View of the harbor in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.

10 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in Wisconsin

There is no shortage of exciting adventures for tourists planning to discover Wisconsin. From miles of pristine lakeshore and densely forested landscapes to unexplored state parks, the Badger State delivers unique vacation experiences. While famous destinations like Green Bay and Milwaukee steal the spotlight, the little-known and often-overlooked towns in the backcountry are this beautiful Midwestern state's true heart and soul.

Outside the well-trodden paths lies an array of idyllic communities just waiting to charm visitors with their natural beauty and local flair. These underappreciated towns to visit in Wisconsin embody the authentic allure of America's Dairyland. From the Great Lakes shores to the banks of the Mississippi River, visitors should include the following destinations in their Wisconsin itinerary.

Prairie du Chien

Villa Louis National Historic Landmark in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Villa Louis National Historic Landmark in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Carrie A Hanrahan /

Despite its historical significance, Prairie du Chien does not get as much attention as other river villages in the state. The second-oldest city in Wisconsin is a rich tapestry of state history, as seen through its cluster of antique sites. St. Feriole Island Park offers nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts a delightful escape. Situated on the scenic banks of the Mississippi River, one can experience a laid-back atmosphere with a mix of habitats, including a floodplain forest, beach, and grassland. Travelers also test their golf swing at the Prairie du Chien Country Club, surrounded by beautiful nature.

Meanwhile, Prairie Fun Land comes in handy when traveling with kids. It features all kinds of family-friendly activities, from go-kart racing and trampolines to bumper cars and miniature golf. When you work up an appetite from all the fun in the town, be sure to stop by Pete's Hamburger Stand for delicious burgers and chips.

Saint Croix Falls

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconcin.
Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: EWY Media /

Despite its beautiful natural scenery, punctuated with pristine parklands and scenic waterways, St. Croix Falls' delightful natural offerings remain largely underexplored. With the St. Croix River passing through the town, tourists can enjoy excellent recreation opportunities by exploring the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Top activities here include hiking, picnicking, nature photography, and biking. Similarly, the Fawn-Doe-Rosa Wildlife Education Park proves to be an exciting stop for many first-timers in the area. This adorable park provides insightful animal exhibits, with a chance for up-close interactions with species like deer and elk.

Nature aside, St. Croix Falls invites artsy travelers to experience its creative community at the St. Croix Festival Theater. This professional venue never fails to captivate audiences with its live offerings, ranging from concerts and plays to theater shows.


Buildings along North Pine Street in Burlington, Wisconsin.
Rustic buildings lined along North Pine Street in Burlington, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Tony Savino /

Burlington's proximity to major metro areas like Milwaukee and Chicago makes many tourists overlook it for the fun in the city. However, this quaint community offers a relaxed escape from the crowds with various fun experiences. Top among these involves interacting with friendly locals at the Burlington Farmers' Market. Besides encountering their warm cheer, visitors get to shop for awesome artisanal goods and farm-fresh produce, as well as sample delicious local dishes.

Burlington hosts a couple of quirky museums that promise to pique visitor’s interest. At the Logic Puzzle Museum, guests are often immersed in trying to solve the different puzzles on exhibit. Elsewhere, silver screen enthusiasts can catch the latest Hollywood productions at Plaza Theater 4, which presents a unique movie experience featuring in-theater dinner service.


View of the coast along Merrimac, Wisconsin.
View of the coastline with waterfront homes in Merrimac, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Timothy L Barnes /

Merrimac has managed to remain one of Wisconsin's best-kept secrets despite being less than an hour away from the capital. This tiny village rests on the banks of the Wisconsin River, charming first-timers with its natural appeal and chilled-out atmosphere. One of the best ways to discover the town is to hop aboard the Merrimac Ferry for easy-going sightseeing trips along the calm waters of the Wisconsin River.

But for a more hands-on experience, one can venture into the lush wilderness of Riverland Conservancy Merrimac Preserve. Straddling over 1,600 acres, the park is a recreation hub, offering everything from scenic drives and picturesque trails to secluded picnic areas. Also, travelers can indulge in fun aquatic adventures like jet skiing and boating by renting a vessel from Lake Wisconsin Watersports.


Historic brick building in the town of Potosi, Wisconsin.
Historic brick building next to an orange root cellar in the town of Potosi, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: PiXel Perfect PiX /

Potosi does not get enough credit for being an angler's paradise with a reputation for attracting enthusiasts from around the state. Nicknamed "Catfish Capital of Wisconsin," the town provides an array of water-based adventures along the Grant River. Thanks to local outfitters like Grant River Tubing' Co., hordes of tourists lazily gliding down the river on tubes is a common phenomenon in Potosi.

Those not interested in the outdoors can stay in town to experience its rich heritage of crafting refreshing brews, visible at the Potosi Brewery. The facility offers tours showcasing the process and a taste of freshly crafted beer. Alternatively, a trip to the ABA National Brewery Museum provides a unique perspective of the country's brewing heritage through a collection of related artifacts. Finally, do not forget to complement the brewery tour with a taste of locally produced wines at the Whispering Bluffs Winery.


People celebrating the Annual Applefest in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
People celebrating the Annual Applefest in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Jacob Boomsma /

One of the most beautiful towns to visit in Wisconsin, Bayfield deserves its flowers for being the gateway to the scenic Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Many visitors rush to book the Apostle Islands Cruises Boat Tour to discover the breathtaking landscapes that define the region while on a cozy sail. The community's lakeside location strategically places it for a range of seafaring exploits through the years, which have impressively been documented and preserved inside the Bayfield Maritime Museum. Wandering its halls reveals a variety of related artifacts, capturing the nautical activities in Bayfield and the entire Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bayfield also harbors a respectable arts community, with Bayfield Artists Guild offering a sample of lovely creations by artists from the town and surrounding region.

Sister Bay

Scenic street in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.
Scenic buildings and foliage lined along a street in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Nejdet Duzen /

Sister Bay constantly gets overshadowed by more prominent Door County destinations, but its stunning natural scenery warrants exploration. The town is home to idyllic open spaces that let visitors unwind without worrying about the crowds. Sister Bay Beach is a great example, featuring a sandy shore with a grassy lawn where locals and visitors alike come to picnic and take in the scenes. An escape to open waters is a must-have experience in Sister Bay, accessible through boat rentals at the Sister Bay Marina.

Art enthusiasts can also explore a collection of fun exhibits at Frykman Studio Gallery, whereas culinary buffs find generous dining opportunities at the numerous restaurants dotting downtown. One such spot is Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant, known for its luscious Swedish cuisine and cozy dining atmosphere.

Fish Creek

Aerial view of the harbor in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
Aerial view of the harbor in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Another Door County gem, Fish Creek receives fewer tourists than it should, considering the extent of natural beauty it harbors. Although small in size, it hosts an enticing mix of attractions worth checking out. Fish Creek is home to Peninsula State Park, a 3,800-acre nature preserve with countless recreation facilities. From camping and hiking to golfing, it is the ultimate playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The town also allows visitors to experience and take in the beauty of Door County from the water, courtesy of laid-back sails with Fish Creek Scenic Boat Tours.

There is a vibrant arts community in Fish Creek that presents travelers with an opportunity to sample exciting local arts. At Edgewood Orchard Galleries, connoisseurs can browse stunning exhibitions, whereas Peninsula Players Theatre entertains them with live stage performances in an outdoor setting.

Mineral Point

High Street in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
Buildings along High Street in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. By User:JeremyA - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Mineral Point's rich history and unique limestone architecture go relatively unnoticed by many visitors to Wisconsin. However, there is a lot to explore in this former mining boomtown. In the 19th century, Mineral Point was considered the country's most crucial lead-mining station, a legacy documented at the Mineral Point Railroad Museum. Housed inside is a varied collection of artifacts centered around the town's railroad and mining heritage.

The town is a recognized hub for the arts, and exploring the downtown exposes you to several galleries and performance centers. Mineral Point Opera House is an excellent venue if you enjoy stage performances, ranging from operas and musicals to plays. On the other hand, those who prefer visual arts can choose from several options, including Brewery Pottery, to examine an array of intricate art pieces by local and regional artists.


Ringling Theater in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Ringling Theater, the home of Ringling Brothers Circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: lynn friedman /

Baraboo easily gets eclipsed by the bustling tourism scene in nearby Wisconsin Dells. However, what the town lacks in amusement parks, it makes up for in captivating history and beautiful outdoor scenery. Nicknamed "Circus City," Baraboo's history is intertwined with the circus world, resulting from the Ringling Brothers making it their winter quarters in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tourists can still witness these quarters at Circus World and explore a vast collection of artifacts dating to its heyday as a premier entertainment venue. The downtown corridor reveals lasting influences of the Ringling Brothers, as seen in attractions like the AL. Ringling Brewing Co.

Baraboo is even more impressive when you step into the open, thanks to Devil's Lake State Park. This beautiful preserve provides a range of recreation, from hiking and rock climbing to fishing and camping. It stands out for its dramatic quartzite bluffs overlooking a scenic 360-acre lake.

Wrapping Up

While major cities and famous destinations across the Badger State garner the most tourists each season, these undervalued towns to visit in Wisconsin promise travelers an authentic taste of rural charm and character away from the crowds. By immersing in their quiet beauty, unique heritage, remarkable recreations, and unrivaled hospitality, you can look forward to creating fun, lasting memories. From Northwoods waterfront escapes and historic brewery enclaves to Mississippi River villages and hidden gem hamlets, they are the perfect off-the-beaten-path destinations whenever you need a unique Wisconsin experience.

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