If there are two things I can say for sure about Wisconsinites it’s that we love to enjoy the outdoors – especially while the weather is warm – and we love a good deal. We’re frugal and we love finding things to keep us busy that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Lucky for you, we’ve found a whole list of things that you can do for free outdoors right here in our fair state. There’s plenty to keep you busy statewide, so head outside and start enjoying Spring!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Check out Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park - Phillips
This 18 acre park features more than 200 folk art concrete sculpture decorated with bits of glass and other found objects. It's a quirky, unique spot in Wisconsin everyone should visit at least once. Located at N8236 State Hwy 13, Phillips, WI 54555.
2. See a Kwahamot Water Ski Club show - Tomahawk
Since 1960, the Kwahamot Water Ski Club has been performing free water ski shows. Shows are every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend on Kwahamot Bay.
3. Visit the UW Aboretum - Madison
The arboretum is a teaching and research facility that is home to more than 20 miles of trails and many different ecosystems. You can hike and bird watch in the summer, check their calendar for free family events and guided walks, use the four miles of paved roads for biking or running or ski and snowshoe in the winter. Located at 1207 Seminole Hwy, Madison, WI 53711.
4. Head to the top of Grandad Bluff - LaCrosse
Whether you hike or drive to the top, you're guaranteed quite a view of the Mississippi River valley down below. It's 600 feet above the surrounding landscape and nearly 1200 feet above sea level. In the fall, the colors are a sight to behold. Located at 3020 Grandad Bluff Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601.
5. Circle Lake Geneva using the Shore Path - Lake Geneva
This path weaves in and out of the woods around the shore of the lake and measures 26 miles long. Early settlers ensured that 20 feet from the lake shoreline would be held as public domain, so you can gawk at some of the gorgeous lakeside mansions or just enjoy the scenery. Public access points include at the Lake Geneva Public Library, Fontana, Williams Bay and Big Foot Beach State Park.
6. Go Disc Golfing
There are courses all across the state. Some have fees, but Brown Deer Park and Dretzka in Milwaukee, Silver Creek Park in Manitowoc and Hiestand Park in Madison are some of the highest rated in the state and charge no fee to play.
7. Check out a church festival
WisconsinFestivals.org keeps a stellar calendar of all the neighborhood festivals around the state. Settle down for some live music, some local color and a lot of fun at one of these unique Wisconsin festivals.
8. Walk the Oak Leaf Trail - Milwaukee
Milwaukee is one of the greenest cities in the country. The Oak Leaf Trail is a paved 108-mile multi-use recreational trail which encircles Milwaukee County. The trail connect all of the major parks in the Milwaukee County Park System with a "ribbon of green." From there, you could peel off on the Hank Aaron State Trail or Lakeshore State Park.
9. Wander around Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison
Stop and smell the roses - and all the other plant life - at Madison's botanical gardens. Home to one of just two Thai salas in the country, it was a gift to the University of Wisconsin–Madison from the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association and the government of Thailand through its king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. There are 16 acres of free gardens to explore. Located at 3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704.
10. Visit Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
This unique 600 acre urban refuge on the shores of Green Bay is the largest park in the Green Bay Park system and home to the second largest wildlife rehabilitation program in Wisconsin. They care for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals annually. You can visit the nature education center, observation building, hiking trails, woodland building and numerous animal habitats. Located at 1660 E Shore Dr, Green Bay, WI 54302.
11. Learn about conservation at the Iron River National Fish Hatchery
This facility helps conserve and restore fish population in eight states in the midwest. The US Fish and Wildlife Service runs the fisheries program. This location's primary goal is to produce native fish to aid in Great Lakes fisheries restoration efforts. Stop at the visitor center and aquariums in the Main Building, the early rearing tank room, the Broodstock Building, the Production Building or the interpretive hiking and cross-country ski trails found on the property. Located at 10325 Fairview Rd, Iron River, WI 54847.
12. Take advantage of Wisconsin Free Fun for Everyone Weekend
On June 3 and 4, the Wisconsin DNR invites you to head out and enjoy all they have to offer. There's free entry to state parks and forests, free fishing (no permit needed), free DNR trails and free ATV/UTV riding on public trails open to such uses. There's free fishing lessons and free fishing equipment for loan at 50 state parks, DNR offices, and partner organizations.
13. Meander around the Seven Bridges in Grant Park - Milwaukee
Constructed as a WPA project during the Great Depression, Seven Bridges is a haunting, beautiful trail that many say is the centerpiece of the County Park System. An oasis in the urban center, there's a covered bridge at the beginning of the trail that says "Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature." You won't regret letting yourself get lost here some morning. Located in Grant Park, 100 E. Hawthorne Ave., South Milwaukee, WI 53172.
14. Support the AquaNuts - Twin Lakes
These guys were the 2015 National Show Ski Association Show Ski Team of the Year. Their shows are on Lake Mary off the shore at Belle Lance Memorial Park in Twin Lakes and on Wednesday and Saturday at 6 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day. Located at 55 Lance Park Dr., Twin Lakes, WI 53181.
15. Love on the animals at Henry Vilas Zoo - Madison
One of just 10 free zoos in the country, Henry Vilas Zoo has been around for more than 100 years. With animals from across the world, you'll never run out of wonderful creatures to observe and admire. Make sure you check out the twin lion cubs that were born just a few weeks ago! Located at 702 S Randall Ave, Madison, WI 53715.
16. Listen in on Concerts by the Lake - Bayfield
You'd be hard pressed to find a town that doesn't have free outdoor music in the summer. In Bayfield, the concerts are at Memorial Park on the edge of Lake Superior, but it's worth checking your local town to see what's happening near you, wherever you are.
What are some of your favorite free outdoor activities? Let us know what we missed in the comments!