Wisconsin to me is the land of gorgeous lakes, forests and hills. I'm a life-long Illinois-ance which I prefer over FIP, which is the acronym that some residents use to describe their southern neighbors who intrude into the state on weekends hoping for some peace and quiet, without realizing that their sheer numbers and propensity to head for the same places as everyone else, will make it impossible for anyone to find peace and quiet!
Any blurb on tourism in Wisconsin has to start with The Dells. Mirror Lake State Park is just a short drive off of the highway in Baraboo, and a longer drive off the highway gets you to Devil's Lake State Park, with a fabulous lake with huge bluffs that offer spectacular views. Despite camping in Wisconsin for over 30 years, I've still never seen The Tommy Bartlett Water Show, though we did drive across the Baraboo River after the damn burst a few years ago and drained the lake the water show is held on. Husband and I "did the Dells" by ourselves first, by camping at Rocky Arbor State Park, just 5 minutes from the action. Paying only $12 per night to camp there allowed for us to have more money to spend at Noah's Ark Water Park, and in the local restaurants. Of course you're right next to the highway, so you'll be "lulled" to sleep by the sound of semis all night. But we enjoy sleeping in our own bed at night, which is why we own a pop-up. When we took all 4 kids up there with us, we blew the vacation budget in They wanted to go to the water parks and the amusement parks, as well as to do the boat tour to see the Dells, which are rock formations along the river. We've never ridden the Ducks, vehicles designed to navigate on water and land, but they're quite popular. And some of the lodges up there have indoor water parks, so you can enjoy the combination of indoor amenities with even winter outdoor sports.
The other big tourist area is Door County, which we've never been to. A friend of mine spends 2 weeks at Peninsula State Park every year with her family. She loves the beaches which have events like bonfires and sing-alongs for the kids, as well as excellent swimming. She also loves the nearness to the town chock-full of places she enjoys visiting, like antique shops, book stores and movie theaters.
My family prefers to be off the beaten path a bit more. Beginning with those closest to the southern border, we've enjoyed doing weekend trips up to Wyalusing State Park, on the southwestern corner, where the hiking trails take you along the bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. During the fall the colors can be spectacular, and when you're up high, you're looking at Iowa on the other side. There are even some caves to explore.
Governor Dodge State Park was referred to by our kids as "our second home" when they were younger, since we went there so often for weekends. There are two lakes with beaches. One of the lakes has a concession stand there that rents boats and canoes, and sells ice cream and park souvenirs. There are trails running through the entire park, which is huge, and we've hiked along bluffs, ledges, and up and down hills, as well as on the more level forested trails. The town of Dodgeville is very close, and the best A and W restaurant is near the park, with carhops who still come out to deliver your food!
Kettle Morraine South State Forest is near Eagle, Wisconsin, on the southeastern side of the state. We drive through the area around Lake Geneva to get up there. We've never stayed in the towns around there, since it's too crowded for us. But there are many lodgings and beaches up there. The town of Eagle has the Hen House, with the very best breakfast we've ever been lucky enough to find so near a campground. There is also a Kettle Morraine North State Forest, a bit further north, with very nice, quiet camping and great hiking trails.
In the north-central part of the state is the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, with 14 campgrounds, offering the perfect places for any tastes and budgets. This is near Minocqua, which is smaller than the Dells, but still with various amenities including a Paul Bunyan restaurant. Fishing and other water sports are the big draw up to this area. I love it up there so much I used it as the setting for one of my books: Two For Tuesday.
Drive up to the northern-most tip of the state, to the town of Bayfield, and you're in a quaint tourist town. But we went up there to ride the ferry, complete with our camper, to the biggest of the Apostle Islands, Big Bay State Park. The sites are private and wooded, and the pristine beach has a beautiful bay with very shallow water that manages to get quite warm from the sun, despite being a part of Lake Superior, truly the coldest lake I've ever jumped into.called Madeleine Island, to camp at the
Head back onto the mainland and you're near Copper Falls State Park, which has a gorgeous waterfall with trails on either side of it. Take a drive to Amnicon Falls State Park for more splendid hiking and take a lot of pictures. Warn the kids to look out for black bears. You probably won't see any, unless you're Pattison State Park, with the biggest waterfall east of the Mississippi. There are actually two waterfalls along the hiking trail: Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls.camping there, but it's fun to watch them being extra-alert and hopeful. Then on the northwestern corner of the state is
Head south and east a bit, to camp at Brunet Island State Park, which has camping right on the lake, on the island, allowing you to fish from right your site. During the day, take a drive along the Chippewa River to Chippewa Falls, and you can take a tour of the Leinenkugel Brewery.
(http://www.wisconsinbeautiful.com/northern-wisconsin-tourism/leinenkugels-historic-brewery-tour-chippewa-falls-wisconsin.html) Then on your way back, stop and have dinner at one of the supper clubs along the river. When you get back to your site, sit in your chair and enjoy the peace and quiet as the moon and stars are reflected off the lake.
Obviously I've only mentioned a few of the parks we've enjoyed over the years. I urge you to go visit the state website and find a place that's perfect for you. (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/findapark.html)
I invite readers to come visit my website, to learn more about my work www.fionamcgier.com
For those who leave a comment here, I'm offering a free autographed paperback (to residents in the USA--if other country, will get eBook) of my latest erotic romance, which is set in Minnesota and called Only One Man Will Do. I'll choose a winner at random from the people who comment-Good Luck!
As an added note, the state of Wisconsin just created an app for smart phone users that includes GPS mapping for places to hunt and fish, game species identification, severe weather alerts and lots more, including ways to stay in touch with family/friends while outdoors via sharing your apps. Users can access maps and save them for later, when they won't have internet connection anymore. To find out more, visit: dnr.wi.gov and search "mobile apps."
(All pictures and info provided by author)