Winter in Wisconsin can be long and daunting. But it can also be exhilarating if you choose to embrace it. We’ve rounded up the top opportunities to enjoy the season for both thrill-seekers and the more risk-averse in some of the most beautiful natural locations, all within less than an hour of the city. (And don’t miss our sledding guide: 12 Great Sledding Hills and Parks in Milwaukee.)
Hiking or cross country skiing
Lapham Peak in Delafield
W329 N846 County Road C
Cross country skiing is the safer, more aerobic version of downhill skiing, and it can be done virtually anywhere. Lapham Peak has plenty of groomed trails and natural landscapes for skiing and hiking, and it doesn’t take a ton of practice to find your groove. Ski rentals are available at Wheel and Sprocket locations and several other spots around town.
The Rock complex in Franklin
7900B W. Crystal Ridge Rd.
The Rock’s snow park has several chutes and a conveyor lift to the top of the hill to make tubing a more thrilling ride than your childhood sledding days. Rates range from $15-17, depending on the days and hours. Gather a group and try adult tubing on Friday and Saturday nights from 9-11 p.m., which includes tubing and four Miller Lite taps or single rail drink vouchers all for $29. A fun, but chillier way to catch a buzz.
The Lynden Sculpture Garden
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd.
Red Arrow Park isn’t the only place to ice skate in Milwaukee. Tucked back off a busy road is an old farmhouse-turned sculpture garden with plenty of activities and programs for kid and adults. For the winter months, the Lynden Scultpture Garden will offer ice skating on one of the ponds on Saturdays and Sundays when weather and ice conditions permit. General admission is $9 or $7 for students and seniors. Members and children under 6 are free. Admission includes access to the sculpture garden and house.
Riding or racing fat bikes
Fat bikes are all the rage, and the girthy tires (3.7” or more) allow people to tear through any terrain – especially snow. Wheel and Sprocket organized the Hugh Jass race series for all levels this fall and winter. The rules are simple: between each lap, all participants play Hammaschlagen, and the first person to put their number plate in the tire bucket after completing all laps will be named the category winner. There are still three races left in the series. Check out Race #6 at Kletzsch Park in Glendale on January 20, which is closest to the city. Extra points if you race in flannel. Fat bike rentals are available at the races if you make a reservation in advance, or anytime at Wheel and Sprocket Delafield for $40/day.
Downhill skiing or snowboarding
It’s never too late to learn to ski, and the tame hills of Wisconsin are a great place to practice. Or, if you’ve been skiing for years and can’t get out West, get your fix at one of these well-maintained resorts, all within an hour of the city. Check the websites for hours, rates and snow conditions before you plan to go.
Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva is a great spot if you prefer a little skiing and a lot of lounging by a cozy fire, with a hot toddy and an elegant meal to follow. (And maybe a spa treatment afterwards, too.) Make a weekend of it and stay in one of the guest rooms at this resort with lots to offer.
Alpine Valley in Elkhorn transforms from a concert venue to a ski hill in the winter. There are several quick runs and even three terrain parks, making this spot the best option is snowboarding if more your style. They also offer a ski and ride school if you’re new to the sport.