It’s easy to see why Wisconsin is known as “America’s Dairyland.” The state’s rolling green hills are dotted with placid black-and-white dairy cows.
The state’s love affair with cheese isn’t just reserved for the foam cheeseheads worn at Green Bay Packers games. The state’s 60-plus cheese-makers currently produce more than 600 different types of cheese, including one-of-a-kind artisanal, farmstead and organic varieties. But there’s much more to Wisconsin, including 1,439 square miles of inland water in nearly 15,000 lakes and 33,000 miles of rivers and streams. Defined on two sides by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, Wisconsin’s third border is etched by the Mississippi River. The state seems to have been made for fishermen and water enthusiasts.
On the far northern edge of Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which encompasses 21 islands in Lake Superior and 12 miles of mainland. Visitors can hike, paddle, sail, take boat rides and look for lighthouses. Camping is available on 18 of the lakeshore’s 21 islands and at one campsite on the mainland. The Bayfield Visitor Center is a good place to begin exploring the Apostles.
Another favorite area for tourists is Door County, a narrow peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Door County has 300 miles of shoreline, five state parks, cherry and apple orchards, and artist colonies. The peninsula—just 75 miles long and 10 miles wide—is home to picturesque communities with charming names such as Fish Creek, Baileys Harbor, Gills Rock and Sister Bay. Historic points of interest reflect the area’s Scandinavian and other ethnic settlers, and museums showcase the county’s maritime history. A ferry takes visitors to Washington Island, just off the tip of the peninsula, and to smaller Rock Island, once the private estate of a millionaire investor and now a state park. And dining outdoors at a fish boil is practically mandatory.
A popular destination for families is Wisconsin Dells, a resort area in south central Wisconsin, known for stunning sandstone columns and cliffs that tower over the Wisconsin River. The resort now is home to a wide variety of water parks, shopping malls, casinos, resorts and camping areas. Noah’s Ark is billed as the largest water park in the country.
Of course, Wisconsin boasts some urban areas. Milwaukee, located on Lake Michigan in the southeast part of the state, is home to one of the top zoos in the nation, the Milwaukee County Zoo. It’s home to more than 350 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, along with tram rides and a petting zoo. The Boerner Botanical Gardens features a rose collection that is an official garden for the All-America Rose Selections. Milwaukee is also home to the Harley-Davidson museum, the Miller Brewery (which gives tours), and Summerfest, billed as the world’s largest music festival, held on 11 days on the lakefront.
Of course Wisconsin has countless lodging opportunities, from campgrounds, rental cabins, motels and resorts, but the cream of the crop is The American Club in Kohler, about an hour north of Milwaukee. The resort is the Midwest’s only AAA Five-Diamond resort hotel. It has a spa and world-class golf at two courses—Whistling Straits was the host of the 2010 PGA Championship.
Summer temperatures average 75 to 80 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Winter temperatures of 10 degrees below zero are not uncommon.
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