Readers share their top, unique Wisconsin attractions

Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau photo
Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau photo

What excellent attractions are unique to Wisconsin? You sure weren’t stumped by that question. Here are favorite destinations that you were willing to share.

“We just did a short trip around Wisconsin,” writes Barb Wesle of Stetsonville. “Go see the (architect Santiago) Calatrava addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The best show is at noon, when the wings close and reopen” on the iconic lakeshore structure. Joyce Carey of Madison seconds that motion., 414-224-3200

Barb also is a fan of Timms Hill (the state’s highest natural point at 1,951 feet) near Ogema and two La Crosse spots: Grandad Bluff Park and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “even if you are not Catholic,” because “the meditation walk is peaceful and the church beautiful.”, 800-269-4505;, 608-789-7533;, 608-782-5440

Debra Gudex of Campbellsport is a fan of Holy Hill and its Catholic basilica near Hubertus, plus Old World Wisconsin, a state historical site and living history experience. “There is so much to learn about what life was like years ago,” she notes., 262-628-1838;, 262-594-6301

What else do we love? Consider these places and observations.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – The pristine views and terrain along the Lake Superior shore, especially in and near Bayfield, earn the votes of Carl Bowser of Oro Valley, Ariz.; Paul Zeimer of Menasha; Gary Knowles of Madison; and Ruth Walls of Pleasant Prairie.

“There is just no way to leave them out,” Ruth argues. “Between the islands, the orchards, Big Bay State Park and the quaintness of the city – no one could go wrong visiting here. We stayed at Cooper Hill House, a bed-and-breakfast inn owned by the mayor and his wife, so we got extra history” lessons., 715-779-3397;, 715-779-5060

Kettle Moraine State Forest – “I have lived near the Kettle Moraine all my life, and I love it more each year,” writes Ruth Dreikosen of Campbellsport. She favors the Dundee area, in the Northern Unit, especially if climbing to the top of Parnell Observation Tower.

Donna VanBuecken of Appleton describes drives through and near the Kettles as “marvelous, so peaceful. The hilliness and curves are perfect motorcycle riding as well. And if you’ve never been to (adjacent) Horicon Marsh during migration season for waterfowl, you’d be amazed. It’s awesome.”

The northern and southern units of the 52,000-acre state forest, a preserved glaciated area, stretch from Walworth to Kewaunee counties., 262-594-6200, 262-626-2116

Donna also recommends the much-smaller Chiwaukee Prairie, on the Lake Michigan shore in Kenosha County, and notes its biodiversity: “forest, prairies, marshes, fens and dunes. In the spring, acres of white and pink shooting stars cover the prairie while Canada geese hold up in the marshes. In late summer, prairie blazingstars accompany the bright bronzy colors of the bluestem and Indiangrass.”, 262-658-8336

Guckenberg-Sturm Marsh – Donna, who is executive director of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes, also makes a pitch for where she works, at Little Lake Butte des Morts and the Fox River in the town of Menasha.

“We have beautiful native gardens and restored riparian woodlands for visitors to see,” she explains. Wild Ones is a national nonprofit environmental education and advocacy group that “promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity.” There are chapters in 14 states, most in the Midwest.

The Fox Valley chapter encompasses 16 acres, and an adjacent 56-acre marsh also is open to the public., 877-394-9453

House on the Rock – Anne Schroeder of Appleton raves about the eclectic attraction near Spring Green, which she first visited in 1961, “when the road to the house was just one lane of gravel. I have watched it grow over the years to one of the largest collections around.

“I keep going back, taking visiting family with me to see how unique that place is. It is much more than a museum as well as the most unusual attraction in the United States. We are very fortunate to have it in Wisconsin.”, 608-935-3639

Madison museums – The Wisconsin Historical Museum and Wisconsin Veterans Museum, both on the Capitol Square, are noteworthy to Jean Cherney of Kimberly. The latter is impressive because on display are “scenes and information on battles that most people don’t even know took place long before the Civil War. Wisconsinites were involved and history, uniforms, artillery and many other artifacts are displayed.”, 608-264-6555;, 608-267-1799

Ten Chimneys – The National Historic Landmark in Genesee Depot is home to a long-ago summer estate for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who routinely entertained other well-known actors of the era.

“It has been kept as it was in the 1940s,” notes Betty Whitefoot of Kenosha. “It is beautiful and so are the gardens. Tours are available, and it is worthwhile for a visit.”, 262-968-4161

Readers also mentioned Lake Geneva, Mineral Point, riding inner-tubes along the Apple River, Stoney Hill School (town of Waubeka, where Flag Day began), Bayfield’s Big Top Chautauqua, Wollersheim Winery near Prairie du Sac, Botham Vineyards and Winery near Barneveld and the artsy toilets at John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan., 800-432-8747

For a quick recap of my Top 10 list of must-see destinations that make Wisconsin different from other states, click here and here.

Two people will be rewarded for responding to my call for reader replies. Ruth Dreikosen of Campbellsport will receive a newly updated edition of “Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal” by Patty Loew (Wisconsin Historical Society Press). Donna VanBuecken of Appleton will get a copy of my 2010 book “Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers” (Itchy Cat Press).

Please note that anonymous replies can’t be considered for my occasional “reader rewards” and may not be included in these “reader mailbag” columns.