Short Drives

It's not the destination, it's the road trip

Chicago to Wisconsin’s North Woods

When you live in the Chicagoland area, it is not uncommon to travel to the state of Wisconsin. Depending on where you live, it can take you just an hour to cross into the Wisconsin border where you will find awesome outlet malls, a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, and plenty of places to purchase famous Wisconsin cheese. Although many Chicagoans travel just past the border of Wisconsin, a trip to the North Woods can offer an amazing outdoor getaway. The best time to travel to Northern Wisconsin is in the summer, but can also be a perfect fall getaway if you want to see the brilliant fall foliage. There are plenty of great locations along the way, but our final destination is Minocqua, Wisconsin.

First Stop: Milwaukee

Travel a little bit further past the Wisconsin border and you will find yourself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Brewers and a city Chicagoans call, “small scale Chicago.” You still get a great city life with a variety of things to do, but it is just not as busy as downtown Chicago. One of the best festivals takes places in Milwaukee in the summer, which attracts a huge number of people from around the area. Summerfest, the World’s Largest Music Festival, is host to over 800 bands over a span of 11 days. Bands play throughout different times of the day, making it easy for those in the Chicagoland area to take a quick road trip to see one of their favorite bands!

If you are looking for something to do in the winter, the city of Milwaukee will deliver some amazing outdoor activities. Ice fishing and cross country skiing are just some of the most popular outdoor activities during this time of year. The state of Wisconsin tends to get a bit more snow, which makes Milwaukee a great place for a quick winter getaway.

Second Stop: Madison

Make your way about two and a half hours north of Chicago and you will find yourself in the city of Madison, which is the capital of Wisconsin. There are a ton of great events, and nightlife in the area, especially since the University of Wisconsin is located in Madison. Every weekend, around the capital building known as “the square” you can indulge in a farmers market. The market offers local vegetables, bakery items, and more. If you are a cheese lover, than this farmers market is the perfect place for you. Sellers of cheese come up with great combinations of cheese blocks and curds, and all at great prices. A favorite item by many, which always causes a line, is the Jalapeño Cheesy bread, which will make your taste buds explode!

The square is also a great spot in the winter, because the city blocks the sidewalks off around the square, making a section for individuals to ski. There are also plenty of places nearby for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Make sure to bundle up, because it does get quite cold if you are walking around downtown.

Third Stop: Tomahawk

Although our first two stops in Wisconsin are great places to visit, they are cities with a large number of people. If you travel about five to six hours north, you will come to a place known as Tomahawk, Wisconsin. This is a very small town, which I have only been to because it is where my grandparents moved. Even though Tomahawk is a small town, it offers a ton of outdoor activities. Certain days throughout the summer, you can head to the small downtown area to see a water ski show. Tons of people from around the area visit to watch amazing tricks performed on the water. Speaking of water, Tomahawk is surrounded by several bodies of water, which are perfect for the fishing enthusiast.

Many local eateries actually have a boat launch outside their property. You can rent a boat and take it out for the day to fish, swim, and stop for a bite to eat. The best place you can visit in Tomahawk is an ice cream shop called the Windmill. This small ice cream shop is actually shaped like a windmill and offers huge scoops of ice cream for cheap prices. Ice cream flavor selections change daily, and you will usually find a line out the door. There is outdoor seating, along with a bridge path and boat launch making it a great place to stop if you are in Wisconsin.

Final Stop: Minocqua

Minocqua, Wisconsin is about a 45 minute drive from Tomahawk, making it about a 7 hour trip if you are in the Chicagoland area. This is the start of the area in the state called the North Woods. There are so many fun things to do for individuals and families. Wildwood Wildlife Park offers a hands on experience with many animals. Deer, goats, and pigs run around freely, while guests can feed them crackers, purchased at the entrance. There is also a fun option to feed a black bear! Anyone can feed the bears, you just pay $1 for an old looking bottle of “bear juice” and stand by the cage to pour into the bear’s mouth. There are also plenty of caged animals for viewing and trout fishing for an additional fee.

Holiday Acres is another great place to visit in the summer. They offer horseback riding and pony rides, go karting, and a miniature golf course. This is a great place for the entire family because there is something for everybody.

Our final destination is downtown Minocqua. There are many great places to shop, including a huge antique mall with millions of antique items. Minocqua is also home to Otto’s a German beer and brat garden with the best cheese curds in the state! Torpy Park is a great beach for swimming, and also has a huge playground for children and sand courts for volleyball games.

There are so many other amazing places to visit in the state of Wisconsin, but these locations are some of my favorites! Even though there are a lot of outdoor activities in the winter, summers in Wisconsin are simply the best. For those of us who hate the cold, we endure the freezing temperatures and snow, just to have an amazing outdoor summer in the state of Wisconsin.