WISCONSIN — With three nationally recognized scenic roadways, Wisconsin is an ideal place for a road trip, especially as fall foliage begins to turn.
Put on your dirndls and lederhosen and get yourself to La Crosse right now: This southeast Wisconsin town claims honors as home to the first U.S. celebration of Oktoberfest. The 2023 La Crosse Oktoberfest celebration runs Thursday through Saturday this year.
This festival has everything — parades, traditional German food, a carnival, lederhosen games, fireworks and, of course, dozens of styles of beer from a broad cross-section of brewers and distributors.
There are plenty of other things to do in La Crosse. The 100-mile Buffalo City Loop of the Great River Road goes north from La Crosse to Buffalo City, then traces back on the Minnesota side of Highway 61 before recrossing the river and heading into downtown La Crosse. There are plenty of things to see along the way, including stops at Perrot State Park and Elmaro Vineyard near Trempeleau, Kinstone Megalithic Gardens, and Seven Hawks Vineyards in Fountain City, and numerous access points to the La Crosse River State Trail and Great River State Trail.
Take a selfie in a musky’s mouth: One of the biggest reasons to head to Hayward is a giant fiberglass musky — actually, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, which is open through October. The four-and-one-half-story building, as tall as a Boeing 757 is long, houses hundreds of mounted trophy fish, a research library, 30,000 square feet of displays of antique and classic fishing artifacts, 500 outboards, 800 reels, 6,000 lures, hundreds of rods and varied fishing accessories. A separate building on the 6-acre site houses a boat and motor display, and there’s also a video fishing theater. The fish’s open jaw is an observation deck that can hold up to 20 people.
Hayward is famous for its fishing, especially musky, and the Annual Treeland Premier Musky Fly Fishing Championships continue through Saturday. There are plenty of other things to do in Hayward, which holds events year-round. It is host to two of the world’s top racing events American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race (Feb. 21-25, 2024), and the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival races (the 2024 date is Sept. 14). Events are held year-round, including the largest pow wow in North America put on by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe (July 19-21, 2024).
Take a trip to the edge: Alex Jordan Jr. started building this peculiar looking house that stands on a rock near Spring Green in the 1940s. It started attracting visitors, and although reclusive by nature, according to biographies, Jordan began charging a few pennies to give them a glimpse inside.
The products of Jordan’s creativity are on display, including the world’s largest indoor carousel with some 270 animals and 190 chandeliers. It’s a look-but-don’t-touch attraction, but an enchanting one, according to visitors.
It’s also a bit spooky. The Infinity Room, built in 1985, sticks out 218 feet from the house, but has no supports underneath and can sway gently in the wind. The reward is views of the valley below through more than 3,000 individual window squares, and for those brave enough to venture to the edge, a glass window on the floor that provides views of the valley below.
House on the Rock tours are available.
Chill in Wisconsin’s ice caves: The Apostle Islands — 22 small islands in Lake Superior — are some of the most stunning sea caves in the Great Lakes, but especially in the winter when the waterfalls inside harden, covering the walls and ceilings in delicate ice and giving the caves the appearance of an ice castle.
In the summer, the caves and tunnels are only accessible by boat, which can be precarious, but when Lake Superior is sufficiently frozen, people can explore them on foot. It’s a two-mile hike, but a breathtaking hike.
Cheese makes everything better: Did you know Wisconsin leads all U.S. states in the production of cheddar, American, mozzarella, brick, Muenster and Limburger cheeses? This cheese road trip, put together by the folks at the Only In Your State website, includes the following stops:
- Shullsburg Cheese Store, Shullsburg
- Carr Valley, Fennimore
- Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese, Watertown
- Cedar Valley Cheese Store, Belgium
- Beechwood Cheese Co., Adell
- Henning’s Cheese, Kiel
- Ron’s Wisconsin Cheese, Luxemburg
- Dairy State Cheese Factory, Rudolph
- Cady Cheese Factory and Shop, Wilson