These small towns in Wisconsin come alive in the fall

Between Wisconsin’s typically mild summers and cold, snowy winters lies fall’s sweet spot. Although it will be quite cold to swim in one of the state’s famous clear lakes during the fall months, there is no shortage of things to keep you busy while visiting. Wisconsin’s small towns are known for their hospitality, charm, quaint restaurants, shops, cafes, and year-round entertainment opportunities. Some cities, like those listed below, even come alive in the fall by celebrating all that the scenic season has to offer.

New Glarus

(New Glarus, Wisconsin).  Image source Christine Brahl via Shutterstock
(New Glarus, Wisconsin). Image source Christine Brahl via Shutterstock

Thanks to its Swiss heritage, including its architecture, cuisine and more, New Glarus is a charming city worth visiting at any time of the year. It really comes alive in the fall, due to the annual Oktoberfest, which features live music, local beer, food and carriage rides for the kids. This event, which usually takes place at the end of September, offers free admission and takes place in New Glarus’ attractive city centre. If you’re a beer drinker, stop by New Glarus Brewing Co for a brewery tour and sample some of their seasonal brews. Do you have enough of a crowd and need to burn off some calories from other delicious local foods? Head to New Glarus Woods State Park and stroll among the foliage.

Cedarburg

An aerial view of downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin, known for its quaint downtown area lined with historic buildings.
An aerial view of downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin, known for its quaint downtown area lined with historic buildings.

Natural beauty and historic architecture combine to make Cedarburg another ideal Wisconsin town to visit during the fall. Stroll through the Historic District, enjoying quaint restaurants and cafes, specialty shops and the Cedarburg Museum of Art, which showcases local and statewide art. Sample some seasonal wines at Cedar Creek Winery, where you can take a tour and sign up for a wine and cheese tasting. The menu changes according to the season, and tastings take place in the cellar to provide plenty of old-world atmosphere. Cedarburg has six state parks, so grab some food to go or pack a picnic lunch to enjoy while surrounded by fall colors.

Minocqua

Thirsty whale in Minocqua, Wisconsin.  Image source Jason Patrick Ross via Shutterstock.com
Thirsty whale in Minocqua, Wisconsin. Image source Jason Patrick Ross via Shutterstock.com

Another Wisconsin city that comes alive during the fall months is Minocqua, nicknamed the “Island City” because it is surrounded by scenic Lake Minocqua. Deep in the heart of the boreal forest, Minocqua is a nature lover’s paradise, especially when the foliage changes to fiery shades of orange, gold and crimson. You can hike or bike on the Bearskin Trail, which begins in downtown Minocqua and features a 21.5-mile paved trail. The area is also known for its many clear lakes, many of which offer public boat tours if you want to experience the fall colors from the water. The annual Beef-A-Rama event, held at the end of September, attracts visitors from around the world with its 5-kilometer Rump Roast Run, crowds dressed in cow costumes, live music, and a craft show.

Ashland

View of downtown Ashland, Ohio on East Main Street, by user: OHWiki - self-portrait, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2802778
View of downtown Ashland, Ohio on East Main Street, by user: OHWiki – self-portrait, CC BY-SA 2.5, file: Ashland Ohio.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Given its location on Lake Superior near the head of Chequamegon Bay, Ashland is an ideal fall destination. Held every October, the WhistleStop Marathon attracts crowds who want to experience the thrill of racing while taking in the stunning fall scenery. Launch your personal watercraft or rent a boat at Ashland Marina, and try your luck at fall fishing. Visit the Ashland Breakwater Lighthouse, taste some local cheese at Benoit Cheese Haus, or shop at the local shops downtown. You can also take a day trip at nearby stunning Copper Falls State Park, which features ancient lava flows, deep ravines, several waterfalls, and rustic log cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. in the 1930s.

Menomonie

Wilson Place Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  Image source: Bobak Harry via Wikimedia Commons.
Wilson Place Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Image source: Bobak Harry via Wikimedia Commons.

Menomonie’s claim to fame is that it was once known for being home to the largest lumber company in the world. Located just one hour east of Minneapolis, this charming city comes alive in the fall, when residents and visitors can admire the stunning fall colors from the top of the Panorama Tower, or go apple picking at local farms and orchards. Hike or bike around the Red Cedar River or Menomin Lake, and explore the waterfalls at Devil’s Punchbowl, which features two paths and a staircase to the top of the falls. Sip fall-inspired spiced ciders at 6th Avenue Cidery, or sample a local brew made with seasonal ingredients at Lucette Brewing Company.

Sheboygan

An aerial view of a sunset in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan
An aerial view of a sunset in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan

Next fall, visit Sheboygan to see why it’s called “Soul on the Lake,” and to experience all the fall delights the city has to offer. Located on Lake Michigan, the city of Sheboygan offers visitors stunning water views and two miles of sandy beaches. During the fall months, take a stroll through one of the city’s 36 parks, which feature rustic, paved paths along which you can admire the colorful foliage. Launch your own boat or rented watercraft on the lake, or if you prefer to spend a cool fall day indoors, head to the John Michael Kohler Center for the Arts. Sheboygan is also known as the “Malibu of the Midwest,” as residents and adventurous visitors surf Lake Michigan during the late fall and winter months when the waves are biggest.

lake Geneva

On the shores of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.
On the shores of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.

Located right on the Wisconsin border, Lake Geneva is a popular vacation spot for Illinois residents and has a year-round resort town atmosphere. Although it may be too cold to swim in Lake Geneva during the fall, you can still enjoy stunning views of the city from the water. After shopping at the local boutiques and enjoying local cuisine at one of the city’s many restaurants, take a walk along the Lake Geneva Shore Trail, which begins in the city center. Take apple picking for your family at Royal Oak Farm Apple Orchard, or pick the perfect pumpkin from the patch in October. The farm also offers a petting zoo, train, bakery and carousel for the little ones.

If you find yourself in Wisconsin during the months of September, October, or November, be sure to stop in one of these towns that seem to receive a second wind during the fall. Whether you walk through colorful forests, see magnificent waterfalls, or sip a local beer or a glass of wine in a cozy café, you won’t be disappointed with your visit.

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