Wisconsin is also known as “America’s Dairyland” and is a scenic state in the Midwest. You will find cities in Wisconsin with a European flavour as immigrants from every corner of Europe settled the state. These migrants brought their passion for brewing beer and producing cheese to the streets of Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.
Wisconsin lies adjacent to Lake Michigan to the east, Lake Superior to the north and downtown Chicago to the southeast, providing the state with excellent outdoor attractions and easy access to one of the largest cities in America.
Whether you’re seeking to support your favourite sports team, tour some of the world’s biggest breweries, see where most of America’s cranberries are produced or relax in one of the nation’s biggest waterparks, you’ll have fun in the Badger State. These are the cities in Wisconsin to tick off your to-visit list.
- Cities in Wisconsin
Cities in Wisconsin
20 Wisconsin Cities To Visit
With a population of well over 570,000, Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city and the ideal place to kick-start your adventures in America’s Dairyland.
Milwaukee is one of the Midwest region’s most populated metros.
It is popular for its beer brewing scene, with dozens of multinational and small independent breweries dotted downtown.
The city is a treasure trove of preserved Victorian-era architecture, which makes it delightful to wander around.
It’s also a hub for motorcycle enthusiasts, with the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and the Harley-Davidson Museum both calling Milwaukee home.
Milwaukee’s must-see attractions include the Milwaukee Art Museum, American Family Field, the Pabst Mansion, the Fiserv Forum, and the Milwaukee River Walk.
This is one of the best cities in Wisconsin to visit if you’re looking for a busy time with lots to do.
- Milwaukee Tour
- Skip The Line: Harley-Davidson Museum Admission Ticket with Audio Guided Option
- Milwaukee walking tasting tour with Secret Food Tours
Madison, situated in south-central Wisconsin, is the Badger State’s official capital city and its second-largest metro.
It’s home to the historic campus of the University of Wisconsin and the Badger State’s premier public university.
The city was established by politician and land speculator James Duane Doty in 1836 and was named in honour of former President James Madison, who passed away earlier that same year.
Madison sits on an isthmus surrounded by five distinct lakes and is surrounded by stunning scenery.
This Wisconsin city has the most parks per capita of any of the United States’ top 100 largest cities.
Attractions include the Wisconsin State Capitol, Camp Randall Stadium, the Chazen Museum of Art and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.
Recommended tour: Downtown Madison E-Bike Guided Tour
3- Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells’ waterways and lovely landscape was discovered by European settlers during the 19th century.
The city was established by the Wisconsin Hydraulic Company in 1856 and is named after the impressive Dells found along the Wisconsin River, a series of gorges and deep canyons which can be found just north of the city’s downtown area.
If you’re visiting with kids, head to Noah’s Ark Water Park, one of the USA’s largest waterparks.
Recommended tour: Haunted History Trolley Tour in Wisconsin Dells
4- Green Bay
One of America’s most iconic sporting cities, Green Bay in Wisconsin’s picturesque northeast is most notable for its very successful NFL franchise, the Green Bay Packers, with nine NFL Championships and four Super Bowl victories.
Situated on the shores of northeast Wisconsin’s Green Bay, the city is more than just a sporting mecca, with attractions such as the Bay Beach Amusement Park, the Green Bay Botanical Garden and the National Railroad Museum.
Popular places include Lambeau Field, the Meyer Theatre and the Captain’s Walk Winery.
About halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, Kenosha is the Badger State’s fourth-largest city and a popular destination in the Midwest because of the city’s accessibility and central location.
Kenosha was originally inhabited by the Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Menominee Native American people before officially being settled by Europeans right around 1835.
The city spent much of its early existence as an important industrial hub in southeast Wisconsin.
Modern-day Kenosha has been gentrified and rejuvenated and is a far cry from its manufacturing past with attractions such as the Civil War Museum, Veterans Memorial Park and the annual Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Recommended tour: Green Bay Segway Tour with Private Tour Option
6- Eau Claire
Eau Claire, which translates to ‘clear water’ in French, is the Badger State’s eighth-largest city and is centrally located in western Wisconsin, roughly 92 miles (148 km) from downtown Minneapolis.
Eau Claire was first settled by Europeans in 1845, serving as an important logging hub for the growing region during the mid-to-late 19th century, with Eau Claire situated at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers.
There’s plenty for travellers to see, do and explore in and around the city, with some of Eau Claire’s most popular attractions being the Wisconsin Logging Museum, the Chippewa Valley Museum and the Children’s Museum Of Eau Claire.
- Historical Downtown Eau Claire: A Self-Guided Walking Tour
- Eau Claire Sports History: A Self-Guided Driving Tour
7- Lake Geneva
The picture-perfect city of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin’s southeast region is a favourite summertime vacation destination among city slickers seeking blissful lakeside recreation, with more than 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) of lakeshore at travellers’ disposal.
Lake Geneva lies 48 miles (77 km) southwest of downtown Milwaukee and 83 miles (134 km) northwest of downtown Chicago, placing it within a 90-minute drive from two of the Midwest’s biggest and most exciting cities.
The city was established sometime during the mid-1830s by land speculator John Brink, with Brink naming the city after Geneva, New York, since Brink believed the city bore a resemblance to it.
With a landscape of Victorian-style summer mansions built by Chicago’s 19th-century elite, Lake Geneva is one of Wisconsin’s most popular resort cities.
Check out the Geneva Lake Museum and the Big Foot Beach State Park for something to do.
On the shores of Lake Michigan, about 30 miles (48 km), south of downtown Milwaukee is the city of Racine, a charming coastal city with scenic lakeside views and budget-friendly attractions.
Racine is such a budget-friendly city that it was named “the most affordable place to live in the world” by the Demographia International Housing Affordability in 2017.
It’s a good alternative to exploring Milwaukee if you’re counting pennies.
The city’s unique attractions include Frank Lloyd Wright-designed architecture, the Wind Point Lighthouse and the Racine Art Museum.
Racine was where the first Little Golden Books were printed and Horlicks developed the world’s first malted milk balls, making it a destination that’ll transport you back to childhood.
Home to one of Main Street America’s “Top 20 Greatest American Streets” and one of its “Most Romantic Main Streets”, Beloit is a fascinating mid-sized city to visit in Wisconsin.
The city lies roughly 54 miles (87 km) south of downtown Madison and just 18 miles (29 km) north of Rockford, Illinois, making it easy to visit from Illinois.
Founded by Horace White and the New England Emigrating Company in 1836 when White came across the nearby Turtle Creek, Beloit is among the most historic and most populated cities in southern Wisconsin.
The Wright Museum of Art, the Logan Museum of Anthropology and the historic Beckman Mill are just some of the city’s most popular places to stop by.
Oshkosh is Wisconsin’s ninth-largest city and a must-visit destination for aviation enthusiasts who will love the EAA Aviation Museum and major airshow EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
This lovely city is on the shores of Lake Winnebago, the Badger State’s largest freshwater lake and the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
Oshkosh was first settled by fur traders in 1818 and was named after Chief Oskosh of the Menominee Nation, who inhabited the region before the city’s European-American establishment.
It’s home to a lively art scene, and the EAA Aviation Museum, the Paine Art Center and the Grand Opera House are unique venues to stop at in Oshkosh.
Recommended tour: Oshkosh Oh My Gosh Scavenger Hunt
11- La Crosse
La Crosse sits on the shores of the Mississippi and is the largest city on Wisconsin’s western border.
It’s only a stone’s throw away from the Minnesota state border.
Lt. Zebulon Pike was the first European to settle La Crosse in 1805, initially naming the city ‘Prairie La Crosse’ after watching Native American tribes playing a rudimentary version of the sport known today as lacrosse.
Bordering several lakes, waterways and the Mt. La Crosse Ski Area, this is a top city in Wisconsin to visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
It offers history, culture and beautiful landscapes in one convenient location.
A low-key city less than 22 miles (35 km) north of Milwaukee, the former mill town of Cedarburg was founded and settled mostly by German immigrants during the 19th century.
The city has over 200 historic buildings, many built by early German migrants, who brought with them their unique traditions and passion for beer brewing.
The brewing tradition has survived through time and today, you can enjoy it in modern-day Cedarburg.
Apart from regularly ranking among Wisconsin’s best places to live, Cedarburg is also home to an interesting and unique tourism scene, with museums, art galleries and Lake Michigan shoreline to explore.
Stop by Cedarburg’s Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, Rivoli Theatre and Cedarburg Cultural Center to dive into history and culture.
Known as “Arts Town, USA”, the city of Wausau in central Wisconsin is one of the most popular places for live entertainment, such as Broadway shows and public art exhibitions.
The city’s population is around 40,000 and is 97 miles (156 km) west of Green Bay, making Wausau a popular getaway for Wisconsinites living in the state’s east.
Wausau’s most visited attractions include the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, the Grand Theater and the Granite Peak Ski Area, which is fun for visitors of all ages.
Inhabited by large populations of Chippewa, Ottawa, Winnebago, Menominee and Potawatomi people before the region’s European settlement, Sheboygan is among Wisconsin’s east coast’s largest and most-visited cities.
Sheboygan is a popular spot for golfing and surfing and also offers excellent deep-water fishing and sailing on Lake Michigan.
The city has excellent restaurants, public parks and art galleries.
The childhood home of legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, the city of Appleton is the sixth-largest city in Wisconsin.
Home to a vibrant arts scene, you’ll find performance venues, art galleries and the annual Mile of Music festival worth checking out.
Appleton’s History Museum at the Castle, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Hearthstone Historic House Museum and Butterfly Garden of Wisconsin are some to tick off your to-visit list.
Recommended tour: Hearthstone Historic House Museum Admission Ticket
Home to 64 different public parks, which combine for over 2,590 acres (1,048 ha) of total outdoor space, it’s no wonder that the city of Janesville in the Badger State’s southeast is known as “Wisconsin’s Park Place”.
Janesville was originally a Ho-Chunk Native American village before being officially settled in 1835.
Henry F. Janes, a Virginia city planner, wanted to name the city “Blackhawk” but was denied by Post Office officials.
Modern-day Janesville is a growing destination in the Midwest thanks to the city’s proximity to Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and Rockford.
Attractions include the Lincoln-Tallman Museum, the Rotary Botanical Gardens and the Ice Age Trail.
17- Fond Du Lac
Fond Du Lac, which is French for “bottom” or the “farthest point from the lake”, is a sizeable city in Wisconsin’s east at the southern end of Lake Winnebago.
French explorer Claude-Jean Allouez was the first European to discover Fond Du Lac sometime during the early 1800s.
Fond Du Lac’s scenic and central location make it a popular destination for many Wisconsinites living in the Badger State’s east, with popular attractions to explore like the Thelma Sadoff Center For the Arts and the nearby Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
18- West Allis
With a population of more than 60,000 proud Wisconsinites, West Allis is best known as the location for the annual Wisconsin State Fair.
This is a massive fair and one of the largest state fairs in the nation.
West Allis is situated just 6 miles (10 km) outside downtown Milwaukee and serves as an excellent base to explore Wisconsin’s largest metro without actually staying in downtown Brew City.
Experiences in and around West Allis include the 200-acre (81 ha) Wisconsin State Fair Park, which attracts more than 1 million people annually to the city’s scenic Greenfield Park.
Superior is a charming mid-sized metro located on the western shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin’s northwest corner, less than 7 miles (11 km) from downtown Duluth, Minnesota.
Superior was first settled in 1853 when a log cabin was erected in what is present-day Superior, with the Northern Pacific Railway stopping by sometime during the 1880s to link Superior with cities across Wisconsin and beyond.
Despite having a smaller population of 27,000 people, some interesting sights exist in Superior such as the historic SS Meteor Maritime Museum and the dramatic Wisconsin Point peninsula.
20- Wisconsin Rapids
Nestled in Wisconsin’s central region is Wisconsin Rapids, best known as America’s cranberry capital, with some of the largest cranberry marshes in the nation.
With a population of about 19,000 people, Wisconsin Rapids is a far cry from Wisconsin’s larger metros, such as Milwaukee and Madison, however, it has a unique charm.
Attractions in and around Wisconsin Rapids range from the Cranberry Highway to the South Wood County Historical Museum.
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