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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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