgeous Door County

Door County is home to amazing scenery, a huge lake, fantastic shops, and must-try eateries. Stay for a few days or a whole week and you won’t get bored. Shop, eat, hike, bike, explore, and take a kayak out on the lake while you’re there. And be sure to catch the stunning sunsets.

2. Discover Pattison State Park

Home of several waterfalls including Big Manitou Falls, Pattison State Park is a destination spot for locals and vacationers. You can camp, swim, fish, and hike during the warmer months and adventure over five and a half miles of cross-country ski trails during the winter.

3. Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake is Wisconsin’s most-visited state park, and one visit is all it will take to see why. The park is open year-round, and there is plenty to do for everyone. Go mountain biking, hiking, canoeing or kayaking, rock climbing, and fishing during the warm season, or cross-country skiing, snow-showing, or ice fishing during the winter.

Pro tip: Go during the fall for picture-perfect scenery as entire hillsides are clothed in the bright yellows, stunning oranges, and vivid reds of the season.

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Wisconsin

There are plenty of outdoor and adventurous activities to be had in Wisconsin. Here are three of our favorites.

4. Go on a cranberry bog tour

You may have had cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, but have you ever seen where they’re grown? Wisconsin has a large cranberry industry, and you can go on a tour to see how cranberries are grown and harvested. If you’ve ever eaten a cranberry, then you need to see this process.

5. Explore Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark

The cave is open year-round and features stunning cave formations you have to see. Guided tours are available daily as well as self-guided tour opportunities. There is plenty to do above-ground, as well, such as wandering through on-site gardens, watching wildlife, and walking along a gentle 30-minute trail.

6. Hike to Big Manitou Falls

Wisconsin has plenty of falls to enjoy, but Big Manitou Falls typically tops the list. The whitewater falls a stunning 165 feet, making it the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

Spring and Summer Wisconsin Bucket List Ideas

There’s a lot to do during the warmer months in Wisconsin. Plan your travel bucket list trip during spring and summer and you might not have time to do it all!

7. Take a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright estate

Whether you like architecture, history, or both, a tour of Wright’s home and estate, Taliesin, isn’t to be missed. There are house tours, estate tours, and activities at this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Attend a pow-wow

Wisconsin has a rich Native American history, and they’re proud of it. Pow-wows are held to provide education, cultural activities, and experiences for the whole family. Learn about life for the native tribes, observe their rituals, and find yourself culturally enriched.

9. Rock out at Summerfest

Summerfest is the world’s largest music festival and you won’t want to miss it. Not sure if you’ll see an artist you like? You’re bound to see musicians taking the stage from every genre known – and a few you may never have heard of. Artists from Jason Aldean and Justin Bieber to the Dave Matthews Band and the Zac Brown Band have all played Summerfest, and you can be sure they will again.

10. Go on a petting zoo adventure at the Wisconsin Deer Park

This is a petting zoo unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Step foot into the park where you’ll get to feed 100 deer and other wildlife. Take pictures of them, pet them, talk to them, sing to them, and spend time with these beautiful creatures to your heart’s content!

11. Relive childhood at Circus World

The Ringling Brothers put on some of the most famous and awe-inspiring circus acts to ever grace the big top. Now you can witness them for yourself, with all-new seasonal high-flying adventures, musicals, animal acts, and more.

Pro tip: Can’t get enough? Check out the Ringling Brothers Museum and learn how their vision for America’s circus took off.

12. Step back in time at Old World Wisconsin

The Old World Wisconsin is a living history museum that operates from May through the end of September and is a must-see for those interested in history and the way things were. Step back in time to the 1800s and discover life in Wisconsin for newly settled immigrants. Visit the blacksmith shop, general store, and schoolhouse before trying your hand at using old-world farm implements on the working farm.

Fall and Winter Wisconsin Bucket List Ideas

Explore Wisconsin during fall and winter for some unique cold-weather and wintry activities you can’t find anywhere else.

Pro tip: Always make a note of seasonal activities when making a travel bucket list, so you know what time of year to travel.

13. Explore the Mainland Ice Caves

The ice caves are a stunning natural formation that can occur when the weather, wind, and waves are just right. Inside the ice caves, you’ll find stunning, glittering icicles, and outside you’ll see beautiful formations that take your breath away.

Pro tip: The ice caves are only open if the National Park Service Superintendent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore declares them open and safe. Until the green light is given, the area is off-limits due to unsafe conditions. Check with the park service to be sure they’re open if you plan to visit.

14. Hop aboard the National Railroad Museum

Train lovers of all ages will love visiting the oldest and best railroad museum around. Step back in time as you learn about the history of the railroad in America, encounter railroad artifacts up close, and check out old locomotives. Go on a train ride, take a self-guided tour, or sign up for the many activities happening all year long to get the most out of your visit.

Pro tip: There are activities all year long, so it’s best to check the website for up-to-date info for your visit.

15. Drive the North Country National Scenic Trail

Did you come to put your photography skills to the test or to simply soak up the scenery? If so, take a long drive along this scenic trail. You’ll be treated to stunning lakes and glistening streams, wide-open prairies, and historic sights all along the way.

Pro tip: Take this drive during the fall for stunning fall foliage photo opportunities.

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Wisconsin

Are you mapping out a food bucket list? Be sure to add these must-try foodie finds from Wisconsin to your plans.

16. Snack on Kopp’s frozen custard

Go for the frozen custard or the jumbo burgers that land on everyone’s plates and you might find yourself returning to Wisconsin just to visit Kopp’s. Started in 1950 by Eliza Kopp, the single restaurant has turned into a chain for the Milwaukee area and draws thousands of hungry customers. It’s a staple of young and old, local and visitor alike.

17. Sample some cheese curds

Wisconsin and cheese go hand-in-hand, but did you know about Wisconsin’s famous cheese curds? Curds can be eaten as-is, or breaded and fried if you prefer them warm. They’re found all over the state, and wherever you try them, they’ll be delicious.

18. Enjoy a Butter Burger for lunch

Butter burgers are a Wisconsin creation that involves either cooking butter into the meat patty or buttering the bun and melting a thick slab of butter atop a steaming hot patty. It might sound different, but you’ll be glad you tried this slice of Wisconsin.

19. Gobble up a Wisconsin Kringle

This buttery, flakey, and oh-so-delicious goodie is Wisconsin’s state pastry. All it will take is one bite to see why! The kringle is an oval-shaped pastry filled with fruit and nuts, then topped with icing. Try it hot and fresh from a bakery during your travels.

Madison, Wisconsin Bucket List Ideas

Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, is a vibrant city filled with restaurants, museums, lakes, and activities for travelers of all ages. Here are three things you don’t want to miss.

20. Stroll around Olbrich Botanical Gardens

First opened in 1952, the gardens have been drawing visitors ever since. Stroll through walkways designed to bring you up close with a seasonal variety of flora and fauna. The highlight of everyone’s visit is the stunning and fragrant rose garden.

21. Enjoy a day at Lake Kagonsa State Park

Just outside of Madison is Lake Kagonsa State Park. It’s a perfect place to visit for a day or two if you’re already staying in the Madison area. Forest lands, prairies, and wetlands all await you, along with five miles of hiking trails. You can also enjoy boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and water skiing. 

22. Tour the State Capitol Building

The capitol building is architecturally stunning and is well worth a visit. The inside is elegant and grand, while the outside is beautiful and features lush gardens. During the summer, a sixth-floor museum and observation deck are open. Tours for the capitol occur year-round, except on major US holidays, and they’re always free.

Pro tip: Plan around an hour for capitol building tours.

Check Out All There Is in Wisconsin

Though everyone’s first thought when they hear about Wisconsin is cheesemaking, there is so much more to do in this beautiful state. From scenic waterfall hikes and rock climbing to visiting caves and enjoying a taste of culture, you might find that you can’t fit it all in during one trip! 

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