2023 Activities in Wisconsin to Check Out This August and September - Small Legacies

2023 Activities in Wisconsin to Check Out This August and September

by Kendra Johnson*

As busy parents, finding the perfect summer vacation can be daunting, especially when money is tight. But remember, a shoestring budget doesn't have to dim the magic of summer for your family. Embrace the joy of a budget-friendly staycation right in your area. Rediscover local treasures, immerse yourself in your community's culture, and explore the wonders of nature without going far.

The best part? You get to create lasting memories with your kids without the stress of travel planning. So, take a deep breath, pack up the picnic basket, and get ready for an unforgettable staycation that your family will cherish forever. 

Wisconsin Dells

Image courtesy of travelstamps.com

The Wisconsin Dells is a popular summer destination known for its stunning natural scenery, waterparks, and outdoor activities. While it can be a touristy spot, there are still plenty of affordable and enjoyable options for those looking to experience the Dells on a budget. Here are some affordable places to visit and things to do in the Wisconsin Dells:

  • Wisconsin River State Natural Area: Explore the beautiful outdoors with a visit to the Wisconsin River State Natural Area. Enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, and breathtaking views of the river and rock formations. It's a great way to experience the Dells' natural beauty without spending money.
  • Public Parks: Take advantage of the many public parks in the Wisconsin Dells area. Pack a picnic and spend a relaxing day at parks like Bowman Park or Memorial Park, offering green spaces and playgrounds for families.
  • Downtown Dells: Stroll through the charming downtown area, which is free to explore. You'll find unique shops, galleries, and boutiques where you can window-shop or pick up souvenirs without spending a fortune.
  • Riverwalk: The Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk provides a scenic pathway along the Wisconsin River. Enjoy a leisurely walk or sit by the water's edge to take in the views of the river and the rock formations.
  • Dells Antique & Craft Malls: If you enjoy browsing through antiques and handmade crafts, the Dells Antique & Craft Malls offer a delightful experience. You can find unique items and treasures at reasonable prices.
  • Mirror Lake State Park: While not directly in the Dells, Mirror Lake State Park is nearby and worth a visit. It offers hiking trails, swimming areas, and a serene lake for water activities. Entrance fees are typically affordable.
  • Witches Gulch: Head to Witches Gulch for an awe-inspiring natural attraction. This narrow gorge is accessible via guided boat tours or by hiking from the Wisconsin River shoreline.
  • Local Events: Check out local event listings before your trip. There might be free concerts, art shows, or festivals happening during your visit, providing entertainment without breaking the bank.
  • Photo Opportunities: Capture memories with picturesque photo spots throughout the Dells, including photo ops with dinosaur statues or scenic backgrounds.
  • Free Water Parks with Stay: Some budget-friendly hotels and resorts in the Wisconsin Dells offer free water park passes to guests, making it an affordable way to enjoy water park fun.

Remember that it's possible to enjoy the Wisconsin Dells on a budget by seeking out free or low-cost attractions, exploring natural areas, and taking advantage of any special deals or discounts available. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or solo, the Dells has something to offer for every budget-conscious traveler.

Door County

Buy this Door County Poster From Lantern Press!

Door County, located in the northern part of Wisconsin, is a beautiful and picturesque destination that offers a wide range of activities for families. From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences and delicious local food, there's something for everyone. Here are some of the best things you can do with your family in Door County:

  1. Explore Peninsula State Park: This expansive state park offers hiking and biking trails, scenic overlooks, and picnic areas. You can rent bicycles and explore the park on wheels, or hike the Eagle Trail to get breathtaking views of Green Bay.

  2. Visit Cave Point County Park: Known for its stunning sea caves, Cave Point County Park is a must-visit spot. Kids and adults alike will be mesmerized by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan crashing against the limestone cliffs.

  3. Enjoy Beach Time: Door County boasts several family-friendly beaches, such as Whitefish Dunes State Park and Nicolet Bay Beach, where you can swim, build sandcastles, and soak up the sun.

  4. Take a Scenic Boat Tour: Hop on a boat tour to explore Door County's coastline and islands. Some tours even offer lighthouse visits and opportunities to see local wildlife like eagles and dolphins.

  5. Discover Cana Island Lighthouse: Reachable by a causeway, Cana Island Lighthouse is an iconic landmark that provides an interactive and educational experience for families. Climb to the top for a stunning view.

  6. Experience Fish Creek: This charming village offers boutique shopping, art galleries, and restaurants. Stroll through the streets and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Don't miss a visit to Peninsula State Park nearby.

  7. Go Cherry Picking: Door County is famous for its cherry orchards. Depending on the season, you can pick your own cherries or indulge in cherry-infused treats like cherry pie and cherry ice cream.

  8. Tour Wineries and Orchards: Parents can enjoy wine tastings at the various wineries in the region while kids can have fun picking apples in the orchards.

  9. Learn at the Hands-On Art Studio: Get creative as a family at the Hands-On Art Studio in Fish Creek. They offer pottery, mosaics, glass art, and more for all ages.

  10. Visit The Farm: This unique petting farm in Sturgeon Bay is perfect for younger kids. It allows them to interact with farm animals and learn about agriculture.

  11. Enjoy Local Cuisine: Treat your taste buds to local delicacies like fresh fish boils, cheese curds, and homemade fudge.

  12. Attend a Local Festival: Depending on the time of year, Door County hosts various festivals, from cherry festivals to art fairs, offering a chance to experience the local culture and community.

Remember to check for seasonal events and plan your visit accordingly. Door County's beauty and charm make it a fantastic destination for a memorable family vacation!

Fairs and Festivals in Wisconsin 2023

Artist: Ryan Steiskal, Milwaukee WI

  1. Wisconsin State Fair (August 3-13, 2023): Held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis, this annual event is a highlight of the summer. It features agricultural exhibits, live music, amusement rides, a wide variety of food vendors, and numerous family-friendly activities.

  2. Milwaukee Irish Fest (August 17-20, 2023): Celebrate all things Irish at the world's largest Irish festival, held at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee. Enjoy traditional music, dance performances, cultural exhibits, and a marketplace with Irish crafts and goods.

  3. Great River Road Wine Trail (August 25-27, 2023): If you're a wine enthusiast, don't miss this event that allows you to explore several wineries along the scenic Great River Road in western Wisconsin. Enjoy wine tastings, vineyard tours, and beautiful views of the Mississippi River.

  4. Cheese Days (September 15-17, 2023): Head to Monroe, the "Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA," for this biennial celebration of all things cheese. Indulge in a wide array of cheeses, enjoy live music, parades, and traditional Swiss entertainment.

  5. Chippewa Falls Oktoberfest (September 15-16, 2023): Experience a taste of Bavarian culture at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls. This festival features authentic German music, food, and beer, as well as fun activities for the whole family.

  6. Norskedalen's Threshing Bee (September 9-10, 2023): Step back in time at Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center in Coon Valley. The Threshing Bee showcases vintage farming demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, traditional crafts, and delicious Scandinavian food.

  7. Fresh Coast Jazz Festival (September 2-4, 2023): Held in Milwaukee, this festival celebrates the artistry of jazz musicians with performances, workshops, and educational programs. Enjoy smooth jazz and soulful tunes in a vibrant urban setting.

  8. Free Outdoor Movies: Many communities in Wisconsin host free outdoor movie nights in local parks during the summer. Check with local municipalities and community organizations for schedules and locations.

  9. Farmers' Markets: Throughout August and September, farmers' markets are in full swing across Wisconsin. Explore fresh produce, artisanal products, and local crafts at various markets in cities and towns.

  10. Outdoor Concerts: Keep an eye out for free outdoor concerts and music events happening in public spaces, parks, and town squares during late summer and early fall. We are looking forward to Laurie Berkner visiting August 12! 

Wisconsin is a vibrant state with a rich culture, and these fairs, festivals, and free events offer a great opportunity to experience the local traditions and community spirit. Happy planning!


Kendra is Director of Digital Resources and Curriculum for Small Legacies. A certified elementary educator and parent, Kendra has a passion for teaching through engaging and varied techniques. Her background in theatre, educational technology and curriculum development have fueled her passion for teaching life skills to kids creatively.


*Some elements of this blog were generated with the help of ChatGPT

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