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Explore Wisconsin’s 9 biggest castles

Explore Wisconsin’s 9 biggest castles

Photo courtesy of bradhoc via CC BY 2.0.

By Erin Yarnall

June 24, 2024

You don’t need to travel to Europe to be awe-struck by castles. Here are some of the most enchanting castles in Wisconsin.

When people want to check out enchanting castles, they’ll plan a trip to somewhere like Ireland, Spain or Japan. But you don’t have to fly across the globe to be awe-struck by amazing architecture and stunning castles — there’s plenty enough in Wisconsin. Sure, they’ve never been occupied by royalty, and they don’t date back to the Medieval era, but the castles in Wisconsin are filled with their own unique histories and interesting occupants. Some of them are even filled with cheese (take that, Windsor Castle!).

While some aren’t open to the public, many of Wisconsin’s castles accept visitors, and you can even spend the night, go shopping, or get married in others. 

From the truly unique, like a seasonal castle made of ice, to the traditionally beautiful, here are some of the most enchanting castles throughout Wisconsin.

1. Kelley Castle

2815 Rice Road, Tomahawk

Plenty of people dream of living in a castle, including Pete Kelley, of Wausau. But Kelley spent decades making that dream into a reality, by building Kelley Castle in Tomahawk.

The castle, located near Killarney Lake, was a tremendous project undertaken by Kelley: In 1987, began the project by clearing land, building a road, and installing a septic system. Kelley, an electrician, did the castle’s electrical work himself, while partnering with a mason to complete Kelley Castle’s concrete work.  

For the most part, the castle is not open to the public, but that doesn’t mean it’s always closed off. Like many royal residences with limited public openings, Kelley Castle opens up to the public for one weekend only. The limited opening happens once a year in the fall.

2. Wisteria Castle

N 7040 Saucer Road, Watertown

Many castles have a lengthy history to go along with their stunning architecture, but that’s not the case for Wisteria Castle in Watertown. Construction on Wisteria Castle first commenced in 2008, and the castle was purchased by current owners, Paul Elliott and Dianne Owens, in 2019. While it doesn’t have the lengthy history of many castles throughout Europe, it’s just as scenic. The picturesque castle is so scenic, in fact, that it’s primarily rented out and utilized as a wedding venue.

Even if you’re not planning a wedding, you can still visit the Watertown castle. The castle hosts several events throughout the year that are open to the public, including a Halloween party, murder mystery parties, and speakeasy-themed events, and tickets can be purchased on its website.

3. History Museum at the Castle

330 E. College Ave, Appleton

Nearly a century ago, the Appleton building that houses the History Museum at the Castle was built to replicate the look of a castle, but it wasn’t built to be a history museum. Instead, the building served as a Masonic Lodge. The local Masonic Blue Lodge raised $100,000 in 1923 to build the Norman Revival castle, made of rough hewn stone and with Medieval-inspired features, like vaulted ceilings and heavy beams. 

After six decades of use, the building was sold to the Outagamie County Historical Society in 1985, and it now functions as a history museum, telling the story of the Fox Valley area with several permanent and pop-up exhibits. The museum is open every day and costs $10 for adults, $7.50 for kids ages 3 to 17, and is free for children under the age of 3.

Explore Wisconsin's 9 castles

4. Winter Realms

1091 Hidden Cottage Circle, Lake Geneva

Many castles are historic and have stood the test of time. That’s not the case at Lake Geneva’s Winter Realms, an event where castles are made out of ice every winter — as long as the weather is cold enough. It takes two months to prepare Winter Realms, which features igloos, a sledding hill, ice slides, ice sculptures, castles carved from ice, and of course, a very fitting ice throne.

As the attractions are made out of ice, it’s not possible to visit them year-round. Tickets for the event, which typically opens in late January, go on sale in December, and cost between $26 and $30, depending on what time the ticket is booked for. Once it opens for the year, be sure to visit Winter Realms quickly — due to warm weather, the event was only held for three days in 2023, and for 13 days in 2024. 

5. Elk Mound Castle

N435 Holly Ave., Elk Mound

The castle in Elk Mound Scenic County Park has had a lot of purposes: It was originally constructed in 1937 as an observation tower, but it’s also been used as a picnic pavilion, as well as a memorial to Dunn County postal employees. Nowadays, it’s a scenic hilltop castle that visitors can explore from May through October. During those months, the castle is open every day from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and offers panoramic views of the Elk Mound Scenic County Park. 

Elk Mound Castle, which is more akin to a castle tower, was built out of stones from a local quarry, and like all good castles, there are rumors that it’s haunted. Some stories range from hearing howls, screams, crying, and unsettling laughs at the castle.

6. Mars Cheese Castle

2800 W. Frontage Road, Kenosha

Maybe Mars Cheese Castle isn’t among one of Wisconsin’s most traditional castles, but it’s arguably one of its most beloved. The castle houses a food store, specializing in the very best and most iconic staples of Wisconsin cuisine: kringle, beer, sausages and of course, plenty of cheese. Mars Cheese Castle also sells Wisconsin-themed souvenirs, like cheesehead hats, and offers an in-store deli, which serves up a variety of sandwiches and sides, including cheese curds and mac and cheese.

The store was opened by Mario Ventura Sr. in 1947, and was inspired by a real-life castle owned by Ventura’s mother in Italy. Mars Cheese Castle is located along Interstate 94, in Kenosha, and had to move locations in 2011 due to a project widening the interstate. The beloved store moved 50 yards away from its original location, and is now more than twice the size of the previous building.

7. Red Gym

716 Langdon St., Madison

The Red Gym isn’t technically a castle, but it certainly looks like one. Instead, the University of Wisconsin Armory and Gymnasium, nicknamed the Red Gym, is now used by the University of Wisconsin to house its Morgridge Center for Public Service, Multicultural Student Center, International Student Services, and LGBT Campus Center, as well as several other departments. Prior to that, it served as a gymnasium, as well as an armory for the National Guard, over fears that riots could break out at the university.

The building, which was first constructed in 1894, was designed in the Romanesque revival style, making it look like a castle made of red bricks. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

Explore Wisconsin's 9 castles

Photo courtesy of James Steakley via CC BY-SA 3.0.

8. Castle La Crosse Bed and Breakfast

1419 Cass St., La Crosse

Some people dream of spending the night in a castle. For guests at the Castle La Crosse Bed and Breakfast, it’s a reality. The castle was first constructed in 1892 for a local lumber baron, Nymphus B. Holway, and his wife, Jessie. After it was sold by the Holway family in the 1920s, the castle was owned by the Diocese of La Crosse for more than five decades, passing through several additional owners before being purchased by Brandon Rigger and Billy Bergeron, who now operate it as a bed and breakfast.

The bed and breakfast has five different suites and comes with a breakfast made by Castle La Crosse’s in-house pastry chef. All suites have a maximum occupancy of two and come with a walk-in shower.

9. The Castle Vineyard

7329 Cedar View Road, Cleveland

It took seven years of building before The Castle Vineyard first opened in 2022. Owned by Tyler and Emily LeRoy, The Castle Vineyard first operated as a vacation rental property, but now the Tuscan-inspired building primarily operates as a wedding venue.

As its primary function is serving as a wedding venue, The Castle Vineyard isn’t really open to visitors outside of wedding guests. But, if you’ve ever wanted to get married in a castle, but don’t want to go through the effort of planning a destination wedding, The Castle Vineyard has several different wedding packages available.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Explore Wisconsin's 9 biggest castlesExplore Wisconsin's 9 biggest castles

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