Wisconsin in winter is truly magical.
A Wisconsin Winter offers a world of possibilities for activities that will appeal to everyone in the family, regardless of interests. From the quiet stillness of the northern woods to the lakeshores of Madison and Milwaukee, there is so much to do and see across the Badger State. Here are just a few of the Wisconsin winter activities that we think every family should add to their bucket list.
*Keep in mind that many winter activities are weather dependent. Be sure to consider factors like snowfall and temperatures and check in advance.
Lake Geneva Ice Castles
One of the most unique and truly magical winter attractions in the entire state of Wisconsin, the Lake Geneva Ice Castles are a can’t miss activity. For six years and counting, the award-winning frozen attraction is built using hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by professional ice artists. The castles include breathtaking LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains and much more. Each year, they add new features to keep improving the experience. Ice Castles are very dependent on weather, so be sure to check the website for the opening timeline and ticket info each year.
Devil’s Lake State Park
Hop in the car for a drive just an hour north of Madison to Devil’s Lake State Park to experience some of the most beautiful winter hikes and views the state has to offer. Famous in the summer for swimming, water crafts, and hiking, the park takes on a whole new vibe in the winter when the lake freezes over. If you’ve been considering snowshoeing, this is a must-visit!
Eagle-Watching in Sauk Prairie
Sister cities Sauk City and Prairie du Sac are one of the best places in the state to get gorgeous glimpses of bald eagles. When the Wisconsin River freezes, the beautiful birds gather to go fishing and spend time perched in the tall trees on the mid-river islands. Each January, the city hosts Bald Eagle Watching Days, where folks come from far and wide to watch the birds and learn from local eagle experts. PRO TIP: Devil’s Lake is just a short drive from Sauk Prairie so you could easily visit both in a weekend!
Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls
The shorelines of Wisconsin are beautiful year round, but the ice caves and frozen waterfalls that form when the temperature drops in the winter are something truly incredible. In particular, the cliffs of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Bayfield freeze over to create stunning ice caves and formations. Make sure to check conditions in advance to make sure that the ice is safe to visit.
Ice Skating at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee
If you’ve ever dreamed of ice skating at Rockefeller Center in NYC, but want to get those same vibes a little closer to home, simply head to downtown Milwaukee to lace up your skates and take a turn around the rink at Red Arrow Park. If you bring your own ice skates, you can skate for FREE! Skate rentals are available and you can even step inside the warming house for a cup of cocoa when you’re ready to thaw out.
The Rock Snowpark
Snow enthusiasts will love this winter funland in Franklin, Wisconsin. The Rock Snowpark offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing all in one convenient location. There are plenty of hills and areas for little learners or for grown-ups with less of an adventurous streak. Lessons are also available.
Winter in Door County
Door County is a famous summer tourism destination, but there is plenty to do up in the “thumb” of Wisconsin in the winter months too, whether you are looking to bust out the skis and snowshoes or if you are more in the mood to curl up by a cozy fire. Hike the Ice Age Trail, venture onto a frozen lake for some ice fishing, go ice skating at the Teresa K. Highlander Ice Rink in Sister Bay or maybe even give broomball a try. Take the Polar Bear Plunge in January. Enjoy the Fish Creek Winter Festival or the Sturgeon Bay Fire & Ice Festival in February. Door County offers so much fun in the winter!
Wisconsin Winter Festivals
Across the state, local communities embrace the chill of the season with local outdoor family-friendly festivals that invite people to get outside and enjoy a variety of activities. Activities offered include ice sculpting, fireworks, ice skating, curling, sled dog races, a chili cookoff, winter games, and so much more. Check out a few of our faves:
- Madison Winter Carnival: February 2 – 10, 2024. The annual celebration takes place at the Memorial Union, and includes both indoor and outdoor activities. Famous for the Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota.
- Waukesha Janboree: Annual, late January. A full week of fun including ice sculpting, a 5K run/walk, and much more.
- Cedarburg Winter Festival: February 17 – 18, 2024: A two-day festival at one of the cutest towns in Wisconsin! Enjoy ice carving contests, a bed race, a dog sled pull and a pancake breakfast!
Titletown in Green Bay
Built in the shadow of legendary Lambeau Field, Titletown is a paradise for families who like to enjoy playtime in a variety of ways. In the winter, Titletown transforms into a winter sports wonderland, offering a tubing hill and ice skating. Each February, Titletown hosts the Titletown Winter Games, a free event where community members can experience luge, curling, ski jumping, and more winter games.
Playing out in the snow and ice is all well and good for a while, but if you are looking to capture some summer vibes in the dead of winter, there is no better state to be in than Wisconsin. Everyone knows Wisconsin Dells is the “Waterpark Capital of the World” and there are several indoor waterparks to choose from to create memorable family fun. Looking to travel a little further and try something new? Check out Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Lake Geneva!