It’s no secret that Wisconsin winters can be cold, but the outdoor activities that accompany them are just as cool.
While the Badger State offers summers full of trips to the beach and autumns full of pumpkin patches and apple picking, winters provide families the chance to experience similar fun and excitement with the backdrop of beautiful snow.
For families experiencing their first Wisconsin winter, or those thinking about experiencing one in the future, here are several gems our state has to offer every time the temperature drops.
- Make your heart race with adventure sports
With more than 700 miles of cross-country ski trails and 445 runs at 30 downhill ski and snowboard areas, Wisconsin offers some of the best snow skiing, snowboarding and tubing options in the Midwest. Granite Peak, Whitecap Mountains, Cascade Mountain and Devil’s Head each offers visitors the chance to hit the slopes and gives skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to take on verticals, jumps, rails, bumps and headwalls. These and countless other Wisconsin slopes accommodate all levels of skiers and boarders, meaning fun for the entire family is just a chairlift away. Not interested in participating? Each year the American Birkebeiner, the largest and one of the longest cross-country ski races in North America, makes for a great spectator experience when more than 10,000 skiers race 55 kilometers from Cable to Hayward.
Invented right in Wisconsin, the snowmobile is also an important part of the state’s winter fun offerings. We offer more than 25,000 miles of trails to ride on, the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum is located in St. Germain, and in addition to being The Snowmobile Capital of the World Eagle River annually hosts the Vintage World Championship Snowmobile Derby and the World Championship Snowmobile Derby.
And here, biking isn’t just for the summer months. Fat tire bikes are gaining in popularity statewide and festivals related to them are held across the state. The Snow Crown Fat Bike Series is held across the state in late January while several other cities have becomes hosts for events in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, the largest fat bike racing series in the U.S.
- Walk on water and spend time with man’s best friend
Fishing may seem like just a warm-weather activity, but the fish never stop biting in Wisconsin. Anglers looking to catch the big one have used warm ice shanties to help make ice fishing in Wisconsin incredibly popular. Also popular is the state’s annual sturgeon spearing season, which allows anglers to spear the giant prehistoric fish while being observed by onlookers intrigued by the tradition.
Not into fishing but looking to take advantage of frozen lakes? Perhaps ice skating is more your style. As water freezes in Wisconsin spectacular skating rinks pop up, allowing the entire family to spend quality time together.
Families may also enjoy taking in the several dog sledding events Wisconsin plays host to. Spectators can receive demonstrations, rides and instruction while learning more about the ancient tradition. Dogs are also present at the several skijoring spots our state offers.
- Bask in the beautiful scenery
Wisconsin’s scenic views in summer and fall are breathtaking, but being covered in snow and ice brings out a completely different kind of beauty around the state. You can hike or snowshoe on the more than 2,500 miles of trails Wisconsin offers or hop on a sleigh ride to get a different vantage point.
The Apostle Islands offer stunning ice caves full of icicles and frozen water that create scenery fit for a fairytale. The formations change from day to day and chamber to chamber, offering a unique experience that is consistently ranked as a top winter experience in the state.
Wisconsin is also a hotbed for winter resorts, allowing visitors to slip away into the Northwoods to bask in the beauty of frozen lakes, clear skies and pure white snow.
- Create memories at community events
Families aren’t the only ones that to get together during winter. Entire communities gather to celebrate the drop in temperature and create memories through various festivals, carnivals and fairs.
Every winter Lake Geneva hosts Winterfest, a nine-day festival featuring the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition, along with offering music, shopping, dining and other activities. Wausau also hosts a Winter Fest, which offers a day of activities like horse-drawn carriage rides, cookie decorating, a snow slide, ice sculptures, ice skating and more. The two-day Cedarburg Winter Festival offers barrel racing, an iceberg open golf tournament and camel rides, along with ice-carving duels, dog-pulling contests, a chili cook-off, tractor-drawn hayrides and a pancake breakfast.
The three-day Waukesha JanBoree has been going strong since 1984 and today features more than 30 free family-friendly events that attract more than 20,000 people each year. Attendees can count on seeing ice sculptures and fireworks and enjoy the trolley rides, beer garden and other carnival offerings.
Each year thousands of people come together in a two-block stretch in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood for Mitten Fest, a gathering full of live music, food and beverages, all in the name of charity. Burnhearts, a local bar, hosts the event to raise donations for Hunger Task Force and their affiliates.
Also in the name of charity, Polar Plunges have become a staple get-together for Wisconsinites. The fundraising events for the Special Olympics of Wisconsin are held in cities across Wisconsin and feature participants jumping into cold water while donating to the organization. Since 1999 the events have raised nearly $19 million.
For a complete guide of all of Wisconsin’s winter offerings, visit TravelWisconsin.com.