Folks a bit south of us or on either coast tend to look over this part of the country. They look down on us as “flyover country” and think there’s nothing the Midwest can offer them, but we know better. There’s plenty of things here in Wisconsin that we have the privilege of that no one else can claim. Here are 14 things that are truly, uniquely Wisconsin:
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. The cheese.
Listen, I don't care how cliche it is, it's undeniable that the cheese here is better than anywhere else by an amount that's not even measurable. Wisconsinites take this for granted. We don't know how good we have it until we travel other places and find out that the stuff we can get in gas stations is better than most other places have anywhere. There is no such thing as too much cheese and we are mighty lucky to have access to dozens of flavors and makers all across the state.
2. The country's best college town.
SI, ESPN and USA Today all agreed that Madison is the best sports town in the country. That's in large part because of the football culture, but don't forget how many other great sports teams there are at Madison. The cross-country, volleyball and women's hockey teams are perennial title contenders. Swimming, tennis, rowing and softball are usually in the postseason. The unique location and atmosphere in Madison just can't be beat and people come from all over the country to "Jump Around." We might take it for granted, but Madison really is something special.
3. Butter burgers.
Listen, there's still a law on the books that regulates serving margarine in the place of butter. We take our butter seriously and someone at some point decided to put a big pat of it on a burger to create a melty, delicious goodness that others have tried to duplicate, but cannot.
4. The Apostle Islands.
Really, all of our gorgeous Great Lakes coast is worth being jealous of. Wisconsin's glacial history is unlike anywhere else and it's left its mark all across the state. From the beautiful caves in Bayfield to the stunning cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment near Door County, there's just nowhere else that has this amazing type of coastline.
5. The World's Largest Music Festival.
We tend to be kind of blasé about Summerfest, but it truly is an absolute gem that we're lucky to have. Check out the prices of other festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella or New Orleans JazzFest and then realize the pure volume of bands and stages that we get at Summerfest for around $25 a day is an absolute steal. Plus, those grounds are home to a number of other festivals throughout the year, including the country's largest Irish Festival.
6. Farm-fresh food.
The same folks that deride this as fly-over country also pay a premium to eat at farm-to-table restaurants in cities not exactly proximate to a lot of farms. Wisconsin is the country's largest producer of a number of produce crops, obviously has the dairy market covered, and raises beef, pork, lamb and more. We don't have to try to be farm fresh - we just are. Head to any local farmer's market to meat your local producers, sign up for a CSA or a share of an animal and take advantage of (and support) all the amazing local farmers.
7. Having major waterways on three of four sides.
Our western neighbors have the two Great Lakes, but there's really no one else that's "land-locked" that can claim the shorelines and water access that we have with Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi. For a Midwestern state, we have an abundance of access to major lakes and rivers. Our proximity to the Great Lakes has created a full water technology industry in Wisconsin and give us a ton of opportunities to explore and enjoy.
8. New Glarus Beer.
You never know how important this is until you're traveling and find that you can trade your New Glarus for pretty much any other beer in the country - easily. If you've only had Spotted Cow, you're missing out. The abundant berry and cherry crops help these folks create some truly flavorful and outstanding lambics and the seasonal beers from Road Slush to Fat Squirrel are well worth your time.
9. The Waterpark Capital of the World.
The Dells aren't everyone's cup of tea, but this tourist spot not only brings tons of revenue to the state, but it's an easy day trip or weekend for when you're feeling a bit cooped up with your kids - even in the winter. Having this kind of playground right in our backyard is pretty spectacular.
10. Cheese curds.
Yes, they deserve a separate and distinct mention. A truly unique Wisconsin specialty, there's just something so wonderfully nostalgic about curds - they frankly feel like home. That there are places in the country that don't know the delight of a squeak and have never had an ooey, gooey fried curd is honestly a bit heart-breaking. They don't know what they're missing. I could go through life subsisting on sub-par cheddars from other places - but you could never, ever replace my Wisconsin cheese curds.
11. We own our NFL team.
This is Titletown, USA and no one else can claim that. With public ownership, there's just a different feel about the Packers. The aura of the past combined with the openness of public ownership means the community is connected to this team like nowhere else. Iv'e never been in a football stadium that carries a mystique like Lambeau does. It's an honor and a privilege to grow up a Packer fan.
12. Frozen custard.
It's definitely more popular in the southern part of the state, but for me, returning home was not complete without a stop to grab some custard. It's intrinsically tied into my feeling of comfort and home. Frozen custard would be the dessert I request for my final meal. Its rich and melty and so evocative of a warm summer night.
13. The largest producers-only farmers market in the country.
This ties in to no. 6 up there, but there's just nowhere else in the country that can compete with the experience of the Dane Country Farmers Market. The producers themselves are standing behind the tables and you get to walk around our beautiful 100-year old Capital Building to shop it. It's the very best of being in a farming state. It feels like community and connections and support and it's really one of the very best ways to spend a few hours on a nice Wisconsin Saturday.
It turns out a lot of the very best things we have are food. Sheboygan is the Bratwurst Capital of the World and brats are a staple of most every Wisconsinite's diet. The wonderful German sausages hit the grills in the Miller Park parking lot and in neighborhoods all around Lambeau and Camp Randall. They're the smell of summer and a nod to our past. Miller Park is the only stadium in all of MLB whose leading seller is anything other than a hot dog. We love brats and we wouldn't have it any other way.
What other things do we have that no one else can claim? Let us know about it in the comments!