What is Wisconsin Known For? (23 Famous Things, People & Places)
Wondering what Wisconsin is known for?
Wisconsin is known for its cold winters, dairy farming, and major cities. The state is also known as part of the Great Lakes Region in America’s Midwest.
Rolling hills, dairy farms, and football–Wisconsin fits quite well into the American Midwest. But what is Wisconsin known for besides these three things? For one, it’s the birthplace of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. It’s also the place where America’s favorite frozen confection originated. In this article, we’ll take a look at the things that make Wisconsin famous!
- What is Wisconsin Known For? 23 Things
- 1. The Great Lakes
- 2. Milwaukee
- 3. Green Bay
- 4. The Green Bay Packers
- 5. America’s Dairyland
- 6. Rich Farmland
- 7. Ginseng Capital of the World
- 8. Oshkosh
- 9. Rivers
- 10. Spring Green
- 11. Door County
- 12. Native American Culture
- 13. Madison
- 14. The Badger State
- 15. The Wisconsin Accent
- 16. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- 17. Wisconsin Dells
- 18. Cave of the Mounds
- 19. Harley-Davidson
- 20. Cold Winters
- 21. Snowmobile Capital of the World
- 22. Ice Cream Sundaes
- 23. North Woods Art Tour
- FAQs About What Wisconsin is Famous For
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What is Wisconsin Known For? 23 Things
1. The Great Lakes
Lake Superior borders Wisconsin to the north and Lake Michigan to the east. The lakes affect the climate of Wisconsin, contributing to its famously cold winters. In warmer months people enjoy soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches of these lakes. North Beach in Racine and Bradford Beach in Milwaukee are two of the most popular.
Wisconsin also has many smaller lakes within its borders. Lake Winnebago attracts crowds of anglers, boaters, and sunbathers to its shores. Altogether, Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes!
❓ Trivia Time: Besides Wisconsin, What States are the Great Lakes In?
Milwaukee is famous for professional sports teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA) and the Milwaukee Brewers (MLB). The Brewers derive their name from the beer brewing tradition of the city.
Several major breweries operate out of Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s beer-brewing industry was bolstered by the large number of German immigrants arriving in the 1850s and onward. Although unrelated to Oktoberfest, Milwaukee’s Summerfest draws huge crowds. It holds the world record for the largest festival in the world.
3. Green Bay
Green Bay sits at the mouth of the Fox River. The river empties into the bay for which the town is named. The bay’s name came from French explorers who noted the greenish hue of the water here.
Green Bay’s major role in the paper industry led to it gaining the nickname “The Toilet Paper Capital of the World.” Health insurance is another major industry in the city. The sheltered waters of Green Bay also made it an ideal place for shipping. Of course, before anything is shipped it first needs to be packed.
4. The Green Bay Packers
Wisconsin is known for many things, and one of the most famous is the Green Bay Packers. The Green Bay Packers are unique in the NFL–they are the only community-owned team.
The Packers’ name comes from a meat-packing company that sponsored them in their early days. Today, the Packers are more associated with Wisconsin’s dairy industry. One look at all the “cheesehead” hats at a Packers game is all the proof you need!
5. America’s Dairyland
Wisconsin is known nationwide as a leader in the dairy industry. Wisconsin dairy farming produces 2.44 billion pounds of milk per month! Only California produces more milk. Wisconsin has the consolation, though, of beating out California for cheese production.
Wisconsin farmers are proud of their cheese production. Monroe, Wisconsin is the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the World.” Plymouth, Wisconsin goes further, claiming to be the “Cheese Capital of the World!” Estimates say that between 10-15% of the nation’s cheese comes from Plymouth alone!
6. Rich Farmland
Other kinds of agriculture contribute to the state’s economy, too. Wisconsin has a thriving beef industry (as attested to by the name of Green Bay’s football team). Corn and soybeans rank among the top 5 agricultural products. Greenhouses and plant nurseries also play an important role in the state economy.
7. Ginseng Capital of the World
Although associated with exotic locations, ginseng grows abundantly on Wisconsin farmland. Wisconsin’s Marathon County claims the title of “Ginseng Capital of the World!” Wisconsin’s crop accounts for 90% of all ginseng production in America. Wisconsin ginseng even has a reputation as the highest quality ginseng in the world!
This town has a reputation nationwide for the clothing line produced here. The town’s name comes from the Ojibwe chieftain Oshkosh. His name, when translated into English, means “claw.”
Osh Kosh B’gosh began in the late 1800s as a workwear company. In the 1980s, the company’s children’s line overtook adult clothing in popularity. Due to economic difficulties, the company closed its Wisconsin facility The Carter’s company acquired it and it now operates out of Atlanta, Georgia.
❓ Trivia Time: What is Georgia known for besides being the new home of Osh Kosh B’gosh?
Along with lakes, Wisconsin is known for the many rivers flowing through it. The Wisconsin River gave the state its name (more on that below). The Fox River saw the world’s first hydroelectric plant begin operating on September 30, 1882.
The Mississippi River forms the border of southwestern Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s rivers also make for great fishing and kayaking.
10. Spring Green
The tiny town of Spring Green, Wisconsin saw one of its citizens make a major impact on the world of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin in 1867. Throughout his childhood, he helped on his uncle’s farm in Spring Green. Later on, he built a home and studio nearby.
The Frank Lloyd Wright trail leads through the countryside which inspired Wright’s “organic” style. The crown jewel for Wright fans, though, is the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center in Spring Green. This facility preserves his famous estate near his uncle’s farm.
11. Door County
Situated right next to Green Bay, the Door Peninsula of Door County is one of the best places in Wisconsin for a quiet getaway. The apple and cherry trees in the local forest blossom in spring and turn to fiery hues in autumn.
The tiny town of Fish Creek, Wisconsin offers a cozy waterside retreat to visitors. The low level of light pollution also makes Door Country one of the best places in the Lower 48 states to see the northern lights.
12. Native American Culture
The word Wisconsin originates from a local Miami Indian word “Meskonsing” meaning “a river running through a red place.” Our current form comes from an English version of the French version of this name, hence the rather different pronunciation. The river in question is what we now call the Wisconsin River.
Wisconsin is home to several famous tribes. The Oneida, the Iroquois, and the Sauk, among others, called Wisconsin home for centuries. Other major tribes include the Ojibwe and the Ho-Chunk.
Madison is the second-largest city in Wisconsin, but also the fastest-growing city in the state. A thriving tech industry (along with others) helps drive this rapid growth. Madison is also considered one of the best places to live in America and one of the trendier places in Wisconsin.
It may not rival Milwaukee’s alcohol output, but Madison also has a bevy of microbreweries offering artisan craft beers. Several restaurants in Madison have won the prestigious James Beard Award. Madison is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, home of the Badgers.
14. The Badger State
Despite being a state symbol, no badgers live in Wisconsin! Instead, the name came from early miners in the state. For a variety of reasons, the miners chose not to stay in actual houses during the harsh winters. Instead, they chose to live in their mines!
This behavior led to others derisively likening them to badgers, living in “holes” in the ground. Like many an initial insult though, the mockery turned into a “badge” of honor. Wisconsonians took it as a compliment for their tough, determined character.
❗ Fun Fact: Wisconsin is not alone in turning an insult into a dignified title! Read about the Tarheel State in our article, “What is North Carolina Known For?”
15. The Wisconsin Accent
One of the things Wisconsin is known for nationwide is the distinctive Wis-can-sin accent. The major highlight of it is the nasal-sounding “a.” Another trademark is the swapping of “th” sounds for “d.” Scholars have traced the development of Wisconsin’s unique accent to the German and Scandinavian migrants who settled there.
16. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Apostle Islands, a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior are Wisconsin’s best-known contribution to the National Park System. Here, densely-wooded islands harbor a diverse array of plant and animal life. The islands are popular for kayaking and other outdoor activities.
The sandstone formations constituting these islands have many caves carved by the waves. When Lake Superior freezes well enough, the National Park Service allows visitors to walk across the ice from Meyers Beach to see the ice caves.
❓ Trivia Time: Which State Has the Most National Parks?
17. Wisconsin Dells
This town on the Wisconsin River is the perfect place for people who love water parks. Wisconsin Dells’ 20 waterparks earned it the status of “Waterpark Capital of the World.” The town has several other attractions such as museums and a deer park where visitors can see these woodland creatures up close.
The river offers visitors more natural water-based activities such as rafting and kayaking. The town’s name “Dells” comes from the French word dalles, referring to the rocky cliffs flanking the river.
18. Cave of the Mounds
Another famous natural feature of Wisconsin is this cave in Dane County. Mines discovered it by chance when quarrying here. Seeing the natural beauty of the cave and its remarkable rock formations, operations ceased. The site became (and remains) a popular attraction for tourists.
Another one of the things Wisconsin is known for is being the home of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. William Harley and his friend Arthur Davidson began making motorcycles in Milwaukee in the early 1900s.
The brand grew in popularity and supplied the US Army in both world wars. Harley-Davidson weathered the Great Depression and a few other hardships but came in time to be the most iconic name in American motorcycles.
20. Cold Winters
Wisconsin is known for its cold winters. The average temperature in Wisconsin remains below freezing from November through April! Wisconsin residents don’t let the freezing temperatures intimidate them, though. Winter outdoor activities abound throughout the state!
The freezing of the rivers and lakes makes for excellent ice fishing. Sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are also other popular ways to get out and enjoy the long winters of Wisconsin.
21. Snowmobile Capital of the World
Besides motorcycles, Wisconsin is known for snowmobiles. The city of Eagle River, Wisconsin, the “Snowmobile Capital of the World” has hundreds of miles of trails around it. When winter sets in, the trails spring to life with snowmobile enthusiasts enjoying the snow.
22. Ice Cream Sundaes
In an ironic twist of fate, the state famous for frigid winters invented the ice cream sundae! One day, a patron of a soda fountain in the town of Two Rivers requested that his ice cream be topped with the syrup used for sodas. The owner liked the idea and added it to his menu.
A competitor caught on to this new trend but felt the price (one nickel) was too cheap. He raised the price and sought to create scarcity, only selling it on Sundays. Hence, the “sundae” in ice cream sundae.
❓ Trivia Time: People in cold places like their “cold comforts.” Of all places, Alaska is known for consuming the most ice cream per capita in America.
23. North Woods Art Tour
Another one of the things Wisconsin is known for is this self-guided tour of Wisconsin art galleries. Local artists create everything from paintings to pottery. Works of art often incorporate local themes, such as wildlife and scenery or Native American motifs.
FAQs About What Wisconsin is Famous For
What famous people are from Wisconsin?
Frank Lloyd Wright, Spencer Tracy, and Chris Farley are some of the famous people from Wisconsin.
What foods from Wisconsin are famous?
Cheese curds, morning buns, and beer brats are famous foods from Wisconsin.
What is special about Wisconsin?
Wisconsin leads the nation in ginseng and cheese production. Wisconsin is also known for its cold winters and enthusiastic tail-gating parties for Green Bay Packers games. The Packers are also the only non-profit, publicly-owned major league sports team in America.
Now you’ve got some good answers to the question, “what is Wisconsin known for?” Check out Meg’s article on “What is Minnesota Known For?” to learn more about Wisconsin’s neighbors to the north!