Family Vacation Insider: Wisconsin Travel Tips

Patrick and Edward enjoy a perfect Wisconsin summer day with their cousins Emma and William.

Every one of us has special places that no matter how old we are evoke the essence of our childhood summers. For me, that place is a remote lake in the Wisconsin Northwoods. Even though I’ve lived in Europe for almost twenty years, I return there with my family each and every summer.

Wisconsin is a huge state and it’s impossible to capture all of its charms in one blog post. But when I asked my brother Peter for recommendations for wonderful family experiences, he reminded me that part of Wisconsin’s appeal is that it always makes the most of its many lakes–from tiny rural ponds to the sweeping city vistas of Lake Michigan.

My family spends most of our time in Wisconsin waterskiing, canoeing, sailing, listening to the loons, and reading and relaxing on the dock. But when we do venture beyond the confines of our own special place, here are some of our favorite lake activities:

  • Biking on Madeline Island: This tiny dot of  meadows and forest is a true gem. Located just off  the southern shore of Lake Superior, it’s an idyllic throwback to the time when families escaped the heat and diseases of the cities to breath cool crisp air and enjoy summer days that stretch almost to 10 p.m. Swim at Big Bay State Park and immerse yourself in the island’s Native American history with The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich’s enchanting children’s novel.
  • Apple and cherry picking in Door County: Wisconsin is shaped like a mitten–which is appropriate when you consider that the state is covered in snow for months on end. The thumb of the mitten is Door County, a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. The region is covered in fruit orchards, which makes it a perfect place for late summer and early fall visits. Be sure to check out the many historic lighthouses.
  • Outdoor concerts and movies at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union Terrace: Madison is one of America’s most lively and beautiful college towns and this outdoor hotspot overlooking Lake Mendota is the heart and soul of the campus. Don’t forget to sample the ice cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Store, the gourmet ice cream outpost run by the university’s Department of Food Science.
  • The Milwaukee Museum of Art: Set on Lake Michigan, the highlight of the museum is the stunning Quadracci Pavillion. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it perches over the lake like a giant graceful bird opening its wingspan.

What are your family’s summer traditions? Share them on our blog and post photos on our Facebook page.

1 Response to “Family Vacation Insider: Wisconsin Travel Tips”


  1. 1 Barbara Clarke August 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I so enjoy reading the blogs and interesting information you post. I especially enjoy the travel tips. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

    LOVE your children’s clothes.


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