Part of our 2023 Bucket List series, we’re sharing where to go and what to see in every part of the Badger State.
Bordered by the St. Croix River and Lake Superior, northwestern Wisconsin is a hidden gem to most of the Midwest. But for those who live there, its charm comes as no surprise. The area is packed with restaurants, resorts, and parks that deserve a place on your bucket list. Whether you live in the area or are visiting from downstate, here are a few ‘can’t miss’ attractions!
Tour Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company
Location: 124 E. Elm St., Chippewa Falls
Hours: Thurs. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: $15 to $60
Photo courtesy of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.
Jacob Leinenkugel built one of Wisconsin’s most famous breweries in Chippewa Falls in 1867. Visitors can take one of several tours from the Leinie Lodge, including the acclaimed Legacy Brewery Tour. On select dates, the brewery also offers a Behind the Scenes Tour and a Tour with a Master Brewer. After learning about Leinenkugel’s rich history, head to the tap room to sample more than 15 different beers.
Take a St. Croix River Boat Tour
Location: Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours, 220 South St., Taylors Falls, MN
Hours: Daily, May through October, first cruise leaves at 11 a.m.
Price: $15 to $60
Photo courtesy of Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours
Although you have to cross into Minnesota for this expedition, it’s well worth the effort. Learn about the history and take in the views of the natural rock formations that make the Lower St. Croix River famous as you travel by paddleboat on the Taylors Falls Queen or Princess. Look for the massive stone cross–the river’s namesake–on your ride: St. Croix means holy cross in French.
Dine at the Watershed Cafe
Location: 99 N. Cascade St., Osceola
Hours: Wed. through Sat. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Price: $10 and up
Photo courtesy of Watershed Cafe
You’ll find great restaurants throughout Northwestern Wisconsin, but for a one-of-a-kind farm-to-table experience, add Osceola’s Watershed Cafe to your bucket list. This small, family-owned restaurant boasts simple comfort food with fresh ingredients. Most of their ingredients come from within 12 miles of Osceola, giving guests a true taste of Northwestern Wisconsin. Note: The menu changes with the seasons, but Walleye Fridays are a much-loved staple.
Visit the Wisconsin Concrete Park
Location: N8236 State Hwy. 13, Phillips
Hours: Year-round during daylight hours
Price: Free, but donations appreciated
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Concrete Park
For 16 years starting in 1948, retired lumberjack, artist, and musician Fred Smith built more than 200 concrete and mixed media sculptures on his Price County property. After he died, Wisconsin’s Kohler Foundation bought the property, restored the sculptures, and donated them (and the land) to the county to become a park. Today, visitors can enjoy these life-size sculptures of people, animals, and places that draw upon local, regional, and national history when they visit Wisconsin Concrete Park.
Go Birdwatching at Crex Meadows
Location: 102 Crex Ave., Grantsburg
Hours: Wildlife area open 24/7, Visitor Center open Mon. through Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, Weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: Free, binoculars and snowshoes available to rent for $5/each
Photo courtesy of Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area
30,000 acres of restored wetland and brush prairie make Crex Meadows the perfect Northwestern Wisconsin bucket list stop for nature lovers. You’ll find beautiful wildflowers and plentiful wildlife for watching and photographing. But the park is perhaps best known for its exquisite birdwatching. Crex Meadows is home to more than 280 types of birds–including majestic waterfowl like mallards, wood ducks, and trumpeter swans. Click here to see what has been spotted lately.
Relax at The Inn on Madeline Island
Location: 641 Fort Rd., La Pointe
Price: $165/night & up, depending on the season
Photo courtesy of The Inn on Madeline Island
Of all the resorts in Northwestern Wisconsin, The Inn on Madeline Island is surely among the best–if for no other reason than its prime location. The full-service resort is located on a marina and offers not just hotel rooms and suites, but vacation home rentals, too! On-site, you’ll find an outdoor pool, beach, hot tub, sauna, tennis courts, pub, and more. And if you’re up for exploring, there’s a long list of off-site natural attractions nearby–including the Apostle Islands.
Explore Pattison State Park
Location: 6294 WI Hwy. 35, Superior
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: Daily admission sticker, $3 and up, Annual WI Parks sticker $13 and up
Photo courtesy of Zach Johns
Northwestern Wisconsin is full of fantastic state and national parks, like Interstate Park, Willow River State Park, Copper Falls State Park, and Amnicon State Park, where visitors can hike the trails and chase waterfalls. However, no bucket list is complete without Pattison State Park–home to Wisconsin’s highest waterfall and the fourth-highest waterfall east of the Rockies, Big Manitou Falls. At 165 feet, Big Manitou is the centerpiece of the park’s 1,400 acres, which also contain hiking trails, beaches, a nature center, and campgrounds.
MORE: Yes, Do Go Chasing Waterfalls–At Least the Ones on This Wisconsin List
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