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The Wisconsin State Fair is the hottest event in the state right now. And thanks to the steamy August weather, that can literally be the case as well, with the beaming sun and scorching temperatures threatening to make Fairgoers feel as roasted and fried as a Sporkie contestant. Thankfully, when you need a break from having all that fun in the sun, the Wisconsin State Fair has plenty of places to chill out, relax and soak in the State Fair sights (and maybe a beer or a Drinkie winner) without soaking in any more sun rays.
Here are eleven of our favorite escapes inside the Wisconsin State Fair:
Sure, an obvious selection – but also an outstanding selection. What better way, after all, to get some air amongst all the glorious chaos of the Fair than by literally riding through the air? For $6 one way (or $10 for a round trip), the iconic SkyGlider gives you a chance to cool off and catch your breath while taking in the breathtaking sights of the Wisconsin State Fair below your feet: the massive crowds, the cover bands rocking out, the people devouring their Fair foods on a stick. Ironically, for a place literally lifting you off the ground, it's great way to get your feet back underneath you and settled before diving back into scarfing down Sporkies, dancing along to live bands and pushing kids out of the way for another ride down the Giant Slide.
2. Exploratory Park
Escape from the forest of fellow Sconnies, '80s/'90s covers and delicious culintary temptations by heading into this literal forest: Exploratory Park! Found on the south side of Main Street by the Original Cream Puff Pavilion, Exploratory Park offers a variety of ways to explore nature, learn about the great outdoors and just relax away from the carnival rides and commotion. With calming spots like Paradise Pond, the Japanese garden and master gardeners spaces – plus playground games like chess and hopscotch – Exploratory Park is an ideal place to get your heart settled and serene ... before heading back into the State Fair fun and challenging it to a ninth serving of beer cheese lava cakes.
3. The Milky Way
Renowned anchorman Ron Burgundy once noted that milk was a bad choice – but milk at the Wisconsin State Fair is always a good choice, flavored milk stand to the milking parlor and The Milky Way, a relaxation and gathering spot even better than some 2 percent on some Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Found near Entrance A with the giant milk jug, this small park-like escape is perfect for taking a break from the hubbub and smelling the flowers – quite literally – as well as an ideal location if you need an easily found, easily identifiable place to arrange a meeting with friends or family also at the Fair. Plus, that giant milk jug will get you craving those flavored milks found inside the grounds – so get a mooooooo-ve on over to The Milky Way for your recuperation needs!
4. Wisconsin Products Pavilion
The two most blessed letters in all of the Wisconsin State Fair: AC. And you'll definitely feel it at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, a heaven of fans, shade and space. And once you're done savoring the coolth (that's a word, right? Like the opposite of warmth?) you can then savor all the delectable Wisconsin-made items packed inside the Products Pavilion, from cheese to maple syrup to pizzas to cherry treats to potato perfection and so much more. The only problem: While you'll be all cool and comfortable, all those tasty products surrounding and tempting you will make it feel like your money's heating up and about to burn a hole in your pocket.
5. 1851 Steel & Stone
Beat the heat with the help of a little history! (And water. Mainly it's the water doing the heavy lifting.) New to this year's State Fair is 1851 Steel & Stone, a mesmerizing water feature in the Central Park space paying tribute to the first year of this beloved late summer tradition – complete with an Abraham Lincoln historical marker. All the history and impressive craftsmanship is quite eye-catching – but what'll really catch your eye on a 90-degree August day is the water spouting and flowing through the feature, offering a little sunny spritz and calm so you can get back out there and party like it's 1851.
If you're looking for an oasis at the Wisconsin State Fair, why not go ... to the place with "oasis" right there in the name? Indeed, inside the Exposition Center, found right in the middle of all the vendors, shops, stands, crazy products and more, you can find this small island out of the sun, filled with deck furniture for you to grab a seat and rest those feet. (Maybe even with a foot massager you bought in the Expo Center too!) And, if you love that patio furniture, you can buy and bring some of it home over at the By The Yard vendor booth. Anyways, though, the Expoasis is a perfect spot to cool off before heading back into the heat ... or just over to the hot tub section.
Looking for the swankiest escape at the State Fair? Yes, even swankier than the place with the spicy bugs and smoked alligator? Look no further than Wineberry, located on the north side of the Bank Five Nine Amphitheater. There, you'll find a chic little vino-focused lounge – probably the only wine lounge where you can nosh on a light cheese plate and savor a sophisticated glass of pinot ... then immediately walk a few paces to destroy some buttered corn on the cob like your mouth's a lawnmower. It's cool, calm and comes with the best grape squeezins on the State Fair – so stop by for a splash of class in a glass before heading back into the chaos.
8. Central Mall
Central Mall is appropriately named, not only the main drag in the heart of the State Fair but also a massive thruway for the throngs of people meandering from one delicious Sporkie to another State Fair iconic sight and back and forth. Yet even with this bustling pathway, the State Fair has found a way to make it a cozy spot to chill out as well, scattering copious picnic seating, shade and swings in the middle of it all to give Fairgoers space to relax. Central Mall is now even more central to the State Fair experience, whether you're scampering from one end of the grounds to another or grabbing a seat to savor this Sconnie summer spectacular.
9. Camp Amber
The Bank Five Nine Amphitheater is the biggest free stage at the State Fair – but don't let it overshadow this little gem of a hangout. Camp Amber is an optimal hideout, surrounded by all sorts of action – from shops to shows – but still maintaining a relaxed vibe inside thanks to its campgrounds decor and energy. And, as you'd hope for a place with amber in its name, there's plenty of tasty brews on tap – courtesy of Leinenkugel's, Summit, Terrapin and more – as well as some frozen cocktails to help refresh your taste buds while you refresh your feet and senses at this hangout.
Need a vacation from the hustle and bustle of the State Fair? Book yourself a trip to the Tropics – no reservation, flight or expensive hotel resort stay needed! With its Caribbean beach vibe – complete with jammin' live music from the likes of King Solomon and Bobby Way, freshly flavorful foods to snack on and a shady setting thanks to the palm trees and thatched roofs – the Tropics, found on Wetley Way between Center and First Street, feels like a perfectly chill tropical getaway right in the middle of the most ecstatically Wisconsin location possible.
11. The Micro
It may be called The Micro, but this State Fair spot is a jumbo-sized heaven for beer-lovers and those who just need a sit in some cooler shade. The covered and fan-happy hangout offers bar and table seating (plus a few TVs to help keep up with the Brewers) for those who need to get off their feet – but their taste buds and thirst sensors will give a standing ovation to The Micro's tap list, pouring more than 60 craft brews of all varietals from across the infamously beer-loving state. Plus, in case this place wasn't cool enough, you can win free swag just ... by drinking beer. Yes, if you kill one of The Micro's many kegs, you get a free t-shirt, serving up some tasty triumph along with your tasty hops.
For more cooling off offerings, the State Fair also has multiple bubblers and bottle-filling stations – found inside the Exposition Center, at the Wetley Way restrooms near We Energies Energy Park, inside the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, the Case IH Coliseum, Exploratory Park and more. For more locations, click here.
And enough of cool spots; for more information on all the hottest features, foods and more at this year's Wisconsin State Fair, check out the rest of OnMilwaukee's State Fair coverage as well as the State Fair's website.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.