Everyone has their favorite eatery, activity, beverage—even cheese. And you, our Experience Wisconsin readers, have shared your top picks in our first annual reader’s choice survey. Congratulations to Experience Wisconsin’s Best Of 2019!
FOOD AND DRINK
Although they’re known foremost for their Milwaukee-brewed beers, Lakefront Brewery’s Friday night fish fry is clearly a crowd favorite. With live polka music, family-style seating and (of course)—Lakefront brews—what more could you want? Housed in the historic Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company building, the industrial vibe with Milwaukee River views equal a cool way to spend a Friday night. lakefrontbrewery.com
Photo: VISIT Milwaukee
Cheers for Cheese
Renard’s Cheese has a hearty operation with two stores, a factory tour (at their Algoma location) and a deli (at the Sturgeon Bay location). The shops have specialty cheeses, homemade sausages and other specialty food products.The deli’s menu is stuffed full of cheesy dishes like sandwiches, wraps, pizza and of course—mac ’n cheese. Cheese and wine tastings are also held daily.
One of the state’s premier craft brewers, New Glarus Brewing Company celebrates its 26th anniversary this year. Stop by their New Glarus brewery year-round to do a tasting, sip a pint, pick up some memorabilia or take a self-guided brewery tour. Amazingly, New Glarus brews are still only distributed in Wisconsin, so we get to keep this brewery all to ourselves. newglarusbrewing.com
Super Supper Club
The supper club is in Wisconsin’s DNA. It’s an excellent way to while away a Friday or Saturday night, enjoying a fish fry or prime rib special and your favorite craft beer or cocktail. And Milwaukee’s Five O’Clock Steakhouse is where it’s at. In operation and family- owned since 1946, expect hearty cuts of meat, personalized service and a cozy wood-paneled bar—a perfect spot for catching up with friends.
The clubby, comfortable atmosphere at Geneva ChopHouse at Lake Geneva’s Grand Geneva Resort & Spa only adds to the deliciousness of your experience that’s sure to include salad, seafood, steak or a sumptuous dessert. Pair your dinner with a Grandhattan or a Rambler cocktail, that’s made with their limited-edition Grand Geneva Select 25 Bourbon. grandgeneva.com/restaurants/geneva-chophouse
It’s Not Old Fashioned
You’d think a place that’s named The Old Fashioned would make a mean Old Fashioned—and you’d be right. This homage to the classic Wisconsin supper club located on the Capitol Square in Madison is a bustling eatery and a must-visit when you’re in the capital city. But with eight Old Fashioneds to choose from (The Applejack, Orange Rum and the rye bourbon among them)— how will you pick?
The rolling, Sonoma County-esque views at Wollersheim Winery & Distillery in Prairie du Sac are only part of the reason you should venture out to this Wisconsin winery, in operation since 1972. Tastings and tours are held year-round, and their events calendar stays full in the fall and winter with their Ice Wine Release and Ruby Nouveau Release events and their Vintage Christmas.
THINGS TO DO
Considered the state’s “most complete park” by the Wisconsin DNR, Peninsula State Park’s 3,775 acres in Fish Creek offer camping, hiking, biking, sandy beaches, a summer theater (the Northern Sky Theater), golf course, lighthouse, observation tower and eight miles of shoreline. Anyone up for a hike?
Photo: Wisconsin DNR via Flickr
Hit the Links
As the host of the forthcoming 2020 Ryder Cup, it’s no surprise Kohler’s Whistling Straits is tops for Wisconsin golf. (It’s also hosted three PGA Championships and the U.S. Senior Open). The Straits and The Irish courses are both well- known for their challenging play and breathtaking, scenic views, borrowing from Irish links courses. americanclubresort.com/golf/whistling-straits
We Like to Hike and Bike
Considered the first rail-to-trail in the U.S., the Elroy-Sparta State Trail’s 32.5-mile route is perennially popular. The trail has three rock railroad tunnels (which are each over 140 years old) and passes through five small towns. The La Crosse River State Trail and the 400 State Trail connect at either end in Sparta and Elroy, respectively. dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/elroysparta
The EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh is a favorite destination for aircraft enthusiasts and families alike. More than 200 historic aircraft are on display, and interactive exhibits (some with flight simulators) entertain everyone. The EAA’s annual AirVenture show in the summer is another way to view historic planes, watch air shows and even take short leisure flights.
It’s hard to think of Milwaukee without conjuring up images of Summerfest, the city’s signature 11-day music festival, held annually the last week of June into early July, right on the shores of Lake Michigan. One ticket gets you admission to eight stages chock-full of music acts of all genres, plus food galore and shopping areas. The American Family Insurance Amphitheater hosts big-name headliners (for an additional ticket fee) like Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie and The Killers. summerfest.com
Photo: VISIT Milwaukee
City to Visit
Lake Geneva, a dazzling resort town known for its idyllic Shore Path, quaint downtown and of course, the 5,400-acre Geneva Lake, is an ideal getaway any time of year. The aforementioned nearly 26-mile-long Shore Path weaves in and out of lakefront properties (some of which are historic Gilded Age mansions built by wealthy Chicagoans) and is unique because every lake home owner has to preserve and maintain their portion of the path—and keep it open to the public.
Photo: Visit Lake Geneva
Packers fans are known as some of the most loyal in the NFL, and Lambeau Field celebrates the Green and Gold. It’s even a destination on non-game days, with a restaurant, pro shop, Packers Hall of Fame and stadium tours offered year-round. Be sure to visit the adjacent Titletown District that has year- round events as well as dining, shopping and lodging options.
WHERE TO STAY
Awarded a Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award in 2018, The Osthoff Resort is set on 500 feet of picturesque Elkhart Lake shoreline.Visit the Aspira Spa,frolic on the sandy beach or rent a kayak or paddleboard in the summer, or hone your cooking skills during a class at their on-site L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School.
Beautiful Boutique Hotels
It’s fun to stay at a property with a story, and La Crosse’s The Charmant and Milwaukee’s The Iron Horse Hotel both had previous lives as a candy factory and warehouse, respectively. The two properties tied for readers’ favorite boutique properties and with cool historic details, delicious dining and bar/lounge options, plus the city at your feet—it’s worth a stay at one (or both). thecharmanthotel.com, theironhorsehotel.com
Photo: The Charmant
Set in a tranquil 80-acre pine forest in Wisconsin Dells, Sundara Inn & Spa offers a much-needed retreat from the daily grind (they’re also tech-free in common areas, too!). Find innovative spa services, a new salt treatment therapy room and an indoor/outdoor pool with swim-up bar. Readers also loved Kohler Waters Spa (with two locations, next to the American Club in Kohler and at Green Bay’s Lodge Kohler), that have signature water-inspired treatment rooms and services (outfitted with KOHLER fixtures, of course), soothing common areas and beautiful relaxation pools. sundaraspa.com, lodgekohler.com, americanclubresort.com/spa/kohler-waters-spa
Photo: Eliasen Photographs
Top photo (left to right): Sundara Spa, Eliasen Photographs; Summerfest, VISIT Milwaukee; The Old Fashioned, TravelWisconsin.com; Elroy-Sparta State Trail, TravelWisconsin.com; EAA, TravelWisconsin.com
This article originally appeared in the 2019 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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