Wisconsin's lakes, resorts and supper clubs have long beckoned vacationing families. This summer, families can amp up their Wisconsin vacation fun by discovering the area's local history and culture.
For children and adults alike, experiencing their heritage culture alongside the local history in different areas of the state feeds curiosity, creates a stronger sense of cultural identity and makes understanding history fun. And it often leads to the discovery of places you may not have planned to visit.
Here are eight places to visit to weave local history and culture into a Wisconsin family vacation:
Historic Downtown Delavan
Just a short, 70-minute drive southwest of Milwaukee, this diverse community's Water Tower Park historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It features quaint brick streets, murals depicting the town's rich history, antique stores, gift shops, a bandshell, restaurants and more. During the summer, the downtown is busy with flea markets and car shows. Evidence of Hispanic culture is everywhere. The Cake Pastel Mexican panaderia offers a wide selection of traditional Mexican and American baked goods, including doughnuts, cakes, banana bread, churros, tamales, pan dulce, mantecados, conchas and galletas as big as your head! A few steps away, La Guanajuato Mexican food store offers a taqueria and butcher shop. Just next store, pinatas fill the storefront of Dulceria Acapulco ice cream, coffee and candy shop. And Hernandez El Serape Restaurant boasts more than 60 items of made-from-scratch Mexican fare, from guacamole and salsa to burritos and tamales.
Latino Arts, Inc.
Located inside the United Community Center in the heart of Milwaukee's historic Walker's Point neighborhood, Latino Arts' 3,000-square foot art gallery and 350-seat auditorium hosts a variety of visual and performing Hispanic artists from throughout the world as well as hands-on activities. Right next door is Cafe el Sol restaurant, renowned throughout the city for its Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine. On Friday nights, a Latin-style fish dinner buffet is served as a delicious ethnic adaptation of Milwaukee's famous local fish fry, complete with live, local and regional Latin entertainment.
Held at Maier Festival Park on August 25-27, this three-day event provides fun and food to honor Mexican culture, tradition and family. Featuring over 400 exhibitors and vendors, along with arts and crafts, performers, a genealogy exhibit, workshops, photo galleries, a cultural pavilion, a children's playground, a midway and much more.
Paramount Plaza and Walking Tour
In the Village of Grafton, this distinctive Walk of Fame sidewalk resembles a piano keyboard and recognizes the important role the Paramount Records recording studio and record pressing plant played in blues music history, as well as the achievements of the primarily African American musicians who recorded for the label. Close enough to the blues scene in Chicago, Paramount Records was the perfect place for the artists to come and launch their careers. You'll find tributes to legendary blues artists like Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charley Patton, who is often recognized as "the father of the Delta Blues."
Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum
The mission of this Milwaukee museum is to document and preserve the historical heritage of African descent in Wisconsin. Exhibits include a larger-than-life panorama of African American history that offers a glimpse of modern life of African Americans in Milwaukee.
The Milton House National Historic Landmark operated as a stop on the Underground Railroad (UGRR) from its construction in 1844 through the Civil War. It is still the only certified UGRR site in Wisconsin where visitors have the rare opportunity to walk the very pathways of freedom. The guided, hour-long tour explores the 1844 Milton House Hexagon Stagecoach Inn, a 45-foot-long tunnel connecting to the 1837 Goodrich Pioneer Cabin and much more.
Cheyenne Valley Heritage Road Tour
The Cheyenne Valley was Wisconsin's largest rural African American settlement in the 19th century. Nearly 150 African American settlers traveled to Cheyenne Valley, with the assistance of the Quaker religious order, where they successfully farmed alongside Native American and immigrant neighbors to create a multi-racial community. One of the settlers, Alga Shivers, was a notable builder who designed and constructed many of the area's round barns in the early 20th century. A driving tour map highlights the round barns, former schools, the old town hall, cemeteries and settler farms.
Old World Wisconsin
The outdoor museum in Eagle features 60 historic structures ranging from ethnic farmsteads to the 1880s Village with its traditional small-town institutions. It is the world's largest museum dedicated to the history of rural life. It includes interaction with live animals, period demonstrations and many hands-on activities.