Fun things to do in Wisconsin! That’s the theme of our family vacation plan. Summer vacation starts in exactly one month, and last night my children listed all the fun places they’ve been in Wisconsin and want to return to.
Here’s their list of Wisconsin tourist sites with activities fun for kids. The list is extensive and has us spending at least a month on the road. We’d start in Madison, Wisconsin, head east through Milwaukee, up to Door County, then into Wisconsin’s northwoods, over to Madeline Island and Lake Superior, and return home through the western side of Wisconsin, visiting the Mississippi River. I could have gotten tired just listening to their plans, but instead I focused my energy on baking the banana sour cream coffee cake recipe I found in the Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association cookbook: Morning Menus Inn Style. Keep reading for the children’s list (with some favorite places added by me) and the coffee cake recipe.
First the children want to return to Old World Wisconsin. It’s off Interstate 94 between Madison and Milwaukee. My 10 year-old and 7 year-old love running through the countryside visiting the 18th and 19th century period homes and farms of this re-created village. Docents dressed in period garb explain the work and life of Wisconsin’s early settlers and the children get to try different historic activities. Lots of fun for kids!
Then they want to drive to Green Bay in the hopes that Thomas the Train will be there. Several years ago we road Thomas during his brief Green Bay visit. All different trains were there as well for the children to investigate. Although my children are too old for Thomas now, they had such fun on that get-away-weekend that they want to return. I don’t know if Thomas will be in Green Bay this summer, to find out I’d have to check his itinerary. Of course, we’d also visited Lambeau Field – home of the Green Bay Packers, – while in Green Bay. The kids really liked their hamburgers in the sports bar.
We all want to continue driving north to Door County. The kids want to go swimming and do the many kid activities that Door County tourist attractions offer. I want to stock up on Door County cherries, coffee, and gourmet chocolates.
From Door County we’ll head west and north to visit the beautiful Rhinelander area. This northwoods scenery is Wisconsin’s finest. The lakes and pines say “relax”. The kids want to run wild, and in Wisconsin’s northwoods they can.
From there we’d travel along the southern shore of Lake Superior. We’ve talked about camping in the Porcupine Mountains. I’d like to visit Bay Field and Madeline Island again. These small towns have beautiful scenery, fun places for hiking and boating, great food, great music, and offer lots of family things to do. My kids haven’t been there but I’m sure they’ll like it.
Since we’ll have gone about as far north in Wisconsin as possible it will be time to turn south and homeward. We’ll travel through Wisconsin’s maple syrup woods, and it’s prime cranberry country. We’ll have to stop in Osseo, Wisconsin for pie at the Norske Nook Diner.
We could head further west over to the Mississippi River. We love hiking in Wayalusing State Park outside of Prairie du Chien. But by this leg of the trip, I might be pretty tired. I’m sure I can convince my children to veer away from the Mississippi River with promises of boat rides at the Wisconsin Dells. My daughter loves the Mt. Olympus water park there. The Wisconsin Dells offers so many theme parks that a family is sure to find lots of fun things to do.
One of my favorite Wisconsin State Parks is Devil’s Lake Park outside Baraboo. Every summer we go hiking, swimming and picnicking there.
In the town of Baraboo is Circus World, – home of the Ringling Brothers Circus. This is a great place to take children and is fascinating for adults because Circus World is also a museum with exhibits showing the history of American circuses and behind-the-scenes views of life in a 19th and 20th century circus. Performers give demonstrations of how they learn and do their acts. And twice daily, they put on a terrific circus for visitors. Great family fun!
After all this touring, we’ll be ready to return home. The banana sour cream coffee cake will have been long gone and I’ll have to bake some more. Here’s the coffee cake recipe contributed by the Westby House Victorian Inn to the Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association’s cookbook: Morning Menus Inn Style.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup mashed bananas
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Filling and topping:
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 large and 1 small mixing bowl
- 1 bundt or tube pan
- Baking time: 35-40 minutes
- Baking temperature: 350 degrees
In a large bowl beat butter until light. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas, vanilla, and sour cream. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Fold into creamed mixture, stirring just to blend. For topping and filling, combine ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the mixture over bottom of well-greased bundt or tube pan. Spoon half the batter, sprinkle remaining nut mixture over batter and cover with remaining batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until done. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before inverting. Makes 1 bundt pan.
For more information about fun things to do with kids in Wisconsin, check out these travel guides.