Wisconsin’s natural resources are the foundation of a $12 billion a year tourism industry.
Every year, roughly 14 million travelers visit Wisconsin to enjoy the state’s natural landscapes, cultural events, sports and recreational opportunities. Wisconsin’s tourism industry is continually creating new events and building new attractions, and the challenge for many visitors is choosing from so many options.
With 15,000 lakes, 62 state parks and forests and more than 3,500 miles of trails, Wisconsin is a showcase of outdoor sports and activities. During the summer, the parks welcome hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. In the winter, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snow shoeing and snowmobiling are popular. Campgrounds are open all year, but reservations, which can be made online, are recommended during the summer. Parks charge a vehicle admission fee, and trail passes are required for most activities, with the exception of hiking. Most parks also allow hunting and fishing, and individuals can purchase licenses for specific types of game through the Department of Natural Resources’ website.
Milwaukee is home to Summerfest, an annual 11-day concert with a lineup of more than 700 bands. Known as the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest is just one of hundreds of community celebrations that take place in cities and towns throughout the state.
Wisconsin celebrates its heritage and regional traditions with multi-day festivals and fairs that feature food, entertainment, sports and music. Visitors can check ahead with the Department of Tourism to see which festivals will take place along their travel routes.
Arts and Cultures
Wisconsin offers visitors a mix of art exhibits, museums, cultural events and performances. Milwaukee is home to the Florentine Opera Company, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Pabst Mansion — home of the city’s famous brewer — and the Harley Davidson Museum.
Madison, Wisconsin’s state capitol, has a nationally recognized contemporary art museum, a city ballet and the High Noon Saloon, a hub for cutting edge rock bands. Polish, German and Irish immigrants played significant roles in building Wisconsin, and visitors can see and partake in those ethnic roots in cultural centers, restaurants, churches and shops throughout the state.
Wisconsin’s many hotels, motels and inns offer accommodations that range from no-frills rooms to deluxe suites. Resorts, large and small, also welcome travelers with on-site attractions such as spas, boat rentals, entertainment, golf courses and tennis courts. Wisconsin’s Native American tribes operate 21 casinos and many are part of large resort complexes. Resorts have also sprung up around Wisconsin Dells, a small city in the central part of the state famous for its scenic river gorge and six huge waterparks .
Wisconsin is a tourist-friendly state that provides plenty of help for travelers once they arrive. The Department of Tourism operates 25 visitor centers that dole out maps, guidebooks and brochures for area attractions and events. Many cities have their own tourism organizations that help travelers find hotels, restaurants, shops, pharmacies and other services. Travel information is available through “511 Wisconsin,” a website and dial-up service that provides reports on weather and traffic conditions as well as public transportation schedules.