Wisconsin's Northwoods is the kind of place where traditions are born and carried on for generations to come. Opportunities to get into The Great Outdoors are everywhere, from countless lakes and rivers to miles of hiking and ATV trails. Families exploring the region have many different options for indoor and outdoor memory making. Here are 20 we recommend:
Monk Botanical Gardens
1800 North 1st Ave., Wausau
Experience the flora and fauna of the Northwoods at Monk Botanical Gardens, a 21-acre botanical garden near downtown Wausau. Kids will enjoy climbing the two-story tree house, chasing after butterflies, or learning about the lifestyle of a frog from the edge of the garden pond.
Wausau Mine Co.
3904 W. Stewart Ave., Wausau
Go on a culinary adventure deep inside a replica gold mine at the Wausau Mine Co. Authentic mining equipment has been affixed to all surfaces of the dining room and is a fun diversion for exploration while waiting for your meal to arrive. Before you leave make sure and head upstairs and find the miniature dioramas and other historical information.
Wausau Children's Museum
C-302 Wausau Center, Wausau
Located inside the Wausau Center Mall, the Wausau Children's Museum gives families an option for cold or rainy days. Museum staff has organized the museum space to maximize both creative and interactive play; turn an art project into a vacation souvenir.
Lumberjack Steam Train
5068 Highway 8, Laona
Take a trip back in time on a the Lumberjack Steam Train, an old-fashioned prairie style steam locomotive that runs between the Leona Depot and "Camp 5," an 1800's logging camp. Visitors learn about the history of logging in the Northwoods and gain an appreciation for the hard life of the Wisconsin lumberjack.
Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty
8653 Highway 51 N, Minocqua
(715) 356-6270, paulbunyans.com
A bakery, restaurant, and gift shop Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty is a popular stopping off for families passing through Minocqua. Dining room décor is rustic cabin, and home-style meals are offered a la carte or in "all you can eat" family style portions. Start a new tradition by taking a family photo with the giant statues of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox.
Wildwood Wildlife Park and Nature Center
10094 State Highway 70 West
Minocqua, (715) 356-5588
Home to more than 1000 animals, Wildwood Wildlife Park and Nature Center values conservation and education and gives visitors more interactive and hands-on interactions with animals than a typical zoo. Highlights include daily amphitheater programs, a primate and reptile center, and a new educational building with exhibits centered on entomology and animal artifacts.
Apostle Island Cruises
2 Front St., Bayfield
(800) 323-7619, apostleisland.com
From wind-shaped rock formations and sea stacks to lighthouses and sea caves, the best way to explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is by water. Board one of the seaworthy vessels owned and operated by Apostle Island Cruises and journey 55 nautical miles on the Grand Tour or view historic underwater artifacts and shipwreck remains on the three-hour long Glass Bottom Boat Tour.
Madeline Island Museum
226 Colonel Woods Ave., La Pointe
(715) 747-2415, madelineislandmuseum.wisconsinhistory.org
Add a bit of natural history and social studies to a day on Madeline Island. An official Wisconsin Historical Site, the Madeline Island Museum presents visitors with artifacts and exhibits centered around the Ojibwe people and the influence of the French trade in the 1800's. Visitors also learn about the island's native plants and animals.
Pioneer Park Historical Complex
Intersection of Kemp Street and Oneida Ave., Rhinelander(715) 369-5004 explorerhinelander.com/pioneer-park-historical-complex
Located within Pioneer Park in Rhinelander, the Pioneer Park Historical Complex is comprised of a Logging Museum, Antique Saw Mill, CCC Barracks, School House, Fire Museum, Restored SOO LINE Depot, and Antique Outboard Motor & Boating Museum. Highlights include exploring restored train cars, a 1000-square foot model railroad display, and volunteers that demonstrate what pioneer children might have learned during a typical school day.
1998 Highway 45 North, Eagle River,(715) 479-6756
Cruise Duck Lake and the Eagle River Chain of Lakes on a double-decker pirate ship that will have you surrendering yer booty and thinking about a refreshing jump off the gangplank. One of the main attractions at Pirate's Hideaway, the 1.5-hour cruise is often complimented with a trip to the family entertainment center's ice cream shoppe or tiki bar.
Kartway Amusement Park Little Falls Golf
Rocking W Stables
1890 Pleasure Island Rd., Eagle River, (715) 617-6779
These three attractions share the same Eagle River address. Kids of all ages will enjoy go-karts, bumper boats, bouncy houses, and 18-holes of mini golf. For the equestrian, pony and guided trail rides start at Rocking W Stables. Don't forget to feed the goats.
Keyes Lake Mini Golf
4918 Highway 101, Florence
Keyes Lake Mini Golf is an 18-hole mini golf course available to both the general public and campers staying at the Keyes Lake Campground near Florence. The course is shaded and has a few different types of water obstacles to keep kids engaged. The course stays open until 10PM and is lit once the sun goes down.
National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
10360 Hall of Fame Dr., Hayward
A bucket list destination in Hayward, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is a shrine to anglers around Wisconsin and beyond. Spread out over seven acres, the complex features a hall of fame museum, 88,000-gallon pond, and a wooden muskellunge large enough to occupy half a city block. Don't forget to explore the belly of the fish, posting for a trophy-worthy photo from inside the musky's mouth.
Northwoods Children's Museum
346 West Division St., Eagle River
Another indoor option for families visiting The Wisconsin Northwoods is The Northwoods Children's Museum in Eagle River. The museum invites visitors to discover the magic of play through twenty-four different interactive exhibits and other science- and art-themed hands on activities.
Scheer's Lumberjack Village
15642 County Highway B, Hayward
Described as a combination of history, sport, and comedy, the hour-long Scheer's Lumberjack show draws locals and tourists to watch athletes compete in ten different events best described as the Olympics of the Forest. A key attraction within Sheer's Lumberjack Village, families can also enjoy mini golf, ice cream, and renting a log cabin for the night.
Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park
N8236 South Highway 13, Phillips
Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park is a must see for anyone passing through Phillips. Over 200 concrete sculptures have been placed throughout the park grounds; former Phillips resident Fred Smith embellished his creations using broken glass from bottles sourced from his tavern (the tavern is adjacent to the park and remains open today).
7994 Highway 51 South, Minocqua
(715) 356-4400, holidayacres.info
Holiday Acres features guided trail and pony rides, three unique go-kart tracks, and 18 holes of mini golf. This three-in-one entertainment center is a nice option for families with kids of varying heights, ages, and abilities.
Waswagonig Re-Created Ojibwe Indian Village
2750 County Road H, Lac Du
Flambeau Indian Reservation
(715) 588-2615, waswagoning.us
As the name implies, Waswagonig is a re-created Ojibwe Indian Village designed to educate and inform visitors on Ojibwe history and the tribe's way of life. Tours of the village run Tuesday through Saturday (10am through 4pm) mid-June through the end of August.
11544 North Highway 63, Hayward
(715) 634-2331, haywardkoa.com
A popular family camping destination, the Hayward KOA boasts a 300-foot waterslide, 80,000 gallon heated pool, miniature golf, spider web rope course, and inflatable jumping pillow. Or, perhaps, rent a canoe, kayak, or inner tubes and float down the nearby Namekagon River. Guests are welcome to pitch their own tent or reserve one of the teepees.
World's Largest Penny
Intersection of 2nd Avenue and Hemlock Street, Woodruff
A location for a fun family photo, the World's Largest Penny commemorates a 1953 fund-raising initiative led by Woodruff resident Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb. Dr. Kate encouraged local school children to save their pennies so that Woodruff could build a hospital; 1.7 million pennies arrived from around the country once the story was aired on television. Learn more about the history of the fundraiser at the Dr. Kate Museum, located at 923 2nd Ave.
Julie Henning is the editor and owner of roadtripsforfamilies.com.