Downtown street in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Image credit Tony Savino via Shutterstock

8 Most Memorable Small Towns in Wisconsin

America's Dairyland is famous for big cities like Green Bay and Milwaukee. However, the beautiful state also harbors infinite charming and memorable small towns. These are home to beautiful natural scenery, captivating history, and down-to-earth communities that will welcome strangers with open arms.

From picturesque waterfront locations along the shores of Lake Michigan and hidden villages surrounded by sprawling farmland to laidback Door County villages, Wisconsin's pint-sized towns are the lifeblood of the state. They preserve a nostalgic sense of the past while presenting the keys to the future, ensuring visitors experience all the Badger State's unique sides. Whether visiting for the weekend or spending a month-long vacation, check out the most memorable towns in Wisconsin.

New Glarus

Downtown historic street in New Glarus, Wisconsin
Downtown New Glarus, Wisconsin. Image Credit Erwin Widmer via Shutterstock

New Glarus stands out for its unique Swiss heritage, rolling, lush countryside, and chalet-style architecture. You can explore the town's European roots at Chalet of the Golden Fleece Museum, which houses a collection of priceless antiques and whimsical artifacts from wealthy locals who lived there.

Witness the beauty of the town's backcountry up close along the picturesque Sugar River Trail. This 24-mile hiking route passes through a lush forested region with pristine meadows and exciting wildlife viewing opportunities. Before leaving New Glarus, stop by New Glarus Brewing Company and taste refreshing locally crafted brews.


Ringling Theater exterior in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Ringling Theater exterior in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Image credit lynn friedman via

Baraboo's claim to fame is the chosen home of the famous Ringling Brother's winter home in the early 20th century. The Al. Ringling Theater is a reminder of the Ringling Brother's rich legacy in Baraboo. This historic theater venue was built by Albert Ringling in 1915 and continues to entertain audiences with plays, concerts, and other live shows. 

Baraboo entices outdoor adventurers with beautiful open spaces that let you soak in nature's bounty. Devil's Lake State Park offers endless recreational opportunities, from hiking and biking to canoeing and bird-watching. The sprawling nature space is a popular hub for the outdoorsy inclined and demonstrates the sheer beauty of the town's countryside. Alternatively, you can find more opportunities at Mirror Lake State Park, famous for its dramatic narrow reservoir with sandstone sides. 

Lake Geneva

Lakeside of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.
Lakeside of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

A storied waterfront retreat in Southeastern Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is a cozy escape from the busy streets of Milwaukee. Some of the town's top attractions are centered on the sparkly waters of Geneva Lake, home to an array of fun water-based attractions. Hoping aboard the Lake Geneva Cruise Line is an excellent way of exploring the scenic towns from the water and appreciating its natural beauty. Meanwhile, laidback beaches, including Lake Geneva Public Beach, present the ideal setting to chill out and revel in the easygoing outdoor atmosphere. Besides lounging on the smooth sand and soaking in the views, you can go for a nice dip in the water. 

Adrenaline junkies will fancy a visit to Lake Geneva Ziplines and Adventures, with the opportunity to embark on thrilling zipline tours above the town's countryside and take on intimidating high ropes obstacle courses. But for a more subtle and relaxed experience, you can walk along the Lake Geneva Shore Path. This scenic hiking area presents up-close views of the waters and historic estates with gorgeously landscaped lawns and gardens.


Cityscape view of Bayfield Wisconsin, as seen from the shores of Lake Superior
Cityscape view of Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Popularly renowned as the getaway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield easily ranks among the most charming towns in Wisconsin. You can take the Apostle Islands Cruises Boat Tour to explore this beautiful group of Lake Superior islands. The Bayfield Maritime Museum looks into the town's rich nautical legacy around the Great Lake. It preserves artifacts, relics, and antiques showcasing Bayfield's fishing and navigational techniques local fishermen use. You can learn more about the town's storied past at the Bayfield Heritage Association, which preserves the legacy of people and events that shaped the town.

Furthermore, a stroll along Rittenhouse Avenue exposes you to some of the town's top joints, like Greunke's First Street Inn & Dining. Culinary enthusiasts can pop into ManyPenny Bistro to taste classic American breakfasts. However, outdoor lovers will gravitate towards West Rim Trail, inside the Big Ravine Nature Preserve, to explore the densely forested countryside.

Fish Creek

Aerial view of Fishcreek, Wisconsin.
Aerial view of Fishcreek, Wisconsin.

Fish Creek delights with gorgeous outdoor scenery, providing outdoor lovers with many recreational opportunities. The town is home to Peninsula State Park, one of the five state parks in Door County. Here, you will discover a hub for diverse recreational activities, from camping and hiking to biking and swimming, spread across 3,700 acres of pristine natural space. Inside the park, you can climb 75 feet to the top of Eagle Tower to admire sweeping views. Better yet, you can take the Fish Creek Scenic Boat Tours to discover the beautiful village from the water.

Several historic gems ensure that history buffs have something to look forward to in Fish Creek. An excellent example is the Alexander Noble House Museum, a historic 1875 farmhouse showcasing the best of Greek Revival architecture. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is another site worth checking out. This 76-foot landmark was erected in 1868 to illuminate the way for vessels navigating the choppy waters of the Strawberry Channel.


Families come together to play on the sandy beach on shoreline of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Shoreline of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The Freshwater Surf Capital of the World, popularly known among the locals, offers some of the best waves on the Great Lakes. The bustling town of Sheboygan is riddled with scenic park spaces, providing nature enthusiasts with multiple opportunities to explore its lovely outdoors. At Kohler-Andrae State Park, you can enjoy sandy stretches on the shores of Lake Michigan, with the chance to sunbathe while soaking in the breathtaking views of the water. For the ultimate outdoor experience, you can take advantage of at least 130 camping sites spread around the park.

More outdoor pursuits await adventurers at the 135-acre Maywood Park, a popular winter hub for hikers and skiers. For historians, Lottie Cooper features relics of a 19th-century vessel that capsized in the water and is a stark reminder of the town's seafaring legacy. But suppose you want a deep dive into Sheboygan's storied past. In that case, you can tour the Sheboygan County Historical Museum to browse more than 30,000 artifacts from different periods in the town's history.


The Thirsty Whale in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
The Thirsty Whale in Minocqua, Wisconsin. Image credit Jason Patrick Ross via

There are about 45 lakes in Minocqua, making it one of the best getaways for travelers who fancy fun water-based activities. This charming Oneida County town excites visitors during the winter and summer thanks to its diverse attractions. During the cold season, skiers, hikers, snowtubers, and snowboarders gather at the Minocqua Winter Park to make the most of its powdery slopes. But the best experiences in the town come during summer. One of the best venues to visit is the Min-Aqua Bats Water Ski Shows, a thrilling stunt performance that has drawn locals since 1950.

Those looking for a thrill will prefer visiting Northwoods Zipline Adventure Tours, home to 13 ziplines that take you on a breathtaking ride above the town's sparkling waters. Lastly, night owls can visit the Thirsty Whale to sample the local nightlife. This trendy restaurant has been around since the early 20th century and serves great food with refreshing cocktails in a friendly environment with gorgeous water views.

Chippewa Falls

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

If you are looking for the ultimate outdoor getaway, it does not get better than Chippewa Falls. This small town along the picturesque banks of the Chippewa River delights newcomers with its beautiful natural surroundings. It has a handful of exciting open spaces, highlighted by Lake Wissota State Park. The 1,000+-acre park harbors diverse opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, including biking, camping, horse riding, and hiking. Its proximity to the Chippewa River means there are quiet fishing spots or the opportunity to take to the water on a fun boating excursion.

Several scenic trails allow hikers to discover the beauty hidden in the town's backcountry. The Old Abe State Trail is an excellent option if you want to step outside. It stretches almost 20 miles, surrounded by lush vegetation. If you are visiting with family, you will love the atmosphere at Irvine Zoo Park, home to diverse exotic species from around the globe, including bison, cougars, bears, and tigers. It is a rare opportunity to get close to amazing creatures and allow the young ones to cozy up to barnyard animals at the petting zoo.

From sparkly lake and river waters to countless recreational opportunities and historical gems, the small towns in Wisconsin are an ideal destination for all types of travelers. They tell the story of the state's rich beginnings while introducing you to some of its best-hidden gems, promising a memorable and satisfying vacation experience.

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