10 things you may not know about Wisconsin
With an official state beverage of milk, the state fish a musky and the state dance the Polka, Wisconsin’s uniqueness is renowned. But whether you’re a full-time resident or a part-time visitor, there’s quite a bit about this state that may surprise you. And with a square mile radius of 65,556, Wisconsin has a lot of turf to explore. Lucky for you, we’re here to help; here are 10 off-the-beaten-path destinations to add to your bucket list before summer is over.
- Wisconsin, the Cranberry Capital of the U.S. It’s a well-known fact that Wisconsin is a large producer of the delicious and tart fruit. The Warrens Cranberry Festival, held each year in Warrens, the Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin, draws thousands of visitors. But did you know that Wisconsin is actually the nation’s largest producer of the cranberry? The tiny berry is Wisconsin’s state fruit and cranberry growers in Wisconsin annually harvest enough berries to supply every man, woman and child in the world with 26 cranberries a year. That’s around 2,000 in a lifetime! But, who’s counting? Visit the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens to learn about the cranberry and its history in Wisconsin, and taste delicious creations in the test kitchen.
- A museum just for accordions
Roll out the barrel, all the way to Superior where the accordion is something to really get keyed up about. Yep, Wisconsin has a museum dedicated to the “squeeze box.” And it’s so cool you’ll ring out a song of good cheer when you visit. Helmi Harrington is the owner and creator of the World of Accordions Museum, the largest accordion collection in the world. The accordion repair school is also the only one in the U.S. If you visit, you may be lucky enough to receive a short performance from Helmi herself in the Accordion-Concertina Hall. Just remember to bring along a few friends, so you can say the gang’s all here.
- Wisconsin’s new state pastry
Wisconsin is a state known for its glorious food — cheese, cranberries, beer — so it comes as no surprise that our state would have an official pastry. In fact, on June 30, 2013 the kringle officially became Wisconsin’s state pastry. This distinctive oval-shaped, flaky Danish pastry with fruit and nut fillings has been a Racine County tradition since Danish immigrants brought it to Wisconsin in the mid-19th century. As such, some of the best kringle comes from Racine, “America’s Kringle Capital,” and has even been enjoyed by President Barack Obama when he traveled to Racine. A presidential seal of approval is good enough for us.
- The good ol’ days of beer
Milwaukee might be the birthplace of Pabst, Miller, Blatz, Schlitz and all those old-time favorites, but the city of Potosi, population 700, is the home of the National Brewery Museum and the Potosi Brewery, one of the oldest in the state (dating back to 1852). Located on the banks of the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, the Brewery Museum is Mecca for beer enthusiasts, collectors and even your casual beer drinker. Exhibits feature historic bottles, cans, glasses, trays and advertising to showcase the early days of beer. Of course, all this touring will make you thirsty, so head to the brewery on the first floor for a drink. And now you can purchase half-gallon growlers of Potosi’s finest to bring home and share.
- Waterfalls… in Wisconsin? Yes, you read that right — there are waterfalls in Wisconsin. Marinette County is known as the “WaterfallCapital of Wisconsin” and is home to a series of scenic and accessible waterfalls for the ultimate hiking experience. In Iron County, five of the state’s tallest falls provide breathtaking viewing opportunities. Florence County is home to seven waterfalls that cascade, tumble and roar through two of the state’s designated “wild rivers,” the Pine and Popple. Just follow your ears and the sound of rushing water will guide you to your end destination. You may have to pinch yourself when you get there — it’s that beautiful.
- Chop, chop, championships – calling all chainsaw sculptors
Our state is home to the U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championships (Aug. 8-11), a unique competition where the best chainsaw carvers in the world complete an artistic masterpiece from a single wood log in only 20 hours. Lucky for you, those 20 hours are spread out during four days packed with live entertainment, food and plenty of fun activities.
- Staying cool, underground
Looking for a way to escape the heat this summer? Head to a cave in Wisconsin. Always a cool 50 degrees no matter the season, Wisconsin’s caves are underground treasures waiting to be explored.Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds is a designated National Natural Landmark complete with underground caverns and rooms. Crystal Cave in Spring Valley is home to the state’s longest cave at nearly a mile in length. And kids will love the cave tours at Ledge View Nature Center in Chilton because let’s face it, crawling through a cave is much more fun than walking.
- Wisconsin islands sans palm trees
From caves to waterfalls, Wisconsin truly is a geological wonder. And though the state doesn’t border an ocean, it is home to some of the most pristine islands in the country. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is one of seven national designated scenic areas in Wisconsin with 22 islands dotting the chilly waters of Lake Superior. Known for its deep blue waters and sea caves, if you haven’t visited, kayaked, camped or even set foot on one of the Apostle Islands, it’s a must-do. We also can’t forgetWashington Island off the tip of Door County and nearby Rock Island State Park. Replace palm trees with pine trees, and you’re in a Wisconsin paradise.
- A wooly mammoth of epic proportions
Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro… that’s right, there’s a wooly bully in Wisconsin. In fact, the largest wooly mammoth ever excavated, the Hebior mammoth, was found on a farm in Kenosha in the 1990s. The mammoth is archeologically significant not just for its size, or the fact that 85 percent of the bones are present and intact, but for the visible butchering marks on the bones — which count as some of the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America. So, where can one find this colossal mammoth?The Milwaukee Public Museum has its bones and keeps a replica on display in its Atrium.
- Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help
Just outside of Green Bay, surrounded by cornfields and soybeans is the rural town of New Franken. This small town draws visitors from around the world to witness something spectacular. The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is one of only a few places, and the first in the United States, where apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been officially validated by the Roman Catholic Church. The Shrine, over 150 years old, is where Belgian immigrant Adele Brise was said to be visited by Mary three times. The shrine is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., year round.
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