20 Must-Visit Attractions in Wausau, Wisconsin

Wausau Center | Courtesy of Jacklyn E. Grambush
Wausau Center | Courtesy of Jacklyn E. Grambush
Photo of Jacklyn Grambush
16 September 2017

With a population of just over 39 thousand, Wausau is the 17th largest city (by population) in the state of Wisconsin. For city folk, the small-town feel may even be a little reminiscent of the film Pleasantville. Still, like any other city, the residents share pride for their roots and their future. With that in mind, here are the top sites to not miss when in Wausau.

Rib Mountain State Park

Map View
Rib Mountain is the third highest point in Wisconsin at 1,942 feet (592 meters) above sea level and the tallest hill in the state at 741 feet (226 meters) above the surrounding area. One of the oldest geological formations on Earth, the park offers trails, an observation tower, summer concerts, and a load of history interacting with Wausau.

State Park Speedway

Sports Center
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State Park Speedway
State Park Speedway | © Royal Broil / Flickr
The State Park Speedway, located just outside of Wausau, is a quarter-mile racing oval offering late-model and stock car racing. Individuals such as Dick Trickle and Bobby Allison have raced there over the past 35 years. With weekly Thursday night races from May through September, the track record of 13.336 seconds is held by Chris Wimmer.

Isle of Ferns Park

Bridge, Park
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This 27.2-acre park offers a lot of typical park amenities: tables and benches, grill pits, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a boat landing with a dock. What sets it apart is the bridge to Fern Islands, providing access to hiking trails, open play areas, and a popular location for wedding ceremonies.

400 Block

Locals tell how the 400 Block was leveled back in the day for construction. However, the development was stalled, and eventually, neighbors began to gather in the big, open lot. From this, the city changed their plans and designed a gathering space that the citizens had inspired. Now, the 400 Block, with an outdoor stage and overhead canopy right in the middle of downtown Wausau, hosts Concerts on the Square, Market Thursdays, the Beer & Bacon Festival, and pretty much any other event that the city organizes.

400 Block, 401 3rd St, Wausau, WI, USA

Another great perspective of concerts on the Square! #wausau #400BlockWausau

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Nine Mile Forest

Ski Resort
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Nine Mile Forest offers cross-country skiing (one of the best in Wisconsin) and snowshoeing. There are 29.6 kilometers (18.3 miles) of cross-country skiing trails, including a Cookie Trail Loop for young skiers: the 2.7-kilometer (1.6-mile) loop has six mailboxes filled with cookies to encourage skiers at various points. There are also 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) of looped snowshoeing trails at varying lengths: 4k, 6k, 8k, and 10k. This area is open seasonally.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

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Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (LYWAM) is an admission-free institution that opened in 1976. Offering permanent as well as rotating exhibits, classes, and a sculpture garden, LYWAM is best known for its “internationally acclaimed Birds in Art exhibition.” Over the past two years, it has won awards including the 2016 Wisconsin Governor’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage Tourism Award and the 2017 National Medal (the highest community service honor for museums in the U.S.).

The Grand Theater

Opera House, Theater
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The Grand Theater
The Grand Theater | Courtesy of Jacklyn E. Grambush
Located across the street from the 400 Block, The Grand Theater exists to “enrich lives through diverse cultural experiences.” Opening in 1927 to take the place of the recently destroyed Grand Opera House, The Grand has grown to serve 17 counties in Northern Wisconsin, with over 300 events per year. The Performing Arts Foundation, established in 1972, currently manages the drama, dance, and music featured there.


The state’s Major League Baseball team is named the Brewers; therefore, you know there are some great breweries. In Wausau, keep your eye out for the Red Eye Brewing Company, the Bull Falls Brewery, and the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company.

Craft beer gives you muscles 💪 #brewedtrue #wibeerwednesday #bullfallsbrewery

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Mountain-Bay State Trail

The Mountain-Bay State Trail is an old abandoned railroad track that is now a walking and cycling trail. Extending from Rib Mountain to Green Bay (hence the name), it is one of the longest rail trails in Wisconsin, stretching 83 miles (133.5 kilometers) through three counties and ending right outside of Wausau.

Duey and Julia Wright House

While not technically an attraction, this privately owned home is a must-see; Frank Lloyd Wright designed it. From above, it looks like a quarter note, as Duey and Julia were music teachers.

Duey and Julia Wright House, 904 Grand Ave, Wausau, WI, USA

Yawkey House Museum

Historical Landmark, Museum
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The house of Cyrus and Alice Yawkey, built in 1900–1901, was the most expensive home in Wausau at the time of its construction. After both Cyrus and Alice died, their child, Leigh Yawkey Woodson (see the art museum above), presented the house to the Marathon County Historical Society in 1954. The structure, designed in the classical revival style, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places 20 years later.

Woodson History Center

Church, Library, Museum
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The Yawkeys (see Yawkey House Museum) had a house built next door for their only child and son-in-law, the Woodsons. In 1954, the same year that Leigh Yawkey Woodson donated her parent’s house to the Marathon County Historical Society (MCHS), the Woodsons sold their house to the Immanuel Baptist Church. The MCHS then bought it in 1995, and it currently holds their offices, a research library, and a place for further exhibits.

Alexander Airport Park

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In 2014, the community gathered with a desire to update Alexander Park. Since then, significant collaborative efforts have worked to bring the ideas to life. Located next to the Wausau Downtown Airport, the park is almost complete, offering an aviation-themed playground, a mounted Corsair jet, as well as education and fitness opportunities.