Read on to see why summer in Wisconsin is the most wonderful time of the year.
Wisconsin is so much more than enthusiastic Packer fans, tasty bratwurst, and world-championship cheese curds. It’s the natural beauty of lakes Superior and Michigan, the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, wind-swept prairie land, friendly towns, wonderful state parks, tree-lined slopes, old-fashioned ice cream parlors and candy stores, and historic attractions. It’s colorful community festivals and quiet evenings camping under the stars, the perfect blend of wilderness and civilization.
No place is that blend more evident than in Bayfield, a charming mainland town three and a half hours from the Twin Cities metro.
“You can get away from it all and experience the incredible beauty of the area, yet still have access to creature comforts like an island view from a Jacuzzi suite, fabulous shopping, art galleries, excellent dining, and entertainment such as the Big Top Chautauqua, home of the ‘Tent Show Radio,’” says Mary Motiff, marketing manager for the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce.
Celebrate the glory of spring (and the vibrancy of 14,000 daffodils) during “Bayfield in Bloom” from May 18 – June 17. Events include elaborate city and country garden tours, the 26th Annual Apple Blossom Run (May 19), Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival events, plant sales, garden tours, golf events, and more.
Golf enthusiasts would be remiss not to schedule a tee time at Apostle Highlands Golf Course, located one mile south of Bayfield. Situated 500 feet above Lake Superior, the site offers a variety of visual delights amid 265 wooded acres of wildlife, peace, and serenity.
While visiting the area, stay at Brickyard Creek Cottages on Lake Superior, two miles north of the city. Part of a 70-acre development that includes a 42-slip marina and nine lakeshore homes, the cottages are connected to the lake and roads by nature trails. Choose from seven different designs, ranging from simple large units to three-bedroom, three-bathroom cottages.
Photo courtesy of RJ & Linda Miller/
After exploring the mainland, vacationers often head over to the Apostle Islands.
“Bayfield is a unique travel destination because it is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, referred to by National Geographic Traveler as the most pristine wilderness area in the United States,” Motiff explains.
There are 22 islands accessible by ferry, kayak, or sailboat. The Madeline Island Ferry Line provides passenger, bicycle, and car transportation between LaPointe and Bayfield.
“You can take a narrated cruise of the islands, tour the lighthouses, hike the trails, or just stroll along the sandy beaches,” Motiff says. Adventure-seekers can go sea kayaking or scuba diving.
Those who enjoy learning about the past will love the Madeline Island Historical Museum, a replica log fort currently hosting an exhibit of rare, handcrafted American Indian dolls representing every tribe in North America.
“The Madeline Island Museum lets visitors see how previous generations of vacationers experienced the region’s treasures,” explains Steve Lightbourn, marketing specialist with the Wisconsin Historical Society. “Modern tourism on and around Madeline Island traces its origins to the heyday of lumbering and mining in the area.”
Spurred by railroad promoters and word-of-mouth from early visitors, the area began to attract summer visitors, among them Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and her son Robert Todd Lincoln. Nearly 60 years later, President Calvin Coolidge visited the island.
It’s easy to understand why this area has intrigued people for hundreds of years. There is something almost magical about Bayfield.
“When you come here, you have to make the switch to ‘Bayfield time,’’ Motiff says. “We’re a little cultural hub in the middle of the Northwoods. It really is a special place.”
Photo courtesy of McCormick House Inn
Widely known as home base for the world-famous Birkebeiner cross-country ski race in February, the charming Northwoods town of Hayward transitions nicely into a summertime destination when the snow melts.
From the 858, 400-acre Chequamegon National Forest and historic Hayward Lakes Area fishing waters, to Al Capone’s 1920s retreat and museum, the Lumberjack World Championships, Musky Festival, and Honor the Earth Pow Wow, Hayward buzzes with action in the summer. A great place to experience Hayward is at the McCormick House Inn, a unique bed and breakfast featuring a beautiful one-acre formal English garden.
“Our guests can idle the day away in a hammock, enjoy a lazy read in one of our garden cabanas, or play a game of croquet on the lawn,” says Dean Cooper, owner of the inn.
English afternoon tea is served to all guests during the warm months when sandals are a more common sight than ski boots, and the summer sun is burning bright and strong. To combat the heat, the McCormick House Inn offers six kinds of home-made premium ice cream free of charge to guests. Another fun perk of staying at the inn is “Night at the Movies,” with movies shown in the garden on a 12-by-8 foot screen. Adults can unwind with a glass of wine and kids can enjoy popcorn and candy while watching the show from a lounge chair, daybed, hammock, or blanket.
In the morning, breakfast is made-to-order and served outdoors, overlooking the garden under linen parasols. The inn is about a three hour drive from the Twin Cities metro.
Wisconsin’s Door County reminds many visitors of Cape Cod, with sandy beaches, fresh air, and an overall atmosphere of calm and relaxation. The scenic peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay boasts thousands of acres of apple and cherry orchards, vineyards, and farms. It’s home to five of Wisconsin’s state parks with plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, swimming, and fishing. In addition to the scenery, families love the traditional Door County fish boils, mini golf courses, unique gift shops, and memorable lighthouse tours.
“Traveling to Door County is a time to reconnect with nature, whether you choose to be active or inactive,” says Lisa Boyd, marketing director for Gordon Lodge on North Bay, a rustic retreat set on 130 acres of resort property. Visitors can enjoy nature trails and 300 feet of a private sandy beach for swimming, kayaking, or paddle boating. The resort also features a heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub.
Gordon Lodge recently renovated the lodge rooms, lobby bar, fitness center, and gift shop. The Top Deck Restaurant and Bar—a quaint spot for a refreshing cocktail or tasty lunch, appetizer, or pub dinner fare—is located on-site at the water’s edge.
“This is one of the best places in Door County to see a spectacular sunset,” Boyd says.
Gordon Lodge is located in the city of Baileys Harbor, about a five and a half hour drive from the Twin Cities metro.
Another unique lodging option in Baileys Harbor is Lawrence University’s Björklunden (pronounced bee-york-lun-den), a 425-acre estate on Lake Michigan.
“We have a 37,000-square-foot lodge right on the water. People can come here and get away from the rest of what’s going on in Door County,” says Mark Breseman, Björklunden director.
From June through October, there are 36 different adult-education summer seminars offered at Björklunden, including classes in art, religion, music, nature, digital photography, drama, history, poetry, business, and journalism. Some of this year’s courses include “Evolution of the Documentary” taught by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Eric Simonson, and “Political Wars in Washington,” with former Time magazine correspondent Doug Waller leading the class.
The courses are interesting and the beautiful location along Lake Michigan provides an unsurpassed setting for guided explorations of the Door Peninsula’s meadows, woodlands, and shorelines. “
People come here for a week, take a class in the morning, then relax lakeside or explore the area,” Breseman says. “Our tagline is, ‘A vacation with a focus.’”
Seminar participants either reside at the two-story lodge on the property (complete with a gourmet restaurant) or commute in. Guests can also stay at Björklunden who do not participate in the summer seminars.
One of the features on the property is a small stavekirke, a rustic wooden chapel handcrafted by the Boyntons from 1939-1947. The chapel is adorned with 41 hand-painted frescoes and ornately carved wood furnishings. The chapel is a popular tourist stop, and an “extra bonus for our visitors,” Breseman says.
Another lodging option in Door County is The Mariner Motel. With over 500 feet of shoreline, The Mariner provides sparkling views of Green Bay, the Egg Harbor shoreline, Chambers Island, Green Island, Hat Island, Strawberry Island, and the coastline of Michigan. Guests find peace and tranquility here. Sit by the lake, hike in 60 wooded acres, bike into town for breakfast, row out onto the water, or splash in the outdoor pool.
The location is minutes away from the downtown section of Egg Harbor, a mile from sandy public beaches, close to four golf courses, and away from the noise.
Photo courtesy of Kalahari Resort
Wisconsin Dells is the “Indoor-outdoor Waterpark Capital of the World,” and the African-themed Kalahari Resort, at 125,000-square-feet, is the granddaddy of them all. With the Tanzanian Twister waterslide, Master Blaster uphill rollercoaster, Swahili Swirl, FlowRider surfing attraction, 70,000-square-foot Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark, Oasis Experience Day Spa, restaurants, shops, and a ten-screen cinema (showing new releases) the Kalahari is a vacation paradise. Stay in a beautiful African-themed guest room or private bungalow. The new bungalows include private deck/patio areas, comfortable furnishings, LCD televisions, refrigerators, food and beverage service, and internet service for those who want to stay dry or take a break from the sun.
While visiting Wisconsin Dells, take a unique boat ride on a Duck—a renovated World War II amphibious vehicle—and enjoy the beauty of the Dells. Other attractions include mini golf courses, horseback riding stables, go-cart parks, drive-in theaters, museums, shows, and state parks with plenty of recreational opportunities. There are literally hundreds of things to do in the Wisconsin Dells area, making it a popular vacation destination for people from around the country.
Surrounded by woods, lakes, rivers, and friendly people, the Spooner area is perfect for a family vacation or fishing trip. Lodging opportunities range from scenic campgrounds to bed and breakfasts, hotels, and motels. Your Spooner getaway can be as busy or peaceful as you choose. If you crave action, hike or bike along miles of trails, ride the excursion train, see a show at the Palace Theatre, picnic in a lakeside park, visit the Children’s Trout Pond, go swimming, fishing, or boating in a number of area lakes, tour a historical museum (featuring everything from railroad artifacts to the world’s largest collection of woodcarvings), or play a round of golf at any number of courses. If your idea of the perfect summer vacation includes plenty of rest and relaxation, you’ll find peace, quiet, and serenity in the beauty of Wisconsin’s rustic Northwoods.
During your summer vacation, explore one of ten Wisconsin Historical Society sites for the opportunity to have fun while learning about the past. Visit Old World Wisconsin, one of the Midwest’s largest outdoor museums of rural life, located 35 miles from Milwaukee in the city of Eagle. Take a workshop and learn the customs, trades, and crafts of 19th-century Wisconsin immigrants (think blacksmithing, baking bread, loom knitting, or timber framing, to name a few). Situated on nearly 600 acres of lush woods and prairie, the site provides an authentic setting for live re-creation of Wisconsin pioneers’ lives and times. Other fun Wisconsin Historical Society sites include the Wade House in Greenbush (a historic 1850s stagecoach inn); H.H. Bennett Studio in downtown Wisconsin Dells; Villa Louise on the banks of the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien (replicating a Victorian country estate from the 1890s); Circus World Museum in Baraboo; and Pendarvis in Mineral Point. The other historic sites include: Stonefield, depicting 1900s farm and village life; First Capitol, where the first Wisconsin territorial Legislature convened in 1836; and Reed School, a one-room schoolhouse restored to its 1939 appearance.
In as little as a two and a half hour drive from the Twin Cities metro, you could be sitting on the breezy shores of Lake Superior watching international Salties, Lakers, tugs, sailboats, powerboats and charter fishing boats sail through the Superior-Douglas County world port. Not only does Superior-Douglas County appeal to those who appreciate a parade of passing ships; history enthusiasts will also enjoy fascinating attractions telling the stories of American Indian heritage, the prosperity of the early boomtown days, and the history of World War II (to name just a few of the historic sites worth touring). Those who prefer a rugged, outdoorsy vacation can walk upon ancient lava beds dating back more than one billion years, hike, picnic, and play in one of 29 beautiful parks, or check out the world’s longest freshwater sandbar at Wisconsin Point, home to the Superior Entry lighthouse. Take in impressive views of majestic waterfalls (including Wisconsin’s highest waterfall, Big Manitou Falls, at 165 feet), and explore acres of forests, 431 pristine lakes, eight golf courses, and numerous art galleries, shops, and restaurants in the area. Lodging options include motels, hotels, scenic state parks, and RV campgrounds.
Plan your vacation around one of these fun events: the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival August 24-25, with over 100 teams from around the Midwest and Canada paddling their multi-colored boats 400 meters to the finish line, the Great Northern Classic Rodeo Labor Day weekend, and the BBQ and Bands Festival September 14-15. For more information about the weekend events, visit www.lakesuperiordragons.com; www.greatnorthernclassicrodeo.com; or www.haugfest.com.
Photo courtesy of Stout’s Island Lodge
Spend your vacation in a haze of happiness and peace at Stout’s Island Lodge, a lumber baron’s romantic 1903 estate located on a wooded island in the middle of Red Cedar Lake, northeast of the city of Rice Lake. Accessible only by ferry, Stout’s Island Lodge is brimming with character. There are 42 guest rooms in the Main Lodge, Shore Lodge, and rustic cabins, many furnished with period antiques and most with a wood-burning fireplace. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Adirondack-style resort is a rustic yet refined oasis. Guests can enjoy gourmet meals in the main dining room, and play croquet or bocce ball on the lawn, go sailing, kayaking, or canoeing, play tennis, or hike along secluded nature trails.
When day fades into night, it’s not unusual for guests to gather outside for pretty views of the sunset while roasting marshmallows and hot dogs around a warm, cozy bonfire.
Stout’s Island Lodge is about a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities metro.
Apostle Highlands Golf Course • www.golfbayfield.com • 1-877-222-4053
Bayfield Chamber of Commerce • www.bayfield.org • 1-800-447-4094
Madeline Island Ferry Line • www.madferry.com • 715-747-2051
Madeline Island Museum • www.wisconsinhistory.org/madelineisland • 715-747-2415
DOOR COUNTY AREA
McCormick House Inn • www.mccormickhouseinn.com • 715-934-3339
BNOX • www.bnoxgold.com • 715-442-2201
RICE LAKE AREA
Stout’s Island Lodge • www.stoutslodge.com • 715-354-3646
Spooner Area Chamber of Commerce • www.spoonerchamber.org • 1-800-367-3306
A Cottage in Stockholm • www.cottageinstockholm.com • 715-448-2048
Superior-Douglas County CVB • www.superiorchamber.org • 1-800-942-5313
WISCONSIN DELLS AREA
Kalahari Resort • www.kalahariresort.com • 1-877-253-5466
WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
www.wisconsinhistory.org • 1-866-944-SITE (7483)