Located in the Midwest and Great Lakes region in the United States of America, Wisconsin is the 23rd largest and 20th most populous state in the nation.
Also known as America’s Dairyland, perhaps because it is one of the leading dairy producers in the country, Wisconsin shares its borders with Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Lake Michigan, Michigan, and Lake Superior.
Divided into 72 counties, Wisconsin has a diverse geography which includes the Northern Highlands, the Western Uplands, the Central Plain, and of course, Lake Michigan.
Madison is the state capital and Milwaukee is the largest city.
Meaning “meeting of the waters”, Wisconsin could be easily called America’s water world – two Great Lakes, hundreds of inland lakes, and thousands of waterways. However, there is a lot more in the American state that we don’t know of yet. Let us explore the hidden gems in Wisconsin and see what else is in store for us.
1. Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron, North Freedom
Tom Every, a professional destroyer, worked most part of his life towards destroying things. He was an industrial wrecker who earned his living by tearing apart old factory buildings, breweries, or anything that stood in the way. However, when he retired in 1983 as if he had a change of heart, he decided to dedicate his remaining life to creating things.
In Every’s detailed imagination, Dr. Evermor is a Victorian architect from Eggington, a quaint village in Bedfordshire, England, who had a strange past that involved a Presbyterian priest and a lacerating lightning storm.
The doctor (or Every) believes that manifestation his inventiveness in the Forevertron, a giant sculpture park in rural Wisconsin, will send him to the heaven riding on a magnetic lightning beam.
Crafted out of industrial junk, Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron comprises scrap retrieved from an Army Ammunition Plant, a decontamination compartment from NASA’s Apollo project, and dynamos manufactured by Thomas Edison.
2. American Science & Surplus, Milwaukee
It’s a store. No, wait. It’s a museum. Ah! No. It’s the best of both.
American Science & Surplus, located in Milwaukee, Maryland, is a collection of rare, difficult-to-find items that range from military, industrial, educational, to novelty products that can be used by artists, students, educators, bargain hunters, hobbyists, and almost everybody else.
Hard to tell if it’s bizarre or a treasure trove, American Science & Surplus caters to all kinds of geeks and nerds as well as families that like exploring their creative side.
Items sold at the store have been used in science projects, costumes, party decorations, telescopes, and even dioramas.
Quirky posters and signage, mystery boxes, amusing billboards, and handmade displays can be found all around the store, and if this weren’t enough, you can also indulge in a scavenger hunt at American Science & Surplus.
3. FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard, Sparta
Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks (FAST) is one of the leading manufacturers in the United States of America of statues, water slides, roadside attractions, and life-size structures made out of fiberglass.
To produce such creations, FAST has to construct molds which are usually larger than the item itself. So, once the order has been fulfilled, the establishment stores the mold in their backyard. As a result, now, the backyard (or the ‘graveyard’) is now filled with giant-sized molds in every type, shape, and classification as one can think of.
Huge skulls lay side-by-side with mammoth-like elephants and mice, scary jaws share space with turtles ten times bigger than their actual size. Staying in the open over the years, the molds have rusted and now give away a vintage feel, like they were actual creatures from a mythological fable who stay frozen in another era.
You are free to take a stroll through the gardens and enjoy the oddities of this uncanny collection of molds.
4. Apostle Island Sea Caves, La Pointe
Apostle Island is one of the 22 islands that lay on the Lake Superior in La Pointe, Wisconsin, and it is known to be home to some of the most exquisite sea caves not only in the region but the world.
The sea caves of Apostle Island are regarded as the most striking of their kind in the entire Great Lakes area, especially during the winter, when the caves which are otherwise accessible by boat in the summer, become temples of ice which can be reached by foot.
Technically lake caves, the Apostle Island Sea Caves are naturally formed like a subtle honeycomb, only that they are made of stone.
Accessing the caves by boat may be considered risky during the summer, but, when the damp built-up freezes during winter, the Sea Caves not only offer wondrous landscape but also make it possible for you to enjoy a two-mile trek from the shore to the ice temples.
5. Wizard Quest, Wisconsin Dells
Wizard Quest in Wisconsin Dells in not your regular amusement park. They don’t offer joy rides, instead, the one-of-a-kind themed amusement park requires its visitors, old or young, to go through a ‘Quadrasphere’, with a magic wand, and make their way past different hurdles and traps in order to release four elemental wizards.
Spread over 13,000 square feet, the theme park takes you through an almost-original story where you get to play the hero and rescue the distressed wizards.
You go through puzzling rooms, hidden passageways, hall of mirrors, and other such traps which are controlled through a clever system of computer effects and your “wands”, which when used, activate different events in the world of Wizard Quest.
6. Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island
Wouldn’t it be perfect to spend a beach vacation swimming in the beach water but minus all the sand that gets inside our bathing suits? Looks like nature has answered your prayers.
Schoolhouse Beach in Washington island, one of the only five sandless beaches in the world, is a gorgeous beach with no sand but rather countless limestone rocks and pebbles which make the beach floor.
Named after a small school that once stood by the shoreline and has since been replaced with a picnic area and barbeque space, the Beach is perfect for walking as the pebbles gently massage the sole of your feet.
The small rocks and pebbles that dot the shoreline and the entire beach area are, in fact, geological formations that have taken thousands of years of glacier polishing to reach their current state.
These rock formations are so special that souvenir hunters used to carry mementos from the Schoolhouse Beach until it was strictly prohibited to do so, and anybody caught taking away a rock would be penalized with a steep fine.
7. Washington Island Stave Church, Washington
Completed in 1994, the Washington Island Stave Church belongs in Washington, Wisconsin belongs to the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and was erected to honor the region’s Scandinavian heritage.
Looking like an architecture that dropped right out of medieval Norway, the Stave Church was inspired by a similar religious establishment in Borgun, Norway. “Stavkirkes”, as these churches are commonly known in native Scandinavian, have mostly rot, tarnished away in time, or destroyed by fire. While only a few of the original structure remains, replicas like the Washington Island State Cave help keep the traditions.
Even though the multi-gabled churches belong purely to the God-fearing religious communities, the Viking-liking pagan design is hard to miss.
While the Wooden church compound is mostly used for weddings and such ceremonies and open seasonally, the main church is located across the street.
8. Lost City Forest, Madison
A large expanse of natural woods remains tucked away in the southeastern area of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, isolated from the common world, and known to the world as the “Lost City Forest.”
You may think that the name is apt for a place that sits miles away from urban development, where the only occasional sound is that of a woodpecker or a car passing by, however, this is not why the forest is called the Lost City.
The forest sits on the ruins of a failed housing development which was constructed in the early 20th century by the Lake Forest Land Company who hoped to erect an attractive community here. However, the surrounding marshlands proved too unstable to carry on with the construction even though the initial foundations had been laid.
The Great Depression took over the country after a while and sealed the project’s fate entirely.
Take the annual Lost City Halloween tour offered by the University, or avail the free admission to the botanical gardens and stroll down to the ghost town and imagine what it would have been like to live here.
9. Mary Nohl House, Milwaukee
Created by Mary Nohl, an artist, Mary Nohl House aka Mary Nohl Art Environment is a collection of her fine work with concrete. The artist built strange but interesting concrete murals resembling monsters, fish, and other humans which may seem like a usual artwork at first, but, Mary was anything but usual.
Mary Nohl, born in 1949 and lived until 2001, was a trained artist from the Art Institute of Chicago. However, as the fate of any such strange artform, Nohl’s creation soon started yielding her house the tag of a “Witch House”. After several attempts of vandalism, the yard was fenced in.
After Nohl passed away in 2001, the less-appreciative neighbors tried to destroy the site, but, thankfully, the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is currently managed by the Kohler Foundation.
To keep away any possible danger or damage, the house is out of bounds for the general public but you are welcome to watch and appreciate the late artist’s artwork from the street.
10. Lamp House, Madison
Frank Lloyd Wright was a distinguished American architect, interiors designer, educator, and writer who has been credited with building creating commercial and residential structures for over 70 years, of which the Fallingwater has been known as the best example of American Architecture of all time.
While most people know of him and his exemplary work, the Lamp House, a small, blocky home located one block from the State Capitol, in Madison, Wisconsin is a compact house that Wright built for his dear friend, Robert Lamp.
Surrounded by urban structures and rapidly increasing development, the Lamp House stands at its location without anybody noticing that it is a creation by one of the greatest architects the nation has seen.
Though the condition of the house is not as chic as you would expect it to be (nobody lives here), the architectural landmark is still an important part of America’s architectural history.
11. Jurustic Park, Marshfield
Clyde Wynia, a former lawyer and a self-proclaimed amateur paleontologist, devoted his time in creating a fantasy world that is dedicated to the extinct animal species of Wisconsin marshland – something that may have or may have never existed.
Crafted out of rustic junk metal and other scrap items, this crew of over 1,000 fantasy creatures are collectively known as the ‘Jurustic Park’ and depicts the region’s supposed ‘Iron Age’.
Among the exhibits are a few giant dragons, some large pieces such as hobbits, Wynia’s Oxide (a watchdog), Porky-Pine (half-pig-half-porcupine), and Abe Lawbender (a lawyer from Shysterville).
The park is open to the public during the summer months when Wynia conducts personal tours of his Jurustic Park and enthusiastically shares half-true stories of the park’s origin and inspiration.
12. Lake Michigan Triangle, Manitowoc
So, you thought Bermuda Triangle was the only ship-eater phenomenon in the world? Think again.
Lake Michigan Triangle, a lesser known area to the world, is no less of a danger or a mysterious section, that is known to have inexplicably claimed a huge number of ships and boats, some that were never found and some that were found destroyed without any logical reason.
The stretch of Lake Michigan Triangle spreads from Ludington to Benton Harbour in Michigan to Manitowoc in Wisconsin.
First discovered in 1891 when Thomas Hume, a schooner, disappeared overnight with a crew of seven sailors on-board and was never found, not even a single piece of the driftwood it was made of.
Another event in 1921 involved a ship named Rosa Belle which disappeared for no reason with eleven crew members and was later discovered overturned, floating in Lake Michigan. Rosa Belle looked like it had been in an accident, such as a collision, but, no other boats in the area reported any such incident.
Several incidents since then have been reported by locals passing the area, and some claim that the site of the triangle is a pool of paranormal activity. Maybe, maybe not?
13. The Dickeyville Grotto, Dickeyville
Created between 1925 and 1930, the Dickeyville Grotto and shrines can be found on the grounds of Holy Ghost Parish in Dickeyville, Wisconsin. The creative collection is the work of Father Matthias Wernerus, a Catholic Priest, who served the Parish as a Pastor from 1918 to 1931.
Crafted out of rocks, glass, and several other bright items gathered from all around the world, the shrines were built without a blueprint. Some of the elements used in the creation include gems, stalactites, starfish, porcelain, fossils, corals, rock crystals, copper, iron, coal, and petrified wood.
Several shrines can be found around the Grotto such as the main shrine that houses the Grotto of Blessed Virgin, Fatima Shrine, the Sacred Heart Shrine, and a patriotic shrine.
14. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Wauwatosa
Frank Lloyd Wright was a celebrated American architect and interiors designer, one of the best that the nation had seen in its history. He believed in deriving inspiration from nature and liked calling his philosophy ‘organic architecture’.
However, when Wright was given the responsibility of building the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, he had a different idea in mind – perhaps, an alien ship.
While the church retains a few natural curves, most of the edifice was constructed out of Wright’s fascination with Greek Orthodox symbolism. Hence, he incorporated the symbols into the edifice itself. The body of the church is a rounded, shallow dome that replicates those in Greek Orthodox Chapels.
Though Wright was the mastermind behind the planning and construction of the Church, it wasn’t completed until after Wright’s demise. A distinctive resemblance to a UFO, the Church is one of the last works of the superstar Architect.
15. Shaker’s Cigar Bar, Milwaukee
Widely regarded as “Milwaukee’s Haunted Bar”, Shaker’s is a Victorian-style bar and restaurant which was owned and operated by Al Capone as a cover for his gruesome criminal activities.
Delicious food and a despicable history aside, the Cigar Bar offers two ghost tours which takes you through and around the basement, the bar, and the adjacent apartments, which were once the hub for several illegal activities – murder, drug trafficking, rape, grave digging, unclaimed human parts.
Employees at the Shaker’s have reported several incidents of paranormal activities in and around the complex, however, those have only resulted in bringing more visitors to the bar complex.
Join in for a unique tour of Milwaukee’s crime scene during the 19th and 20th century.
16. The Rock in the House, Fountain City
Not to be confused with the “House in the Rock” in Spring Green, but, characteristically similar, The Rock in the House in Fountain City, Wisconsin is exactly what it says – a rock in a house!
Renovation of the small house that sat at the base of a hillside finished in April of 1995. However, in a strange, almost-fatal twist of fate, a huge boulder weighing almost 55-tons, came crashing through the roof of the house into the back of the house.
Fortunately, the couple who owned the place came out unharmed of the incident, at least physically, but the mental trauma made them move away almost immediately.
The subsequent owners, however, decided to keep the rock as is, and restore the house around the boulder and gave the property its current name.
When you come for a visit, the house may seem mundane at first but wait until the host opens the bedroom door for you.
17. Wegner Grotto, Sparta
Art doesn’t always require a certified degree, at times, inspiration and dedication are all it takes. At least, so it was for Paul and Matilda Wegner who drew their inspiration from a home-made grotto in Dickeyville.
Though neither was a trained artist, when they retired to their farm in Sparta, Wisconsin, they began working on a sculpture complex with a framework in mind.
The centerpiece of their creation is the glass church, where Paul would have his funeral when he passed away in 1936.
The couple worked tirelessly for seven years on the grotto and crafted several pieces – a replica of their 50th wedding anniversary cake, the Bremen ocean liner, so on and so forth.
The Wegner Grotto is open for tourists to take a tour, or, you could tie the knot inside the iconic glass church.
18. Ladybug Building, Milwaukee
Officially known as the “Milwaukee Building”, the building was once just another drab, unattractive office building that stood on the streets of Milwaukee. To shake that boredom off of their streets, the city decided to bring a change and they started with the Milwaukee Building.
Three giant ladybugs, almost the size of a ’68 VW Beetle, were added to the glass façade that instantly perked the whole structure and the surrounding community.
The upper floors of the Ladybug building house various offices and businesses while the ground floor has been the sight of a few nightclubs, the latest of which is the 618 Live on Water.
19. World’s Largest Six-Pack, La Crosse
Originally, the brainchild of an unknown genius who realized that the six giant beer tanks of the then Old Style Brewery resembled a perfect six-pack, the artist painted them as perfect imitations of the Old Style beer cans which came to be known as the world’s largest six-pack.
Unfortunately, Old Style closed for business in 1999, and the fate of the six-pack was left uncertain, but, not for long. The brewery was soon bought by La Cross, who, in a rather disappointing contrast to the original idea, covered the six-pack in vinyl sleeves rather than painting them.
There are numerous, rather hilarious facts that have been used by people to illustrate just how much do the six-packs hold such as that it would take one person to drink
20. Sputnik Crash Site, Manitowoc
On September 5th, 1962, a 20-pound piece of space junk broke off of the Sputnik IV and struck the town of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. All that is left of that piece now is the brass ring that sits in the middle of the street to commemorate the site where the satellite crashed.
Not only the town’s biggest claim to fame, the crash site has also been the inspiration to Manitowoc’s most intriguing space-themed annual fest, Sputnikfest, which features attendees dressed in weird space costumes, drinking vodka on the streets, and indulging in various extraterrestrial oddities such as the Cosmic Cake competition and the Ms. Space Debris Pageant.