Wisconsin is full of unexpected treasures, and its small towns are just one of the many surprises in this dairy-producing Midwest state. From lakefront paradises on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior to winter wonderlands, Wisconsin’s small towns offer exciting recreational activities, impeccably preserved historical landmarks and vibrant displays of cultural heritage. Here’s our guide to the most beautiful towns in Wisconsin for your next trip.
Fish Creek is one of the must-see spots in Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County peninsula. This unincorporated community has less than 1,000 inhabitants – but the tree-lined streets are often filled with visitors, particularly in the summer months. Fish Creek is full of character, charm, history and fun. Visitors will be delighted by the fine selection of accommodation, restaurants, shopping and outdoor activities – in addition to the unique shops and historical sites, there’s the scenic beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline to enjoy.
Bayfield is located in the very north of Wisconsin on Lake Superior. This small town has a history of lumbering and commercial fishing, but now it’s a popular resort destination. Bayfield is the main gateway for those wishing to visit the scenic Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and stunning ice caves. Visitors to Bayfield can enjoy freshwater boating, kayaking and sailing on the largest of the Great Lakes. Several popular events take place in the small town such as the annual Apple Fest, on the first weekend of October, and the annual Race Week regatta event during the 4th of July week.
Located in southwest Wisconsin, Mineral Point is the state’s third-oldest city. Once a lead and zinc mining community, the historic character of the city has been well preserved, making it one of the most beautiful towns in the area. There’s a strong Cornish influence in Mineral Point thanks to its early settlers – many restaurants in the city are known for serving Cornish culinary specialties such as figgyhobbin and pasties. Lovely historic buildings can be found throughout much of the city and make visiting Mineral Point a truly memorable experience.
Cedarburg is a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city by population. One of the special historic treats in this town is Wisconsin’s last covered bridge – Wisconsin used to have over 40 covered bridges throughout the state, but now the only one left is Cedarburg’s bridge. The historic woolen mill in the town has been converted into a restaurant and winery, making it a great place for tourists to stop. This quaint town has many historic buildings, galleries, studios, shops and weekend festivals – in the summer months, there’s a regular concert series.
It’s no secret that Door County is one of the most beautiful spots in Wisconsin. With friendly people, small-town charm and homey restaurants, it’s no wonder that Egg Harbor continuously ranks among the best small towns in Wisconsin and a must-visit destination in the area. The family-owned Rusty Tractor Cafe is a particularly good spot to stop for those in search of a tasty breakfast. Egg Harbor’s numerous golf courses, shops, spas and its tranquil lakeshore make it an ideal spot for a relaxing getaway.
Algoma is nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan in northeast Wisconsin. This tranquil small town has something to offer everyone – whether you want to enjoy a glass of wine at the historic winery, spend the day shopping, go fishing on Lake Michigan or take a relaxing walk along the sand beach and boardwalk, there’s always something to do in Algoma. Shanty Days and the Concert in the Park series are fun events taking place in Algoma in the summer – plus it’s a very family-friendly place.
Ashland is a port city in the northern part of the state on Lake Superior. Known as Lake Superior’s hometown, this small city is a fantastic location for outdoor recreation year-round. It’s particularly appealing to winter sport enthusiasts – snowmobilers will find over 200 miles worth of well-kept trails in the area, which several hotels offer easy access to. Skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, hiking and ice fishing are also very popular activities here. Ashland is another gateway destination to the spectacular ice caves on Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Downtown Ashland’s history is colorfully displayed through vibrant murals, giving it the nickname Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin.
Elkhart Lake is located in the eastern part of the state, nestled in the midst of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. It’s a popular spot for car racing fans – in the 1950s, road races took place on Elkhart Lake’s public country roads, but today racing fans can catch the action at the Road America race track just outside the village. Elkhart Lake is also a popular lake resort vacation spot and is perfect for a short vacation, whether it be a romantic getaway or a family-friendly trip.
New Glarus, known as “America’s Little Switzerland,” is located in the southern part of the state. The Swiss architecture, ethnic food, outdoor festivals and craft brewery make New Glarus a truly memorable place to visit. New Glarus Brewing brews some of the best beer in the state – and it can only be sold in Wisconsin, giving it Midwest exclusivity. This small village has managed to maintain much of its old world charm with flower boxes, Swiss-style chalets and Swiss flags flying next to American flags on many homes and businesses. Swiss bakeries, meat markets and plenty of restaurants are also available for when you’re hungry.
In the southern part of Wisconsin and near the state capital of Madison, Mount Horeb is often referred to as the “Troll Capital of the World.” Reflecting the community’s Norwegian heritage, the main street of the town is guarded by many troll statues and is known as the Trollway. Mount Horeb is more than just trolls though – the hospitality and small-town charm are sure to enchant anyone who visits. The streets are lined with gourmet restaurants, relaxing cafes, tasty bakeries, wineries and a fantastic brewpub. Mount Horeb is also home to numerous scenic bike trails, museums and unique shops.
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