When spring hits and the weather starts to warm, outdoor adventurers can take their pick of biking, kayaking, hiking, or skiing. Come summer, quirky festivals take over the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, offering live music and unique exploration of the area’s immigrant heritage. Campers can plan their trips around these beloved festivals – or just pick a random weekend and see where the easy living leads them.
There’s not a kid alive who can resist the endless charms of the Wisconsin Dells, and the adults don’t seem to want to leave either. For starters, there’s the natural allure of the glacially carved Wisconsin River and Dell Creek, which wind their way through the area, offering popular duck boat rides and endless waterside shenanigans. On drier land, there’s cross-country ski trails, countryside horseback rides, and zip line tours.
Of course, a different kind of water rush can also be found in the Dells. In recent years, the area has become a hotbed of indoor waterparks, giving it a fun, Orlando-esque appeal. If waterpark’s aren’t your bag, but you’re still on the hunt for amusement, you’ll find plenty of go-karts, mini golf, and roller coasters in the Dells.
30 miles south, near Madison, Devil's Lake State Park is the most famous park in these parts. Surrounding a stunning crystalline lake flanked by sandy beaches, the park boasts over 9,000 acres for hiking, fishing and hunting. Looking for something off the beaten path? Check out nearby Circus World, a big top circus along the banks of the Baraboo River, that hosts an Elephant Watermelon Party every August.
Informally called “the Door” or “Cape Cod of the Midwest”, Door County is essentially a long peninsula and clutch of small islands tucked between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. In summer, the local population reaches ten times the number of year-round residents, with happy, suntanned wanderers poking around charming towns like Fish Creek, joining in a weekly fish boil, or picking up some world-class smoked salmon at Charlie’s Smokehouse in Ellison Bay. If you’re there in July, you’ll be right on time for cherry season – Door County’s are considered some of the tastiest in the world.
Come fall, the 66-mile Door County Coastal Byway explodes in an array of fall hues. At Whitefish Dunes State Park, you can climb up Old Baldy, Wisconsin's tallest sand dune, for panoramic views of Clark Lake and Lake Michigan. The area is also home to 11 historic lighthouses, including Rock Island's Pottawatomie Lighthouse, which dates back to 1836.
Along the northern tip of the state, the 21 islands that make up the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers otherworldly natural beauty, beginning with the cliffs and sea caves found along Lakeshore Trail. Kayakers will want to explore Lake Superior by paddle, where the water is so clear you can see the lake’s floor through 30 feet of water. Many of the islands here have trails and beaches to explore, and Sand Island and Raspberry Island both have 19th-century lighthouses.