100 Things To Do In Wisconsin In The Winter

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The weather outside is frightful, and the fire may be delightful, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place to go. Beat cabin fever with these 100 things to do across Wisconsin this winter.


1. Cross-country ski under the lights

Lapham Peak Unit, W329-N846 County Highway C, Delafield; (262) 646-3025

Lights lead the way on a 2.5-mile groomed trail. Novices can take free lessons on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

2. See the Apostle Islands ice caves

415 Washington Ave., Bayfield; (715) 779-3397

Visitors can usually access the caves from late January through mid-March.

3. Mush with some mutts

Whitnall Park, 5879 S. 92nd St., Franklin; (414) 967-9677,

Door County Sled Dogs offers $15 rides at Whitnall Park beginning in January.

4. Pitch a tent in the snow

Ottawa Lake: S59-W36530 County ZZ, Dousman, (262) 594-6220; Mauthe Lake: N1490 County Rd GGG, Campbellsport, (262) 626-4305

Layered clothing, a mummy-style sleeping bag, a sleeping pad and a four-season tent are essential for a winter camping adventure.

5. Watch boats sail on frozen lakes

Lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa, Madison;

Memorial Union is a nice spot to watch ice boaters from the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club sail along Lake Mendota.

6. Cheer on world-class athletes at the Snowflake Ski Club

E7940 County Road P, Westby; (608) 634-3211

Watch top ski-jumpers test their skills Jan. 30-31 on one of the nation’s only Olympic-size hills.

7. Skijor with four-legged friends at Justin Trails Resort

7452 Kathryn Ave., Sparta; (608) 269-4522,

Get some paw-powered help skiing at Justin Trails resort, which offers guests a chance to skijor — cross-country ski while attached to a dog.

8. Spear a 100-pound sturgeon on Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago is one of just two places in the country where fishermen can legally spear sturgeon. Watch the annual tradition beginning Feb. 13.

9. Ride a toboggan at Lowell Park

Lowell Park, 2201 Michigan Ave., Waukesha;

The park’s two wooden toboggan runs are typically open on weekends in January and February; bring your own sled or rent one from the park.

10. Hit the slopes at Granite Peak

3605 N Mountain Road, Wausau, (715) 845-2846

With 75 runs on a 700-foot mountain, Granite Peak is about as close as Wisconsinites can get to a Western ski trip without leaving the state.

11. Snowshoe in the city at Havenwoods State Forest

6141 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee; (414) 527-0232

Borrow snowshoes from the Nature Center for a leisurely stroll along 6 miles of looped trails in Wisconsin’s only urban forest.

12. Ice skate for free at Red Arrow Park

920 N. Water St., Milwaukee; (414) 289-8791

Skate rentals are $8 (for those 18 and up; $7 for 17 and under), but skating is free if you bring your own. The small outdoor rink is open December through February or March.

13. Tube without the trouble

Sunburst: 8355 Prospect Drive, Kewaskum; (262) 626-8404

Sylvan: 1329 Sylvan St., Wausau; (715) 261-1550

Wilmot Mountain: 11931 Fox River Road, Wilmot; (262) 862-2301

Cascade Mountain: W10441 Cascade Mountain Road, Portage; (608) 742-5588

Badlands Sno-Park: 772 Kinney Road, Hudson; (715) 386-1856

Bruce Mound: N791 Bruce Mound Ave., Merrillan; (715) 743-2296

Two magic carpets do the work of getting back up the hill to ride 42 lanes at Sunburst, while Sylvan’s tubing hill features two pull ropes for six runs. Wilmot features 23 lanes and two conveyer lifts, and Cascade’s 900-foot chute is serviced by a moving sidewalk. Badlands Sno-Park features six tubing slopes with five tows, and Bruce Mound has five tubing runs and a tow rope for getting back up.

14. Learn to ski or snowboard at The Mountain Top in January

7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva; (262) 249-4726

The small ski hill offers special discounts on lessons for beginners during January’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard month.

15. Pedal a fat tire bike in the snow

Sunny Vale Park, 1000 72 Ave., Wausau; (715) 261-1550

A groomed, 7-mile single-track trail system is open for winter biking in this 300-acre park on the city’s west side.

16. Go spelunking at Cave of the Mounds

2975 Cave of the Mounds Road, Blue Mounds; (608) 437-3038

The cave stays a balmy 50 degrees year-round, making it a warm spot to explore in the depths of winter.

17. Watch eagles congregate on the Wisconsin River

Ferry Bluff Eagle Council Overlook, Water St., Prairie du Sac

Eagles winter in areas of open water along the river near Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, and the towns celebrate with January’s Bald Eagle Watching Days.

18. Channel your inner John Snow to climb an ice wall

Governor Dodge State Park, 4175 State Highway 23 N, Dodgeville

Chicago Rock and Ice Guides leads ice-climbing trips at Governor Dodge, where the 20-foot Stephens Falls provides good learning ground for beginners.

19. Chase frozen waterfalls

Amnicon Falls State Park, 4279 South County Highway U, South Range; (715) 398-3000

If you’d rather admire waterfalls from the safety of the ground, this park’s series of falls along the Amnicon River turns into a root beer float of cascades in the winter.

20. Take a walk along the beach

Kohler-Andrae State Park, 1020 Beach Park Lane, Sheboygan; (920) 451-4080

Wisconsin’s beaches don’t close in the winter, and they’re certainly less crowded. Take a stroll along the 2-mile beach at Kohler-Andrae or hike the 2-mile cordwalk trail for a look at the park’s snow-covered sand dunes.

21. Snowkite on frozen Lake Winnebago

Wind Power Windsurfing & Kiting Center, N7351 Winnebago Drive, Fond du Lac; (920) 922-2550

If you’re proficient at skiing or snowboarding, you’re ready to try snowkiting.

22. Take a polar plunge for a good cause

Throughout Wisconsin; (608) 222-1324

The original ice bucket challenge raises money for the Special Olympics. Take the plunge in one of 14 cities in February.

23. Watch the Geminid meteor shower at Newport State Park

475 County Highway NP, Ellison Bay; (920) 854-2500

The state’s only wilderness park provides dark night skies perfect for watching one of the year’s best meteor showers every December. Reserve a campsite if you want to catch it all — the park closes at 11 p.m.

24. Ski past a candlelit ice wall on the Red Cedar State Trail

921 Brickyard Road, Menomonie; (715) 232-1242

On one January night, luminaries placed along the ice wall — 1.5 miles from the depot in Menomonie — add to the beauty.

25. Zoom through snow-covered trees on a zip line

Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, N3219 County Road H, Lake Geneva; (262) 248-9271

Bundle up for the 2.5-hour Canopy Tour, which includes rides on eight lines, five sky bridges, three spiral stairways and a double-helix stairway that wraps around an ash tree.

26. Tour Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra

1265 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay; (920) 569-7513

It’s not actually frozen, but you’ll get to walk along the field, through the players’ tunnel and learn about the history of the Packers.

27. Go for a trail ride

Dan Patch Stables, Lake Geneva; (262) 215-5303

The stables on the grounds of the Grand Geneva Resort offer 45-minute rides year-round; kids 7 and under can enjoy pony rides.

28. Take a scenic winter drive along the Door County Coastal Byway

Highway 42 & 57, Door County

The 66-mile tour is beautiful any time of year, with winter providing an extra element of beauty.


29. Walk across frozen Lake Superior during Book Across the Bay

Ashland to Washburn; (715) 682-2500

Ice luminaries and roaring bonfires light the way for this 10K snowshoe or cross-country ski race across Lake Superior held Feb. 13.

30. Ski the legendary Birkebeiner

Cable to Hayward; (715) 634-5025

The 51- or 55-kilometer ski race Feb. 20 — the largest and one of the longest in North America — is not for the faint of heart, but the scenery on trails through the Northwoods is unmatched.

31. Watch artists sculpt snowy masterpieces

U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition, downtown Lake Geneva

Witness the sculptures come to life during the week or see the finished works during the city’s Winterfest, Feb.6-7.

32. Race down a hill on a bar stool

Bar Stool Races, Drummond

It’s exactly what it sounds like: Strap skis to the bottom of a bar stool and hold on. The races take place Feb. 14.

33. Admire Eagle River’s ice castle

Downtown Eagle River; (715) 479-6400

Volunteers cut and haul nearly 3,000 blocks of ice to create the town’s ice castle, which is illuminated by colorful lights from New Year’s Day usually until mid-February.

34. Peruse living window displays during Ripon’s Dickens of a Christmas

Downtown businesses transform their storefronts into festive displays for this annual event Dec. 4-6.

35. Master a snowy obstacle course at the Bayfield Winter Festival

The 5K WinterDASH — held March 5 at Mt. Ashwabay Ski and Recreation Area — includes 13 obstacles.

36. Toss a toilet seat at the Fish Creek Winter Festival

It’s basically a giant horseshoe, right? See how far you can hurl a toilet seat at this annual festival, Feb. 5-7.

37. Watch hot air balloons fill the sky above Hudson

Hot Air Affair, Hudson

The Midwest’s largest hot air balloon festival — held Feb. 5-7 — includes a parade, fireworks, music and, of course, balloon launches during the day and at night.

38. Enjoy a wassail dinner concert at the Old Rittenhouse Inn

301 Rittenhouse Ave., Bayfield; (715) 779-5111

The Rittenhouse Chamber Singers serenade diners as they enjoy a three-course lunch or five-course dinner during these special holiday dinner concerts held every December.

39. Cheer on teams in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

Bayfield; (715) 779-3335

Special voluntourism packages let you get close to the action at this race held Feb. 6-7, with opportunities to help mushers hook up their teams, guide teams on the trail and more.

40. Ride the rails on the Mid-Continent Snow Train

E8948 Museum Road, North Freedom; (608) 522-4261

Riders stay cozy while taking in the snowy Sauk County landscape on the 55-minute trip (or the 3-hour dinner trip) Feb. 13-14, thanks to steam heating or coal-fired stoves in the restored century-old steel coaches.

41. Tube on the Capitol Square at the Madison Winter Festival

More than 90 truckloads of snow fill Madison’s Capitol Square on Feb. 13-14 for tubing, cross-country skiing, hockey, curling, skijoring, ice sculpting and more.

42. Watch hockey outside at the USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championship

Dollar Lake, Eagle River

Special events will mark the 10th anniversary of this outdoor hockey tournament, held Feb. 5-7 on Dollar Lake.

43. Don your foulest frock for an Ugly Sweater 5K

Riverside Park, La Crosse

Burn some holiday calories Dec. 12 during this 5K run through Riverside Park in La Crosse.

44. Warm up with rare craft brews at Mitten Fest

Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., Milwaukee

Special barrel tappings are a highlight of this outdoor street festival held every February.

45. Count down to the new year with a carp

Carpfest, Prairie du Chien

Watch Lucky the Carp drop as you countdown to midnight, and stick around to kiss it for good luck.

46. Bowl for turkeys in Spooner

Near Tony’s Riverside, 524 S. River St., Spooner

The annual Jack Frost Festival includes turkey bowling, ice fishing, pond hockey, a snowmobile show, a chili contest and more.

47. Check out the Pabst Mansion’s holidays decorations

2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee; (414) 931-0808

Christmas trimmings fill the historical mansion’s rooms during the annual Grand Avenue Christmas, Nov. 13-Jan. 3. Self-guided tours are available daily.

48. Immerse yourself in a classic holiday fairytale during Nutcracker in the Castle

The Paine, 1410 Algoma Blvd., Oshkosh; (920) 235-6903

Take a candlelight tour of rooms decorated in scenes from the Nutcracker on Fridays, or a tour with live music and ballet performances on the weekend. Self-guided tours are available during the week from Nov. 20 through Jan. 4.

49. Race beds at Cedarburg’s Winter Festival

Bedazzled beds racing down an icy track are a highlight of this annual festival, held Feb. 20-21. Other events include barrel races, an ice carving contest, chili contest, ice golf and a beer festival.

50. Count the Santas at House on the Rock

5754 State Road 23, Spring Green; (608) 935-3639

More than 6,000 Santas fill the 14-room house during the holidays.

51. See more than 3 million twinkling lights in La Crosse

Rotary Lights Display, Riverside Park

See the lights beginning the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.

52. Peruse handcrafted goods at the Osthoff’s Old World Christmas Market

101 Osthoff Ave., Elkhart Lake; (877) 517-4596

Modeled after the traditional German Christkindlesmarkt, this market, which runs Dec. 4-13, includes international and regional artisans.

53. Ride Milwaukee’s Jingle Bus

275 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee

The 40-minute ride costs $1 and takes visitors past the city’s holiday lights displays. Hop aboard Thursday through Sunday at The Shops of Grand Avenue from Nov. 20 through Dec. 28.


54. Treat yourself to a spa getaway

Kohler Waters Spa: 501 Highland Drive, Kohler, (800) 344-2838; Sundara Inn and Spa: 920 Canyon Road, Wisconsin Dells, (888) 735-8181

Go for a day treatment or stay for the whole weekend at one of these world-class, award-winning spas.

55. Stay in a yurt in the Northwoods

N8760 River Road, Trego; (715) 635-2027, nwretreat@yahoo.com

Nestled close to the beautiful St. Croix Scenic Riverway, the Namekagon Waters Retreat features a 24-foot diameter yurt — a domed canvas tent with a wood-burning fireplace and electricity.

56. See historical sleds at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame

8481 W. Highway 70, St. Germain; (715) 542-4463

Saynor resident Carl Eliason created one of the first snowmobiles in 1924; it’s on display in the nearby Vilas County Museum in the summer. Nearby Eagle River is known as the Snowmobile Capital of the World for its more than 500 miles of trails and plentiful snowfall.

57. Get a suntan in the Waterpark Capital of the World

Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, 511 E. Adams St., Wisconsin Dells; (800) 867-9453

The 70,000-square-foot Wild WaterDome features a see-through roof that allows sunlight to pass through for sunbathing year-round.

58. Stop and smell the roses at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

3330 Atwood Ave., Madison; (608) 246-4550

More than 650 tropical plants fill the garden’s Bolz Conservatory, including a large collection of orchids, bromeliads and ferns.

59. Take a trip to the desert at the Domes

524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee; (414) 257-5611

Two domes — the Desert and Tropical — stay the same throughout the year, while the third features rotating special exhibits.

60. Climb walls at Adventure Rock

21250 W Capitol Drive, Pewaukee; (262) 790-6800

The gym’s auto-belay system means you don’t need a partner to climb.

61. Bowl mini pins at Koz’s

2078 S. 7th St., Milwaukee; (414) 383-0560

Pins are still manually reset at this small bar, which features four mini lanes and dive bar classics: a jukebox, pool table and taxidermy.

62. Bunk up with a brewing kettle at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites

1215 N. 10th St., Milwaukee; (414) 810-3350

The former Pabst Brewing Co. site has gotten a second life as a hotel but maintains elements of its brewing past, including six massive brass brew kettles in the five-story atrium.

63. Tour the State Capitol

2 E. Main St., Madison; (608) 266-0382

Free tours of the domed building, inspired by the U.S. Capitol, are offered daily and provide a look at the building’s beautiful architecture.

64. Catch a show at the historical Mabel Tainter theater

205 Main St. E, Menomonie; (715) 235-0001

Winter events at this lovely 1889 theater include “The Nutcracker” and a New Year’s Eve comedy event.

65. See more than 200 aircraft at the EAA AirVenture Museum

3000 Poberezny Road, Oshkosh; (920) 426-6294

Don’t miss a prototype of the Taylor AeroCar, a two-person flying car first built in 1949.

66. Channel your inner child on trampolines at Sky Zone

W229-N1420 Westwood Drive, Waukesha; (262) 696-1600

Grab a group of friends for a game of dodgeball, or jump until your heart’s content during open jump hours.

67. Stargaze inside at the Barlow Planetarium

1478 Midway Road, Menasha; (920) 832-2848

Public shows are held daily except Monday and all finish with a look at the night sky as seen from the Fox Valley.

68. Learn to paint, draw or sculpt at the Peninsula School of the Art

3900 County F, Fish Creek; (920) 868-3455

Take one- to five-day workshops in everything from ceramics and jewelry to painting and photography.

69. Get in some quiet time at the Portrait Society Gallery

207 E. Buffalo St. No. 526, Milwaukee; (414) 870-9930

Every winter owner Debra Brehmer commissions a new “Winter Chapel” exhibit — a secluded enclave for quiet reflection.

70. Donate your bra to the country’s oldest certified bowling alley

Holler House, 2042 W. Lincoln Ave., Milwaukee; (414) 647-9284

Knock down pins in the basement, then chat with the bar’s feisty owner, Marcy Skowronski, who still serves up cocktails behind the bra-adorned bar — a tradition she started.

71. Curl with the country’s oldest curling club

W67-N890 Washington Ave., Cedarburg

The Milwaukee Curling Club leads Learn to Curl sessions throughout the season, which runs from October through March.

72. Pick up fresh produce at Dane County’s winter farmers market

1 John Nolen Drive, Madison

Madison’s popular Capitol Square market moves into the Monona Terrace from November through December and the Madison Senior Center from January through April.

73. See the world’s largest steam locomotive at the National Railroad Museum

2285 S. Broadway, Green Bay; (920) 437-7623

In addition to the 1.1 million-pound locomotive known as Big Boy, the museum is also home to the Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only A4 Class locomotive in the country.

74. Find your favorite Hog at the Harley-Davidson Museum

400 W Canal St., Milwaukee; (414) 287-2789

Visitors can touch and sit on various motorcycles in the museum’s Experience Gallery.

75. Get cozy in a caboose in the Driftless Region

De Soto, (708) 341-3255

The restored 1954 red caboose can sleep up to four and includes a gas fireplace and deck with a hot tub.

76. Explore mid-20th century memorabilia at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear

839 N. 11th St., Milwaukee; 273-1680

Browse Avrum Chudnow’s collection of Americana from the 1920s to the 1940s.

77. Watch pingpong masters and test your own skills at Evolution Gastro Pong

1023 N. Old World 3rd St., Milwaukee; (414) 831-7746

Rent a table for $24/hour (after 6 p.m., nonmembers) or sip a cocktail at the bar and watch others battle.


78. Try a new brew at a winter beer festival

Throughout Wisconsin

Options abound for throwing on a beer jacket this winter: Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest, Jan. 16, Madison; Ice Cold Beer Fest, Jan. 30, Minocqua; Brewfest, Feb. 6, Fond du Lac; Food & Froth Fest, Feb. 20, Milwaukee; Hops & Props, March 5, Oshkosh.

79. Warm up with a spicy bowl of chili at Chili John’s

519 S. Military Ave., Green Bay; (920) 494-4624

Add oyster crackers, which restaurant founder John Issac is said to have helped invent.

80. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Mickies Dairy Bar

1511 Monroe St., Madison; (608) 256-9476

Get to this Madison favorite early for large portions of classic diner fare, including plate-size pancakes, heaping egg scramblers and slabs of blueberry coffee cake.

81. Sip a barrel-aged brew at Central Waters

351 Allen St., Amherst; (715) 824-2739

The brewery is known for its barrel-aging program — the Slainte, a Scottish-style ale, is great for warding off the winter cold.

82. Hold your nose while trying a Limburger sandwich at Baumgartner’s

1023 16th Ave., Monroe; (608) 325-6157

“Limburger: don’t eat it with your nose,” is the warning that awaits visitors to this shop in Monroe.

83. Catch dinner and a show at the Fireside

1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson; (800) 477-9505

The popular dinner theater serves up “A Wonderful Life” through Dec. 27, with “Legends in Concert” and “Peter Pan” on the bill for early 2016.

84. Indulge in chocolates from Seroogy’s

144 N. Wisconsin St., De Pere; (920) 336-1383

Try the meltaways from this more than century-old chocolate shop. You’re welcome.

85. Bite into a juicy brat at the Brat Stop

12304 75th St., Kenosha; (262) 857-2011

Who says brats are just for summer months? Top it with sauerkraut and get a side of German potato salad.

86. Sip a mai tai at Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room

196 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee; (414) 271-8454

For an extra $5, have your drink served in a ceramic monkey, shark, skull or Fu Manchu, then take the vessel home as a souvenir.

87. Dine in a bank safe at Freddy Valentine’s

134 W. Jefferson St., Spring Green; (608) 588-0220

Reserve the table in the old bank vault at this restaurant that still maintains its 1915 neo-classical architecture and charm.

88. Travel to a progressive dinner by horse-drawn wagon

Fish Creek; Thorp House: (920) 868-2444; White Gull Inn: (888) 364-9542

Scheduled for three weekends in December and one in January, the dinners include appetizers and champagne at the Thorp House Inn & Cottages and dinner and dessert at the White Gull Inn.

89. Fill up on classic diner fare in Miss Katie’s

1900 W. Clybourn St., Milwaukee; (414) 344-0044

Marquette students go for brunch at this ’50s diner, which has hosted famous visitors including President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.

90. See where John Dillinger evaded the FBI at Little Bohemia

142 U.S. 51, Manitowish Waters; (715) 543-8800

Bullet holes still remain at this supper club in the Northwoods. Go for the gangster lore, stay for the classic Friday night fish fry.

91. Get your fill of Swedish pancakes and meatballs at Al Johnson’s

10698 N. Bay Shore Drive, Sister Bay; (920) 854-2626

While the goats won’t be on the roof, you can enjoy a traditional Swedish julbord, a multi-course Christmas smörgåsbord, Dec. 12-13.

92. Learn to cook a new dish at the Lake Geneva Cooking School

727 Geneva St., Lake Geneva; (262) 248-3933

Chef John Bogan makes cooking easy and fun for students of all ages and abilities. The best part? Enjoying the finished product.

93. Tour and taste in Door County’s wintry landscape

Pickups in Sturgeon Bay and Carlsville; (866) 604-5573

Trolley tours include a stop for touring and tasting at a winery, a sleigh ride through the snow and a fireside lunch.

94. Warm up with a brandy old fashioned at the Al-Gen Dinner Club

3428 N. Faust Lake Road, Rhinelander; (715) 362-2230

The log walls at this classic supper club built in 1932 are original, as are some of the recipes.

95. Crown a chili king or queen at the Milwaukee Chili Bowl

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., Milwaukee

More than 40 restaurants compete for the Golden Ladle Award at this competition held the Sunday before the Super Bowl (Jan. 31).

96. Indulge in a paczki on Fat Tuesday

National Bakery & Deli, 3200 S. 16th St., Milwaukee; (414) 672-1620

This bakery makes the Polish treat in limited quantities year-round, but bumps up production for the day before Lent when it sells more than 30,000 at its three locations.

97. Stock up on Nueske’s bacon

1390 E. Grande Ave., Wittenberg; (715) 253-4059

There’s something heavenly about this applewood smoked meat.

98. Add wacky toppings to your pizza at the Pizza Doctors

624 King St., La Crosse; (608) 784-0450

Specialty pizzas include The Doc Holiday — with chunks of turkey, stuffing, gravy and cheddar cheese — and The Doctor Mac —with thousand island dressing, beef, pickles, onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

99. Eat squeeky-fresh cheese curds at Carr Valley Cheese

S3797 County G, La Valle; (608) 986-2781

Master cheesemaker Sid Cook has won more top national and international awards than any other cheesemaker in the country.

100. Fill up on fried fish at Wendt’s

N9699 Lakeshore Drive, Van Dyne; (920) 688-5231

The flaky lake perch is not just a Friday staple but is served every day of the week — in three portion sizes — at this restaurant along Lake Winnebago.

Source: Wisconsin Trails