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America's Little Switzerland, New Glarus, Wisconsin - Home of Spotted Cow Beer

Updated on April 30, 2012
1st Street in full bloom
1st Street in full bloom | Source
Sportsman's Bar, Glarner Stube,  and Touch of New Glarus
Sportsman's Bar, Glarner Stube, and Touch of New Glarus
the Swiss knife cow in front of Ester's European Imports
the Swiss knife cow in front of Ester's European Imports
New Glarus Bakery and Meat Market
New Glarus Bakery and Meat Market

A town of festivals, friendliness and fun

New Glarus is a small town about a half hour southwest of Madison and about a half hour north of the Illinois border. It is located on the Sugar River Bike Trail and was founded by a small group of Swiss settlers in 1845 from Glarus, Switzerland and is considered "America's Little Switzerland". There is an official Swiss Center here and there are many, many Swiss visitors that come yearly. Many people that live here are descendants of the original settlers and the total population is approximately 1800. There is only one stoplight on the highway coming into town and as you drive here, you drive through the beautiful rolling hills of SW Wisconsin. Part of why the original settlers chose this land is because it reminded them of home. There is not one easy, specific way to get to New Glarus, but it is well worth the beautiful trip.

New Glarus has lots to offer for a day trip, but to fully enjoy it, a visitor should spend the night. That way, they can sample the fabulous Swiss food in town more than once! The pace is definitely slower here. I would highly recommend staying at the Chalet Landhaus and in their restaurant for one of your meals. They have a wonderful breakfast buffet with incredible pastries made at the New Glarus Hotel. Another place to get great pastries is the New Glarus Bakery, they have even been shown on Food Network, they are so good! There is one other motel in town called the Swiss Aire Motel, and there are numerous bed and breakfasts in the area. The New Glarus Hotel also has some fantastic food and lots of live Swiss polka band performances. They have wonderful fondue and desserts. The Glarner Stube is a beautiful bar/resaurant and also has fabulous food. They boast the largest urinal in the US as well, so if you visit, you must check that out. Every bar also has good food and something unique to offer. Puempel's Olde Tavern has a gorgeous bar and a beautiful mural from the early 1900's. They serve only cold sandwiches and soup to preserve the mural. Sportsman's Bar has custom pool cues, homemade pizza and gives $2 bills as change. The Ott Haus has excellent pizza and sandwiches and Tofler's has the best cold bean salad I have ever had. They also have an outdoor deck with live entertainment in the summer.

There are 14 fiberglass custom painted cows in town to find. On the Chamber website they have a map of where the cows are located, or make it a game and try to find them yourself! There is also a couple of great parks in town to take the kids to, along with a very nice state park and the Sugar River Trail for biking and hiking. There is a public pool in the summer, a mini golf, and the Swiss Historic Village. This is a restored portion of the original village. In October, historical society members dress in period costumes and demonstrate making cheese and candles and weaving for guests. This is usually the first weekend in October. There is also a restored Swiss Chalet open for part of the year called the Chalet of the Golden Fleece. I have not gone through this myself as of yet, but I will. Another wonderful thing about New Glarus is that there are festivals all the time in the summer. Heidi fest is a weekend in June where the Heidi play is put on, in English and Swiss. There is also Polka Fest in June, Willem Tell fest later in the summer and Oktoberfest the last weekend of September.

New Glarus is also the home of a quite famous, at least in Wisconsin, beer called Spotted Cow. It is truly my favorite beer and there is always some in the fridge at my house. Dan and Deb Carey run a tip top craft brewery here in New Glarus making some incredible beer. They have lots of seasonal beers and a few that are made all year long. Spotted Cow is their biggest seller, but Fat Squirrel is a close second. There are taps of New Glarus Brews whenever there is a festival out in the street that includes a beer tent. All the restaurants and bars have most of their beers on tap. I like to enjoy a Spotted Cow with almost any grilled food, or it is good as a stand alone treat. They make good things in this town!

The first time my husband brought me to New Glarus in 2002, I fell in love with it. As soon as we turned into town it looked like Europe to me. I felt like I just stepped into another world. We bought our house here two years later. I think if you come to visit, you too might just fall in love. Maybe not enough to move here, but it is definitely worth more than one trip to see all that it offers.

the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus and their flowery cow
the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus and their flowery cow
Gold and White Bank of New Glarus cow
Gold and White Bank of New Glarus cow
Moser and Assoc. tuxedo cow
Moser and Assoc. tuxedo cow
Village park cow
Village park cow

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  • amberld profile image
    Author

    Amber Dahnke 5 years ago from New Glarus, WI

    Funny, we get down to Florida for vacation! New Glarus is a great place to visit, hope you get some Spotted Cow soon!

  • WD Curry 111 profile image

    WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

    Where do you go on vacation from Florida? New Glarus seems like a good place. I can't wait to fill up on Spotted Cow and try the urinal.

  • amberld profile image
    Author

    Amber Dahnke 5 years ago from New Glarus, WI

    I walked around on 1st Street yesterday and got a few more pictures of New Glarus up on the Hub.

  • amberld profile image
    Author

    Amber Dahnke 5 years ago from New Glarus, WI

    done, thank you Angie! I should have consulted you first, I really thought they did come from the main bakery. The New Glarus Hotel does a top notch job on pastries, too. Thank you for reading!

  • profile image

    Angie S 5 years ago

    Amber,

    Love the article, but there where just a couple things that were wrong. The pastries for the landhaus is made at the NG Hotel. Might want to change that and mention the bakery by itself.

    Keep up the great work with your writing and I agree you should be a spokes person for NG, I have even said that to a couple business owners that you would be great for that job!!

    If you need anyone to help you find more information I would turn towards Kim Tschudy. He knows ao much about the town and has even wrote a book about New Glarus with some great pictures from back in the days.

    Wish you nothing but the best in all your articles and I love to read them, not to mention you are making me home sick for New Glarus.

  • amberld profile image
    Author

    Amber Dahnke 5 years ago from New Glarus, WI

    I think they are just individually sponsored by the businesses themselves and then they hire an artist to paint the way they want it. I will have to look into when and how the cows came to be here. The are really all very unique. I get more up of the Swiss style buildings, I went to college in Maidson 20 yrs ago and didn't know it was here. Turns out some relatives of my husband actually donated some things to the Swiss Church, and worked on the old railroad here. Very interesting history. Maybe I'll write more about New Glarus, I never really thought about it before, but it came pretty easy this morning to me. Inspired I was!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    That will make this hub of yours even more stellar! We once had a CowParade in Houston several years ago and I took hundreds of pictures and did a hub about it. It was for a fundraiser for Texas Children's Hospital. Were the ones in New Glarus done for any type of fundraiser or just because Wisconsin is the "Dairy State" and it just seemed appropriate?

  • amberld profile image
    Author

    Amber Dahnke 5 years ago from New Glarus, WI

    thanks so much for the advise, when I looked back at yours I saw the map and thought I should have included one also. I do want to get more pics up, thought I had a whole folder on my computer and can't locate it. when it warms up a little more, I'll walk around town and take more pics, the flowers are all in bloom right now and it is beatiful! I want to get some pics up of the cows too, the Chamber link that I included does have lots of pictures, but I'll some more of my own later today. thanks for checking it out!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Thanks for writing about your charming town of New Glarus, Wisconsin. It sounds well worth a visit!

    Perhaps you can add some pictures to this hub illustrating some of the things you wrote about as time passes? If you do that...the Chamber of Commerce will want to have you as their member and spokesperson. Include a map also so that people not familiar with the state will know approximately where it is.

    I still have a first cousin that lives in the Madison area and I grew up in Oconomowoc and went to school in Okauchee when I was a child. Wisconsin is such a beautiful state!

    Voted up, useful, interesting and beautiful.