Your Guide to Summer Getaways and Staycations

Whether you’re going near or far, turn to this guide to find your next destination.

Photo by Getty Images


Just over an hour from Milwaukee, Beloit is a family-friendly destination with plenty of fun for kids. On April 7, the Beloit Sky Carp kick off another season of High-A baseball. Stop by downtown Beloit’s ABC Supply Stadium to catch a game. The team puts on incredible fireworks displays throughout the summer. While you’re there, stop for candy and ice cream at Northwoods Premium Confections, which specializes in nostalgic treats like saltwater taffy, or Flying Pig, where you can get gourmet popcorn made fresh daily.  Step back into time with a tour of Beckman Mill, an authentically restored 1868 grist mill. Or see the world’s largest collection of presidential limousines (plus dozens of other historic vehicles) at Historic Auto Attractions. If you’re looking to get out in the sunshine, Beloit offers a lengthy calendar full of festivals, outdoor concerts, farmers markets, outdoor movie screenings and even a family mud run. Make a day trip into a weekend away with a stay at Home2 Suites by Hilton, a family-friendly hotel with a pool. 


This city is well known for its festivals. From June 24-25 this year is the annual Strawberry Festival, a free, family-friendly event along the historic main street with food, drinks, live music and more. Friday nights from June through August at Cedar Creek Park is the free Summer Sounds concert series. On the first Thursday evenings of May, June, July and August, the Cedarburg Cultural Center hosts the outdoor OZ Night Market. And from June 2-10, the Cedarburg Artists Guild presents Paint Cedarburg, the largest gathering of plein air artists in Wisconsin. Cedarburg has plenty to see on non-event weekends, too. The walkable downtown has dozens of charming shops all an easy stroll from each other, like The Irish Boutique, The Gem Shop and Cedarburg Toy Company, among many more. Cedarburg is also home to the world-renowned Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, located on a rustic 1850s German farmstead. And you’d be remiss to leave Cedarburg without stopping by Brandywine, which serves Wisconsin-influenced dishes in a historic building dating back to 1862. 

Elkhart Lake 

On the shore of Elkhart Lake, The Osthoff Resort is perfect for a weekend of pampering and relaxation. The resort has stunning and tranquil views of the water. Its award-winning Aspira Spa offers both indoor and outdoor whirlpools, a sauna, meditation sanctuary, cafe and 22 treatment rooms spread over 22,000 square feet, and it recently introduced a new Salt Room Experience. Salt inhalation is a natural therapy meant to cleanse airways and skin and relieve congestion, inflammation, allergies and skin irritation, while also promoting relaxation and improving sleep. Aspira’s peaceful room, which is filled with rock salt, features plush lounge chairs so you can comfortably nap, read or rest while your body absorbs the mineral-rich air. Try it as a stand-alone experience, or as an add-on to the many other Aspira Spa signature services, including body treatments, facials and mani/pedi services. After a relaxing day, gather in the spa cafe for a smoothie or a glass of wine and choose from the deliciously healthy menu options.

The Fox Cities

Enjoy fine dining on the water in the Fox Cities. Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant serves award-winning wine alongside a Northern Italian-inspired menu, with a fantastic view of the Fox River. Waverly Beach, with its massive patio overlooking Lake Winnebago, offers classic American fare and weekly live music. If you want to get a little more active, there are also plenty of opportunities to kayak both the river and lake. Fox River Kayaking offers guided excursions, and Kayak Wisconsin has self-serve rental kiosks through the Fox Valley. For a more relaxing alternative, River Tyme Boat Tours offers private and public tours of the Fox River, including themed ones like Summer Sunset and Families on the Fox. Appleton is also home to the Milwaukee Brewers’ Single-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The team is known for hosting inventive theme nights, like Margaritaville Night, TV Sitcom Night and Udder Tugger weekend. This summer, downtown Appleton is hosting Mile of Music, a festival that boasts over 700 live music sets in 40 venues over one weekend, Aug. 3-6. The extravaganza even got a shoutout in Rolling Stone last year. 

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trail

Frank Lloyd Wright’s impact on architecture can’t be understated – and we’re lucky to have much of his greatest work right here in his home state of Wisconsin. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trail connects nine of his works from Racine County to Richland Center. Thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, a new website has been launched that connects the sites and allows visitors to track their journey ( The east end of the trail is the SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower, a pair of structures Wright designed from top to bottom, including the furniture. From there, you’ll stop at Wingspread, a four-winged, prairie-style house. Then it’s over to Milwaukee’s Burnham Block, the earliest example of Wright’s affordable, small-scale dwellings. Madison is home to two of the Trail’s stops – Monona Terrace, which Wright called his “dream civic center” and the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, an internationally recognized icon of religious architecture. The next stop is Spring Green, where you’ll begin your journey at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center at Riverview Terrace. Here, you’ll check in for your tour of Taliesin, Wright’s famous home, studio and 800-acre property. Minutes away is his Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center. Lastly, in Richland Center, the town of his birth, you’ll find the impressive brick avant-garde A.D. German Warehouse, topped by a magnificent concrete frieze. 

The La Crosse Region 

La Crosse is home to one of the best restaurants in the state. Lovechild serves outstanding seasonal dishes in an elegant dining room. The eatery – and its ever-changing menu – is worth a visit on its own, but the La Crosse region has plenty more to offer. It’s also a prime destination for outdoor adventures, with hiking, biking and kayaking options to spare. The Great River Landing trailhead kicks off miles of scenic riverside biking, while Grandad Bluff sports one of the most striking views in Wisconsin, with hiking trails leading up to it. For shopping, there’s Down a Country Road, a collection of themed Amish shops selling handmade goods and gifts as well as unique children’s toys. You might want to time a summer visit to La Crosse with one of the season’s major musical events. From June-September, the Rotary Club of La Crosse is hosting the Moon Tunes concert series, with free, weekly concerts at Riverside Park. And from July 13-15, over 20,000 country music fans will head to the La Crosse region for Country Boom, a major festival with headliners like Jo Dee Messina, Kip Moore and Dustin Lynch. To take in even more sights, book a La Crosse Segway Tour alongside the Mississippi River, or a Historic Trolley Tour through downtown La Crosse. 

Mount Horeb

Mount Horeb is the “Troll Capital of the World.” If you visit the village, you’ll find it chock full of the little Scandinavian creatures (in statue form, of course). The trolls date back to the 1970s when Open House Imports, a gift shop that remains open to this day, first put a few on its lawn. Soon the village commissioned a local artist to make more. “Troll hunters” now visit Mount Horeb every year to see them – pick up a troll map yourself at the village welcome center, and buy a troll or two at the Driftless Historium museum gift shop. Besides that whimsical treat, Mount Horeb also has the nearby Cave of the Mounds, filled with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites. Mount Horeb’s family-friendly, nine-hole Norsk Golf Club is also worth a visit for a round on the links. The village boasts a great winery, Botham Vineyards, and a craft brewery, with a theme befitting its location – The Grumpy Troll. Grab a brew, and then enjoy a sweet treat at its sister business on Main Street, The Sugar Troll candy shop. From there, a walk down Main Street provides plenty of shopping and dining options: Find artisan jewelry at SIFT and Winnow; visit the stylish women’s boutique McFee on Main; shop new and used guitars at Hart House Guitars; and stop for lunch at Sunn Café

Photo courtesy of Mount Horeb Area Chamber of Commerce

Port Washington

Port Washington’s harbor walk has one of the most striking views in Wisconsin. A stroll along the marina takes you past the Art Deco Breakwater Lighthouse, a spot so scenic there’s even an informal “sunrise club” that stops on clear mornings to take photos. Port Washington’s lakefront, proximity to the Milwaukee River, and placement on the Interurban Trail also make it a prime spot for paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking and biking. You can rent a board at The Board Shack or a kayak at Sherper’s. July kicks off the city’s Upper Lake Park Beer Garden Concert series, with weekly concerts on the park’s bluff. The summer also sees the return of the Farmers Market every Saturday starting June 10. And the Port Washington patio scene provides plenty of dining options. Dockside Deli is the place to go for lunch; Fork and Tap serves a delicious upscale American dinner; and Schooner Pub is a classic spot to kick back and enjoy some drinks. Kids will love Port Washington’s ice cream shops, like The Chocolate Chisel, with its handmade ice cream and artisan chocolates, and Frankie’s, with its outdoor picnic seating. And consider a stop by Locally Inspired or Eclectic Avenue, two shops selling unique gifts by Wisconsin makers. 

Richland Center

Richland Center is smack dab in the middle of one of our state’s most scenic regions – the Driftless Area. The hilly landscape is ideal for a tranquil escape or an outdoor adventure. Explore the Ash Creek Community Forest – at over 350 acres, the county’s largest park. It has 4 miles of secluded, rugged trails, fit for hiking and biking, and a brook trout stream for fishing (if you have your license). For an insider look at the area, book a Ridge and Valley Tour – you’ll get a UTV ride to local farms, see goats, sheep and calves, and enjoy locally sourced food, all with the help of an expert guide. The area is also home to Driftless Music Gardens, an outdoor amphitheater near the Pine River, in the middle of the gently rolling hills of the Driftless Area. Catch one of the many concerts it hosts throughout the summer. For a little nostalgic fun after a long day, swing by the Starlite 14 Drive-In and enjoy a flick and some popcorn from the comfort of your car, or spread a blanket out on the grass. Richland Center also has plenty of delicious dining options. Pearlfield Bistro and Bakehouse serves delicious American cuisine and baked goods, while The Woods Bar & Grill is the place to go for a hearty burger and beer. With all there is to do, you’ll probably want to make a trip to Richland Center an overnight – there are plenty of woodland cabins where you can bed down, such as Little Cabins on the Pine or Mick’s Ridgetop Retreat

Photo by David Mark from Pixabay

Arts Destinations

The Bend Theater

West Bend’s historic venue started its life as a Vaudeville theater and “movie palace” in 1929. The theater was a cultural touchstone in the city for decades before closing in 2006. But in 2017, the Historic West Bend Theater set about bringing the eye-catching, vintage venue back to life. The nonprofit invested $4.6 million in restoring the theater, and it officially reopened in 2020. Now it hosts concerts, comedy, classic film screenings, and is available for private parties. In April, it’ll host the Kettle Moraine Blues Fest and the Rush Tribute Project, among others.  

Kohler Arts Center

Sheboygan’s John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) is a nationally acclaimed visual and performing arts complex. The center features contemporary art exhibitions, performances, workshops and community events. The award-winning, artist-designed washrooms put Sheboygan on the map for having the world’s best bathrooms. Admission and parking are completely free. About 3 miles west is JMKAC’s Art Preserve, the world’s first and only museum dedicated to artist-built environments. It also offers free admission and features collections from Milwaukee-area artists Mary Nohl and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. Weekly throughout the summer, JMKAC hosts the Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series on the City Green. And July 15-16, the center hosts its 53rd Midsummer Festival of the Arts, featuring juried artist booths, performances, art-making activities and demonstrations. 

Distant Destinations 

Make your next big vacation special with the help of a professional. Jillian Gibas, founder of JLJ Travel, crafts personalized trips across the globe for her clients. With insider tips, she helps travelers book everything in advance, provides expertise on dozens of destinations and helps ensure that her clients use their valuable trip time to have fun – not worry about logistics. “While many people will flock to the popular European hotspots, I love working with clients to discover some more unique or off-the-radar destinations,” Gibas says. We asked her to share four of her recommended summer spots here. 


“Summer in the US is actually the winter season in Chile. International tourism drops significantly, so you’ll be able to see more without the crowds. Temperatures are great for hiking, and ski resorts are open in full force.” 

Geneva, Switzerland 

“While summer is prime tourism time for most European destinations, business-driven Geneva actually slows down since worldwide work conferences held in the city are less frequent in the summer. Accommodation prices drop and the city comes alive with festivals and parties.” 

Kenya and Tanzania  

“The Great Migration takes place in June, when around 2 million animals move from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. It’s incredible to witness.” 


“Very long summer days mean plenty of time for outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, sailing and fishing. The weather is comfortable, and the setting is spectacular.” 

Visit to learn more.

Norway; Photo by Getty Images


Hilton Milwaukee 

This art deco landmark was built in 1927 and remains one of Milwaukee’s top hotels. With a stay here, you’re less than a mile from the Pabst Theater, Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Public Museum and more Downtown destinations. It’s also home to the Milwaukee ChopHouse, serving delicious steaks; Miller Time Pub & Grill; and The Monarch Lounge, where you can grab cocktails before a night on the town. 

The Inn 

This Waukesha bed and breakfast offers you a chance to step back in time and escape the hassle of the everyday. The Inn, which just opened a few months ago, is a refurbished 1850s fieldstone farmhouse on a Wisconsin homestead. Owner Kari Miller-Cameron decorated the wonderfully rustic and relaxing space with authentic 18th- and 19th-century New England antiques, supplied by her shop Just a Little Bit Country, adjacent to The Inn. There are three bedchambers and a stone cottage available for rent. The on-site eatery, Jack’s Café, serves a delicious breakfast and lunch. 

The Pfister Hotel 

The Pfister Hotel is one of Milwaukee’s crown jewels. The historic, luxurious landmark is a short distance from dozens of destinations, including the Milwaukee Art Museum and  Cathedral Square, to name only a few. Plus, there’s plenty to do inside the hotel: drinks at Blu, the 23rd-floor cocktail lounge; dinner at Mason Street Grill; and a relaxing visit to WELL Spa+Salon. 

Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel 

Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel is the Theater District’s most stylish lodging. It’s a quick stroll from some of the best performing arts venues in the city, like the Marcus Center, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and the Pabst Theater. Saint Kate is also a destination in its own right, with six in-house art gallery spaces, including a satellite location of the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Plus, it has impeccable dining options, such as ARIA, serving artisanal American cuisine, Proof Pizza and the secret private dining space, The Dark Room (if you can find it). 

The Plaza Hotel

This historic hotel is a centrally located gem on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side. Its art deco European style gives it a charming character, and its location a short walk from the lakefront makes it a stylish headquarters for a weekend of exploration. Don’t forget to visit the cafe on the first floor, one of the best breakfast spots around town. 

Potawatomi Casino Hotel

Whether you’re looking for an action-packed evening of gaming or a weekend of relaxation, Potawatomi Casino Hotel has something to offer. The casino features over 2,000 slot machines and live table games like blackjack, baccarat, craps and roulette. In addition to RuYi restaurant’s authentic Asian and sushi, and classic favorites at Canal Street Cafe, Potawatomi’s dining options include the high-end Dream Dance Steakhouse. This spring, the casino is launching its newest venture, Potawatomi Sportsbook, where visitors can wager on all their favorite sports, games and players. 

Photo courtesy of Orion Motors

Seven Ways to Use This Camper Van

The Orion 365 is a customized camper van made by Milwaukee-based company, Orion Motors. The remarkable vehicle switches easily between Drive, Sleep, Relax and Cargo modes in 3 minutes or less – with built-in beds, a kitchen, wi-fi and much more. It’s obviously perfect for camping – but it’s also ideal for other activities. Here are just a few alternative ways to use the Orion 365.  

Tailgating With a stove, sink and fridge included, you have all you need for an awesome tailgate. Just set up your chairs under the awning, put the pre-game on the TV and enjoy the day.  

Moving and Hauling The Orion 365’s cargo mode turns the van into one giant space – it can easily store motorcycles, bikes, lumber, flat pack furniture and much more. Whether you’re helping a friend move or hauling supplies for a home improvement project, you won’t find a more convenient solution.  

Watching a Movie When the weather isn’t cooperating, drop the Orion’s fold-out couch and snuggle up to enjoy a movie on the van’s smart TV/monitor.  

Photo courtesy of Orion Motors

Off-roading and OFF-GRID The Orion 365’s electrical system with solar makes it great for getting off the beaten path for bouldering and other adventures, especially if you choose AWD.

Working from the Road With wi-fi, a television/monitor setup and comfortable seating, working from the Orion 365 is convenient and simple.  

Biking and Hiking
With the Orion 365’s outdoor shower, you can go for a muddy bike ride or hike and wash off before bedding down for the night. You can even bring the dogs without worrying about dirtying up the van. 

Everything, easily The Orion 365’s ability to transition between modes makes switching between all these activities simple. Help a friend move in the morning, then tailgate in the afternoon;  or bring your foursome for a round of golf, then pick up the family for a night under the stars.

Visit to learn more.

Photo courtesy of Orion Motors



This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s April issue.

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