Wisconsin offers the best of all worlds. Home to big cities, waterfalls, dense forests, farmland, and miles of beaches, this state has something fun for everyone. Book a stay at one of numerous Wisconsin vacation rentals along the coast of Lake Michigan for easy access to water sports, or venture out west to enjoy outdoor adventures in the woods. Not sure where to begin your search? Take a look at the best places to take a summer vacation in Wisconsin.

1. Milwaukee

view of Milwaukee from the water

If the buzz of city life appeals to you, then head over to Milwaukee. Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee offers plenty in the way of museums, arts, dining, and shopping, while the eastern edge of town has beaches along the shore of Lake Michigan. Discovery World is a family-friendly destination that offers educational exhibits on science and the environment. One of the city’s more unusual offerings, the Harley-Davidson Museum, lets you view and even sit on different motorbikes.

Milwaukee has no shortage of delicious restaurants. Stop by AJ Bombers to experience their “P-Nuts, Burgers and Beer!” Grab an evening drink at 8900 Bar and Bistro, or order from its “Grab and Go” menu for food to take back to your vacation home for a relaxing evening indoors with friends and family.

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2. Wisconsin Dells

large roller coaster track

Scenic bluffs and meandering waterways characterize this gem location in southern Wisconsin. Nature lovers can go for a relaxing hike or bird watching expedition at nearby Rocky Arbor State Park. For a more upbeat afternoon, take the entire family to Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park. Here you can cool off in the summer heat by hopping on one of the dozens of water slides. To dry off, there are several roller coasters that will do the trick.

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3. Madison

under a dome roof

The capital of Wisconsin, Madison is a great destination to learn about the state’s rich history. Take a tour of the magnificent capitol building throughout the summer, or stop by the State Historical Museum. For kid-centered fun, the Madison Children’s Museum has tree-trunk huts and other fun exhibits where kids can both literally and imaginatively run wild. Once your kids’ energy runs low, take them to the Babcock Hall Dairy Store for flavorful ice cream.

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4. Green Bay

roller coaster at Bay Beach Amusement Park
Source: Flickr/Jeremy Thompson

Green Bay is another city on the shores of Lake Michigan and sits in the northeastern part of the state. One of Wisconsin’s oldest communities, it is home to curiosities such as the National Railroad Museum. Visit this museum to view displays and artifacts of railroad history, or jump aboard one of the live locomotives for a relaxing ride.

Bay Beach Amusement Park offers plenty of summertime fun with wild rides such as the Zippin Pippin roller coaster and the giant Sea Dragon swing. Stop by the NEW Zoo to get up close to moose, giraffes, lions, and other creatures from around the world.

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5. Oshkosh

small planes flying over Oshkosh

If you are looking to be surrounded by water, then grab a vacation rental in Oshkosh. This medium-sized town sits in between Lake Winnebago in the east and Lake Butte des Morts in the west. Planes are the talk of this town. To see why, stop by the EAA AirVenture Museum to view the old aircraft on display. Grab a tasty morsel from Market in the Park to take back to your vacation home. This farmers’ market runs during the second half of summer, and features fresh vegetables, cheese, eggs, and other food.

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6. Kenosha

lighthouse off the beach
Source: Flickr/Jim Trottier

Kenosha offers a picturesque lake-side destination, complete with beautiful lighthouses and beaches. Stop by the Pierhead Lighthouse and the Southport Light Station Museum to see displays relating to the harbor’s history. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a unique institution that focuses on educating visitors on the links between dinosaurs and birds.

If shopping falls on your vacation to-do list, then Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets is the place to go. Fashion stores, gift shops, and restaurants within the mall ensure you a full afternoon or evening of fun.

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7. La Crosse

hillside view from Grandad Bluff
Source: Flickr/Jim Bauer

La Crosse is a large community along the Mississippi River in the western part of the state. Go on a Mississippi River cruise to experience the river firsthand. If water sports are more your thing, then La Crosse is a great place for kayaking, fishing, and canoeing. For a tasty treat in old-time, drive-in restaurant fashion, go to Rudy’s Drive-In, which comes complete with roller-skating carhops.

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8. Wausau

trees and rocks at Rib Mountain State Park
Suorce: Flickr/Amy Bayer

If you want a vacation rental further away from the big cities in the southern part of the state, then Wausau is the place for you. This town sits in the northern part of the state where forests and hills abound. Nearby Rib Mountain State Park offers hiking trails and scenic vistas for outdoor enthusiasts. If you prefer to stay indoors, then visit the Center for the Visual Arts to see works of local artists.

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9. Eau Claire

Confluence of Rivers in Eau Claire
Source: Flickr/Randen Pederson

Eau Claire has an artistic flair that is sure to delight those looking to add a bit of culture to their trip. UWEC Foster Art Gallery is one place to go to see works of artists from near and far. The Plus is a great place to go for stand-up comedy.

Among the food options in Eau Claire is 29 Pines Restaurant, which offers a relaxing, home-like dining atmosphere. The Downtown Farmer’s Market has fresh food that comes from local farmers.

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10. Racine

sun setting over the harbor in Racine
Source: Flickr/stan stewart

Family-friendly spots in this lakeside town include Racine Zoo and Kid’s Cove playground. The zoo boasts tigers, bears, llamas, and other large animals. Kid’s Cove playground is a great place for young kids to release pent-up energy. Adults can enjoy a relaxing day viewing works of Frank Lloyd Wright at the SC Johnson headquarters.

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