We get it, tropical getaways and Insta-worthy beaches are beyond tempting this time of year. But how about thinking outside the typical and head to our neck of the woods instead?
An adventurer’s playground, Sauk County, Wisconsin boasts 22,000 acres of trails, parks, lakes, and rivers, all just waiting to be explored. And when you’re not outside soaking up the vitamin D or taking in Mother Nature’s epic views, this Wisconsin county’s many shops, eateries, and amusement parks are ready to keep you and your entourage entertained. These 11 indoor and outdoor activities will make every beachgoer wish they had followed you to Sauk County!
Mirror Lake State Park offers more than 20 miles of trails, ranging from totally doable to worth the challenge. Grab a map of the assorted routes, as each one culminates in its own scenic reward, including boat landings, beaches, campgrounds, and observation decks. As you stroll, keep an eye peeled for large and small wildlife; at any time, you could cross paths with turtles, raccoons, and chipmunks, as well as deer, beavers, and foxes. On your way out of the park, reward yourself with dinner at the award-winning Ishnala Supper Club.
Located near Spring Green, a community in Sauk County’s south west corner, the rolling hills and verdant valleys of White Mound County Park are prime camping grounds come warmer weather. Camping season officially kicks off in April, with the park’s 46 campsites (most of which include electrical hookups) open to the public. Should your break fall weeks earlier, the park is also tops for stargazing. Astronomers even scope out the night sky on these grounds. Spend the day fishing or paddle boarding, then once it’s the moon’s turn, just look up.
Wisconsin Dells is your destination for water parks, shopping, and the latest in modern family fun: escape rooms. These interactive encounters toy with puzzles, riddles, and more to get your noggin engaged; the goal, of course, being to solve each problem and get released. Our favorite escape room has to be Elusive, an immersive new-wave attraction that houses numerous themed rooms in one of the country’s most extensive exit-game facilities. Looking for more kid-friendly attractions? Head here.
No vacay is complete without a sweet adventure. So look no further than Goody Goody Gum Drop. A confectionary dream that rivals even Willy Wonka’s magical factory, this candy kitchen promises the ultimate sugar rush. Stocking everything from handcrafted fudge, truffles, and saltwater taffies, to caramel apples, gummies, and jaw-breaking hard candies, your goodie bag will be packed. As for the inevitable sugar crash? There’s coffee candy for that.
What better way to soak up the rays and revel in the great outdoors than by hitting a few golf balls? The House on the Rock Resort offers 27 holes on a stretch of green that’s as challenging as it is beautiful. Not into yelling “Fore!”? The House on the Rock attraction is just a short drive away, but if you’d rather check out altogether, the resort is the perfect spot to relax and unwind. Multiple whirlpools, top-notch spa services, and expansive views of the countryside will do that to a person.
The biggest state park in Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake State Park is renowned for its scenic hikes, peaceful wildlife, and year-round nature programs. But it’s also a solid diving destination. Charting a maximum depth of about 45 feet, the lake attracts scuba enthusiasts with its pristine waters, rocky shorelines, and curious fish. Another draw? Smooth surface waters. Thanks to the lake’s no-motorboats rule, there’s no excess wake or motorized disturbances after your ascent.
Everyone should jump at the chance to take their crew to Knuckleheads. Not only are there several trampoline parks for playing dodgeball, mastering stunts, and perfecting one’s slam dunk — because who doesn’t love to defy gravity? — but this Wisconsin Dells hotspot also entices with bowling, rides, arcades, and virtual reality. It’s a something-for-everyone kind of place.
Located at the Kalahari Indoor Water Park, Tom Foolerys is 100,000 square feet of adventure attractions and thrill rides. You and yours can set a personal best on the new ropes course, scale a wall like a professional rock climber, or throw caution to the wind on the site’s zip line — and that’s just the beginning. This place truly has it all. It’s the most fun you can have outside of all the out-of-doors Wisconsin Dells water parks — which, by the way, open on Memorial Day. All the more reason to return to Wisconsin’s Sauk County, early and often.
Once blocked by four dams, the Baraboo River is now one of the longest meanders of open river the country has to offer. Which can only mean one thing: time to paddle. Mostly serene, the river trip offers a little excitement with occasional shallow riffles and rapids. As you paddle, be sure to take note of the rock formations and winged life native to the area, including heron, geese, and even bald eagles.
One of the lesser-known attractions in the area, the swimming hole at Lake Redstone is more than just a swimming hole: It’s a swimming hole with its own movie-worthy waterfall. Splash in the clear waters on a hot day or set up a tripod for taking Insta vids — just know that no matter how you choose to make the most of this scenic spot, you’ll probably be doing it alone. This relatively undiscovered gem continues to be just that: undiscovered and off the beaten path. (Want more hidden gems? We’ve got plenty.)
There’s no better place to sit back with a nice glass of wine and enjoy the peace and quiet than at the Von Klaus Winery. Nestled in the foothills of the Baraboo Bluffs, this family-owned winery bottles more than 20 handcrafted wines, all made with “modern technology and old world tradition.” And even though each tasting comes with food pairings and the expertise of winemakers decades in the business, really, they had us at 20 wines.