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Wisconsin Wonders

Wisconsin Wonders

As distinct as the state of Wisconsin is, so is its history.  There seem to be 2 popular versions available; one is that the French explorer Marquette was the first European to call the place by its biggest river's name; Wisconsin or Meskousing in 1673; another story is that another French explorer named Jean Nicolet was the first European to explore the area around Green Bay in 1634 and founded a settlement there for fur trading.  The state also has different versions about how it got its name and from what Indian tribe that was, either Algonquin or Ojibwa.  While the Meskonsing or Meskousing word is Miami. Eventually the state became officially Wisconsin territory in 1845 by the legislators.  Wisconsin borders on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, with its capital being Madison and biggest city Milwaukee.

The state was settled by the French who later gave it to England in 1763, and the U.S. got it after the American Revolution in 1783.   However, it remained under English control until it was controlled after the War of 1812. During that century, the state was settled by German, Scandinavian, Swiss, Cornish coal miners, upstate New Yorkers and New Englanders.  They came to the wide open areas of land for farming, mining and lumber work. While the lumber mills cut the forests for their white pine and hemlock, settlers came in and took over the land, clearing the stumps and rocks.  It was rich fertile land deposited from the earlier glaciers and many went into dairy farming because of the harsh winters and short growing season.

Manufacturing grew up by Lake Michigan since it offered great shipping and the close proximity to the necessary raw materials in Fox Valley near Green Bay.  There was an abundant supply of wood from the vast forests in the state and iron mines located in the northeast part of the state.  Milwaukee grew as a large shipping port and after the first WW, the railroads helped to transport goods from the interior to the ports for export.  As it grew, Milwaukee became known as the tool box of the world and today the Milwaukee tool company enjoys a wonderful reputation. In the northern part of Wisconsin, farming was difficult because of the cold and shorter growing season and soon the people went back to the forest lands and developed many paper mills that soon grew larger.
As the farming business underwent some changes, and the people living on them went elsewhere to find work, tourism began a steady growth for the state's economy.  Now medicine and education have replaced a lot of the heavy industry that was there, with tourism growing very quickly since the land is so varied due to the glacial period it went through.  With plenty of lakes, rivers, streams, rolling hills and forests, visitors to the state enjoy all of the magnificent activities that Wisconsin has to offer.  Door County, the northern forests and lakes regions and the Wisconsin Dells attract thousands each year.

Also dubbed America's Dairyland, the state is very well known for its fabulous cheeses. Just as well known is the abundance of alcohol consumption and production.  The state has a high degree of drinking and binging, more so than many of its neighbors.  Perhaps the cold winters with terrible winds coming in off the Great Lakes has helped this pastime along.  Hence it is no surprise that at many notable events, drunkenness is ignored and actually expected, especially at the Summer Fest, October Fest, Packers games, Brewers games, state fairs and a host of other state festivals.  A lesser known title is the Copper State, since it mines copper in the northwestern area of the state.

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Wisconsin Tours

 Wisconsin Tours

Wisconsin has an overabundance of tours, activities and things to do.  The lists are long for all of the adventures you can and will enjoy on your visit to this magnificent state in the Midwest.  With 150 fabulous golf courses in the state, it is a golfer's paradise.  There are adventure tours with outfitting, rock climbing, hiking, camps, trails, carriage tours, ranches, fishing, hunting, target shooting, aircraft rentals as well as tours, horseback riding, ballooning, parasailing, bungee jumping, skydiving, boat, canoe and kayak tours as well as rentals, on streams or rivers; or even the Great Lakes.  Rafting, sail boating, yachting, scuba diving, snorkeling, wakeboarding, waterskiing, atv tours and rentals, brewery and distillery tours, cemetery and ghost tours, trolley tours, rail tours, cross country skiing, trails and rentals; lessons for everything on the list, snowmobiling, mining, orchard and orchards, farms and farm; cheese making is a big one since you always get to sample the cheese.  They have dog sledding and kennel tours, spas, retreats and resorts for you to just relax and get pampered by the wonderful and friendly staff. Bike rentals, and tours, scooter and motorcycle rentals and tours; mountain bike parks, trails and rentals, oh my!  There are yoga classes, amusement parks, water parks, bowling lanes, climbing walls, mini-golf courses, auto racing, ice skating and in-line skating and rentals.  There are guided tours and self guided tours, with buses, limos, rv rentals and tours, motor coach and van tours.  Need we go on about the exciting awesome land of cheese and beer? 

In the Charles Allis Art Museum in Milwaukee, you will be amazed at the many artifacts spanning over 2000 years, in this 1911 brick Tudor mansion. You can take your family, especially the children to the Betty Brinn Children's Museum, where they learn about the many aspects of every day living. One venue allows them to go through the enlarged ventricles of a huge heart, another involves role playing jobs and other funtastic things. The Lakefront Brewery is an unusual beer maker whose forte is in special hand made beers; like Klisch Pilsner, Riverwest Stein and Organic Extra Special Bitters. Pabst Mansion is another awesome home to visit with its 12 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces and 37 rooms. The castle like mansion was the home of beer baron and sea captain Frederick Pabst, and from the time it was finished in 1892, it was believed to be the jewel of Grand Avenue, the crème de la crème of neighborhoods. This majestic house reflects the love and attention to detail that was Frederick Pabst, with its beautiful stained glass, luxurious furnishings, detailed ironworks, artistic woodwork, elegant art and ostentatious wall coverings. Also included is a gift shop with great and unusual pieces; it is even online.  If you are a beer drinker and connoisseur, you must visit the Miller Brewery to enjoy the free tours and tastes, while learning about the process of making beer, aging, fermenting and packaging.

While in La Crosse, the Bodega Brew Pub, Inc. is on the National Registers of Historic and Haunted Places; brewing over 400 different beers. They have a very casual atmosphere with liquors, wines, coffees, free fresh popcorn included, smokers, soups, sandwiches, salads, soft drinks and appetizers; with a great cubano as the house specialty. The Julia Belle Swain steamboat, one of 5 authentic on the Mississippi River is docked here for your tour.  Brewing since 1867, the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewas Falls is a great tour to do, while sipping on the famous brew.

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Wisconsin Things to do

 Wisconsin Things to do

One place not mentioned above is the biggest outdoor museum of rural life in America, Old World Wisconsin; with all the trappings of the historical life these early farmers and settlers went through to grow this awesome state. Included is a 1870s village and authentic farmsteads that help you visualize the migration and settling of the 19th and 20th centuries.  There are over 150 different places to help you enjoy your trip to this unusual state.  In Milwaukee alone, there are over 70 local attractions to fill your time with fun and fantasy.  And don't forget about the food that has helped these sturdy people get to where they are today.  Well worth mentioning, and to wash all that food down is some of the best beer in the world.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is very popular and holds over 20,000 art works by such notables as Picasso, O'Keefe and Warhol.  For the real adventurer among you, the Harley-Davidson Museum should make you cry.  The awesome history of the Harley is opened wide for you to explore and dream about.  It is a must see for visitors to the city of Milwaukee; but don't cry in your beer over the beautiful and fanciful sights of these gorgeous machines. Another venue for the adventurer in your group is the Kettle Moraine State Forest with its 1000 mile trail of a glacier.

If the sun is shining and it is hot, then head over to the Dells, where the biggest water park in America is located.  A great hit with the family, the park includes over 60 water-based activities.  While you're in the area, take a boat tour with Dells Boat tours or enjoy the Original Dells jet boats.
In Madison, the state capitol building is a popular attraction with the only granite dome in America and 40 different types of rocks from around the world, with impressive wall murals and handmade furniture.  The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a beautiful vista to visit, with a sunken garden, wildflower, rose, rock and herb gardens; and the tropical conservatory.  Henry Vilas zoo is open to the public and is home to animals from all over the globe, including; South American alpacas, Galapagos Islands turtles and African lions.  The Wisconsin Historical Museum is here in Madison, as is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that excites the visitors with fantastic geological formations created by the huge glaciers that existed 70,000 to 10,000 years ago.  There are many museums here depicting various aspects of Wisconsin life, as well as the veterans museum. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Overture Center for the Arts, Madison children's Museum, Chazen Museum of Art.  The North Country National Scenic Trail is here that includes 7 states across the northern part of the U.S. from New York to North Dakota.  In Lake Geneva, you will find various activities centered around the beautiful lake, and in Baraboo is another lake, part of the Devil's Lake State Park and awesome all year.  Circus World Museum located here in Baraboo gives homage to the 200 years of the American circus with an amazing collection of everything related to the circus environment.   In Bayfield, you should take a cruise out to the Apostle Islands and visit the magnificent caves located there.

In Superior, take some time to spend at the Pattison State Park with the tallest waterfalls in Wisconsin and the fourth highest east of the Rockies; Big Manitou Falls is 165 feet and Little Manitou is 31 feet.  Sitting on 1436 acres this park features some magnificent trails and the Black River flowing through it.  Another beautiful state park in Superior is Amnicon Falls, with numerous falls and rapids; plus the Douglas Fault is discussed at length which created the area. Camping, hiking and trail adventures are inviting and can be very exciting around the falls areas.