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.
Fall activities in Wisconsin, clearing morning fog on the st. croix river in interstate state park, minnesota, autumn.
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 look at my guide about the best fall festivals in Wisconsin.
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.
The best places to see fall foliage in Wisconsin are Seven Bridges, Holy Hill Church, Lake Geneva, Minocqua, Eagle River, Sturgeon Bay, and Door County.
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.
Fall Foliage in Central and Northern Wisconsin
Best Thing to do: Bring your own inflatable kayak
Accommodation Options: The Northernaire Resort has a privileged location next to the lake and the Gordon Lodge comes with hot pools. For Airbnb and cabin lovers, the Hauser’s Bayfield Cabin is ideal for a cozy winter getaway.
The Northern Wisconsin fall colors start to appear first, during mid-September. In autumn, the Hayward Lakes region 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 for mind-blowing color and photo opportunities galore.
The graceful spires of , 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
Tenney City park. Madison, Wisconsin, Midwest USA
Best Thing to do: Rent an RV and do the State’s only National Scenic Byway
Accommodation Options: The Grandstay Hotel and Suites come with hot tubs and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott boasts a great swimming pool. For Airbnb fans, you’ll enjoy the landscapes of this Scenic Country Art Studio.
Further south to Milwaukee, in Southern Wisconsin, a biking or walking tour of the 100-miles along the 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 the state’s only National Scenic Byway, ranks as one of the best fall drives in Wisconsin during autumn.
The small riverfront town is worthy to stop by for a night's 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 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).
These are also some of the best places for hiking in Southern Wisconsin!
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 in Wisconsin
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
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.
Want a fun spooky fall activity you can do with friends or family? You should book an afternoon at one of the best escape rooms in Wisconsin.
Make sure to pick one of the darker-themed rooms. But beware, some of them are downright terrifying!
3. Celebrate Milwaukee Oktoberfest
Best Thing to do: Milwaukee Food Tour
Accommodation Options: The Pfister Hotel **** is a true legend in town, while the Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast ***** is probably the most scenic option. For Airbnb fans, this historic house is only a short walk from a scenic park and this studio is perfect for budget and solo travelers. You can also check out my guide on where to stay in Milwaukee.
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
Accommodation Options: The Homestead Suites comes with outdoor and indoor pools, a spa bath and the White Gull Inn is a great option for adult-only stays. If you prefer an Airbnb in Door County next to Fish Creek, you’ll love the cute Creekside Cottage or this homey Cottage.
Door County is a popular vacation and tourist destination in the fall. In fact, fall is probably the best time to visit Door County, WI. Indeed, there are a lot of amazing things to do in Door County in October.
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 fish boils, and lighthouse cruises. This Door County park offers a 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.
Of course, it’s also just a popular vacation getaway in Wisconsin year-round, as well. This isn’t surprising when you consider all the amazing things to do in Door County!
5. Attend Madison’s Farmer Market
Best Thing to do: Madison Cooking Class
Accommodation Options: the Best Western Premier Park Hotel **** has great views on Madison’s main attraction, while the Hotel Indigo – Madison Downtown, an IHG Hotel **** comes with a cool interior design, downtown! On VRBO, this gorgeous vacation rental boasts a gorgeous interior design and is only a jump from Lake Mendota.
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
Best Thing to do: Visit the Ringling Brother Mansion
Accommodation Options: the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Wisconsin Dells *** is always a great choice, while I love the backyard of the Hilton Garden Inn Wisconsin Dells ***. For Airbnb fans, check out this cute deluxe cottage in Christmas Mountain. It’s one of my favorite Airbnbs in Wisconsin Dells.
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 is 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. And all of the hiking in Wisconsin Dells is phenomenal.
Some of the fun things to do in Wisconsin Dells in fall 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.
The offers a relaxing Wisconsin fall getaway in a natural setting with traditional log cabins and a wood fire.
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.