Small-Town Getaways in Wisconsin | Midwest Living

Small-Town Getaways in Wisconsin

Experience the charm of Wisconsin's small towns, which offer distinctive restaurants, lodging and attractions.
  • Ephraim/Fish Creek

    Around the Great Lakes, the Midwest has coastal charm similar to New England. Explore that charm at its best in the Door County towns of Ephraim (population: 314) and Fish Creek (population: 200), which bookend Peninsula State Park.

    Rent bikes and ride down the coastline, check out the two towns' dozen of art galleries or go shopping at high-end boutiques. The signature meal of the region is a fish boil, an outdoor show with flames billowing around a cauldron of whitefish, potatoes and onions. Top if off with pie made with cherries from orchards that flourish in the peninsula's interior.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Ephraim/Fish Creek.

  • Photo Courtesy of County Visitor Bureau

    Ephraim/Fish Creek trip guide

    Door County Visitor Bureau (800) 527-3529;

    American Folklore Theatre Nestled in the woods at Peninsula State Park, this 750-seat, open-air theater has an idyllic setting for its feel-good, humorous musicals about Midwest history and culture (pictured).
    Edgewood Orchard Galleries Near Fish Creek, a beautifully restored barn-turned-gallery showcases work by more than 150 artists from Wisconsin and around the country.
    Hands On Art Studio Would-be artists can choose from projects including fused glass, metal sculpture, mosaics and ceramic pieces. Special events include weekly adult nights, seasonal Rock and Roll Art Nights and art camp sessions for kids; in Fish Creek.
    Orchard Country Winery and Market Door County's famed Montmorency cherries are picked, packaged and made into wine at this popular Fish Creek farm market and bakery.
    Peninsula Players Theatre This is the country's oldest professional resident summer theater. The setting is gorgeous: in the woods on the shore of Green Bay outside Fish Creek, with outdoor tables, a bar and a giant bonfire at intermission.
    Peninsula State Park Hiking, biking, boating, swimming, fishing, golf, a nature center and the historic Eagle Bluff Lighthouse are among the highlights of this Fish Creek park.

    Blue Horse Bistro and Espresso Take a shopping break with coffee brewed dark and rich. Try to get one of the coveted second-floor tables overlooking the harbor; in Fish Creek.
    The Cookery Fresh foods expertly prepared make this a perennial favorite. The signature whitefish chowder is deliciously creamy. In Fish Creek.
    Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille Pizza made with fresh, local ingredients reigns at this landmark spot in Fish Creek, though you can also order wonderful salads and sandwiches with hand-cut fries.

    Eagle Harbor Inn Breakfast at this historic Ephraim B&B includes treats such as from-scratch cherry granola.
    Whistling Swan Horses pulled this inn across frozen Green Bay in 1907 to its current location in Fish Creek.
    White Gull Inn The elegant Fish Creek inn features sweeping porches and antiques-furnished rooms -- and legendary fish boils.


  • Stockholm, Wisconsin

    You'll still find plenty of Petersons, Andersons and Ericksons in this Swedish-founded town (they originally made their living by fishing and harvesting ice on Lake Pepin). But modern Stockholm (population: 92) got its start in the 1970s, when artists began discovering the beauty along Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River.

    Travelers eager to explore this stretch of the Great River Road (left) eventually followed, curious about what they'd find along the way ( Explore art galleries and shops, sample Scandinavian foods, and stay for one of the festivals that combine old-world heritage with new creative expression.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Stockholm.

  • Stockholm trip guide

    Stockholm Merchants Association (715) 442-2266;

    Abode Store and Gallery This shop sells a variety of art reflecting river themes.
    Stockholm General Wisconsin Foods and Mercantile Everything in this gourmet food store is from Wisconsin.
    Ingebretsen's Handcrafted Scandinavian imports, books and foods fill this tiny storefront.
    Stockholm Pottery and Mercantile You'll find locally made stoneware, wood engravings, watercolor paintings and jewelry.
    Festivals These include the Midsommer Swedish Festival--with Scandinavian foods, Maypole dancing and bonfire ( Stockholm Art Fair with more than 100 juried exhibitors (

    The Stockholm Pie Company This popular little eatery serves all kinds of pies, from cream to savory.


  • Bayfield

    Lake Superior adventure awaits visitors to this tiny town of 551 on the Bayfield Peninsula. Like jewels tossed into the sapphire water, the 21 Apostle Islands lie just offshore. On summer days, Bayfield's harbor is full of kayaks and tour boats going to and from the beaches, lighthouses and campsites in the legendary archipelago.

    More relaxed explorers ride ferries to Madeline Island, the only inhabited Apostle, which offers shops, a renowned beach, a museum and places to eat. The shops, inns and restaurants of Bayfield look down from hills along the lake. The surrounding peninsula is marked by pay-on-your-honor berry and apple stands and an absence of chain stores. Summer nights bring performing arts under the old-fashioned Big Top Chautauqua tent.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Bayfield.

  • Bayfield trip guide

    Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau (800) 447-4094;

    Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Explore 21 islands known for rocky hiking trails, lighthouses and sea caves.
    Bayfield Bike Route Rent bikes by the hour or day and hop on the Brownstone Trail for an easy ride along Lake Superior.
    Bayfield Heritage Tours Ninety-minute walking tours offer insights into town history and the characters who settled it. Reservations required.
    Hauser's Superior View Farm Gardeners come here for plants and local wine and jams for sale in the barn.
    Stone's Throw This funky shop sells local artists' work. A cool courtyard holds garden stones and sculptures.

    Ethel's at 250 The burgers are great, and the Bayfield apple pizza, topped with thinly sliced Granny Smiths and chopped bacon, is a must-try.
    Old Rittenhouse Inn Try the two-course dinner and share a dessert. The menu is seasonal, but the signature fork-tender pork roast in apple cider glaze is always available. Retire to one of the luxe guest rooms; some have lake views.
    Wild Rice Restaurant Stop here for a five-star dining experience. The prosciutto-wrapped beef with mascarpone mashed potatoes is a best-seller.


  • Kohler

    This tidy village of 2,000 is a quiet place to relax, enjoy exceptional meals, golf or enjoy a plush spa treatment, 56 miles north of Milwaukee. The town was created by the Kohler Company in 1912 as a planned community and remains focused on businesses and attractions owned by Kohler, including The American Club, the Midwest's only AAA Five-Diamond resort hotel.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Kohler.

  • Kohler trip guide

    American Club Resort (800) 344-2838;

    Golf You'll find four Pete Dye courses at Blackwolf Run in the Village of Kohler ( and nearby Whistling Straits (pictured;
    Kohler Design Center A three-level showroom highlights upscale, cutting-edge plumbing fixtures.
    Kohler Factory Take a free, three-hour tour on weekday mornings.
    The Shops at Woodlake Browse home furnishings, accessories and clothing boutiques, and restaurants.
    The John Michael Kohler Arts Center Check the website for current exhibits, performances and other events. In Sheboygan.

    Field to Fork Try the Frontier bison burger; then pick up preserves, cheeses and more in the adjoining store. In Sheboygan.
    The Wisconsin Room One of several dining options at Kohler, this one serves Midwest dishes such as locally raised beef and Lake Superior walleye.

    The American Club Resort This AAA Five-Diamond resort hotel has luxe rooms, a spa and several restaurants.
    The Inn on Woodlake The recently renovated, serene and stylish lodging overlooks a spring-fed lake.


  • New Glarus/Monticello

    The lush farm country south and west of Madison aligns perfectly with travel trends toward fresh food and active, green, artsy pursuits.

    Among the small towns to explore: New Glarus (population: 2,000) and, just 6 miles south, Monticello (population: 1,130). New Glarus preserves the architecture and cuisine of the Swiss immigrants who settled here. Active types come to this region for great trails, bike-friendly roads and fabulous cuisine.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in New Glarus/Monticello.

  • New Glarus/Monticello guide

    Green County Tourism (888) 222-9111;

    New Glarus Brewing Company While you can tour the production area, the real attraction is sampling the excellent brews (Belgian Red, Fat Squirrel) in the hilltop beer garden. Note that this New Glarus brewery closes at 4 p.m.
    Badger State Trail This path links to the Sugar River Trail and follows a former railroad bed. Bring a flashlight for the curving, 1,200-foot Stewart Tunnel.
    Ruef's Meat Market For a half-century, Ruef's has sold authentic Swiss sausage and meats from a tiny storefront in downtown New Glarus. Staff can walk you through the subtle differences between schublig, cervelas and mettwurst.
    Sugar River State Trail Part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, this 23-mile route links New Glarus to Brodhead.

    Deininger's Restaurant and Bistro Bar Enjoy traditional European country-style cuisine in a hilltop Victorian in the heart of New Glarus. The tapioca with fresh mango is especially memorable.
    The Dining Room at 209 Main An eclectic menu with international flair lures food-lovers to this upscale restaurant in Monticello.
    Glarner Stube In-the-know visitors and locals choose this spot in New Glarus for authentic Swiss fare, including Swiss meatballs, veal steaks, pork schnitzel sandwiches and steaming cheese fondue.
    New Glarus Bakery This charming bakery sells cookies, bread and other old-fashioned treats (many made following traditional Swiss recipes). Try spiced honey bars, anise-flavor pressed cookies and (our favorite) walnut-filled nut horns.

    Chalet Landhaus Inn The Sugar River Trail runs past this Swiss-theme inn, an easy walk to New Glarus restaurants and shops.
    Little Sugar River Farm Ideal for cyclists and those looking for a retreat, this DIY guesthouse near Monticello sits secluded barely a quarter-mile from the Sugar River Trail. The beautiful, fully equipped home has handmade furniture, a fireplace and a tub big enough for two.


  • Photo Courtesy of Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

    Lake Geneva

    Just 60 miles southwest of Milwaukee, this pretty resort town's population of 8,000 swells every summer when vacationers arrived.

    Hotels, resorts and restaurants hug the lakeshore, and boat tours leave from downtown. Visitors walk part or all of a 25-mile path winding around the lake, past grand estates.

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Lake Geneva.

  • Lake Geneva trip guide

    Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 345-1020;

    Lake Geneva Cruise Line Lake excursions offer close-up views of the grand Victorian estates ringing the lake. The Black Point Estate cruise includes a house tour.
    Main Street This pleasant shopping district offers jewelry, apparel, home accessories and more.

    Scuttlebutt's Restaurant Munch on casual family fare downtown with an unmatched view of the lake and a great Friday night fish fry.

    The Cove of Lake Geneva Conveniently located downtown, this hotel offers suites with fireplaces, whirlpools and kitchens, and a big indoor pool.
    Grand Geneva Resort and Spa Northeast of downtown, choose a room or suite; enjoy golf and excellent restaurants.


  • Photo Courtesy of Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau

    Hayward Lakes

    Lots of things in Hayward don't change from one year to the next. The rugged serenity of the North Woods, the giant muskie at the fishing museum, the Lumberjack Show, the iffy cell service outside town. Those traditions bring families back for their ritual wind-down, fish-from-a-quiet-boat vacations.

    But it would be a mistake to say nothing changes in Hayward. A Pete Dye-designed course at Big Fish Golf Club got national buzz when it opened in 2005. Three hundred miles of mapped off-road biking means you'll see as many SUVs with bikes strapped on the back as you'll see towing boats. And come winter, you'll find 600 miles of snowmobile trails and the American Birkebeiner, North America's largest cross-country ski race (

    Click ahead for more details on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Hayward Lakes.

  • Emmett Brown, Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame

    Hayward Lakes trip guide

    Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau (800) 724-2992;

    Cable Natural History Museum Thoughtfully curated, this gem of a family museum sits in Cable, about 18 miles northeast of Hayward. Kids love the hands-on Curiosity Center. Free.
    Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum North America's fishing heritage is showcased with 100,000 artifacts (lures, rods, reels and more) and a 40-foot fiberglass muskie.
    Lumberjack Village Home to shops, dining, the area's best mini golf and Scheer's Lumberjack Shows, the village offers a full afternoon of entertainment.
    Morgan Falls and St. Peter's Dome Even casual hikers will enjoy the pretty, doable trek (1.2 miles round-trip) to the 70-foot Morgan Falls waterfall, located in the Chequamegon National Forest, about an hour northeast of Hayward.

    Hayward Bakery and Cheese Shop Old-world breads, Wisconsin cheese, salads and sweets make a quick lunch while you're shopping downtown.
    The Landing Sunny views of the Chippewa Flowage, generous portions and great service attract crowds. Visit summer Wednesdays for Native American dancing and the Indian tacos special.
    Rookery Pub Dine on creative cuisine in this upscale restaurant near Cable. Popular dishes include bison chili, bacon-wrapped quail and a fresh fish "unfry" each week.
    The Steakhouse and Lodge Try the pork Namekagon paired with wine at this upscale eatery open seven days a week year-round.
    West's Hayward Dairy With homemade ice creams like Church Basement Lemon Bar and Red Velvet Cake, this spot shows its creativity.

    McCormick House A proper British gentleman delivers luxury treatment at this six-bedroom Victorian. The gardens are impeccable.
    Treeland This family resort offers 29 vacation homes and cabins, 10 motel suites, an inviting outdoor pool, tennis and volleyball courts, playground, and putting greens.


  • More Wisconsin small-town getaways

    Cedarburg The limestone buildings are as sturdy as the work ethic of their German builders. Now they hold a wealth of shops and galleries (pictured;
    Spring Green The inspired arts scene includes Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin home and studio and a world-class outdoor theater. The weirdly appealing House on the Rock is nearby (
    Elkhart Lake A mix that surprisingly works: classic Victorian town with the Four-Diamond Osthoff resort and a road-race course with 400 annual events (
    Eagle River Summer is for lakeside resorts; winter is for snowmobiling on the extensive trail system (
    Mineral Point Artists work among preserved buildings in an 1820s Cornish lead-mining town (
    Green Lake This is a quintessential Wisconsin lake town scene: water sports and supper clubs (
    Ashland This town is home to Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, ferries to the Apostle Islands and a serious ecoconscious ethic (
    Hudson Inns, antiquing and outdoor activities are popular in this pretty town in the St. Croix River Valley (
    Port Washington A lighthouse guards a Lake Michigan harbor that also has lakeside lodgings and dining (
    Baraboo Location. Location. Location. It's near the Dells, Circus World Museum and 500-foot cliffs in Devil's Lake State Park (
    Cambridge See Lake Ripley and the Salt-Glazed Pottery Capital of the World (


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