Street view in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, via Nejdet Duzen /

11 Small Towns in Wisconsin to Visit for a Weekend Getaway

Wisconsin has it all, from picturesque natural scenery and amazing farm-to-table culinary landscape to a mix of fun outdoor experiences. But it’s the little-known destinations, scattered across the state, that truly harbor the spirit of America’s Dairyland. Wisconsin’s small towns delight with a relaxed rural vibe, charming cultural and historical attractions, down-to-earth communities, and endless outdoor adventures. 

New Glarus

New Glarus, Wisconsin
New Glarus, Wisconsin- Image Credit Erwin Widmer via Shutterstock

This tiny village in Green County was christened “Little Switzerland” because of its Swiss roots, serving as the landing spot of choice for Swiss immigrants coming into the state in the 1840s. You can explore the town’s Swiss heritage with an immersive cultural and historical experience at the Swiss Historical Village & Museum. This Swiss settlement replica offers a glimpse into pioneer life in New Glarus through ancient buildings, antiques, and relics. 

But the town is also surrounded by serene natural spaces, which you can explore along the Sugar River Trail, leading to the New Glarus Woods State Park. The town center is home to several quaint businesses, and if you’d like to try Swiss cuisine, try popping into Glarner Stube for delicacies like kirsch and a pot of melting cheese. Meanwhile, you can spend the nights at the Chalet Landhaus Inn. 


Golden Autumn Colors in Rural Bayfield, Wisconsin on a Beautiful Sunny Afternoon
Golden Autumn Colors in Rural Bayfield, Wisconsin on a Beautiful Sunny Afternoon

Bayfield is known for being the gateway to the popular Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a stunning archipelago of 22 islands with amazing landscapes, including pristine beaches and sandstone cliffs. The town is a must-visit if you fancy lakeside vacations, and the Apostle Islands Cruises Boat Tour presents the ideal way to explore this state treasure. You can find out more about the area’s maritime heritage at the Bayfield Maritime Museum, which preserves the nautical history of the Bayfield and Apostle Islands through interactive exhibits. 

More outdoor adventures await along the Big Ravine-West Rim Trail, a scenic backcountry route surrounded by a thick canopy. After hours of roaming the town and checking out its main points of interest, you can check into the Old Rittenhouse Inn for a delightful lodging experience, featuring Jacuzzi tubs, private cottages, and fine dining. 

Fish Creek

The White Gull Inn is a historic bed and breakfast inn and restaurant in Fish Creek
The White Gull Inn is a historic bed and breakfast inn and restaurant in Fish Creek. Image credit Malachi Jacobs.

Fish Creek’s location in the heart of Door County makes it the ideal jump off base for exploring the surrounding region. However, the town has enough delights to keep you busy for the whole weekend, and one of its top spots is Peninsula State Park. Boasting over 3,700 acres of pristine wilderness, miles of scenic biking/hiking trails, and a spectacular sandy beach, the park is the ultimate playground for outdoor lovers. The other site you can’t leave without checking out is the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. This historic landmark dates back to the 1860s when it was constructed to illuminate the Strawberry Channel, and offers unprecedented vistas of the water. 

The Peninsula Players Theater stages Broadway-quality shows for your watching pleasure, ranging from comedies and musicals to dramas. When it’s time to call it a day, you can enjoy a good night’s sleep at the White Gull Inn. Besides its tranquil atmosphere, the hotel serves a mean cherry-stuffed French toast for breakfast. 

Chippewa Falls

Aerial photograph of the Chippewa River Dam with Lake Wissota in the distance in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
 Aerial photograph of the Chippewa River Dam with Lake Wissota in the distance in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

You might be disappointed to realize there are no actual waterfalls directly inside Chippewa Falls, but your faith will be restored upon encountering its lovely parks, vibrant art scene, and epic craft brewery culture. There is so much to see and do, but you can start by showing some TLC at the 318-acre Irvine Park Zoo. This sprawling facility houses different exotic species from around the globe, such as tigers, bison, cougars, and bears. 

But if you prefer to explore the open spaces, the Lake Wissota State Park presents an array of fun outdoor opportunities, from camping and hiking to horseback riding and picnicking. Chippewa Falls is also home to the famous Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, the perfect place to sample the town’s refreshing craft beers and experience a local passion. After it all, you can seek accommodation at the Country Inn & Suites, just 4 miles from the Irvine Park Zoo. 

Lake Geneva

Lakefront hotels in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lakefront hotels in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: lito_lakwatsero /

You can never get enough of lakeside getaways in Wisconsin, and Lake Geneva is famous for its gorgeous waterfront mansions, lively downtown, and picturesque views, which you can get a sense of along the Lake Geneva Shore Path. Besides its scenic surroundings, this lovely path offers a look into the area’s history. If you are not afraid of heights, you must try the adrenaline-inducing experience at Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures. From zipping above the forest canopy to stealth walking on sky bridges, the experience is thrilling and unforgettable. After such a wild adventure, you can take it easy with a relaxed tour of the Geneva Lake Museum and browse interactive exhibits and relics chronicling the town’s past. Finally, you can enjoy a unique lodging experience at The Baker House Hotel, which boasts a timeless charm with exotic artifacts decorating its luxurious rooms. 

Sister Bay

View of Sister Bay's town harbor.
View of Sister Bay's town harbor.

Considered among the best small towns in Wisconsin, Sister Bay is a picturesque waterfront village of under 1,000 with stunning natural scenery. Its idyllic location on the shores of Green Bay makes it an excellent escape for water-based adventures and one of the best spots in the town is Sister Bay Beach. This sandy stretch with grassy lawns is a hub of recreational activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking, with stunning vistas of the water. Meanwhile, a quick stop by the Sister Bay Historical Society takes you through 80+ years of the town’s storied past, featuring a tour of the 1875 Anderson family farmhouse and other 19th-century relics and artifacts. 

Sister Bay boasts a delectable dining scene, offering diverse food options to cater to different tastes. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik is a must-visit if you have a taste for Swedish cuisine and you can choose from a long list of draft beer and fine wines to down the food. Lastly, a stay at the Scandinavian Lodge puts you in a cozy environment surrounded by natural beauty and just a minute from the beautiful bay. 


Aerial view of Hayward, Wisconsin.
Aerial view of Hayward, Wisconsin.

This pint-sized village in Sawyer County is home to a population of just over 2,500. Despite its modest profile, it is the ideal destination for nature enthusiasts, thanks to pristine forests, lakes, and rivers. However, one of the first venues to explore in Hayward is the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. This interesting museum exhibits hundreds of fishing artifacts to promote freshwater sport fishing in the town. It also features a quirky 143-foot-long sculpture of the “world’s largest muskie.”

Meanwhile, you can revel in the serene atmosphere of Hayward’s open spaces by playing a game of golf at Hayward Golf Club. Those with a sweet tooth can stop by Lynne Marie’s Candies to tame their cravings with delicacies like handmade fudge, hand-dipped chocolates, and more. Finally, don’t forget to book yourself into the Honeybear Hideaway Cabin for a cozy night’s sleep. 


Farmer's market in Sheboygan.
Farmer's market in Sheboygan. Image credit Fern M. Lomibao via Shutterstock

Sheboygan’s claim to fame is being the “Freshwater Surf Capital of the World.” This is thanks to its strategic location, which allows surfers to catch the best waves on the Great Lakes. But before you start discovering this charming lakeside locality, check into the Blue Harbor Resort to be close to all the major action in the town. The Kohler-Andrae State Park is an excellent place to begin your adventure. It is among the few remaining nature preserves along Lake Michigan shores, sprawling over 980 acres and home to outdoor opportunities like camping, hiking, and biking.

Alternatively, you can find out more about Sheboygan with a deep dive into its history and that of the surrounding region at the Sheboygan County Historical Museum. The six-building complex features a vast collection of over 30,000 artifacts offering a snapshot of the bygone eras. If you are vacationing with the kids, they will love the 54,000-square-foot fun at Breaker Bay Waterpark.

Elkhart Lake

Fall colors in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Fall colors in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Elkhart Lake is a quaint waterfront village with a charming blend of indoor and outdoor delights. The town is best known for its legendary racing and local speed enthusiasts often gather at the world-recognized Road America in nearby Plymouth to watch an amazing show. But staying within the town’s limits, one of the best spots for outdoorsy travelers is Firemans Park Elkhart Lake. It offers diverse recreational opportunities, such as swimming, picnicking, and sports. Another interesting venue to visit is the Two Fish Gallery, which houses a fine collection of crafts and sculptures art enthusiasts will appreciate. Meanwhile, you will find convenient accommodation at Siebkens Resort, a few minutes from the area’s major attraction, Road America. 


Ringling Theater exterior in Baraboo, Wisconsin
Ringling Theater exterior in Baraboo, Wisconsin, via lynn friedman /

A great escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital, about 40 miles away, Baraboo is an excellent family vacation destination. This small town boasts a nice mix of attractions, highlighted by Devil’s Lake State Park. Besides the magnificent views of 500-foot bluffs, the park is a prime spot for outdoor enthusiasts, drawing bikers, hikers, anglers, boaters, birders, and campers to make the most of its diverse landscapes. Another point of interest nature lovers will appreciate is Pewit’s Nest, a lovely preserve hidden among stretches of farm fields and bordering lush woodland. 

The bustling town center is lined with businesses, ranging from shopping outlets and restaurants to microbreweries and wineries. You can sample the local wine scenery at Von Klaus Winery, which offers tastings of 20 different fruit-based wines. For a luxurious lodging experience, book a stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and enjoy world-class amenities like an indoor pool and 24-hour fitness center.  

Sturgeon Bay

Canal in the town of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Canal in the town of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Sturgeon has a little bit of something for everyone, from iconic museums and lovely parks to trendy eateries. This charming community in Door County is home to Potawatomi State Park, which presents adventures with miles of picturesque biking and hiking trails and a delightful waterfront for kayakers and canoers. Whitefish Dunes State Park is a worthy alternative, where you will encounter the highest sand dunes in the state. The area is also a center of beach activities along the shores of Lake Michigan.

For history buffs, the Door County Maritime Museum offers a more relatable pastime, housing exhibits that preserve the maritime history of Sturgeon Bay. Alternatively, the Door County Historical Museum will take you on a journey through the storied past of Door County. When you finish exploring the town for the day, you can take a deserved night’s rest at Bridgeport Waterfront Resort. 

Wrapping Up

There is no shortage of small-town delights in the Badger State perfect for a weekend getaway. From the picturesque waterfront of Sheboygan to the charming riverfront in Chippewa Falls, these small towns in Wisconsin will keep you coming back, thanks to their spectacular natural scenery, rich history, and unique culture. 

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 11 Small Towns in Wisconsin to Visit for a Weekend Getaway

More in Places