Wisconsin Winter Fun
Wisconsin is a winter lover’s playground. This Midwestern state is nothing short of magical from December through March, when the snow creates a powdery white cloud of ground cover that makes for versatile, crisp, clean fun. Blessed with rolling hills and shallow valleys, Wisconsin is the ideal vacation destination for families that love sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice-skating, festivals and snowmobiling. Countless parks are dotted with shanties featuring fireplaces and wooden tables surrounded by chilly sports-lovers who huddle together and sip hot chocolate. If this sounds like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, it is!
If you and your family are considering winter vacation destinations, give Wisconsin a try. You won’t regret it. The following are some areas that can offer you and your family countless opportunities for winter fun.
Eagle River is a year round haven for outdoor lovers. When most tourist areas shut down for the “off-season,” Eagle River has no off-season. People from all over the Midwest flock to Eagle River for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and more. Trails are always well-groomed and the fun shops and diners are always ready to accommodate visitors. Klondike Days is a fun-filled weekend that takes place at the tail end of the winter season. It features turn-of-the-century activities including Native American cultural expo, winter craft show, lumberjack competition, one and two horse log pull classic, and chain saw carving. The Native American cultural expo is worth the trip itself. The expo features live music, an original fur trader’s cabin, crafts, buffalo burgers, dogsled rides, sleigh rides, snowshoe races and at least 100 craft exhibitors.
Eagle River also bills itself as the snowmobile capital of the world. With at least 500 miles of well-groomed trails, snowmobile races and rentals, it is definitely the place to be in Wisconsin for great riding. The annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby is held in Eagle River.
Green Bay Area
Located just 15 miles from Green Bay in northeastern Wisconsin, Greenleaf Wisconsin is home to the Rock K Ranch. This lovely ranch features winter horse-drawn sleigh rides through the pristine winter snow. Their Christmas at the Barn celebration is fun for the whole family and features a live nativity scene, live music, free hayrides, a bonfire, Christmas caroling, face painting, free hot cider, hot chocolate and cookies, the Alleluia Puppets and the Magic of Christmas show. In 2010, Christmas at the Barn will take place on December 16.
Less than 30 miles from Green Bay, you’ll find the Kewaunee Winter Sports Complex. This amazing complex boasts five snow-tubing chutes that are each over 500 feet long. Cross-country skill trails and snowmobiling are also favorite pastimes. Trails are well-maintained and many run along the shores of Lake Michigan and through countless acres of farmland.
If you’re in Green Bay, be sure to stop at the new Lambeau Field. This home to the Green Bay Packers features a fun arcade with video games, a football throwing game, air hockey table and more. Grab lunch and drinks at Curly’s Pub, check out all the vintage Packer jerseys and photos and shop for souvenirs at the Packer Pro Shop.
Several downhill ski resorts can be found within easy driving distance from Wisconsin Dells. These include the Devil’s Head and Cascade Mountain ski resorts.
Located in Merrimac, Devil’s Head encompasses 300 acres of skiable terrain, making it the third largest ski venue in the Midwest. There are 29 trails. 30% of the trails are green circle beginner runs, 40% are blue square intermediate runs and 30% are black diamond expert runs. The part also features a 3.5 mile loop for cross-country skiers. There are 6 double lifts, 1 triple, 3 quads, and two wonder carpets of 300 and 410 feet in length respectively.
Located in Portage, Cascade Mountain is a great venue for family fun. Featuring skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing on a series of green, blue and black hills, this is a winter fun Mecca for Wisconsinites. Tubing is done down an 800 foot hill with a surface lift to return you to the top.
If indoor fun is more your style, or if you want to continue the fun in a warmer setting after your afternoon on the slopes, Wisconsin Dells has no shortage of options. It is the water park capital of the world! Indoor parks at several major lodges give visitors a wide range of options including the African themed Kalahari, the north woods themed Wilderness Lodge, Great Wolf Lodge and Mount Olympus are the main indoor parks in the area, but there are several smaller and less expensive indoor parks as well. These parks feature lazy rivers, countless water slides and chutes, bumper boats, tube rides, rafting, and so much more. Themed restaurants, arcades and children’s parks round out the fun.
Door County is arguably the most popular tourist area in Wisconsin. It has been called the New England of the Midwest. Filled with quaint villages, countless shops, ice cream parlors, delectable restaurants, beaches, bike trails, live theater, and festivals, once you’ve been to Door County, you may never want to leave. While the high season takes place during the summer months, Door County is far less populated and more relaxing during the winter. This charming venue harkens back to a gentler, friendlier time. There are no shortage of resorts, cottages and bed and breakfast inns to choose from. Activities include ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and more. Potawatomi and Peninsula State Parks are located in Door County and both feature fast, enjoyable sled hills. Fish Creek in Door County hosts an annual Fish Creek Winter Games during the month of February. Activities include bowling on ice, volleyball, snowshoe dancing and carnival games. There is also live music and a silent auction. Cozy up to your honey on a romantic sleigh ride courtesy of Mayberry’s Carriages. Your carriage will wind through the Lautenbach’s Country Orchards off Highway 42 near Fish Creek. Wind down after a hard day of play with a romantic, relaxed dinner at the famous Mission Grille in Sister Bay. The food is incredible, the staff friendly and accommodating, the award winning wine list is extensive and the venue unique. Mission Grille is located in a renovated church, having preserved its choir loft and other original features.
Sauk City/ Prairie du Sac
Love the bald eagle? Would you love to see them in person and not in a glossy magazine spread? Then be sure to visit the Prairie du Sac area in January when the bald eagles, golden eagles and other magnificent birds of prey are plentiful. Spectators come from all over the Midwest to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. Their month-long stay in this area inspired the annual Eagle Days celebration. Featured events include wildlife photography exhibits, kids’ activities, eagle watching bus tours, wine tasting, and special programs such as “Raptors in Wisconsin,” “Fun with Animals,” and “Live Birds of Prey Show.” Be sure to bring your binoculars and cameras. There are also a few telescopes at a viewing station located on the banks of the river. The eagles descend upon this area of the Wisconsin River to fish. As a result of the nearby dam, this section of the river never freezes over, making fishing easy.
This quaint and cozy little town in southeastern Wisconsin is a haven for antique lovers, chocolate lovers and those in search of homemade crafts and bakery. Spend your mornings shopping in the many boutiques while sipping hot cocoa. Be sure not to miss the shops of the Cedar Creek Settlement. “Christmas in the Country” is huge tourist attraction located at the Wollen Mill Settlement. Tickets for this event are $3.00 each. Next door to the Mill is the Cedar Creek Winery which features wine tasting and sells many of their award winning wines. Visit the Mill Pond for a family ice skating adventure and duck into any number of rustic inns or pubs for a delicious lunch. Check out the annual Winter Festival Parade. This year the festival will also include the Wake Up Little Suzie Costumed Bed Races and the All Shook Up Barrels on Ice Race. The festival features, food and live music, Malamute Dog Weight Pull Competition, and the Be-Bop-A-Lula Snowshoe Olympics. The streets of this Norman Rockwell like village are adorned with white lights, bows and greenery making it a festive and romantic weekend destination.
Located near Baraboo and about 46 miles from Madison, North Freedom’s claim to fame is the Mid-Continent Railroad and Railroad Museum. Each year this railroad operates the Santa Train, a fun, family attraction, especially for families with small children. First class ticket prices for this out-and-back excursion include hors d’oeurves and drinks, as well as personal interactions with Santa and his helpers. Views along the train’s route include the lovely Wisconsin countryside and Baraboo Bluffs. Because North Freedom is only 20 miles from Wisconsin Dells, you may want to make lodging reservations in the Dells, where there are far more attractions to enjoy.
Lake Geneva is a sleepy resort town bustling during the summer months, with boutiques, ice cream parlors, cafes, water sport rental businesses, beachgoers, boaters and others in search of summer fun. While summer is considered the high season, the town does not shut down in the winter. Guests can still find cozy B&Bs and fun inns to hole up in. Check out the annual Winterfest, featuring snow sculpting, live music, helicopter rides, kids’ activities, and carriage rides. In 2009 Lake Geneva hosted the national snow sculpting competition. This town not only features quaint merchants, but also stately mansions lining the walking path around the lake. On less snowy days, take a walk around the lake and marvel at the multi-million dollar homes before ducking into a small coffee shop for a sweet treat and cup of java.
Whatever you decide to do with your winter vacation, enjoy your time and have a safe and healthy winter season!
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