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What Is Wisconsin Known for & Famous For
Wisconsin is ranked as the 25th largest state in the United States based on land mass. There are more bars than churches, and almost as many farms and creameries. But is this all that Wisconsin is known and famous for?
Wisconsin is known for and famous for the Summerfest, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Swiss and Ginseng Capitals of the World, and beer, among others. It’s also known as America’s Dairyland and for its hand-crafted beer, such as Spotted Cow ale.
This article will highlight the many features and factors that make Wisconsin one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the United States. You’ll also find out why the state has more bars than churches.
1. America’s Dairyland
Wisconsin has a rich history as the leading dairy producer in the United States. As explained by the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, the state has been involved in dairy farming for nearly two centuries.
According to the above source, approximately a quarter of all dairy farms in the United States are located in this state. Additionally, 95% of these farms are classified as family-owned. If this is not impressive enough, the state also has more than 7,000 registered dairy farms, each of which owns approximately 150 heads of cattle per herd.
What makes this possible? The rich farmland throughout the majority of the state allows for lush fields and comfortable summer conditions for cattle. While California claims they have happy cows, Wisconsin cows are a lot happier.
2. Nicknamed the Badger State
Wisconsin is also widely referred to as the badger state. However, the origins of this name are not as obvious as being home to a bunch of giant badgers or a liking for these bothersome creatures.
Instead, Wisconsin’s nickname is due to its mining past. As fate would have it, some of the early miners in the state formed a shelter close to their mines, eliminating the need to go home. As a result, they were mocked as badgers who lived in the burrows just like animals.
The miners were not bothered by the reference and were, in fact, proud to be associated with these furry creatures. And so Wisconsin came to be known as the badger state.
However, there are several more badgers in this state than anywhere else in the US. And they can be very mean. In fact, one woman remembers having kittens as a child. Her dad insisted on keeping them in the back room of the house. Unfortunately, that room had a dirt floor and a badger got in there in the middle of the night and killed them.
3. Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee, WI, is the most populated city in the state, and it’s known for its many breweries. In the 1970s, at least two popular sitcoms were based in Milwaukee, which were Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. The latter was based on two women who shared an apartment in Milwaukee and worked in a brewery.
It is also home to several colleges and universities.
4. Milwaukee’s Summerfest
This event attracts thousands of visitors every year to the Lake Michigan shore in Milwaukee and attracts many top musicians. One thing that sets this event apart is that it runs for three weekends in a row, beginning on the 23rd of June.
So magnificent is this event that the Guinness World Records named it the world’s largest music festival in 1999.
5. Monroe, WI – The Swiss Cheese Capital of the World
Monroe, “The Swiss Capital of the World,” is located in southwestern Wisconsin. But why is Monroe referred to as the Swiss Cheese Capital?
Monroe resembles a typical village in Switzerland, which is famous for cheese production. The town has numerous cheese-making companies and stores located within it, including Baumgartner’s, one of the oldest of such stores.
Scenicpathways.com says that there are approximately 20 cheese producers and factories located within 25 miles of this town. Therefore, it is no surprise that Monroe is one of the most popular destinations for those looking for a touch of Swiss flair in the United States.
6. Wausau, WI – The Ginseng Capital of the World
Speaking of capitals of the world, Wausau, the Ginseng Capital of the World, is also located in Green County, Wisconsin. One of the largest exporters of American ginseng, Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises, is based in Wausau.
The company has a rich track record of American ginseng exportation and its origins can be traced back to the mid to late 1970s. Ginseng sales generate more than $70 million for Green County, Wisconsin farmers, most of which are exported to China.
For beer lovers, the state of Wisconsin holds many tales and thrills. Some of the largest global breweries began in Milwaukee in the early 1970s, including Schiltz, Miller, and Pabst, alongside numerous other small breweries.
Wisconsin’s first commercial breweries were established in the mid-1830s. Since then, more than 800 such commercial breweries have opened and 600 of the same closed. As explained in the Wisconsin Historical Society, brewing beer has been part and parcel of Wisconsin’s tradition since the pre-territorial era.
Wisconsin is also known for small batches of hand-crafted beer. New Glarus brewing company started in 1993 and has since become famous for ales such as the Spotted Cow. Anyone who comes to Wisconsin and tries this beer falls in love with it.
This growth of breweries in this region is partly associated with increased German settlement in the state, who are well known for their proficiency in brewing.
8. Cold Winters
If you are afraid of the cold, then you would be best advised to stay clear of Wisconsin during the winter. Wisconsin is home to some of the coldest and snowiest towns in the United States, including La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Hurley.
And in fact, February of 2019 was the snowiest on record for several years for the La Crosse area. During that month, it snowed a good 6-10” (15.24 – 25.4 cm) every other day.
As aptly summarized by the Wausau Daily Herald, most winters in the state spanning from 1885 to 2015 have experienced sub-30 degrees temperatures. In fact, the state recorded one of the coldest days in winter, hitting -55℉ (-48℃) in February 1996. This doesn’t include the wind chill, which when the wind picks up at these temps, can feel a LOT colder!
It may be a good idea to bring your coat along, and a warm one at that, if you plan to visit during winter. Don’t forget a stocking cap, warm gloves, and a warm scarf. Maybe some long underwear might be appropriate as well.
9. Outdoor Activities
Don’t let the cold winters fool you, as the state of Wisconsin is considered by most a “nature lover’s paradise.”
There are so many exciting outdoor activities to try out in Wisconsin, including but not limited to exploring the state’s sandy beaches, getting in touch with nature on the hiking trails, or gazing at the breathtaking waterfalls.
Due to the numerous fun, outdoor activities travelers have on offer, this state receives visitors from all over the US. Some of the popular activities among travelers include skiing and snowmobiling. Other fun outdoor activities include:
- Horseback riding
- And more
10. Native American Culture
Wisconsin is also known for the American Indians, whose population in this state goes back centuries. In fact, Wisconsin had been home to American Indians even before it became a state. Archaeological evidence suggests that some of the state’s earliest inhabitants arrived around 10,000 years ago.
Some of the native American cultures in Wisconsin are associated with the Ojibwe, the Menominee, and the Ho-Chunk. These tribes are among the original inhabitants of this state. Later the Oneida nation moved to Wisconsin when they were forced from their home in New York.
11. Ice Caves
Wisconsin definitely scores some major tourism points with the ice caves. The Apostle Islands in the state are renowned for having amazing ice caves during the winter.
During the winter, Lake Superior freezes over, resulting in rock formations and sea caves that allow visitors to cross past this iconic lake. The ice caves resemble sharp icicles and differ across the various chambers.
If you are up for the thrill, you can crawl beneath the rock formations that resemble caves.
Because the lake floor is covered with ice during winter, daring travelers get the rare chance to stare down the lake’s bottom.
12. The Dells
Wisconsin is also very famous for The Dells. The Wisconsin Dells is a globally renowned amusement park and small city located in the state of Wisconsin. The Dells is in some circles lauded as one of the most thrilling water parks in the United States.
US News Travel goes as far as describing the Dells as the “waterpark capital of the world.”
This area is also famous for its stunning scenery. The name “Dells” comes from the French word “dalles,” which translates to slab-like rock formations. The city has grown to become one of the top tourist destinations in the state.
The Sandstone cliffs of Wisconsin have captivated travelers since the 1850s. These sandstone cliffs are located towards the upper Dells and rise as high as 75’ (22.86 m) above the water surface.
Although these sandstone cliffs go as far back as the 1800s, numerous commercial establishments, including fast food joints, tchotchke shops, water parks, and zip-lining, have grown in the area to meet the demands of the large influx of travelers.
14. Cave of the Mounds
These caves are arguably one of the most breathtaking in Wisconsin and sit just off the highway. So significant are these caves that the National Park Service and the United States Department of the Interior designated these parks as national natural landmarks.
Many fun activities are available for visitors, including picnic areas, walking trails, and rock gardens to keep you occupied should you visit this iconic location.
Guided tours are also available for adults and kids for the complete family experience.
15. Lake Superior Agate Stone
The Lake Superior agate stone is a unique form of agate because it is iron-stained. This unique agate is only found along the shores of Lake Superior, which pierces through several states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Many travelers looking to get their hands on this unique type of agate make their way to Wisconsin each year. If you can’t find these outdoors, there is a unique shop in Viroqua, WI that sells these stones, as well as other unique rocks.
16. Door County
Door county is one of the main attractions in Wisconsin. Save for being home to some of the most stunning coastal towns, this county is also littered with cherry and apple orchards, and specialty shops.
It also has fish boils and other attractions that draw visitors to this location annually. So popular is this destination that it has been nicknamed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”
17. North Woods Arts
The North Woods Arts draw visitors every year to experience some of the finest art from some of the best artists and galleries in the region. The North Woods Art Tour is a free, self-guided event open to the public.
Speaking of the arts, Bayfield is widely popular for its arts and craft community. Widely referred to as the crown jewel of the Bayfield Peninsula, it is also a major center and famous for its major attractions.
These attractions include:
- Beautiful orchards
- Shopping centers
- Island cruises
The wide breadth of exciting things to do in this town makes it one of the major tourist stops in the state.
19. The Apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands in Wisconsin are a water enthusiast’s paradise. There are a total of 22 islands that make up the Apostle Islands and are located off the Bayfield Peninsula, Lake Superior.
They make up what is referred to as the National Lakeshore, which stretches over a 12-mile stretch towards the north coast. Here, visitors’ minds are blown away by the pristine beaches and sandstone cliffs.
The Apostle Islands also feature majestic towers and a wide variety of bird species.
20. Harley-Davidson Museum
The Harley-Davidson Museum is another major attraction in the State of Wisconsin that showcases the rich heritage and more than 100-year history of the iconic American motorcycle brand. This museum is located in Milwaukee and sits on a 20-acre piece of reclaimed industrial.
This museum boasts one of the most impressive collections of memorabilia and motorcycles as part of its exhibit.
21. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin East
The Taliesin, also referred to as the Taliesin East, is an 800-acre estate belonging to Frank Lloyd, originally known as Frank Wright, situated in Southwestern Wisconsin.
The majestic estate is a staggering 37,000 sq ft (3437.41 sq m) and features buildings from virtually every decade of Frank Lloyd’s illustrious career as a writer and architect that spanned from the 1890s to the 1950s.
In 1976, the Taliesin was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Several decades later (2019), this site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
22. Green Bay Packers
Wisconsin is also home to the Green Bay Packers, four-time Super Bowl champions, and perennial division championship contenders in the National Football Conference (NFC) north.
The Green Bay Packers won their first championship in 1966, blowing the AFC champions -the Kansas City Chiefs, and going back to back in 1967 with a win over Oakland. More recently, the Green Bay Packers beat the formidable New England Patriots in the 1996 Super Bowl and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.
Wisconsin is a haven for travelers, offering a rich blend of culture, history, and architectural history spanning back centuries. It is also home to some breathtaking destinations and boasts a wide breadth of natural resources and heritage sites.
If you want to visit the Badger State, this list should guide you on some of the key attractions in the state.
- Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin: Our Farms
- Wisconsin Historical Society: Badger History: Why are we the Badger State?
- Summerfest: Welcome to Summerfest
- Travel Wisconsin: Summerfest: The World’s Largest Music Festival
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Is Summerfest Really the World’s Largest Music Festival? Here’s How It Stacks up Against Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Others
- LA Times: There’s a Little Bit of Switzerland in the U.S.A.: Wisconsin Town Maintains Strong Cultural Ties with the Old Country
- Orchid: Monroe, Wisconsin
- 97 ZOK: There’s a Wisconsin Town Perfect for Lovers Around America
- ScenicPathways.com: Visiting Monroe, Wisconsin Cheese Capital USA
- Wxpr: Tariffs Affect Ginseng Market, but Wausau Company is Hopeful for the Future
- Hsuginseng.com: Us
- NewCROP HomePage – Horticulture & Landscape Architecture: Ginseng
- University of Minnesota Press: The Drink that Made Wisconsin Famous
- Wisconsin Historical Society: Breweries, Beer and Bars in Wisconsin History – Image Gallery Essay
- Only In Your State: Here are the 11 Coldest, Snowiest Towns in Wisconsin
- Wausau Daily Herald: Cold Facts: Wisconsin Experiences Minus-30 Degrees Almost Every Winter – Without Wind Chill
- Paulina on the Road: 20 Amazing Outdoor Activities in Wisconsin
- Travel Wisconsin: Wisconsin Outdoor Activities
- Wisconsin Department of Health Services: American Indians in Wisconsin: History
- Travel Wisconsin: Explore the Ice Caves at Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands
- Hotels.com: 10 Best Things to do in Wisconsin Dells
- American Library: The Wisconsin Dells
- US News Travel: 22 Top Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells
- Wisconsin Dells: Homepage
- WisconsinDells.com: Amazing Sandstone Cliffs Attract Visitors to Wisconsin Dells
- Wandering Educators: The Wisconsin Dells: A History Told in Sandstone
- Dells: Cave of the Mound – National Natural Landmark – Blue Mounds
- Trip Advisor: Cave of the Mounds.
- Southwestjournal: A Quest for the Elusive Lake Superior Agate
- Stone Treasures by the Lake: Lake Superior Agate
- Travel Wisconsin: Discover Door County Wisconsin
- Northwoods Art Tour: Homepage
- Travel Wisconsin: Northwoods Art Tour
- Superiortrails.com: Bayfield, Wisconsin Travel Things to See and Do
- Travel Wisconsin: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- National Park Services: Apostle Islands
- Harley Davidson: Experience our History
- Architizer: Harley-Davidson Museum
- HGA: Creating a Destination for Motorcycle Enthusiasts
- Visit Milwaukee: Harley-Davidson Museum
- Taliesin Wisconsin: Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin
- Britannica: Frank Lloyd Wright
- Packers Fandom: Packers Wiki