A guide to Wisconsin historical sites
If the backyard has lost its luster and you've visited every Milwaukee attraction at least once already this summer, then you're ready for a quick and easy nearby family getaway. It's Family Vacation Week here at OnMilwaukee and we'll bring you suggestions every day for great jaunts perfect for a day, weekend or week-long getaway. Bon voyage, Milwaukee!
Discovering Wisconsin history is as easy as hopping in the car and heading to one of these family-friendly historical sites!
Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm
E13701 Levee Rd., Fairfield, (608) 355-0279
Open Saturday before Memorial Day-end of October
Conservationist and author Aldo Leopold bought this small, rural farm in the 1930s. He often spent weekends there with his family, and it was at this farm that he wrote his famous "Sandy County Almanac." Now it's a National Historic Landmark and museum, offering guided and self-guided tours of the home and grounds, which include restored prairie, river trails and wildlife watching.
Black Point Estate
W4270 Southland Rd., Lake Geneva (262) 248-1888
This notable example of Queen Anne-style architecture was built by Chicago businessman Conrad Seipp in the late 19th century to provide his family respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. This 20-room "cottage" in Lake Geneva is the latest addition to the Wisconsin Historical Society family and is open for tours (on land and on water!).
550 Water St., Baraboo, (608) 356-8341
Immerse yourself in the history of the Big Top, right here in Baraboo, known as "Ringlingville" during the golden age of circus. See circus exhibits and performances, visit the original Ringling Winter Quarters, be amazed by magic shows and more!
Copper Culture State
Oconto, (715) 757-3979
Open weekends, Memorial Day-Labor Day
This 48-acre park is an ancient Menominee Indian burial ground and one of the oldest metal use archaeological sites in North America. The park also offers tours of a Belgian-style house and museum built in 1924 and boasts 15 acres of short-grass prairie. Admission is free, as the park is owned by the Oconto County Historical Society and not the Wisconsin DNR.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Cabin
306 Third St., Pepin, (715) 442-2142
The log cabin that served as the inspiration for Wilder's "Little House in the Big Woods" is gone now, but you can still step into the world of "Little House on the Prairie" with this reproduction, situated on the actual land owned by Laura's parents. Admission is free, with a $2 donation suggested. There is also a museum store, owned and operated by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, Inc.
Madeline Island Historical Museum
226 Colonel Woods Ave., La Pointe, (715) 747-2415
Explore the history of beautiful Northern Wisconsin at the Madeline Island Museum. There are four relocated historic log structures (including the American Fur Company complex's only remaining building, built in 1835) as well as an old barn, the former La Pointe town jail and the Old Sailor's Home.
Milton House Museum
18 S. Janesville St., Milton, (608) 868-7772
Open Memorial Day-Labor Day, otherwise by appointment
The oldest grout home in the United States is also a hexagonal-shaped stagecoach inn built in 1844 and is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Other buildings on the site include an 1837 log cabin, blacksmith shop, buggy shed, stable and Underground Railroad Museum. Guided tours are available all summer and by appointment during the winter months.
Milwaukee County Historical Society sites
The Milwaukee County Historical Society maintains several historic sites that are open for tours and events, including Trimborn Farm and Jeremiah Curtin House in Greendale, the Lowell Damon House in Wauwatosa and the Kilbourntown House in Shorewood. Step back in time with the MCHS and discover what Milwaukee was like at the time of its founding.
Old World Wisconsin
W372 S9727 Hwy 67, Eagle, (262) 594-6301
Open May-October, weekends through December
This 600-acre open-air museum in Eagle. boasts over 60 historic structures relocated from all over the state as well as breathtaking kettle lakes and restored prairies. Hop on the tram and travel through villages depicting the settlement of Wisconsin's major ethnic groups. During the summer and autumn months there is a lot of family-friendly programming, and plenty of Yuletide cheer on weekends before Christmas. Be sure to check out the gift shop and Clausing Barn Restaurant on your way out.
200 W. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 931-0808
Milwaukee's Belle Epoque crown jewel, the Pabst Mansion, provides a unique look into the lives of the city's beer peerage in the Victorian era. The residence of Capt. Frederick Pabst and his family was, in its day, the center of the well-to-do Milwaukee social scene as well as the home of a priceless art collection. It was later used as the residence of the Archbishop of Milwaukee. Today, this fully restored 37-room mansion is open to the public for tours, events and various seasonal activities.
114 Shake Rag St., Mineral Point, (608) 987-2122
Lead mining was largely responsible for European migration to the state in the 19th century, and Pendarvis is a well-preserved example of that era. Settled by Cornish immigrants in the 1830s, this site features homes, cabins, a pub and foot trails.
4880 Hwy I, Saukville, (262) 377-4510
Experience the European settlement of Ozaukee County. This open-air museum is nestled amid the Hawthorne Hills and features more than 20 homes and structures from the 1840s through the early 1900s, including a historic train depot. Special family-friendly programming is offered during the weekends in the summer and autumn.
521 Villa Louis Rd., Prairie du Chien, (608) 326-2721
See what Wisconsin was like in the Victorian era through the eyes of the genteel Dousman family, who built this Italian villa-style home in Prairie du Chien in the 1840s. Tours of the home and grounds are available as well as an extensive gift shop.
W7965 State Hwy 23, Greenbush, (920) 526-3271
Sylvanus and Betsey Wade were the first permanent settlers on the then-frontier of Greenbush. in 1844. Within a few years, it was a prominent stagecoach inn. Learn about life in mid-19th century Wisconsin by touring the grounds, main house, sawmill, blacksmith shop, the Wesley Jung Carriage Museum and more.
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