12 reasons Minnesotans should (still) make the trip to Wisconsin

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Now that Minnesota's joining modernity with Sunday liquor sales, the traditional Sunday morning journey to buy booze in Wisconsin is moot.

The lifting of the "blue law" inspired a lot of locals to make the same joke last week.

With the Sunday sales roadtrip tradition coming to an end, Minnesota's wiseguys asked, why would anyone ever go to Wisconsin?

Ha, ha. 

In the spirit of good neighborly relations, we at City Pages have created a short and not-even-approaching comprehensive list of other perfectly good justifications to travel east. One pass through this rundown, and even the most cynical homebody might feel not only curious about Wisconsin, but drawn to it. 

It's a big state, so we've undoubtedly left out some of your favorite places to see and things to do. Feel free to add to our list in the comments. 

Natural beauty

Anyone driving into Wisconsin who happened to let his or her eyes wander off the road has been struck by just how darn pretty so much of it is. With its rolling hills and lush river valleys, Wisconsin's scenery rivals that of any midwestern state. No need for this to get competitive: Some beautiful features are shared with Minnesota, like the St. Croix Scenic Riverway (seen above), a favorite for camping, fishing, and kayaking.

Lambeau Field

The six-decade-old football stadium is perhaps the world's greatest cold-weather outdoor sporting mecca, and certainly its most hallowed. Tickets are tough to get your hands on (you'll have to know someone who knows someone whose uncle just died) even when temperatures dip to ranges more suitable for polar bears. And with four Super Bowl victories in the Packers' illustrious history, a drive to Green Bay is the only reliable way for a Vikings fan to see the Lombardi Trophy.

Say cheese!

Two words, folks: cheese tourism. Wisconsin's reputation for making America's favorite dairy product is well-deserved, and the entire state is dotted with small operations that make some of the finest offerings in the country. So plentiful is the state's industry, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board produces a "traveler's guide" map featuring more than 150 dairies open for tours, tastings, and cheese-buying. The tricky part is not getting so excited you accidentally eat the map.

Gangster history 

Many organized criminals and nefarious entrepreneurs ran their rackets out of Chicago, but they had some of their fun in Wisconsin, which conveniently doubled as a good place to hide from enemies or the cops. Both Al Capone and John Dillinger got labeled "public enemies" back in the 1930s. Now, they're featured as part of Wisconsin's tourism industry. This post from "Travel Wisconsin" offers a variety of destinations from which to choose, including the Little Boehemia Lodge, site of a firefight between Dillinger's gang and the FBI. Keep your eyes peeled for bullet holes.

America's greatest airport bookstore

Well, anyway, one of the only ones that doesn't feel exactly like all the other ones. Renaissance Books has operated a branch at the General Mitchell International Airport since 1979. With 60,000-some books, including rare selections, Renaissance is not so much an airport bookstore as it is a bookstore that happens to be at an airport. 

Apostle Islands

Minnesota's side of Lake Superior gets the North Shore. Wisconsin has the Apostle Islands. The 22 stunning, rocky land masses dot Lake Superior off the state's northern border. Come winter, they undergo a frigid metamorphosis, becoming the otherworldly Apostle Island ice caves.

Drinks culture

Wisconsin knows how to party. The city of LaCrosse (just across the border) claims the most bars per capita of any town in America, while Milwaukee's still filled with a ton of the authentic bars most other cities demand be refreshed -- or torn down and replaced with condos. Even the drinks themselves are legit: generous pours into vessels that look like prop martini glasses built to hold a burlesque dancer.

Bronze Fonz

Did you know the TV show Happy Days was set in Milwaukee? Or, if you're under 30: Did you know there was once a TV show called Happy Days and it was set in Milwaukee? You will if you come across the "Bronze Fonz," a statue in that city honoring the iconically cool Arthur Fonzarelli character played by Henry Winkler.

 

Fireworks

Repealing the Sunday sales ban makes Minnesota a slightly less restrictive place to live. But when it comes to celebratory stuff that blows up real good in the sky, we're still sort of a nanny state. Existing Minnesota law allows for only "novelty" fireworks (like sparklers; yawn) to be sold here. If you want the goods, you'll have to cross over into Wisconsin... unless the state Legislature decides to knock down that barrier this session, too. (A bill working its way through would legalize "aerial and audible" fireworks in Minnesota.)

House on the Rock

Here is what you need to know about this tourist attraction in southern Wisconsin: When Neil Gaiman included it as a location in his fantasy novel American Gods, the English author had to "leave things out... in order to make it believable." He's right. A lot of the stuff at House on the Rock is simply unbelievable, and would seem silly if you heard about it without seeing it, too. We'll let the above video (from Atlas Obscura) help prove it exists.

Eaux Claires

In 2016, Justin Vernon used the musical festival he founded in his hometown to release the first new Bon Iver album in five years. But it's hardly a vanity project: Eaux Claires lineups are packed to the brim, and the 2017 roster is no different, with Chance the Rapper, John Prine, Paul Simon, and Wilco among the acts booked for this mid-June summer campout festival. 

New Glarus (and not from a liquor store!)

Of course we've circled back to beer. Only in Wisconsin can you get beer from New Glarus Brewing Co. A Maple Grove bar earned national headlines when it got busted in 2015 for slingin' the brewery's cult-beloved, Wisconsin-exclusive Spotted Cow ale. Trunkfuls of the stuff still require I-94. Besides, while we think we're making progress by letting liquor stores open one extra day; cross into Wisconsin, and you can start collecting beer while pumping the gas to get you to any of the other worthwhile destinations this state has to offer.

 


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