Even in the bitter cold, these dreamy destinations thrive with possibilities

by Nicole Herzog

As the days become shorter and the temperature drops, finding activities to keep busy can be a challenging task. Though Wisconsin is often known for its summer spots, there are a wide variety of both popular and hidden gems throughout the Badger state that offer ideal winter activities for all ages. Grab a hat and gloves and start exploring!

1. Take a day trip to Copper Falls State Park

Snowshoe, hike and ski your way through the picturesque scenery of Copper Falls State Park. Located in Mellen in northern Wisconsin, the park contains more than 15 miles of winter trails for those who love to take in the outdoors. Experience mystical frozen waterfalls and snow-covered views in this real-life winter wonderland. Whether you prefer an active adventure or a serene day trip, Copper Falls is the perfect winter destination to add to your itinerary.

2. Hang out in an ice shanty at Brix Cider in Mount Horeb

Whether you’re looking for a cozy date night spot, an evening of family fun or a relaxing hangout spot with friends, Brix Cider is a quintessential Wisconsin winter gem. Just about a half-hour drive outside of Madison, Brix Cider offers a unique winter dining experience in which guests can book ice shanties on its outdoor patio for just $5 an hour. Each shanty is a private, heated space where visitors can enjoy a full-service menu, including lunch and dinner entrees, pastries, coffee and a wide variety of specialty-brewed ciders. 

3. Explore the Apostle Island Ice Caves

While the Apostle Islands feature beautiful scenery in the warmer months, the mainland ice caves at the Apostle Islands in northwestern Wisconsin are also a breathtaking sight in the winter. When Lake Superior freezes over, the sea caves are laden with a myriad of icicle formations that surround visitors as they walk through the caves. This is an ideal destination for winter sightseeing as the magnificent landscape can serve as an exciting opportunity for photos and an appreciation of nature.

4. Engage your senses at the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market

Farmers markets are not just a summer activity — from freshly baked goods to satisfying soups, the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market offers delicious treats for all to enjoy this winter. Visitors can support local vendors while tasting the best seasonal goods Wisconsin has to offer. This is also a great place to purchase holiday gifts, such as jarred spices and jams as well as artisanal oils. While your heart (and stomach) may be full afterward, a break from the freezing cold temperatures at this indoor farmers market will keep your body satisfied this season.

5. Marvel at the Rotary Holiday Lights display in La Crosse

Often cited as one of the best holiday light displays in the state, Rotary Lights at Riverside Park in La Crosse is home to 3 million lights and is free for all visitors. Visitors can drive, walk or take a carriage ride through the park, making it an accessible and enjoyable experience for all. Helicopter rides, free s’mores and even a few visits from Santa’s reindeer will also take place at the light display this winter, creating a magical experience for both children and adults.

Illustration by Anica Graney.

6. Visit Green Bay’s Titletown District

Plan a day of winter fun in Green Bay’s Titletown district with snow tubing and ice skating to live music in Titletown park, located just a five-minute walk from Lambeau Field. Later, warm up at the Lodge Kohler located just down the road, where visitors can enjoy a wide variety of spa and wellness treatments as well as a meal with a panoramic view at Taverne in the Sky, the lodge’s restaurant and bar.

7. Experience winter on frozen Lake Mendota and Monona

Head to Madison to slip and slide your way across the vast frozen lakes. The two frozen lakes offer great opportunities for winter photos, as well as many free and exciting events, such as the Winter Carnival in early February. Check out the iconic statue of Lady Liberty in addition to a wide array of winter-themed treats and activities during the carnival.

8. Go skiing at Granite Peak

Love winter sports? Granite Peak in Wausau is one of Wisconsin’s #1 skiing destinations — a must-try for both avid skiing enthusiasts and those who just want to get a feel for the sport. Granite Peak features 200 acres of terrain spread out across 60 trails in addition to one of the Midwest’s fastest ski lift systems. Thrill seekers will not want to miss out on this winter-themed adventure. 

9. Board a snow train in East Troy

Make your winter wonderland dreams come true as you ride through East Troy on a snow train. This December, the train in southeastern Wisconsin will feature a holiday-themed ride complete with lights and holiday decorations. This activity will lift your spirits while providing a fascinating experience for all. 

Featured photo provided by Pixabay.