View of the busy downtown area of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Best Small Towns for a Weekend Escape

Wisconsin is often associated with cheese curds and dairy since it produces a whopping 26% of America's cheese. But scratch beneath the surface, and you'll find a state brimming with natural beauty. With over 15,000 lakes, idyllic waterfronts, and massive forests, there are endless opportunities to explore and get lost in natural and historic landmarks. In this article, we will delve into the top 10 Wisconsin towns for a weekend getaway.


Harbor in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Harbor in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Starting off the list is the tranquil small town of Bayfield. Despite boasting the smallest population in the state, Bayfield features three museums, six art galleries, and prominent festivals that draw thousands of visitors. To kick off your trip, uncover the hidden treasures at the Bayfield Maritime Museum, which conserves and showcases a wide variety of artifacts about the history of those who lived in the area and how they earned their livelihood through commercial fishing in the vast waters of Lake Superior. The best part? The establishment generously charges nothing to attend, as admission is free.

And since Bayfield is near 22 coastal islands, hop on the Apostle Islands Cruises to sail out and witness the Badger State's "Crown Jewels." The 55-mile tour enables you to observe majestic sea caves formed over the course of billions of years, historic lighthouses, and awe-inspiring cliffs. While Bayfield is home to numerous top-notch hotels, Bayfield on the Lake is particularly popular since it provides stunning views of the lake; the three-star hotel also features free parking, free wi-fi, and units with private balconies to enjoy exclusive views.

Wisconsin Dells

People enjoy summer fun at the Lost City of Atlantis water slides at Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells
People enjoy summer fun at the Lost City of Atlantis water slides at Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells

This town is nicknamed the "Waterpark Capital of the World" and is home to several water parks such as Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park Resort, Land of Natura, and Noah's Ark Waterpark, the largest in the nation. The latter sits in a vast area and features a roster of 51 heart-pounding water slides to experience. This town also takes full advantage of its location on the banks of the Wisconsin River by creating a vibrant commercial district, with a few noteworthy establishments worth exploring such as Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, Jose's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, and The Boathouse, the city's finest luxury restaurant serving mouth-watering locally inspired dishes, with screensaver-worthy views of Wisonsin's untamed wilderness—all from the comfort of your seat. To crash for the night, consider choosing White Rose Inn & Motel, a two-star Victorian-style hotel with an outdoor pool, several room amenities, and a beautiful river view.

Lake Mills

Franklin Else Bandstand in Commons Park, Downtown Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Franklin Else Bandstand in Commons Park, Downtown Lake Mills, Wisconsin, By Eli Wedel - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lake Mills is the perfect small town to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get away for the weekend. For starters, it borders Rock Lake, home to mysterious and spooky folklore about pyramids. The scenic lake is perfect for kayaking and fishing, or simply spectating at one of several beaches including Sandy Beach and Bartel's Beach. In addition, Lake Mills is just 2.5 miles away from the Sandhill Station Campground, a tranquil campsite surrounded by forests and trails near Mud Lake Fen & Wet Prairie State Natural Area. Finally, to cap off your getaway, consider a stop at the Aztalan Museum, a budget-friendly establishment that showcases Indigenous history through artifacts, exhibitions, and annual events, such as Aztalan Day, where patrons can partake in live demonstrations of crafts, alongside a plethora of other fun activities. For your accommodation needs, Fargo Mansion Inn and Econo Lodge are excellent choices for a good night's sleep.


Aerial view of downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
Aerial view of downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Love the outdoors? Cedarburg has you covered. This town's name suggests a connection to its natural heritage, as the abundance of trees in the landscape is believed to be the reason behind its name. Begin your trip with a visit to the Cedarburg Art Museum, a Disney-like building where art, history, and imagination come together to bring you a captivating exhibition. The museum features monthly events, such as "Royal Afternoon Tea" and "Sip & Paint," where patrons can enjoy complimentary drinks while drawing. Another notable attraction in the area is the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a family-friendly preserve where you can bike, walk, or jog across wetlands and farms. Furthermore, it's free for use and is available year-round. To stay the night, consider a stop at the Comfort Inn & Suites, where you can unwind in an indoor swimming pool and enjoy free breakfast.

Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin.
Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin.

Sturgeon Bay is a famous tourist city with exciting expeditions, gorgeous waterfronts, and countless attractions. Among many places to seek out, Cave Point County Park is a notable point of interest as this natural wonder consists of stunning bluffs and cliffs, offering a premier view of Lake Michigan. The park attracts adventurers from all communities, especially hikers, kayak enthusiasts, and experienced scuba divers. Not too far away lies the Door County Maritime Museum, a luminous port brimming with different colors day and night. The waterfront museum features interactive tours and exhibitions and is open from Thursdays to Mondays, inviting tourists of all stripes to come through its doors and learn the area's rich history.

Lastly, for a more gentle quest, traverse the Ida Bay Preserve, a 200-acre park suitable for bird-watching, hiking, or simply trekking the land for fresh air. The park also hosts monthly events such as the Nighttime Bat Hike, a guided tour that allows you to explore the forest with like-minded people eager to search for wild bats that live the park. To recharge for the night, catch a cozy sleep in the comfortable and relaxing Quality Inn & Suites and Super 8 by Wyndham Sturgeon Bay, both of which offer excellent below-market rates.

La Crosse

The Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse, Wisconsin
The Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Are you looking to unleash your creative side? Look no further than La Crosse! Home to over 30 thriving arts organizations, one of which is the esteemed Pump House Regional Arts Center. The establishment opened 47 years ago but is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you can enjoy various fun activities like juggling workshops, open studios, and clay classes. Not too far away, Riverside Park allows for a scenic vista of the Mississippi River amidst a rejuvenating walk or run. The park also hosts a plethora of events every month, such as the Great River Folk Festival, Moon Tunes, Oktoberfest, and Rotary Lights. For aerial enthusiasts seeking panorama views, ascend the legendary Grandad Bluff to witness an extraordinary view of the Mississippi River Valley and its pristine wilderness. La Crosse is home to several lodges, but Quality Inn and Baymont by Wyndham La Crosse/Onalaska offer attractive rates and many amenities to suit your needs.


A group of tourists enter Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor in Door County, Wisconsin on a hot summer day.
A group of tourists enters Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim, Wisconsin, on a hot summer day, via nwinter/

Ephraim is a small coastal town with a shoreline fit for a travel pamphlet. This town is near the beautiful Peninsula State Park, also known as "Wisconsin's most complete park." The 38-acre peninsula is home to more than 460 campsites, a giant golf course, and the well-known Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, which now operates as a museum. Back in town, Ephraim has many treasured shops, including Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor, The Old Post Office Restaurant, and the Sunset Harbor Grill, where foodies can eat mouth-watering meals while simultaneously gazing at the Green Bay waters. For your stay arrangements, Edgewater Resort and Pioneer Acres Cottages offer affordable rates, with the latter being in the middle of the woods, ensuring you enjoy a peaceful night to recharge for your adventure the next day.

Mineral Point

Buildings along 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 humble beginning goes back to 1827 when it was mined for lead and zinc by Cornish immigrants. Much of this history can be investigated today, thanks to the town's proactive effort to maintain it through several historic buildings and museums, including the Mineral Point Railroad Museum, Orchard Lawn, and Pendarvis. This miniature city is also renowned for its art scene, hosting more than 10 art galleries, ranging from modern style and ceramic. The Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts is especially notable, as the nonprofit center hosts workshops, youth programs, and a wide array of events throughout the year to provide local and visiting artists the space they need to let their creativity out. For a night's rest, Quality Inn offers rooms for under $130 (prices as of now), a swimming pool, complimentary breakfast, and free parking.

Spring Green

A view of Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin
A view of Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Juli Hansen /

The history of Spring Green's name is debated, but it's believed it originated from Mrs. Williams, a former school teacher and resident who was inspired by the green landscape she observed from her house. To see what Mrs. Williams may have seen, visit the Spring Green Preserve, also referred to as the "Wisonsin Desert," and see the natural landscape and its many habitats for yourself. The area is also close to vistas overlooking the landscape and pear cactuses nestled among the prairie. Spring Green also features the Spring Green Dog Park and Peck's Landing, a perfect setting to capture mesmerizing sunsets by the Wisconsin River. For your overnight stay, the three-star Wisconsin Riverside Resort, Inc. offers cozy cabins, a swimming pool with a splash pad, and a patio to kick back and take in the beauty of the river.


Southern town square
Southern town square in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, By I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the following license: - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Last but certainly not least is Elkhorn, a conveniently close getaway if you live in the Milwaukee area due to its proximity. To start your trip, tour the Webster House Museum, a prominent attraction that maintains the history of Walworth County and the state of Wisconsin. Here, you can explore various exhibits, including the Genealogy Center, Veterans Museum, and the Doris M. Reinje Research Center, home to rare books, manuscripts, and photographs. Elkhorn is also home to an antique store where you can find hidden gems and multiple eateries to serve your taste buds. Just a short 15-minute away from town is the Alpine Valley Resort, which offers skiing in the winter and mountain biking, among other activities in the summer. Catch a rejuvenating sleep at the AmericInn by Wyndham Elkhorn Near Lake Geneva and Thomas Motel, both of which offer budget-friendly deals and comfortable amenities.

In summary, these Wisconsin towns offer a variety of experiences for a weekend getaway with your loved ones. From the tranquil waterfront views in Bayfield to the outdoor adventures in Cedarburg and Wisconsin Dells, there's something every traveler can appreciate in the Badger State while enjoying the serenity weekends bring.

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