Family Vacations in Wisconsin


The picturesque sandstone cliffs of the Wisconsin Dells summon travelers from across the country.

Gracefully skirting Lake Michigan and boasting more than just cheese, Wisconsin is a family vacation destination with a lot to offer. Steeped in rich Native American heritage, Wisconsin has many sleepy beach towns perfect for a relaxing break, as well as modern, big-city enjoyments for the whole family.

Learn more about some of the many Wisconsin vacation attractions below. From the wet-and-wild thrills of the famous Wisconsin Dells to the behind-the-scenes look at the Jelly Belly factory, Wisconsin is a prime vacation spot for young and old alike.

The Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells, a nationally famous collection of nearly two dozen water parks, continue to lure families year after year. And while the area is considered "the water park capital of the world," it also boasts majestic sandstone cliff tours, fine dining and luxury hotel accommodations. Add in some magic shows, museums, arcades and other "dry fun" attractions, and the Dells should find a spot on anyone's itinerary year-round.

The Jelly Belly Factory Tour

The Jelly Belly Factory Tour allows visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this popular candy. With tours of the factory floor, video presentations on the making of Jelly Belly beans, and a final stop at the taste-testing shop, this sweet vacation spot is a must-see (and must-taste) while visiting Wisconsin.

Door County

Door Country, the long, finger-shaped peninsula separating Lake Michigan from Green Bay, is known for its picturesque towns, relaxing beaches and scenic farmland. Rich with Scandinavian heritage and culture, this quiet vacation spot is perfect for the vacationing family looking to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Lambeau Field

Lambeau Field is one of those magical stadiums where the game experience evokes a rich past. The history of the stadium begins with Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Packers from 1958 to 1967.

Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion

Pabst Mansion is called "the Finest Flemish Renaissance Revival Mansion in America." With 37 rooms, 12 baths and 14 fireplaces, the mansion lives up to its name.

Taliesin

Taliesin, a National Historic Landmark, offers tours featuring many structures Frank Lloyd Wright built on the 600-acre estate: the Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower, Hillside Home School, Tan-y-deri and Midway Barns.

Apostle Island National Lakeshore

A nature lovers paradise, the 21 islands of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore dot the coast of northern Wisconsin just off Bayfield Peninsula. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy everything from hiking to fishing and animal watching.

Milwaukee Art Museum

When you think of Milwaukee, beer, bratwurst and Milwaukee Brewers baseball come to mind. But while some weren't looking, Milwaukee turned into a sophisticated city with an amazing, world-class art museum. See works by Degas, Homer, Monet, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Rodin, Toulouse-Latrec and Warhol.

Continue on to the next page to learn about the summertime thrills and year-round beauty of the scenic Wisconsin Dells.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations: Wisconsin Dells

Photo courtesy of Noah's Ark Waterpark. Enthusiastic thrill-seekers take the plunge at Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells.

Nearly two-dozen water parks lure families to the Wisconsin Dells year-round: It's considered to be the water park capital of the world. Many of them are themed -- pirates, King Arthur, the lost world of Atlantis -- and each one tries to outdo its neighbor with more lavish rides, bigger splash-and-play pools, and longer and faster waterslides.

The Dells was a popular family vacation spot long before the first water park opened its gates. Visitors first came to take boat tours through the unusual sandstone cliffs along the Wisconsin River. In the mid-1950s, "Ducks" -- World War II water/land vehicles once used for beach invasions -- were introduced to the Dells and used for tours. A flashy water-ski show also debuted. Both the Duck tours and the water show are still popular today, but the water parks are the area's biggest draw year-round.

In the summer the behemoth Noah's Ark is open to everyone. It is a Dells landmark and offers 70 acres of wave pools, waterslides, lazy rivers, and children's play areas. Its popular Dark Voyage ride speeds four-person rafts through 600 feet of total darkness.

While some of the water parks allow only guests of their affiliated hotel, most, including the enormous African-themed Kalahari, offer day passes for non-guests. The hotel features an indoor water park under a massive glass roof, where families can slide and splash on even the frostiest of days. One of its most popular rides, the Tanzania Twister (nicknamed the Toilet Bowl), swishes riders around a giant funnel at dizzying speeds and then "flushes" them into a pool. The resort's signature attraction is the Botswana Blast, a water coaster that shoots riders uphill using strategically placed water jets.

The Wilderness Resort is another indoor giant, with 160,000 square feet of rides and slides. Its most popular attractions include Fantastic Voyage, a fast 500 foot long, five-person raft ride.

The southwestern desert-themed Chula Vista Resort has both indoor and outdoor water parks built around its hotel.

Feeling a little waterlogged? Check out Tommy Bartlett's Ski, Sky, Stage Show and watch the incredible feats of daredevil skiers, contortionists, and aerial performers, as well as a laser light show. Ready for some sleight of hand? Head to It's Magic. You can visit Robot World, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, or the Circus World Museum in nearby Baraboo. Visitors can also choose among plenty of other attractions, such as train rides, horseback riding, miniature golf, go-carts, and countless flashy, fun arcades.

Wisconsin Dells Information

Phone: 800/223-3557

Continue to the next page for information about a sweet behind-the-scenes look at one of America's favorite candies at the Jelly Belly Factory Tour.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations: Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour

Photo courtesy of the Jelly Belly Candy                                  Company/Ron Kuenstler                                                  Guests climb aboard the Jelly Belly                                                  Express for a VIP tour of the factory.
Photo courtesy of the Jelly Belly Candy Company/Ron Kuenstler Guests climb aboard the Jelly Belly Express for a VIP tour of the factory.

The Jelly Belly tasting bar is definitely the highlight of this sweet-smelling, family-oriented factory tour, which offers visitors samples of any of the 100 candies this Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, company makes, including 75 flavors of Jelly Bellies. Tours begin at Jelly Belly Junction, where visitors hop on the Jelly Belly Express train for a narrated tour through this large warehouse and distribution center. The train passes under colorful six-foot-long jelly beans suspended from the ceiling in Candy Alley and past a dancing chorus line of Jelly Belly characters.

As the train makes its way through the facility, it stops at various stations with large video screens showing how the company makes its famous jelly beans, candy corn, taffy, and gummies. The tour ends in the taste-testing shop, where all kinds of Jelly Bellies and other candy are sold. The shop also sells Belly Flops, which are jelly beans that have not made the cut because they're slightly imperfect in shape.

Jelly Belly Candy Co. Tour Center Information

Address: 10100 Jelly Belly Lane

Pleasant Prairie, WI

Phone: 866/TOUR-JBC

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., daily

Check out the next page for information about a relaxing waterfront vacation in Wisconsin's Door County.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations: Door County

Nestled between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, Door County offers beaches, boating, and peaceful towns.

The long, finger-shape peninsula that separates the main body of Lake Michigan from the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is called Door County. It is known for its quiet beaches, picturesque towns, and scenic farms. Scandinavians settled here in the 1850s, and their influence is evident in the delicious food specialties offered throughout the region, such as Icelandic pancakes with lingonberry syrup, and skorpa, a sweetly spiced Swedish toast.

Kids will love exploring Door County's expansive shoreline and its historic lighthouses. If they grow tired of its beautiful beaches, they can travel its many bike paths or pick in-season produce at various fruit farms.

Fish boils are a tradition you won't want to miss: They date back to the time Door County was populated by settlers and lumberjacks. Today's fish boils consist of fresh whitefish steaks cooked with onions and potatoes in a huge pot over an open fire. The dramatic flare-up, or "overboil," is a sure sign that dinner is ready.

Door County

Address: Door County Visitor Bureau, 1015 Green Bay Rd., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Phone: 920/743-4456, 800/52-RELAX

Nothing is more Wisconsin than a Green Bay Packers fan; continue to the next page to learn about "The Lambeau Field experience."

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Wisconsin: Lambeau Field

Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau Packers fans pack into this open-air stadium on the coldest days to cheer their team.

"The Lambeau Field experience" is common knowledge to the citizens of the football-delirious city of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lambeau Field is one of those magical stadiums where the game experience evokes a rich past. The history of the stadium begins with Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Packers from 1958 to 1967. He was the first to coach the team in the new stadium and was known for sayings like, "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?" and "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

Lambeau Field was built in 1957 for less than one million dollars and was named in 1965 for the Packers' great first coach, Earl L. "Curly" Lambeau after his death. The stadium was renovated in 2003, but that hasn't diluted the Lambeau Field magic. It seats more than 72,000 people. It has been continuously occupied longer than any other stadium in the National Football League, and it seems to give the Packers a huge home-field advantage. Insiders say Lambeau Field also has the NFL's nicest fans. Stop by and see if they're right -- and don't forget to wear the traditional gear: a large cheese-shape hat!

Lambeau Field Information

Address: 1265 Lombardi Ave

Green Bay, WI

Telephone: 920/569-7500

Hours of Operation: Tour hours vary

Continue to the next page for details about touring Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion -- "the Finest Flemish Renaissance Revival Mansion in America."

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Wisconsin: Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion

In 1889, Milwaukee architect George Bowman Ferry was commissioned to design the Pabst Mansion.

The front of the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee is a looming gate reminiscent of a Renaissance fort. The heavy, square architecture was patterned after the 16th-century palaces and fortresses in Flanders, Belgium. Today, Pabst Mansion is called "the Finest Flemish Renaissance Revival Mansion in America." The magnificent mansion was the 1892 creation of the prolific Frederick Pabst, whose many titles during his lifetime included sea captain, beer baron, real estate mogul, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. Not only does the architecture harken back to the Renaissance, the custom furniture and art do, too.

In 2005, 11 paintings that had been part of Pabst's original collection were repurchased and returned to the property. With 37 rooms, 12 baths, and 14 fireplaces, the mansion lives up to its name. In its time, the house was a hi-tech marvel featuring electricity, plumbing for 9 bathrooms, and 16 thermostats. The foyer and massive wood-carved Grand Stair Hall are breathtaking.

Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion Information

Address: 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave

Milwaukee, WI

Telephone: 414/931-0808

Hours of Operation:

  • 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mon. - Sat.
  • 12 p.m. - 4 p.m., Sun.
  • Mid Jan. - Feb., Closed Mon.

Admission: $8 adults; $4 kids

Continue to the next page for details about touring Frank Lloyd Wright's 600-acre estate, Taliesin -- a national historic landmark.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Chicago City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Chicago.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Wisconsin: Taliesin

©Steve Minor Taliesin was the start of many experimental ideas that characterized Frank Lloyd Wright's designs.

Taliesin is regarded as a prime example of Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture. The house is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin, an hour's drive from Madison. Construction began in 1911, but the project was soon wracked by nightmarish conflicts. In 1914, while Wright was away, a servant murdered seven people, including Wright's mistress, with an ax and set fire to Taliesin. Much of the building was destroyed.

Wright fought through his agony and rebuilt the residential wing of the home, naming it Taliesin II. But this wing was again consumed by fire in 1925. The home visitors enjoy today is Taliesin III, which Wright tinkered with until his death in 1959. Wright built the house in the valley settled by his Welsh ancestors and named it after the Welsh bard Taliesin. The house was originally constructed with local limestone, plaster made from sand gathered along the Wisconsin River, cedar and glass. Wright's technique of building the house from native limestone made it look organic, as though the house was part of the hill on which it was built.

In 1976, Taliesin was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Today, tours of Taliesin begin at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, the only Wright-designed freestanding restaurant. On the tour, you'll see many structures Wright built on the 600-acre estate: the Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower, Hillside Home School, Tan-y-deri, and Midway Barns.

Taliesin Information

Address: Lloyd Wright Visitor Center

Hwy. 23 and Cty Rd. C, Spring Green, WI

Telephone: 608/588-7900, 877/588-7900

Hours of Operation: May - Oct., 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., daily

Admission: Cost varies by tour

Continue to the next page for details on fun-filled family vacations in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Wisconsin: Apostle Island National Lakeshore

The cool blue waters of Lake Superior lap at the sandstone rocks along the shores of the Apostle Islands.

The 21 islands of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore dot the coast of northern Wisconsin just off Bayfield Peninsula. The popular Madeline Island is the largest of the group and the only one that permits commercial growth. Nesting bald eagles at Bay State Park are this island's main attraction. Winter brings cross-country skiers and ice fishers to the islands. During warmer weather, visitors enjoy hiking, picnicking, scuba diving, swimming, sportfishing, hunting, excursion cruises, kayaking, camping and sailing.

Once past Madeline Island, take in the beauty of the sandscapes, sea caves and waterfalls of the lakeshore. There are woods of hemlock, white pine, and northern hardwood and pristine old-growth forests on Devils, Raspberry, Outer and Sand islands. Deer and beavers are common on the islands, as are black bears, mink, muskrat, otters, red foxes and snowshoe hares.

Fishing has become a favorite pastime, too, with the successful restoration of lake trout. Lake sturgeon, brook trout, lake whitefish, northern pike, smallmouth bass and many other types of fish are found in these serene waters.

Apostle Island National Lakeshore Information

Address: 415 Washington Ave., Bayfield, WI

Telephone: 715/779-3397

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Continue to the next page for details about family vacations in Milwaukee and world-class Milwaukee Art Museum.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum

© Milwaukee Art Museum/Tim Hursley The Milwaukee Art Museum in downtown Milwaukee overlooks Lake Michigan.

When you think of Milwaukee, beer, bratwurst, and Milwaukee Brewers baseball come to mind. But while some weren't looking, Milwaukee turned into a sophisticated city with an amazing, world-class art museum. In 1957, the Milwaukee Art Center opened its Eero Saarinen Building, named after the architect who designed it (he is also the acclaimed architect of the St. Louis Gateway Arch). The building itself is a work of art. It has a floating cruciform shape with four large wings that cantilever in space. The striking building has set the stage for the growth of the museum. It hosts a masterful collection of more than 20,000 works from ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces.

Works by Degas, Homer, Monet, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Rodin, Toulouse-Latrec, and Warhol are just some of the treasures. In 2001, the Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was added to the building. The prominent pavilion has attracted attention worldwide, and no wonder: It has a light, lacy facade that curves like a sail, despite being built from 20,000 cubic yards of concrete. The addition features a 90-foot-high reception hall enclosed by the Burke Brise Soleil, a sunscreen that can be raised or lowered, making it a moving sculpture. The pavilion expanded gallery space by almost a third.

Milwaukee Art Museum Information

Address: 700 N. Art Museum Dr

Milwaukee, WI

Telephone: 414/224-3200

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wed. - Mon., and until 8 p.m., Tue.

Admission: $8 adults; kids free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Chicago City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Chicago.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.