15 Awesome Fall Activities in Wisconsin, USA
A guide to the best fall foliage and fall festivals in Wisconsin and other fun things to do in the dairy state during autumn
Nothing beats fall in the Dairy State, Wisconsin. There are just so many things to love about fall activities in Wisconsin. Some of the most popular attractions in Wisconsin are even fall specific, such as the fall foliage.
According to the Wisconsin Fall Color Report, the second week of October is often a great time for enjoying the fall foliage Wisconsin offers. Indeed the fall leaves in Wisconsin are famous all over the USA for their intense colors. This guide shares with you the best fall activities in Wisconsin, USA.
Abundant woodlands filled to the brim with bright fall foliage color, various fall events, like Halloween, Oktoberfest. There is also much autumn fun to be had in Wisconsin Dells, Door County, apple picking, cranberry festivals, autumn festivals, pumpkin patch, farmer’s market… The list goes on and on.
These fall activities in Wisconsin are perfect for all age groups, whether solo, family with kids, romantic couples, life-loving friends, or (nature) photographers. And they can be enjoyed in various ways such as scenic car drives, hiking, pleasant walks, boats, and train rides.
Many of these activities and places are best visited in September and October. But if you’re also looking for places to visit in Wisconsin in November, I’ve got you covered!
If you love fall fests such as cranberry festivals, apple fests or good ol’ Oktoberfests, have a llok at my guide about the best fall festivals in Wisconsin.
This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through them, I will earn a small commission that will help me run this blog. Without no extra cost for you. All opinions are always mine. Thanks a lot!
Useful Travel Information for Wisconsin
Read more about Wisconsin:
Unique Things To Do in Milwaukee
15 Great Wisconsin Vacation Ideas
Things To Do in Wisconsin in Winter
Fun Things To Do in Wisconsin Dells
15 Cool Weekend Trips in Wisconsin
Best Day Trips from Milwaukee
Where to stay in Milwaukee
1. Fall Foliage in Wisconsin
Next to Vermont and New England region, the US state famous for its fall colors is Wisconsin. Every autumn, the leaves of deciduous trees (oak, maple, elm, birch, etc) change their color to a stunning combination of red, orange and yellow due to the anthocyanin, carotene, and xanthophyll pigments.
The fall foliage has actually become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wisconsin for fall visitors.
As the fall color is highly weather-dependent relying on the length of daylight and change in temperature, the depth of the color and the exact time of occurrence may vary from one year to another.
The best time for fall foliage in Wisconsin is late-September to mid-October. Scenic drives, breathtaking hikes, and great day trips are some of the ways to enjoy this amazing fall color.
Don’t forget to bring your Wisconsin hiking guidebook in order to explore the best trails in the area.
Fall Foliage in Central and Northern Wisconsin
The Northern Wisconsin fall colors start to appear first, during mid-September. The Hayward Lakes region in autumn is a prime location for a fall foliage tour along breathtakingly beautiful scenic routes marked by the leaf-shaped road signs.
Autumn is an excellent time to visit Minocqua, a town near the Eagle River, to catch the fall foliage in this northern region. Among the most popular hiking trails in Wisconsin for the fall colors is the Bearskin, which traverses 16 miles of a former railroad corridor.
This area is also famous for boasting some of the best resorts in Northern Wisconsin.
The peak fall colors in central Wisconsin can be viewed in late September. Head to Black River State Forest for mind-blowing color and photo opportunities galore.
The graceful spires of Holy Hill Church, 192 feet above the hilltop, overlooking a sea of color during fall is something not to be missed (1525 Carmel Road, Hubertus, 37 miles or 45 minutes from downtown Milwaukee).
Fall Foliage in Southern Wisconsin
Further south to Milwaukee, in Southern Wisconsin, a biking or walking tour of the 100-miles along the Oak Leaf Trail in late October will offer glorious fall color hotspots. The fall color drives southern Wisconsin reveals much darker foliage colors, perfect for nature and photography lovers.
The Great River Road on the western half of Wisconsin, the state’s only National Scenic Byway, ranks as one of the best fall drives in Wisconsin during autumn. The small riverfront town, Trempealeau, is worthy to stop by for a night stay at the historic Trempealeau hotel.
When looking for the best places to visit in Wisconsin in the fall, Lake Geneva fall colors are a must too! Indeed, Lake Geneva is considered as one of the places to see the fall colors in Wisconsin.
A simple walk or car drive along the 26-mile path around the Geneva lake will reveal the magical beauty of the colorful fall trees reflecting on the water (downtown Lake Geneva, 50 miles or 55 minutes from downtown Milwaukee). It’s thus also the perfect day trip from Milwaukee.
The Seven Bridges Trail, Grant Park, South Milwaukee features 381 acres of woodland, paved walking and bicycling paths, a 2-mile long bridge, as well as lookouts over the sandy shoreline (South Lake Drive and Park Avenue, South Milwaukee, 10 miles or 16 minutes from downtown Milwaukee).
If you are wondering where the best fall colors in Wisconsin are, check out the legendary Wisconsin Fall report. It tells you the best time for the fall colors in northern Wisconsin and the best places to see the fall leaves in Wisconsin.
2. Spooky Fall Activities
If you believe in spirits, the Wisconsin ghost tours during Halloween are just the right thing for you. The most popular ghost tours are the Lake Geneva ghost walk, the Door County trolley, the Wisconsin Dells ghost boats, and the Hangman tour.
The Lake Geneva walk offers unique colorful characters, haunted mansions, vengeful spirits, and monsters after thoroughly researching supernatural and weird stories. It’s one of the best things to do in Lake Geneva.
The Door County Trolley specializes in guided themed tours focused on the Haunted Pub Crawl, the Lighthouse Ghost tour, the Murder, and the Mayhem tour. This is one of the most popular things to do in Door County in October for kids and adults alike!
There are a few popular spooky fall activities in Wisconsin Dells. The Wisconsin Dells’ Ghost Boat offers two scary adventures: a journey into a haunted canyon (during summer) and the Season of the witch (during fall).
The Hangman Tour helps you get a little cozier with Milwaukee in a captivating and spooky way. Read more here about things to do in Milwaukee in October.
There are plenty of haunted places in the Badger State, Wisconsin, that are unmatched, unspoiled and patiently waits for you with ghostly anticipation. Places like the Al Capone’s old hideout, the Shaker’s Cigar Bar, and The Pfister Hotel are all thought to be haunted, and you can visit them all with the Milwaukee Ghost Walk.
And there is no shortage of spooky festivals among Wisconsin fall attractions. The Freakfest in Madison is the region’s largest annual Halloween party and music festival that occurs on the Saturday closest to Halloween.
Another celebration is Windigo Fest. It’s the most typical party where all things Halloween taking place and it is happening during the first weekend of October in downtown Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It’s one of the best fall activities in Wisconsin and perfect when looking for things to do in Wisconsin in October.
3. Celebrate Milwaukee Oktoberfest
Another Wisconsin attraction in fall is the legendary Milwaukee Oktoberfest. The Wisconsin community is rich in German heritage, as 42% of the residents are partly or fully German.
It’s no wonder this is one of the most popular attractions in Wisconsin for both Wisconsinites and anyone visiting from out of state.
So, the famous Bavarian Oktoberfest in Milwaukee is celebrated there in full swing. The event takes place just north of downtown Milwaukee at Glendale, during the first weekend of October.
It offers a little bit of everything for all.
This is the time to indulge in authentic German music like brass bands and yodeling, Schuhplattler folk dancing, savory smells of Bratwursts (German pork sausage) on the grill, Rollbraten (stuffed pork roast) and Spanferkel (suckling pig), sweet desserts like Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), tortes and Bee Sting Cake, cold pints of German beer, and much more.
The open-air pavilion at the Bavarian Fest Garten has plenty of seating, souvenirs, and games like Cornhole competition, and a Miss Oktoberfest contest. It’s one of the best fall activities in Wisconsin and definitely a must when looking for fun fall festivals in Wisconsin.
4. Visit Door County in Fall
Door County is a popular vacation and tourist destination in fall. In fact, fall is probably the best time to visit Door County, WI. The area is commonly referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” and it’s one of the most scenic places to enjoy the fall foliage in Wisconsin.
To experience Door County peak fall colors, there are plenty of options. Take the ferry up to Washington Island and roam around the island. Stop at the petting zoo, check out the Norwegian church, and grab a bite to eat at any of the places along County Road West.
Another great option for the fall leaf colors in Wisconsin Door County is to head to the Peninsula State Park, climb up the Eagle Tower and take photographs of the blazing red-gold-orange islands in Green Bay against the crisp blue sky. It’s a gorgeous place when looking for the Wisconsin fall colors.
I am partial, though, because I was so impressed by all the great things to do in Green Bay that I totally fell in love with the city.
Some of the most typical things to do in Door County during fall include the Whitefish Dunes State Park, fish boils, and lighthouse cruises. This Door County park offers rugged Lake Michigan shoreline and huge sand dunes. It’s one of the prettiest state parks in Wisconsin.
‘Fish boil’ is an age-old tradition in Door County, a truly local meal. Locally caught whitefish is boiled with potatoes, onions, and salt. Restaurants offering fish boils are spread out from the northern tip of the peninsula all the way to Sturgeon Bay.
Door County is also home to some of the most romantic cabins in Wisconsin, thus you might consider it for a couples’ getaway. This is one of the best things to do in Door County in October for couples, especially those wanting to escape the crowds brought in by festival goers.
Numerous festivals in Door County are lined up during fall, featuring seasonal food, drinks, live music, arts, and crafts.
Let’s just name a few:
- Egg Harbor Ale Fest
- Sturgeon Bay Harvest Fest
- Bailey’s Harbor Autumn Fest in September
- Egg Harbor Pumpkin Patch festival
- Washington Island Cider Pressing Party and the autumn lighthouse festival
- Sister Bay Fall Festival in October
Door County is also considered one of the best destinations in Wisconsin for fall colors. Don’t forget to check out the Door County fall color report to find the best places for peak fall colors in Door County.
5. Attend Madison’s Farmer Market
The Dane County Farmers’ Market is America’s largest producer-only farmers’ market. It is held from April to November on Saturday mornings at the ‘Square’ surrounding the Wisconsin State Capitol building in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. The Farmers’ Market is easily among the most popular attractions in Wisconsin, and for good reason!
From November to December, it is held indoors at the Monona Terrace, and from January to April, it is held at the Madison Senior Center. So, technically we cannot call it a Wisconsin fall attraction, but it is a must-see during your visit. What does make it one of the best Wisconsin activities for the fall is the abundance of pumpkin options available!
Fox News said that it is the Farmers’ Market that makes Madison a top foodie paradise. Apart from fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, meat, nuts, and plants, you can also grab some specialties like hot sauces, jams, honey, beeswax, raw wool, artisan soaps, maple syrup, and applewood chips.
More than two hundred vendors in one spot can be a bit overwhelming, but this is local produce at its best. It is advisable to go as early as possible because the shops close as soon as they run out of their produce.
The vendors are quite knowledgeable and passionate about their products, so feel free to ask questions. As a keepsake memory, you can also buy bags, T-shirts, and posters in original hand-painted designs since 1977.
The Madison’s Farmer Market is thus one of the best places to visit in Wisconsin in the fall and a cool weekend trip in Wisconsin.
6. Explore Wisconsin Dells in Fall
Wisconsin Dells is an hour northwest of Madison on the I-94/90. The beautiful fall foliage, geological attributes, local festivals, log cabins, the State Park, boat rides, and steam trains make Wisconsin Dells special during autumn. Not surprisingly there are an abundance of fall activities in Wisconsin Dells.
These sandstone formations in the area, left when an apocalyptic rush of water created a 15-mile gorge at the end of the last ice age, are especially striking in the warm light of fall. And so are the forests.
The calm placid Mirror Lake lies in a gorge created by the Dell Creek, which flows north through Lake Delton and into the Wisconsin River. The Devil’s Lake State Park is an excellent place to hike the 500 feet cliff above the lake to view the beautiful fall scenery.
Wisconsin Dells fall attractions also include a 3-mile narrow-gauge excursion in a steam locomotive run by Riverside & Great Northern Railway.
The Wisconsin Dells fall colors intermingled with the rock formation is absolutely breathtaking when viewed from the Wisconsin River by Dells Boat Tour. For over 50 years, Wo-Zha-Wa Fall Festival has been attracting visitors to the area during the autumn harvest festival. And all framed by the gorgeous Wisconsin fall foliage!
Wisconsin Dells is studded with shopping malls (antique and craft mall, outlets, cheese market,… ), where you can find unique collectibles, trendy apparel, antiques, gifts, cheese, liquor, fudge, candy, furniture, sporting goods, and local souvenirs. It’s one of the best fall activities in Wisconsin.
7. Visit the Farmer Pumpkin Patch
Fall activities in Wisconsin must definitely include the farmer pumpkin patches. These are easily some of the most popular tourist attractions in Wisconsin during the fall, especially for families.
The Treinen Farm in Lodi has been the area’s favorite fall destination for corn mazing, pumpkin picking, horse-drawn hayrides, and exploring the Wisconsin countryside for over 25 years.
This unique farm has a gift shop, a banquet facility, a petting zoo (baby chicks, bunnies, pygmy goats, piglets, calves, and foals), a locally grown produce market and a 14-acre pumpkin patch to explore in autumn. Don’t miss their donuts, kettle corn, popcorn, jellies, and caramel apples.
But the specialty of Treinen farm is that each year, they select a maze theme and create an entire experience around it. It is one form of a unique outdoor art installation where the maze field is precisely cut and designed in patterns depicting a theme.
This year, the theme was Rainbows, Kittens, and Killer Baby Unicorns. It is fun to piece together the map-puzzle to find your way out and for winning prizes for finding the secret locations.
How to get to Treinen Farm:
From Madison, take Highway 12 almost to Sauk City, then turn right onto Highway 188, just pass the Wollersheim Winery, then turn right to go east on Highway 60 for 5 miles and you will arrive in Treinen Farm.
There are numerous pumpkin farms all around Wisconsin and most offer similar fall activities. Some of the best Pumpkin Farms you can visit during autumn in Wisconsin are:
I recommend visiting during the time of the peak fall colors Wisconsin.
8. Enjoy Warren’s Cranberry Festival
Anyone looking for the best things to do in Wisconsin in September must include a visit to the Warren’s Cranberry Festival (402 Pine St, Warrens, WI 54666). This is a three-day celebration of Wisconsin’s state fruit on the last weekend of September. It is one of my favorite things to do in Warrens, WI during the fall, or really anytime!
It is the world’s largest cranberry festival, a family fun event during fall where you can explore over 3 miles of shopping area including 850 arts and crafts booths, 350 flea market and antique booths, and 100 farm market booths.
The beautiful fall scenery in the backdrop, the delicious smell in the air and the friendly local people, everything makes the shopping experience incredible at the Cranberry Festival. Many people start their Christmas marketing here.
The Marsh Tour is very informative (8 am to 3 pm on Fridays and Saturdays), and you get to know a lot about the history of cranberry farming in Wisconsin, how the cranberries grow and the equipment used to harvest them.
Cranberries have little air-pockets inside them and that allow them to float on the surface of the water. That is why the bogs are flooded the night before harvesting and a water reel is used to dislodge the cranberries from the vine.
Fresh cranberries, local cranberry wine, and other cranberry products are available for purchase at the marsh. The Sunday Parade with marching bands, drill teams, and unique floats are not to be missed either.
And do not forget to check out the interesting contests during the festival like the ‘Berry Bunch’ costume contest, the biggest berry contest, the button design contest, the cranberry chiffon pie-eating contest, the marsh medallion hunt, the photography contest, the quilt, and the needlework contest.
You’ll have a blast!
9. Go Apple Picking
Fall activities in Wisconsin mean turning leaves, first chilly nights and apple trees spangled with fruits.
Wisconsin has different apple cultivars varying in tastes, textures, and subtle flavors. Apple picking is a fun activity in the fall, especially with family and kids.
The apple firms all over Wisconsin allow visitors to take home huge amounts of apples for low prices (as low as 12 $/peck) and purchase all kinds of homemade goods involving apples like pies, ciders, donuts, …
The best apple picking spots in Wisconsin are:
- Apple Holler (5006 S Sylvania Ave, Sturtevant, WI 53177)
- Apple Barn Orchard and Winery (W6384 Sugar Creek Rd, Elkhorn, WI 53121)
- Ecker’s Apple Farm (W27062 WI-54, Trempealeau, WI 54661)
Apple Holler has a family-oriented country-style atmosphere and both apples and peaches can be picked here, with more than 25 different kinds of apples being available during the fall.
In Apple Barn, the youngsters can pluck their own apples and learn more about apple growing while adults can indulge in delicious winery products like strawberry wine, apple wine, peach wine, …
The Ecker’s Farm offers 20 different kinds of apples to be picked, including Ginger Gold, Riverbelle, Snow Sweet, Paula Red, State Fair, Gala, and Ari Gold, apple-based tasty treats straight from the oven, and an annual Honeycrisp Hootenanny event.
The Wisconsin Apple Growers Association represents 170 commercial apple growers from across the state. They also feature all apple festivals in Wisconsin.
Fresh cider, rapidly and naturally fermented into hard cider, was a natural way of preserving apples in olden days. President John Adams popularized the health benefits of cider as it became the drink of choice for early Americans.
Is there any better way to enjoy the best fall colors in Wisconsin than by apple picking with your family?
10. Taste Test at the Gay Mills Apple Fest
Gay Mills is an old little town hidden away in a valley at the bottom of a big hill. A trip to the Gay Mills Apple Fest (Highway 171, Gays Mills, WI, 54631) is a must-do thing at Wisconsin in fall.
This festival is held on the last full weekend in September. It is an annual celebration of the apple harvest, and another festival that makes my list of favorite things to do in Wisconsin in September. It is also a popular tourist attraction in Wisconsin, so come prepared for crowds.
There are plenty of things to enjoy in this festival like a pancake and sausage breakfast, runs/walks, a book sale, a lion’s flea market, the museum of the Kickapoo, numerous food stands, carnivals, music, parades, and tournaments.
The fest is considered one of the most popular Wisconsin attractions in fall and one of the coolest Wisconsin fall festivals.
Whether you are looking for a prime spot for leaf-peeping amongst the woods or sandstone cliffs, whether you are determined to explore ghosts, whether you feel a German connection, or whether you just want to indulge in the flavors and tastes. And all this framed by the most gorgeous fall foliage in Wisconsin!
11. Attend a Lake Geneva Fall Festival
If you’re looking for fall festivals in Wisconsin, I really recommend a visit to the Lake Geneva area. In addition to being one of the best lakes in Wisconsin, it turns out there are normally over 10 different festivals going on in the area throughout autumn.
In Lake Geneva the most popular fall festivals are Oktoberfest and Beer & Spirits. In nearby towns there are also numerous other festivals, including Scarecrow Fest, Antique and Classic Boat Show, Classic Car Show, Farmer’s Harvest Festival and many more.
Since many of these take place in September and October, it is worth noting that one of the best things to do in Wisconsin in November is TrainFest. This unique festival is in West Allis, a 45 minute drive from Lake Geneva.
Exploring the Lake Geneva area and discovering new fall festivals is definitely one of my favorite things to do in Wisconsin in October and November. Make sure to check out my guide for where to stay in Lake Geneva to get the best accommodation for your stay.
12. Do the Lake Geneva Ghost Tour
When you think of ghosts, you probably don’t think of Wisconsin. But actually, the Lake Geneva ghost walk is one of the best ghost tours I’ve ever been on.
Personally I think that fall is the best time to visit Wisconsin because of the beautiful colors, all the festivals, but also because I love ghost tours and fall really is the best time for a ghost tour. Anyone else looking for spooky tourist attractions in Wisconsin for an atmospheric fall visit will love this.
I don’t want to give away anything because part of the fun of the tours is hearing the stories for the first time. The company clearly does their research and knows their history! My guide was Rita and she was incredibly knowledgeable and a lot of fun.
Be sure to check out all my other top recommendations for things to do in Lake Geneva to get the most out of this awesome city!
13. Savor Autumn Beers
One of the best fall activities in Wisconsin is trying out seasonal beers. In fact, there are several fall festivals in Wisconsin centered around beer and drinking, including Oktoberfests in multiple towns and cities across the state.
This means there are plenty of opportunities to try out local beers of all types. Because Wisconsinites put a lot of love and care into their breweries, you’ll get to try some amazing new beers and meet some great people.
Many of these events are for adults only, so keep that in mind if you are traveling with kids.
14. Go on a North Wisconsin Road Trip
My favorite way to experience the stunning fall foliage Wisconsin has to offer is to go on a road trip through the north. Although it’s impossible to time it perfectly, typically this one of the things to do in Wisconsin in October because it is the best time for fall colors in Wisconsin.
In addition to the beautiful fall colors, there are a lot of amazing things to do in Northern Wisconsin. These include some of the top tourist attractions in Wisconsin such as Big Bay State Park, hiking near Tomahawk or kayaking! Taking a road trip through the north is one of the best fall activities in Wisconsin.
Fall is also the perfect time to explore some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Northern Wisconsin before they freeze over in the winter! Alternative, it one of the best places to visit in Wisconsin in November if you want to avoid the crowds. But it’s cold!
You can also check out my favorite North Wisconsin resorts so you know where to stay along the way for the perfect vacation!
15. Stay in a Romantic Cabin
If resorts aren’t your thing – they aren’t for everyone – but you still want somewhere special to stay, then I can definitely recommend a romantic cabin in Wisconsin during your fall visit.
There are so many to choose from here! I love the feeling of getting back to nature in these beautiful and secluded places and enjoying some good old fashioned Wisconsin activities like swimming in the lake or hiking.
There are even ample opportunities to enjoy the fall foliage of Wisconsin since many of these romantic cabins are surrounded by woods.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
In a word: beautiful. The fall foliage Wisconsin offers is truly spectacular and can be found throughout the state. Weather wise it is starting to get cool, so make sure you pack some warm layers!
There are a lot of fall specific activities for the whole family – or even just for adults. There is everything from cranberry festivals, apple picking and apple festivals to Oktoberfest and ghost tours!
You can find the fall colors all over Wisconsin. However, I highly recommend a road trip through the north to truly appreciate the fall foliage in Wisconsin.