What Is Wisconsin Known For?

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Wisconsin is a colourful Midwest state best-known for its dairy farms and beer breweries, which have both become products more synonymous with the state than arguably anything else. Home to several large metros and the busting neighbourhoods of Milwaukee, Wisconsin offers travellers a great mix between old and new, urban and rural, and coastal and inland.

The state has one of the most iconic sports cities in North America and is where companies such as Harley-Davidson and the Miller Brewing Company got their start. From the rural pastoral landscapes, which inspired Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, to the shores of the Great Lakes and their busy summertime beaches and charming coastal towns, Wisconsin is the perfect place to visit in the Midwest for travellers looking to explore and enjoy a little bit of everything all at once, without having to compromise. Here’s what Wisconsin is known for.

What Is Wisconsin Known For?

1- Milwaukee

Downtown Milwaukee Skyline In USA
Milwaukee is the city Wisconsin is best known for.

Home to a population of more than 570,000 residents, Milwaukee is one of the most populated urban areas in the Midwest, renowned far and wide for its world-class beer-brewing scene, with several large multinational beer brewers as well as dozens of independent microbreweries operating out of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee boasts a great collection of preserved Victorian-era buildings and is a major point of interest among motorcycle enthusiasts thanks to the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and the popular Harley-Davidson Museum (get your tickets online here) from downtown “Brew City”.

The city’s ever-expanding list of great attractions to visit includes cultural and sporting destinations such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, American Family Field the Pabst Mansion and the Fiserv Forum, as well as the urban-meets-outdoor Milwaukee RiverWalk, making Milwaukee one of the most rewarding travel hubs in the Midwest and undoubtedly Wisconsin’s premier destination.

Take a tour to discover Milwaukee’s top attractions.


2- The Great Lakes

Bordered by both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, Wisconsin shares a deep connection with the Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet.

The Great Lakes, specifically Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, played a crucial role in the early economic and demographic booms of states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Canada during the 1800s.

Most of Wisconsin’s largest cities are coastal destinations along the shores of the Great Lakes, including Milwaukee, Green Bay, Sheboygan and Kenosha.

Infamous for their icy cold wintertime conditions, the Great Lakes transform into the Midwest’s biggest outdoor attraction over the summer months, with Wisconsin’s many sandy beaches, idyllic waterfront towns and coastal attractions drawing droves of vacationers to the Badger State’s shores seeking summertime fun and relaxation.

3- Dairy

Wisconsin Holstein Dairy Cows
What Wisconsin is known for besides cheese is dairy cows!

There’s no bigger industry or export in Wisconsin than dairy, with the state affectionately nicknamed “America’s Dairyland” and the “Dairy State” due to Wisconsin’s unique relationship with dairy products such as milk and cheese.

The state’s fascination with dairy started way in 1890 when major advancements in the production of higher quality milk turned Wisconsin into the leading dairy supplier in the United States by 1915, a title the Dairy State would hold until 1993.

California replaced Wisconsin as the leading dairy exporter in the United States during the 90s, however, Wisconsin-sourced milk and cheese continue to be among the most highly sought-after dairy products in the nation thanks to their superior quality.

Adopted as the state’s official number plate slogan during the 1940s, America’s Dairyland remains dotted with thousands of small-scale dairy farms, with Wisconsin also playing host to the annual World Dairy Expo since 1967.

4- Green Bay And The Packers

Lambeau Field Green Bay Wisconsin
Green Bay and the Packers is what Wisconsin is known for.

More famous among fans of American professional sports than travellers, Green Bay in the picturesque northeast region of Wisconsin is among the greatest sports cities in North America and is home to a colourful collection of small neighbourhoods and a compact downtown district.

One of the most successful and storied NFL franchises also hails from the league’s smallest market, the Green Bay Packers, who have been plying their football trade in this small Wisconsin city since 1919.

Apart from Green Bay’s 81,000-seat Lambeau Field, which has been the home of the Packers since 1957, this small Midwest city is also on the doorstep of the Great Lakes and Lake Winnebago, making it a worthy place to explore if you’re an eager traveller seeking to uncover Green Bay beyond its pro football franchise.

5- Beer

Holding A Jug Of Beer During Summer Sunset At Madison Memorial Union
Beer is what Wisconsin is known for producing.

Besides dairy products, Wisconsin beer is served and sold in copious amounts across the United States and beyond.

Pabst, Miller and Schlitz are the three largest beer brewers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s colourful urban hub which has been dubbed the “Beer Capital of the World”.

Beer brewing was introduced to Wisconsin by the many German immigrants who settled in the Badger State and is today a popular draw to the state, with brewery tours and beer tastings available across Wisconsin.

6- Wisconsin Dells

Pewits Nest - Wisconsin Dells
The Wisconsin Dells is a natural area that Wisconsin is famous for.

Wisconsin’s top summertime vacation destination, Wisconsin Dells in the state’s south-central region has been attracting travellers since the Dells’ splendid waterways and beautiful scenery were first discovered during the 1800s.

Wisconsin Dells was founded in 1856 by the Wisconsin Hydraulic Company and was named after the eye-catching Dells, a collection of deep canyons and gorges dotted along the Wisconsin River just north of downtown Wisconsin Dells.

The city is home to impressive tourist attractions, such as Noah’s Ark Water Park, Wisconsin’s largest waterpark and one of the biggest in the US, with Wisconsin Dells also serving as a gateway to the many small towns and interesting landmarks found throughout southern Wisconsin.

7- Madison

Madison Panorama Across Lake Monona
Madison what is Wisconsin known for.

In south-central Wisconsin about an hour’s drive from Wisconsin Dells is Madison, the Badger State’s capital city as well as Wisconsin’s second-largest city in terms of population.

Madison is a college town thanks to the University of Wisconsin, whose main campus sits right in the heart of the city’s downtown.

Madison was originally founded in 1836 by former politician and land speculator James Duane Doty, who decided to name the city in honour of former president James Madison following the former president’s passing earlier that same year.

The city is unique in that it lies nestled on an isthmus surrounded by no fewer than five freshwater lakes, which have made Madison quite the scenic destination in addition to the city having the most parks per capita of any of the United States’ top 100 largest cities.

Madison’s exhaustive list of interesting things to do and places to visit includes downtown landmarks such as the Wisconsin State Capitol, the Chazen Museum of Art, Camp Randall Stadium and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, making Madison among the state’s leading tourist destinations.

8- Native American Culture

Totem Pole
Native American culture is another thing Wisconsin is known for.

Home to over 11 distinct Native American Tribes, Wisconsin is at the forefront when it comes to regions steeped in native traditions and culture.

Some of Wisconsin’s largest Native American groups are the Ho-Chunk Nation, Oneida Nation, Menominee, Potawatomi and Chippewa.

Roughly 50,000 Native Americans live in the Badger State today, most of whom belong to the several native tribes which were pushed into modern-day Wisconsin due to tribal warfare in their homelands of Michigan, Ohio, New York and Canada’s Ontario province during the mid-17th century.

While Wisconsin’s native population totals just about 1% of the state’s total population, it’s still possible to experience their rich traditions and unique cultures in several regions and urban hubs across the state.

9- Cranberries

Cranberry Harvest
Cranberries are what fruit Wisconsin is known for.

Few locals and even fewer tourists know that Wisconsin is the single-largest producer of cranberries in the world, with more than 50% of the world’s cranberries grown and harvested in the Badger State.

Wisconsin was famous for its cranberries well before Europeans even arrived, with Native American tribes such as the Ho-Chunk Indians known to have traded them as early as 1849.

Large-scale cranberry farms began popping up throughout Wisconsin by the 1850s, which as of 2021, were supplying more than 96% of all cranberries sold in the United States.

Wisconsin was even nicknamed the “Cranberry Capital of the World”, with cranberries enshrined in Wisconsin pop culture since 2004 as the state’s official fruit.

10- The Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Apostle Islands is what Wisconsin most known for among nature lovers.

Comprising a collection of 22 islands scattered across Lake Superior just off the coast of Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula, the Apostle Islands are a uniquely Wisconsin outdoor landmark transporting visitors to a world far away from urban living.

The Apostle Islands cover a total land area of about 69,372 acres (28,074 ha), with only the chain’s Madeline Island regarded as continuously inhabited throughout the year.

Fairly easy to reach via boat, the islands boast everything from museums and shops to entire coastal communities and gorgeous lakefront views, making them well worth visiting when in the Badger State’s northernmost region.

11- Ginseng

Ginseng Roots And Green Leaf, Healthy Food
Ginseng is an unusual item that Wisconsin is known for.

Ginseng is a popular herbal drug most commonly used throughout eastern Asia to cure all sorts of ailments.

Made from the beige-coloured root of the ginseng plant, the herb is believed to help lower cholesterol, boost energy levels and reduce stress.

Growing wild across Wisconsin, the state produces more than 90% of American-sourced ginseng, with this bitter-tasting root coveted beyond US borders too thanks to its medicinal properties.

12- Harley-Davidson

Motorcycle Harley
Harley Davidson motorcycles is what Wisconsin is known for producing.

As Wisconsin as it gets, the popular motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson is a brand that has grown to become an iconic symbol of Americana.

Established in Milwaukee in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, the motorcycle company has cultivated a cult-like status internationally, with hundreds of clubs and motorcycle rallies dedicated to Harley-Davidson motorcycles in almost every part of the globe.

The largest motorcycle manufacturer from the United States, the company opened a state-of-the-art museum in downtown Milwaukee where fans of the iconic brand can learn more about Harley-Davidson’s history and legacy spanning more than 120 years.

13- Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage

Pioneering 20th-century architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright is a proud Wisconsinite who is possibly one of the greatest architects of all time.

Born in Richland Center, Wisconsin on 8 June 1867, Wright was raised in the Badger State’s rural interior before attending the University of Wisconsin, where he dropped out before graduating to pursue a role in his uncle’s architecture firm designing the Unity Chapel in Wyoming, Wisconsin.

Wright is responsible for designing some 400 completed structures throughout his lifetime and was recognised by the American Institute of Architects as the “greatest American architect of all time” in 1991.

14- Door County

Cave Point Door County
Door County is what Wisconsin known for.

With a long coastline dotted with dozens of idyllic coastal communities, dramatic limestone bluffs and cherry orchards, it’s easy to see why Door County is among the most popular travel destinations in Wisconsin.

Situated on a scenic peninsula and sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, Door County encompasses several must-see places in eastern Wisconsin such as Sturgeon Bay, Peninsula State Park, Rock Island State Park and a collection of picture-perfect lighthouses.

With less than 150 miles (241 km) separating Door County from the busy Badger State metros of Milwaukee and Green Bay, Door County offers hidden gems to discover along the shores of the Great Lakes.

15- The Badger State

The Wisconsin State Flag Waving
The Badger State is what Wisconsin is known as.

Featuring one of the most unique state nicknames in the Union, Wisconsin’s moniker of the Badger State was acquired during the 1820s when prospective miners had to “live like badgers” in tunnels to survive the state’s harsh winters.

Contrary to popular belief, Wisconsin’s state nickname had nothing to do with animals, however, that didn’t stop state legislature from adopting the badger as Wisconsin’s official animal, with the badger’s toughness and tenacity the perfect embodiment of Wisconsinites’ enduring spirit.

Badgers have also been prominently featured in other parts of Wisconsin pop culture, most famously as the official mascot of the University of Wisconsin whose athletic programs have been dubbed the Wisconsin Badgers since 1889.

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Jessica Shaw
Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.