Fans of Wisconsin would tell you that there’s never a bad time to visit The Badger State. But, while it’s true that each season has its charms, you might want to coordinate your first trip to Wisconsin with the kinds of activities you’re looking to do there.
With diverse landscapes and travel attractions, things to do in Wisconsin range from summertime lake dips to snow sports in the winter. And then there are the entertainment options, culinary treats, and cultural spots that you can enjoy all year round.
So, what’s the best time to visit Wisconsin? Let’s take a look at some considerations when planning a trip there!
High Season: June to August
Wondering when to visit Wisconsin? For most people, the summer months offer the most in terms of weather, outdoor pursuits, and entertainment options.
Warm, sunny days are a precious commodity in Wisconsin. It makes sense, then, to enjoy them for the few months that they’re here. That said, no trip to Wisconsin is complete without a sudden change of temperature so you might want to pack some sweaters and jackets just in case!
During the high season, you can look forward to plenty of festivals. Highlights include low-key lakefront events in Milwaukee, Country Thunder in Twin Lakes, and Appleton’s Mile of Music. And then there’s Summerfest, Milwaukee’s massive multi-week music festival.
Of course, some of the best places in Wisconsin to visit during the summer are outdoors. From trekking the Ice Age Trail to strolling through the sunflowers at the Pope Farm Conservancy in Middleton, there’s no end to Wisconsin’s diverse natural beauty. Warmer weather also makes it easier to explore the sea caves of the Apostle Islands or go tubing on the Sugar River.
One downside of coming during the summer season is that the prices can be a little higher than during the rest of the year. Despite this, Wisconsin is very affordable, even when staying in bigger cities such as Milwaukee and Madison.
Shoulder Season: March to May and September to November
Whether you’re put off by the summer crowds or just prefer the cooler weather, spring and fall have a lot to offer in Wisconsin.
For those of you keen on catching a seriously cool display of fall foliage, Wisconsin is an ideal destination. After all, nearly half of the state is covered in trees! The best places in Wisconsin to catch the leaves changing color are the Seven Bridges Trail, Lake Geneva, and Door County, while the perfect time is from late September to early October.
April blooms with life all across Wisconsin, with daffodils, tulips, and lilacs popping up in cities and countryside areas as far as the eye can see. And by May, it’s fairly safe to assume that Wisconsin has seen the last of the snow for a few months at least.
As you might expect for a state where the average winter temperature dips as low as -40°F, March and November can get quite cold though. That said, these months do tend to be drier than the rest of the spring and fall, so they’re great for exploring outdoor trails. And then there’s the St. Patrick’s day parade to enjoy in March, as well as Milwaukee’s Oktoberfest, and the Holiday Folk Fair International in November.
And, if it does rain during your trip to Wisconsin, there are still plenty of things to do. For families, the Parthenon Indoor Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells is a big draw, as is the Urban Air Adventure Park in Madison. And art-lovers are sure to adore the Milwaukee Art Museum. As for restaurants, cities such as Milwaukee and Madison have a range of culinary options. But, if you want a true taste of Wisconsin, be sure to try local dishes such as frozen custard, cheese curds, bratwurst, and booyah stew.
Low Season: December to February
The weather might be freezing in winter but Wisconsin still has plenty to offer visitors looking for family vacation ideas during the low season. You’ll also have your pick of vacation rentals, with cozy countryside cabins offering a winter wonderland experience for visitors from warmer climes.
Toward the end of November, Wisconsin likes to get in the Christmas spirit. This means that the festivities are well underway by the time December rolls around. Expect holiday markets galore in cities such as Madison and Milwaukee as well as Country Christmas, the state’s largest drive-through display of holiday lights. You’ll also find ice skating rinks in the cities for all the family to enjoy, as well as plenty of places selling hot chocolate, hot cider, and glühwein to ward off the cold.
Keen to explore Wisconsin’s natural playground in winter? The lack of foliage means you’ll see farther into the woods for a different and often solitary view of Wisconsin’s many forests. Although, you’ll want to pack the right gear for your winter trip to Wisconsin.
There are also lots of unique ways to enjoy winter in Wisconsin. Take your pick from snow tubing at Cascade, snow-trekking through the Nine Miles Forest, and winter surfing. Or, if an icy dip in Lake Michigan to ring in the new year sounds like fun, you might even want to try the Polar Bear Plunge!
The Best Time to Visit Wisconsin
As this guide shows, the best time to visit Wisconsin depends a lot on what you want from your trip.
Most people would agree that the summer season brings better weather, crowd-drawing festivals, and more choice of outdoor activities in nature. But then, in spring and fall, you can enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons without the crowds or the higher prices. Even the cold Wisconsin winters can be a draw for some tourists, especially those looking for snowy activities, festive events, and cozy cabin stays.
In short, it’s always a good time to plan a trip to Wisconsin!
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