Wisconsin, located in America's heartland, is a four-season travel destination offering both urban and rural vacations. Ranked a top travel spot in the United States, Wisconsin owes much of its popularity to its natural beauty, with two Great Lakes, Superior and Michigan, and the world's most famous river, the Mississippi, as well as 15,000 inland lakes.
Forty percent of the state is forested land, with 43 state parks and 11 state forests providing plenty of outdoor recreation. Wisconsin's also been described as having the best natural golf course landscape in the country.
In spring and summer, travelers enjoy water-related activities, including fishing, sailing and canoeing. Fall is the time for "colorama," when the leaves turn colors and the entire state offers spectacular scenic touring. Winter features ample cross-country and downhill skiing, festivals, sled dog races, sleigh rides and snowmobiling.
Wisconsin's rich in urban experiences as well. Milwaukee, a city of 600,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers great cultural diversity, reflected in its many performing arts groups, professional sports teams, ethnic festivals, nationally acclaimed zoo and natural history museum, fine restaurants and diverse shopping opportunities. Madison is the state's capital and the location of the University of Wisconsin. The stately Capitol building, beautiful campus and bustling university atmosphere make this city, bordered by lakes, an appealing destination.
Door County, the "thumb" on the eastern side of the state, claims more miles of shoreline, state parks and lighthouses than any county in the United States. Picturesque villages feature art galleries, shops and restaurants.
Wisconsin's Northwoods, the spectacular wooded country stretching across the northern third of the state, is a land of lush forests, sparkling lakes and rushing rivers. The area offers private cottages, resorts, guided fishing opportunities and golf, as well as outdoor recreation.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore at Wisconsin's northern tip is a scenic chain of 21 islands just off the shores of the town of Bayfield. Visitors will enjoy kayaking, sailing and fishing with charter opportunities, as well as performing arts, shopping and fine dining.
Wisconsin Dells, located in southern Wisconsin, is one of the Midwest's most popular family vacation destinations. It offers the scenic Wisconsin River, flanked by 100-foot cliffs, and a multitude of attractions including river cruises, the nation's largest waterpark and stage shows.
Wisconsin's 300-mile Great River Road along the Mississippi River is one of the Midwest's most scenic drives, with quaint river towns along a road etched in limestone river bluffs.
Old World Wisconsin in Eagle is one of the Midwest's largest outdoor museums on 600 acres of forest and prairie in southeastern Wisconsin. There are some 60 authentic 19th century historic buildings assembled into 10 farmsteads to tour, as well as the Aldo Leopold Environmental History Trail which sends hikers through woods and prairies, along ponds and marshes, where they are apt to spot wildlife such as wild turkeys, deer, songbirds and cranes.
Frank Lloyd Wright Touring Opportunities include buildings that span Wright's career. Notable is Taliesin in Spring Green, a 600-acre estate once Wright's home and declared a National Landmark in 1976. Wisconsin features numerous other Wright designs to tour or view. The Wright-designed Seth Peterson Cottage near Wisconsin Dells recently opened to the public for rental.
Ethnic Diversity and Cultural Heritage
New Glarus (Swiss) and Mt. Horeb (Norwegian) are examples of rural towns that reflect the traditions of the original residents' homeland. An emphasis on historic preservation is evident in logging towns and mining communities that have maintained the flavor of the past. With the greatest number of Native American tribes and bands east of the Mississippi, there are Native American powwows, arts and crafts exhibitions, and museums.
Shopping, Dining and Accommodations
Wisconsin is known for several offerings related to the state's economy - tours of cranberry bogs, cheese factories and breweries provide a chance to buy and sample. The many ethnic groups that have settled throughout the state are represented in a wealth of ethnic specialties - try German sauerbraten, Danish kringle and Cornish pasties. And visitors shouldn't miss Door County's traditional fish boil.
Shopping opportunities are ample too. American Indian handcrafted items can be found in the north. Around the state, visitors will find out-of-the-way antique shops, designer and factory outlet centers, and upscale malls.
Accommodations in Wisconsin range from rustic northern resorts and cottages to quaint bed and breakfasts. The American Club in Kohler is the Midwest's only AAA "Five Diamond" resort hotel. The Lake Geneva area in southern Wisconsin offers several spa resorts.
If driving to Wisconsin, visitors can take Interstate Highways 90 and 94, as well as numerous well-maintained state and federal highways. Major national and international airlines fly into Milwaukee and Madison, and national and regional carriers service several cities and towns throughout the state.
Travel Wisconsin (www.travelwisconsin.com)