I love to travel across the country and over oceans. After visiting the dry, desert landscape of Arizona and witnessing the grandeur of the Grand Canyon for the first time this past summer, my Pinterest boards overflowed with ideas for my next big trip. As a college student in the midst of busy semesters for a majority of the year, those plans turn into more long-term goals.
In the meantime, I’ve rediscovered the delight of exploring my home state of Wisconsin. Though it might not boast river-carved canyons or towering mountains, the shifting scenery of farmlands, hills, forests, and wetlands offer many opportunities for adventure.
Even as someone who grew up in America’s Dairyland, by no means do I claim to be an expert on the best places to visit; many still remain for me to discover. Nonetheless, I have my favorites from personal experience of desiring to sightsee once in a while, without feeling obligated to cross state borders.
There’s no rule telling me I must travel far away to travel at all! A change of pace from my daily commutes to and from class is always refreshing and welcome. Plus, day trips and weekend vacations are easier to fit into a busy college schedule and budget. And, if nothing else, they help tide me over until I can get back to checking the national parks off my bucket list.
A few of my favorite spots in Wisconsin:
1. Devil’s Lake State Park
A wonder to behold in autumn when the trees burst in shades of red, orange, and gold, and the weather turns ideal for hiking the unique, rocky landscape. But the state park is worth visiting in any season, and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowshoeing, and camping. Located in Baraboo, about an hour drive from Madison.
Features both a city skyline and Lake Michigan, the perfect combination. Milwaukee has a little bit of everything: restaurants, shops, parks, festivals, performing arts, and museums galore. I’m especially fond of the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM), Oakland Gyros, The Oriental Theatre, and Lake Park.
3. Door County
A popular tourist destination, but for good reason. Besides the multitude of shops and restaurants, Door County is home to several state parks, historic lighthouses, cherry and apple orchards, wineries, and more.
A charming city 20 miles outside of Milwaukee with a historic downtown and an annual Strawberry Fest in June. My favorite sister stores, “Lillies” and “Weeds,” sell teas, gardening supplies, clothing, and gifts, many of which are Fair Trade and eco-friendly.
5. Port Washington
Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan, also outside of Milwaukee. I love to go there when I need a taste of the Atlantic coast. Walk out to the old lighthouse, get coffee from Smith Bros. Coffee House, eat a good fish fry, or attend the Port Fish Day held every summer.
6. Kettle Moraine State Forest
I can never go wrong with a hike in the woods. There are units in various parts of the state, and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs through the Lapham Peak and Pike Lake units.
Honorable Mentions: Minocqua, Harrington Beach State Park, Horicon Marsh, Green Bay, Wisconsin Dells, and Florence County.