Almost 3,500 of you have voted to designate 22 Wonders of Wisconsin.
This first-time people’s choice poll has resulted in a fine mix of classic, lesser-known and well-deserved attractions. Drum roll, or polka intro, please. Here are the winners and finalists, the cream of the 244 nominees that made it onto the ballot.
Go to www.travelwisconsin.com or call 800-432-8747 for details about the runners-up. As this project wraps up, it leaves in the dust similar efforts that are taking shape in Illinois and Florida.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, near Bayfield and on Lake Superior, is your favorite natural wonder of massive size. About 80 percent of the land also is referred to as the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, a tribute to Wisconsin’s former U.S. senator and Earth Day founder. For more: www.nps.gov/apis, 715-779-3397.
Runners-up are the two Great Lakes that border Wisconsin – Michigan and Superior – and the Wisconsin Dells.
Best “big” natural wonder is Cave of the Mounds, a National Natural Landmark near Blue Mounds in southwestern Wisconsin. The cave, more than 1 million years old, is called “Wisconsin’s oldest classroom.” For more: www.caveofthemounds.com, 608-437-3038.
Next: caves at Apostle Islands, and Grandad Bluff, La Crosse.
Best “standard or small” natural wonder is Stand Rock, Wisconsin Dells, which is where a trained dog jumps five feet between rock ledges, during boat tour stops. For more: www.dellsboats.com, 608-254-8555.
Next: Parfrey’s Glen, near Baraboo, and the Cedarburg Bog, off of Hwy. 33.
The House on the Rock, between Spring Green and Dodgeville, earns top ranking as best attraction. The 200-acre maze of odd collections and building additions overlooks the lovely Wyoming Valley. For more: www.thehouseontherock.com, 608-935-3639.
Next: Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee, and the Aldo Leopold Shack, near Baraboo.
Most popular religious site is the Basilica of Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary, near Hubertus and 30 miles north of Milwaukee. The 435 acres are a place of pilgrimage for 500,000 people annually. For more: www.holyhill.com, 262-628-1838.
Next: Effigy mound sites, found statewide, and Dickeyville Grotto, Dickeyville.
The Milwaukee Art Museum, with its inviting lakefront location and splendid winglike addition by Santiago Calatrava, tops the museum category. For more: www.mam.org, 414-224-3220.
Next: Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, and Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc.
The State Capitol in downtown Madison tops the buildings/architecture category. Capitol tours are free; for more: www.wisconsin.gov (select “visiting”), 608-266-0382.
Next: Taliesin, Spring Green, and Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison.
Herb Kohler’s PGA-caliber courses at Whistling Straits and Blackhawk Run, designed by Pete Dye, are judged to be the state’s best. For more: www.destinationkohler.com, 800-334-2838.
Next: University Ridge, Madison, and SentryWorld, Stevens Point.
Best unusual attraction is the wacky Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, Mount Horeb, which is filled to the gills with more than 4,400 types of the condiment. For more: www.mustardweb.com, 800-438-6878.
Next: Sputnik replica and landing site, Manitowoc, and Rock in the House, Fountain City.
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture, which makes Wittman Field the world’s busiest airport, is the state’s top recurring event. It’s July 23-29 this year. For more: www.airventure.org, 800-564-6322.
Next: Summerfest, Milwaukee, and the weekly Saturday morning Dane County Farmers’ Market, around Madison’s Capital Square until early November.
Olbrich Gardens, Madison, and its glittering Thai Pavilion lead the public gardens category. Also on the grounds is Bolz Conservatory, where the mood is tropical year-round. For more: www.olbrich.org, 608-246-4550.
Next: Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, Milwaukee, and University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Madison.
Pro football fans have boost Lambeau Field, Green Bay, to a win as best spectator sports venue. A spacious atrium, restaurant/bar and the Packers Hall of Fame make this more than a place to throw the pigskin. For more: www.lambeaufield.com, 920-569-7500.
Next: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, and Miller Park, Milwaukee.
American Players Theatre, Spring Green, gets the leading role as performance/entertainment spot. The gentle hills and wooded setting leave this stage unmatched in Wisconsin. For more: www.playinthewoods.org, 608-588-7085.
Next: Fireside Theatre, Fort Atkinson, and Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield.
Devil’s Lake State Park is the most popular park/trail in Wisconsin, its 10,000 acres being good for sunbathers as well as rock climbers. For more: www.devilslakewisconsin.com, 608-356-8301.
Next: the statewide Ice Age Trail, and Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek.
Petroglyphs found on rock walls statewide dominate the public works of art category. For more: www.uwlax.edu/MVAC/SpecificSites/RockArt.htm, 608-785-8463.
Next: the six public restrooms at the John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, and Wisconsin Concrete Park, Phillips.
Baumgartner Cheese Store, in business since 1931 in Monroe, rates as the best pub/bar/saloon. Order a limburger sandwich with horseradish and onion on rye. For more: 608-325-6157.
Next: Quivey’s Stable Bar, Madison, and Al Capone’s Hideaway, Couderay.
The archival treasure but financially challenged Circus World Museum, Baraboo, leads votes for historic sites. Circus performances begin May 19. For more: www.wisconsinhistory.org/circusworld, 866-693-1500.
Next: Old World Wisconsin, Eagle, and Madeline Island Museum, LaPointe.
Pabst Theater, built in downtown Milwaukee in 1895 and designed after glamorous European opera houses, is the top performance venue. For more: www.pabsttheater.org, 800-511-1552.
Next: Overture Center, Madison, and Al Ringling Theater, Baraboo.
Your favorite place for dining is Karl Ratzsch’s, which has long been serving rouladen, sauerbraten and other German specialties in downtown Milwaukee. For more: www.karlratzsch.com, 414-276-2720.
Next: State Street Brats, Madison, and Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield.
Best scenic drive is the 250-mile Great River Road that snakes along the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. For more: www.wigreatriverroad.org, 800-658-9480.
Next: Highway 42, at the tip of Door County, and the Kettle Moraine Drive in east central Wisconsin.
Best way to take a ride? You prefer the Wisconsin Dells Ducks, the amphibious vehicles that travel on both land and water. For more: www.wisconsinducktours.com, 608-254-8751.
Next: S.S. Badger carferry, which sails from Manitowoc to Ludington, and the Upper Dells Boat Tour in Wisconsin Dells.
For more about these Wonders of Wisconsin, go to www.wondersofwisconsin.com. Coordinator Gary Knowles of Madison is in the process of contacting a handful of participants whose names were chosen at random to receive a prize.
Donations include Manitowoc getaway package, an overnight at the Milwaukee Hilton Center and a roundtrip for two (with vehicle) on the S.S. Badger carferry.