Chester's, one of our favorite Wisconsin Drive-Ins.

Updated: 20+ Wisconsin Drive-Ins To Try Across the State

Wisconsin Drive-Ins mean some delicious treats on a tray or at a picnic table. Eating in your car makes it safer during these times, too!

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Dick's in Kaukauna

If you love Wisconsin road trips, you probably love Wisconsin drive-ins. The American classic place to pull in, order tasty fare – often from a car hop, sometimes on skates – and eat in your car off a tray hanging on your window or at a picnic table with tasty burgers, fries, onion rings, ice cream or custard, malts, shakes, and whatnot. Thousands upon thousands of drive-ins populated the country in their heyday, and Wisconsin had many. A&W Root Beer stands were popular and still love on in various towns across the country, while the Sonic chain has brought the concept back in many other locales.

But here in Wisconsin, we love the independent drive-ins that survive, many of which are family-owned businesses going back generations. It’s May, and many of these places are re-opening as it’s determined to be proper. The nice part with a drive-in is, you can follow proper social distancing guidelines and other safety measures as you enjoy your food and drinks. Here are 20+ Wisconsin Drive-Ins across the state to try!


Chester's, one of our favorite Wisconsin Drive-Ins.
Chester’s cheeseburger, fried mushrooms, and a chocolate malt. It immediately became one of our favorites.

Chester’s Drive-In, Plymouth

1504 Eastern Avenue (County C, old Highway 23)
Plymouth, WI 53073
(920) 892-7722
Facebook page

Chester’s Drive-In, an addition to our original article, deserves to be among the top! A family business since the 1970s, Chester’s Drive-In has friendly car hops and a nice variety on their menu, which is tucked into the top of the metal roof that cars park (partially) under. They’re known for great cheeseburgers (the bakery buns hold all the toppings in nicely) and their root beer. On a visit, we went for the malt and it was fantastic. They offer fries, rings, and a variety of sides – including fried mushrooms, which just seemed to hit the spot that day. Chester’s is open April through October. You’ll find it right along County C/Eastern Avenue on the east side of Plymouth. This is the “old” Highway 23, with Highway 57 less than a mile to the east, the current Highway 23 expressway less than a mile to the north, and Highway 67 less than a mile to the west in downtown.

Chester's Drive-In, Plymouth

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Gilles in Fond du Lac

Gilles’ Frozen Custard & Drive-In

918 S. Main Street (Highway 175)
Fond du Lac, WI 54935
(920) 922-4900
Website

Gilles has been open for 70 seasons, starting back when this stretch of Main Street was the original U.S. 41 into town! Still family-owned and operated after all these decades, they still offer car hop service and serve up a variety of good drive-in fare. A Gillieburger – their “secret recipe” Sloppy Joe-style sandwich – still runs only $2.50. Other burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches are complemented by sides including crinkle-cut fries, fried white cheddar cheese curds, and creamy mac & cheese (only “in season”, for some reason.) And of course, with “Frozen Custard” in the name, you can imbibe in a huge variety of custard or ice cream-laden shakes, malts, cones, slushies, and more with all kinds of malts and extra flavor topping options including grasshopper, butterscotch, pineapple, banana, and caramel.

Quite notable about Gilles’ in Fond du Lac is that they typically open for the spring in February. In 2019, they opened on February 9th. That’s some hearty work for the car hops, cooks, and customers! Warm them up by stopping in and tipping well.

You’ll find Gilles’ Frozen Custard easily along Main Street on the south side of Fond du Lac, just past the northern end of Highway 175 and just north of I-41 and the U.S. 151 bypass. From I-41 northbound, Exit U.S. 151 west and then Highway 175/Main Street north, it’s about 1.5 miles to the north. From I-41 southbound, Exit Hickory St., cut north to Pioneer Road, east to Main Street, and then north briefly on Main. Then, as they say, “Turn your lights on for service.”

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: The Drive-In, GrantsburgThe Drive-In Restaurant, Grantsburg

133 Highway 70 (at Hwys 48 & 87)
Grantsburg, WI 54840
(715) 463-2056
Website

Complete with 45rpm records and memorabilia adorning the walls, the Drive-In in Grantsburg opened in 1956 and continues its heritage with signs like its root beer float along Highway 70. Their burgers and grilled sandwiches, crinkle-cut fries and onion rings, fried cheese curds, milkshakes, and root beer are among the tops in NW Wisconsin; it’s also a popular draw for Twin Cities travelers and car culture enthusiasts. Dine-in service is available all year, with the outdoor drive-in bays open seasonally. Discover Wisconsin featured The Drive-In on an episode exploring drive-ins in the state. And being right near the state line, it’s one of the more popular Wisconsin drive-ins for Minnesotans to come try. You’ll find The Drive-In in Grantsburg along Highway 70 in Burnett County, within sight of where Highways 48 and 87 end (it’s as if all roads in the area lead to it!) They do, by the way, have a sister drive-in in Taylor Falls, Minnesota, just over the river from St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, via U.S. 8. Just in case you find yourself there, too!

Hager Heights Drive-In, Hager Heights

7866 170th Avenue (U.S. 63 & Highway 35)
Hager City, WI 54014
(715) 792-2118
Facebook page

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Hager Heights

Famous particularly for broasted chicken, Hager Heights draws in people from nearby Red Wing, MN, Ellsworth, Twin Cities area travelers, and people heading up and down the Great River Road. This drive-in is perched right where U.S. 63 and Highway 35 meet, about a mile east of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin’s beautiful Driftless Area. Hager Heights Drive-In is typically open from early April to the end of September and has a series of bays for cars, bikes, and trucks to park under while being served their signature items. Along with the broasted chicken (a large fiberglass chicken out front should make the entrance easy to spot), Hager Heights does up the quintessential burgers, fries, rings, shakes, and more for hungry travelers.

Gup’s Drive-In, Augusta

607 W. Lincoln Street (U.S. 12/Highway 27)
Augusta, WI 54722
(715) 286-2838
Facebook Page

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Gup's in Augusta

Gup’s Drive-In, which was called Tep’s for a long time until 2016. Same great food, service, and fun drive-in atmosphere, though!

Gup’s Drive-In has been around a long time, though the name is fairly new. Before 2016 is was Tep’s Drive-In, and it originally stood as an A&W stand. Gup’s still does it old-schoolthough, with car hops bring your food and drinks on trays that hang off your window. They’re known especially for their onion rings, fried curds, steak sandwiches and burgers, ice cream, and even good salads (not a typical shout-out for a drive-in!) Gup’s is open seasonally from mid-May to late September. You’ll find its unmistakable sign and roof line right along U.S. 12 & Highway 27 in the heart of Augusta.

Milty Wilty Drive-In, Wautoma

W7411 Highway 73
Wautoma, WI 54982
(920) 787-2300
Website

Milty Wilty, one of our favorite Wisconsin drive-ins

Opened on June 11, 1947, the Milty Wilty serves up classic fare indoors and out during the warm weather months (generally May-September) along Highways 21 & 73 approaching Wautoma, near the brief Highway 152. Still a family business and now in its 4th generation, the milkshake machines hum, cones fill with ice cream and custard, and burgers sizzle. The Milty Wilty also introduced the “pizza pie” to the area when it first opened, and the pizza burger is one of their most popular items. Dine in, or pull to a space and get served by a car hop; you can even enjoy some mini-golf on their adjacent course. They offer “Cruise Nights” on Thursdays if you want to admire some true classic cars and street rods, a popular feature at many of the classic Wisconsin drive-ins.

Mullin’s Short Stop, Columbus

641 N. Ludington Street (Highway 73/historic US 151)
Columbus, WI 53925
(920) 623-2080
Faceboook page

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Mullins Short Stop in Columbus along Highway 73

Mullins Short Stop along Highway 73 (photo credit: TripAdvisor user DuaneB.)

Mullin’s Short Stop opened as Brown’s Drive-In during the 1950s, when this stretch was not only Highway 73 but also part of U.S. 151, the main road from SW to NE Wisconsin. A bypass around Columbus completed in 1976 cut traffic a bit, but the Drive-In held on thanks to loyal customers from in and around the town. Brown’s became Mullin’s around that time and continues to delight burgers, fries, and shakes lovers to this day. Car hops offer service right to your car, but no trays… you get your food and drinks in their own bags and containers, perfect for whether you’re eating right there, or taking it home. Mullin’s is open from mid-May through Labor Day, and watch for the occasional classic car show!



Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In, Oshkosh

2413 S. Main Street (U.S. 45)
Oshkosh, WI 54902
(920) 231-5455
Website

Ardy & Ed's Drive-In, Oshkosh

Roller skating car hops and food on a tray with a view of Lake Winnebago and 50s & 60s tunes playing outside. That, along with delicious classic American food, has been drawing people to here since 1948 – some of whom arrive by boat. Located right along U.S. 45 on the south side of Oshkosh, Ardy & Ed’s began as an A&W stand and went independent in 1972 with its new name. Being one of the oldest Wisconsin drive-ins, Ardy & Ed’s celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018. They have a jingle too; you can hear that and see more here:

Annie's Burgertown, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Annie’s Burgertown, Elkhorn

645 N. Lincoln Street (just off Highway 67)
Elkhorn, WI 53121
(262) 723-3250
Website

Annie’s serves year-round and has some limited inside seating. They also deliver to the area and even offer catering, but summer is when they’re the classic drive-in, with car hop service and picnic tables around the grounds if you prefer to sit outside. Their burgers are fantastic and their “homemade root beer” is locally legendary – they’ve been known for both for over 50 years. Annie’s offers pizza on its menu too, and serves it up from their Pizza Wagon at the Walworth County Fair and Elkhorn Flea Market. But pulling up to a spot at Annie’s for car hop service is when it’s our favorite. You’ll find Annie’s right off Highway 67 at Lincoln Street. It’s on the north side of Elkhorn, south of the U.S. 12 freeway and north of both I-43 and Highway 11. Definitely worth the stop!

Cheeseburger and fries at Annie's Burgertown, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

John’s Drive-In, Waukesha

1317 Arcadian Avenue (Historic Highway 59)
Waukesha, WI 53186
(262) 542-2842
Website

John's Drive-In menu, WaukeshaBilled as the “Best Root Beer in Waukesha since 1937,” John’s started in a different location and – with a stop or two in between – this original building opened in its current location in 1962. It was an A&W root beer stand until 1974, when then-owner John Nelson chose not to install a grill per A&W’s request, and he took it independent. Today, John’s focuses on highly-prized homemade root beer, hot dogs, sides like fries and onion rings, and sandwiches ranging from pulled BBQ pork to brats – but no hamburgers. John’s doesn’t have car hops or trays upon which to serve food, but they are loved for generations for their traditional menu. Hot dogs range from straight-up Plain Dogs to Nacho/Bacon Dogs, Sloppy Dogs, Slaw Dogs, and more. Malts, ice cream concoctions, and a seasonal menu that brings in fish fries, chili, and more become available through the winter. For you see, John’s is open year-’round. You’ll find John’s Drive-In northeast of downtown Waukesha along Arcadian Avenue (Highway 59 for a long time), just west of the Les Paul Parkway, today’s Highway 59/164. They’re not only open all year, but seven days a week – all starting at 11am.

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: John's Drive-In in Waukesha

Leon's Frozen Custard, Milwaukee

Leon’s Frozen Custard, Milwaukee

3131 S. 27th Street (Highway 241, Historic U.S. 41)
Milwaukee, WI 53215
(414) 383-1784
Website

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Leon's Frozen Custard along Historic 27th Street in Milwaukee

Considered by many to be the quintessential American drive-in, and perhaps part of the inspiration for Mel’s Drive-In in American Graffiti and Arnold’s in Happy Days, Leon’s has been in operation since 1942. An early 1950s remodel adding the fluorescent lights and neon signs gave Leon’s its current look. To this day, Leon’s serves some of the highest-rated frozen custard in the country along great malts, shakes, floats, and sundaes. They don’t have car hops and they don’t serve burgers (although Mazo’s across the street dates back to 1934 and has awesome ones), but Leon’s does serve tasty hot dogs, chili dogs, and a Spanish hamburger, which like a spicy sloppy joe. On a warm summer night, expect quite a crowd in line and in the parking lot along this 27th Street location. It’s currently Wisconsin Highway 241, but was once U.S. 41 and the main road in from Chicago – one of the reasons Leon’s drew so much traffic and became so widely known.

Wayne’s Drive-In, Cedarburg

1331 Covered Bridge Road (Highways 60 & 181)
Cedarburg, WI
(262) 375-9999
Website

Wayne's Drive-In, Cedarburg

Wayne’s wasn’t around in the 1950s & 60s, but it sure seems like it. The building is 12-sided – technically a dodecagon – and dates back to the early 70s. The building previously served as a snowmobile shop, a storage facility, and a furniture refinishing shop before it became one of our favorite Wisconsin drive-ins, becoming Wayne’s Drive-In in 1998. The classic burgers and shakes, ice cream, skating car hops, and overall vibe draw people from all over SE Wisconsin. Corvette Cruise Nights run select Wednesdays, Classic Cruise Nights run select Thursdays. Wayne’s is open every day from 11am to 9pm during the season, which generally runs from early April through early November.

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Classic Car Show at Wayne's in Cedarburg

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: classic car show at Wayne's in Cedarburg

The Kiltie, Oconomowoc

N48W36154 Wisconsin Avenue (Historic U.S. 16)
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
(262) 567-2648
Facebook page

The Kiltie, one of Wisconsin's best drive-ins

A classic since 1948 with post-war architecture, the smiling Scotsman logo, and car hops in plaid Scottish skirts, The Kiltie keeps bringing customers – and employees – back decade after decade. Their classic burgers, onion rings, sundaes, malts and other essentials are second to none, in part because everything seems to taste better when served on an aluminum tray. You want custard? Your choices are simple: chocolate, vanilla, or a twist of the two; no flavors of the day here. The car hops like to have fun, too: some refresh people with water guns on hot days, and when business is slow frisbees may fly around the parking lot.
The Kiltie original sign

Located along old U.S. 16 on the east end of Oconomowoc, The Kiltie also nestles up against the current Highway 16 freeway, easily accessible via the County P exit a little bit east of Highway 67. The neon signs that mark this classic are visible from either road and beckon you to the numerous pull-in spots for your car so the hops can get your order. The Kiltie is open from April through October.

Wisconsin Drive-Ins, The Kiltie Burger (with onion)

A Kiltie Burger, clearly with onions, in Oconomowoc along Highway 16.

The Spot, Kenosha

2117 75th Street
Kenosha, WI 53143
(262) 654-9294
Website

Opening on July 4, 1945, The Spot is a true classic. It’s one of the oldest surviving drive-ins in the country, and certainly one of the oldest of the Wisconsin drive-ins. They still make their own homemade root beer and have been hitting home runs with burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes since World War II (in fact, one of their big challenges was getting supplies, since the war was still going on.) Their menu is much larger now, including mini-tacos, perch, chicken wings, and cheesecake, but the traditions hold true with car hops and the iconic neon sign on the corner.

The Spot was once also the intersection of Highways 50 & what used to be Highway 174, which came in from the south for Chicago travelers, making it once a primary intersection in Kenosha for travelers looking to head downtown. Today, it’s a little quieter traffic-wise but The Spot still serves as a big draw for any fans of classic drive-ins and fantastic burgers.

Andy’s Drive-In, Kenosha

2929 Roosevelt Avenue (Highway 50)
Kenosha, WI 53143
(262) 658-2067
Website

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Andy's in Kenosha

Andy’s in Kenosha. The “A” on the top is reminiscent of “Arnold’s”, the fictional drive-in from the TV show “Happy Days.”

Andy’s is a classic drive-in that dates back far into Kenosha’s history, which has always been big on car culture, competing with The Spot nearby. Their Cruise Nights are still immensely popular. Along with serving traditional burgers, fries, shakes, and other drive-in fare, Andy’s dishes up well-loved breakfasts too, and opens early: 6am Monday-Friday and 7am on weekends. It’s right along Roosevelt Road/Highway 50 in Kenosha.

Gus’ Drive-In, East Troy

3131 Main Street, County ES/Historic Highway 15
East Troy, WI 53120
(262) 642-2929
Website

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Burger and rings at Gus' in East Troy

Located along Historic Highway 15 – the main road from Beloit to Milwaukee before I-43 came along – Gus’ Drive-In in East Troy dates back to 2002 but offers the full 1950s vibe. Home of the “Heavy Chevy” Burger, Gus’s is close to Alpine Valley, the East Troy Railroad, and is only minutes from I-43 or Highways 20 and 120. Gus’ features frozen custard – with flavors of the day on their Facebook page – rather than ice cream with a different flavor-of-the-day everyday. They also specialize in Greek gyros and Italian meatballs on top of the classic, where they’re often in the running for “best burger.” Gus’ also features regular Cruisin’ Nights on Saturdays. This is definitely a place to bring your street rod and immerse yourself in that time! In season, Gus’ is open every day from 11am-8pm.

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Gus' in East Troy



Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Rudy's in La Crosse along Highway 16Rudy’s Drive-In, La Crosse

1004 La Crosse Street (Highway 16)
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-2200
Website

Rudy’s Drive-In, Sparta

514 S. Water Street (Highways 16 & 21)
Sparta, WI 54656
(608) 269-2011
Website

Rudy’s Drive-In opened in La Crosse in 1966, but origins of Rudy go back to an A&W Root Beer stand in Chippewa Falls in 1933. The La Crosse location, and the newer Sparta one, are still owned by the Rudy family. We’re consolidating these two locations into one entry!

Rudy’s features a bright roof to shelter at least part of your vehicle and car hops bringing you the tray of tasty treats. They’re one of the few drive-ins offering gluten-free buns and even some healthy choices like a Turkey Burger and their Historic Trempealeau Hotel Walnut Burger, which we’ve had at the Trempealeau Hotel. It’s a seasoned walnut & cheese patty with lettuce, tomato, pickle and honey mustard on a whole wheat kaiser bun. Not your traditional drive-in food, but it’s certainly a good option for many! On select Cruisin’ Nights, showing up in a classic car or on a classic bike gets you a free root beer float.

Charlie’s Drive-In, Hortonville

806 W. Main Street (Highway 15)
Hortonville, WI 54944
(920) 779-6753
Website
Facebook page

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Charlie's in Hortonville

A family business since 1965, Charlie’s Drive-In keeps it “homespun,” as they like to say. Tuesday nights are for classic cars (a “Collector” license plate gets you a free mug of root beer), and they have a tributes to Elvis every year on the anniversary week of his passing. Plenty of tunes and a classic menu with a busy fryer keeps things fun and happy at Charlie’s. They are generally open from mid-March through the end of September. You’ll find Charlie’s along Highway 15 (formerly U.S. 45) in Hortonville, about 15 minutes northwest of Appleton.

Dick’s Drive-In, Kaukauna

1718 Crooks Avenue (Highway 55)
Kaukauna, WI 54130
(920) 766-3511
Facebook page

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Dick's in Kaukauna

Home of the “Maxi Burger,” Dick’s Drive-In opened in 1955 along Highway 55 and is open from March 1st – November 30th, which is pretty long season given the weather rarely cooperates for several of those months. However, they generally don’t have car hops – you go inside the little area in front to place your order. You’re welcome to enjoy it in your car in the lot, at a picnic table in the back, or of course to bring it home or eat it on the run. Broiled burgers (the neon is there to remind you of their broiling process), a variety of sandwiches, sides, shakes, slushies, floats, and flurries are all part of their popular menu. To help with flashing back, the interior of Dick’s has stayed essentially the same since the 1950s, keeping it one of the most original of our Wisconsin drive-ins!

Rumble Seats Drive-In, Spring Green

E4851 U.S. Highway 14
Spring Green, WI 53588
(608) 588-2924
Website

Rumble Seats Rock 'N Roll Drive-In sign, along U.S. 14 & Highway 60 in Spring GreenA great complement to a drive through the Driftless or a trip to see Taliesin, House on the Rock, Tower Hill State Park, or American Players Theater, Rumble Seats offers the classic 50s-60s feel along with great burgers, chicken, wraps, malts and shakes, and more to satisfy multiple peoples’ palates. Their specialty is their Root Beer Float. You might also want to try the Marilyn Monroe Burger, which features sauteed onions, bacon, Mozzarella & Cheddar cheeses, plus BBQ and their specialty, spicy Rumble sauce with gooey cheese curds! 

The Albatross Drive-In, Washington Island

777 Main Road
Washington Island, WI 54246
(920) 847-2203
Website

Wisconsin Drive-Ins: Albatross on Washington Island

This is the only one of our Wisconsin drive-ins that requires a boat ride first. Once you reach the end of Highway 42 at the tip of the Door County Peninsula, the Washington Island Ferry will take you to County W on Washington Island, where a short ride lets you adjust to “island time” and prep your tummy for a tasty Alby Burger, fries, rings, cheese curds, or ice cream. They make it a point at The Albatross to note that they’re “not fast…but we’re good!” And they definitely are. It’s been around since the 1970s, although the current building only dates back to 2002, a rebuild after a fire. The Albatross generally doesn’t serve you “car hop” style, but you’re welcome to eat in your car in the lot, on the bike you rented on the island, or at the tables outside – some of which are under cover. It’s definitely a nice, relaxed setting where the food is fantastic and nobody is in a hurry… hopefully.

Albatross Drive-In sign for Illinois visitors.

The Albatross sets some ground rules as you prepare to order.

What’s your favorite of the Wisconsin drive-ins?

And there you go: some of our favorite drive-ins in Wisconsin as we road trip around the state. Did we miss one of your favorites? We know that’s quite possible, and that’s cool… because the more great drive-ins we can all know about, the better! It’s why we added Chester’s in Plymouth, Annie’s Burgertown in Elkhorn, and Rumble Seats in Spring Green to our original list. Let us know about other great places (they need to serve food, not just ice cream or custard) in the Comments below, and we’ll be happy to pay your favorite place a State Trunk Tour visit!



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Entrance to the Big Sky Drive-In, along Highway 16 outside Wisconsin Dells

Check out these Drive-In Movie Theaters around Wisconsin!

Hitting the open road is always awesome – but so is the time-honored tradition of watching a movie at the drive-in. A staple of the 1950s into the 1970s, drive-in movie theaters have fallen on hard times over the last few decades, but these places continue to offer the experience, with updates. Some are older and traditional, some are newer “pop-ups”; all provide a fun experience in the great Wisconsin outdoors… from in your vehicle.


Stardust Drive-In, Chetek

995 22nd St., Chetek
(715) 458-4587
stardustdriveinmovie.com
Stardust Drive-In Facebook Page

The Stardust two-screen drive-in in Chetek wasted no time at all opening back up, having done so in mid-May. They show movies seven nights a week! One screen leans towards family-friendly fare and the more adult-oriented movies, like horror thrillers and the like, play on the other screen. Gates open at 6:30pm and movies typically start around 8:40pm. Ticket prices are $8.50 for adults (13 and up) and $4.50 for children, ages 5-12. The Orbit is a playground and train ride area for kids, but it’s still shut down for now. They ask that everyone park six feet apart and stay in their cars unless it’s to get concessions or use the restroom. However, because of the current trends, they are allowing you to sit on your car to watch the films, provided you maintain social distancing with others. Hey, baby steps, right??

Stardust Drive-In's Back to the 50s Drive-In, June 19-20, 2020, in Chetek, Wisconsin

Of particular note is THIS weekend at the Stardust, when they have their “Back to the 50s Drive-In Car Show and Movies” nights Friday and Saturday, the 19th and 20th of June. Vehicles 1975 or older (1964 on back in particular) are welcomed for the Car Show. Music from the 1950s era will play across the theater grounds, and the movies American Graffiti and Grease will be shown. You can tickets and more info here!


River’s Edge Drive-In, New Richmond

1820 Raleigh Road
New Richmond, WI 54017
(715) 247-3305
appleriver.com/drive-in-theater.html
River’s Edge Facebook Page

River’s Edge offers a 56-foot digital screen with weekend matinees starting at 5pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and evening double features at 8pm Friday and Saturday nights. Well-behaved pets are allowed; dogs must be leashed if they are outside your vehicle. Grills aren’t allowed – we never even thought of bringing one – but it says on their site they’re working on ways to allow them in (BBQ, anyone??) Gates open an hour before each show, and they accept cash and credit cards for both admission and concessions. You can buy tickets in advance, too.


Big Sky Twin Drive-In, Wisconsin Dells

N9199 Winnebago Rd (corner of Highways 16 & 127), Wisconsin Dells
(608) 254-8025
bigskydrivein.com
Big Sky Facebook Page

The Big Sky is located just southeast of Wisconsin Dells, right where Highways 16 and 127 meet up. Two full-sized screens play 2-for-1 first-run feature films. It opens at 7:30pm and movies begin around dusk. Well-behaved pets are welcomed. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids under 11. Two other things of note: 1) Bring cash, because The Big Sky does not take credit or debit cards; and 2) Bring lots of cash, because you’ll probably want to try their famous Big Mamaburger, the featured culinary delight from their concession stand!

Entrance to the Big Sky Drive-In, along Highway 16 outside Wisconsin Dells

Skyway Drive-In Theater, Fish Creek

3475 State Highway 42, Fish Creek
(920) 854-9938
doorcountydrivein.com
Skyway Drive-In Facebook Page

The Skyway, right along good ol’ Highway 42, is Door County’s classic drive-in. It opened back in 1950 and has hung on ever since, keeping up the quality and offering FM radio for audio reception as well as some remaining classic speakers for your car in the first few rows. Pets are welcome, as long as they behave – but I suspect that goes for humans, too. Tickets are $9 for people 12 and up, $5 for kids ages 5-11. Bring cash (they don’t take cards, either) for the movies and the concession stand, where they offer all the basics along with some fun stuff like foot-long hot dogs and ice cream novelties. Starting this Friday (June 12th), they’ll be open nightly.


Moonlight Outdoor Theater, Shawano

1494 E. Green Bay St (Highway 22 & Business Highway 29)., Shawano
(715) 524-3636
shawanocinema.com
Shawano Cinema & Moonlight Outdoor Theater Facebook Page

“Moonlight” is the name for the retro-style outdoor movies shown at the Shawano Cinema, which offers indoor movies all year ’round and the drive-in option when weather permits, and right now most of the time, it permits. Tickets are a great deal for a double feature, $8 for adults and $3 for kids. The Moonlight Outdoor Theater offers double-features Thursday through Sunday. Movies generally start a little after dusk, currently around 8:45pm.


Field of Scenes Drive-In Movie Theater, in Freedom along Highway 55.

Field of Scenes Outdoor Theater, Freedom

N3712 Wisconsin Highway 55, Freedom
(920) 489-3600
fieldofscenes.biz
Field of Scenes Facebook Page

Big on puns but believing if they built it, they would come, Field of Scenes opened in 2003 right along Highway 55 in Freedom, just north of Kaukauna and I-41. and having opened in 2003, Field of Scenes features two screens and double features; tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for kids 11 and under. There has been a $20 carry-in fee since they weren’t selling concessions due to COVID-19, but you were able to carry in (almost) whatever you wanted. However, the concession stand has partially reopened, so that mandatory fee has been dropped. There’s been some question as to whether people can still pay the $20 fee and bring in a bunch of their own food and drink; we scanned their Facebook page and at last check we don’t know for sure. Also, while their COVID-19 rules currently bar you from enjoying these amenities, Field of Scenes normally also offers two playgrounds, a basketball court and a volleyball court to keep kids occupied before the movies start.


Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater, Chilton

1255 E. Chestnut Street (Highways 32/57), Chilton
(920) 849-9565
getreelcinemas.com/chilton-drive-in/
Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater Facebook Page

A 2012 addition to the state’s drive-in lineup, the Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater is usually open Wednesdays through Sundays (weather permitting, of course) for double features. During non-social-distancing times, they also offer a mini-golf course. They’ve been back open and showing movies since mid-May (Thursday night features Onward followed by Call of the Wild), and this weekend live music precedes the flicks!


Goetz’ Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe

N1936 Wisconsin Highway 69, Monroe
(608) 325-4545
goetzskyvu.com
Sky-Vu Drive-In Facebook Page

Just south of Monroe on Highway 69, you’ll find the Sky-Vu, a sister theater for the Goetz in downtown Monroe. The Sky-Vu has weathered all kinds of conditions since 1954 and is about to kick off its 66th season. They’ve been fully digital since 2012, the concession stand is open, and they’re welcoming cash-paying guests – they don’t take cards either – starting Friday night, June 12th. They bill themselves as “where the stars come to play at night”; gates open at 7:15 Friday and Saturday night, 7:45pm on Sunday night.


Highway 18 Outdoor Theater, Jefferson

W6423 US Highway 18 (and Highway 89), Jefferson
(920) 674-6700
highway18.com
Billing itself as “Wisconsin’s First Digital Cinema Drive-In,” the Highway 18 technically opened for the season on Wednesday, June 10th but the weather didn’t cooperate. The weather should cooperate through the weekend, and the Highway 18 Outdoor is offering two-for-one movie nights for $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 5-11 and $8 for seniors over 65 along with duty military personnel. Unlike several of these drive-ins, the Highway 18 Outdoor does accept credit cards. No checks… but who writes checks now?
Admission to the grounds begins at 6:30pm Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm Sundays through Thursdays. For audio, you have the choice of the old-school speakers or listening on a low power FM station. The neon retro sign beckons you in, right along U.S. 18 and Highway 89, just west of Highway 26 bypass of Jefferson. Upcoming films in later weeks/weekends include Grease, The Warriors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Up In Smoke, the Bad News Bears, Saturday Night Fever, Chicken Run, Psycho, Mulan, Back to the Future, American Graffiti, and Animal House. They do have some specific COVID-19 policies, see them on their website.
Also, the group Titan Fun Key made a video about the Highway 18 Outdoor. See it here:


Cars at the Duck Pond Drive-In, Madison

Duck Pond Drive-In, Madison

2920 N. Sherman Avenue, Madison
(608) 246-4277
Website
Facebook Page

While Warner Park in Madison – famously known as the “Duck Pond” – sits empty due to the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League not playing any games, it serves instead as a “pop-up” drive-in for the Madison area. At the Duck Pond Drive-In, you can $25 per car for one or two people total, $40 per car for three people or more. The movies are shown on a large digital screen inside the ballpark.
You’ll find Warner Park just off Highway 113 on the north side of Madison.

Duck Pond Drive-In logo

Wisconsin Drive-In movies: The Milky Way, Franklin

The Milky Way Drive-In, Franklin

7035 S. Ballpark Drive., Franklin
(414) 529-7676
milkywaydrivein.com

Just off Highway 36 in the southern Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, The Milky Way is a “pop-up” drive-in, showing movies in the parking lot of the stadium where the relatively new Northwoods League baseball team, the Milwaukee Milkmen, play. this new drive-in hotspot costs $35 per vehicle per movie, bring however many people you want in the vehicle. Carhops can deiver food and beverages from the food trucks around, as well as the concession stands that would normally serve baseball fans. An app will allow you to order food and drinks, as well as listen to the movie’s audio (outdoor speakers and an FM station option also provide the sound.)
Movies should continue at The Milky Way through Labor Day weekend.


Marcus Majestic Parking Lot Cinema

Marcus Majestic in Brookfield
770 Springdale Rd., Waukesha
(262) 798-4099
marcustheatres.com

Okay, it doesn’t call itself a “drive-in,” but it IS a pop-up drive-in, similar in concept to the Milky Way. These are movies shown outside the Marcus Majestic movie theater in Waukesha, which has pivoted to showing movies outside while the cinema inside remains closed. Dubbed “parking lot cinema,” the big screen outside offers double features that begin with the first film around sundown – they ask that you arrive 45 minutes prior to the first movie starts. Audio is provided via FM radio and an app offers online ordering for concessions and snacks. Tickets are also online-only and cost $30 per carload on weekends, $25 on weekdays.



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Flag Day founding in Waubeka

Did You Know: Flag Day was Founded in Wisconsin??

Red, White & Blue: Flag Day and its founding in Waubeka, Wisconsin


A lot of historic events have taken place in Wisconsin; the state has a lot of firsts. But did you know it had the first Flag Day? To find out more, I headed to Ozaukee County via I-43 and Highway 57 to Fredonia. A quick jog west on County H brings you to Waubeka, a friendly little unincorporated community. Hugging the Milwaukee River, this tiny burg is the national birthplace of Flag Day. And they celebrate this fact every year with a parade and plenty of other events.

Waubeka Flag Day Welcome SignOn June 14, 1885, a grade school teacher at Stony Hill School named Dr. Bernard J. Cigrand held the first recognized formal Flag Day observance with his students. He continued the tradition annually before making his way to Chicago and becoming dean of the University of Illinois-Chicago. By 1916, he had persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to officially proclaim June 14th as Flag Day in the United States. Stony Hill School has been restored and is home to the National Flag Day Foundation. You can find it by following County I from County H. You can not only check out the charming old schoolhouse, but on the grounds flag of all 50 U.S. states and more fly in the wind. The school is atop a hill (a stony one, hence the name), so you can count on wind pretty frequently there.



Stony Hill School, Birthplace of Flag Day

Stony Hill School, where Flag Day began in 1885.

National Flag Day Americanism Center, Waubeka, Wisconsin

The National Flag Day Americanism Center in Waubeka, not far from Stony Hill School.

Back in the center of Waubeka, all 27 star configurations of the U.S. flag are on display at the National Flag Day Foundation Americanism Center. They depict the flag through history as states were added and outline major events as each new flag configuration was commissioned. The Center’s artifacts in multiple rooms trace many aspects of U.S. history.

Waubeka Flag Day Parade

Every June 14th or on the Saturday prior, Waubeka celebrates its status as the founding point of Flag Day with a festival, parade, and ceremony. I happened upon it in 2017 while driving a sweet pickup courtesy of Soerens Ford in Brookfield. See the video here for some of that!

Waubeka is a small town near Fredonia in Ozaukee County, about 40 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. I-43 and Highways 32 and 57 bring you close, follow county A west from Highway 57 at Fredonia and signs will guide you to Stony Hill School and downtown Waubeka. Pretty countryside, hills, and the Milwaukee River will also greet you as you navigate this pleasant area northwest of Port Washington.

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Milky Way Drive-In, Franklin

New Drive-In for Movies Opens in Franklin in time for Memorial Day Weekend

The Milky Way brings the drive-in movie experience back to Milwaukee, starting Friday

Ah, the drive-in movie! It’s been decades since the Milwaukee area has had them. Memories still linger of the 41 Twin and other places where you could pull up and watch a movie (or not) from the comfort of your own car. And now the drive-in is making a comeback, right off Highway 36!

The Milky Way Drive-In is a new “pop-up” outdoor movie theater at Ballpark Commons in Franklin, right next to where the Milwaukee Milkmen baseball team plays when there isn’t a pandemic going on. The Milky Way opens this Friday, May 22nd, and will show movies on a 40-foot LED screen in a parking lot that accommodates up to 150 cars. Admission is $35 per car per movie, and they plan on showing two per evening on average, with three showing on select weekends.

You’ll find the Milky Way Drive-In in the north parking lot at Ballpark Commons in Franklin, next to the Milwaukee Milkmen’s home stadium. The address is 7900 Crystal Ridge Drive, right off 76th & Loomis.

Ticket sales are online only, at milkywaydrivein.com. The first movie of the night will be family-friendly, with movies geared towards grown-ups showing after. You can listen to the movie from their outdoor speakers or on your FM radio; there’s also an app you can use. Concessions will be available; you can order food and drinks from an app and car hops will bring it to you. Of course, you can bring your own food and drink in, too. No need to hide stuff in a purse!



Here’s the movie schedule, so far:

The titles will all be second-run features or “classics.” Friday, for example, the drive-in is showing “Onward,” the Pixar action-fantasy movie, at 6 p.m., and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw,” the spinoff action comedy with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, at 8:45 p.m

Friday, May 22nd: Onward, 6pm; Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, 8:45pm

Saturday, May 23rd: Dolittle, 5pm; Jumanji: The Next Level, 7:45pm; The Gentlemen, 10:30pm

Sunday, May 24th: Frozen II, 3pm; Sonic the Hedgehog, 6pm; Knives Out, 8:45pm

Monday, May 25th: Toy Story 4, 3pm; Men in Black: International, 6pm; 1917, 8:45pm

Tuesday, May 26th: Onward, 6pm; The Gentlemen, 8:45pm

Wednesday, May 27th: Sonic the Hedgehog, 6pm; Knives Out, 8:45pm

Thursday, May 28th: Jumanji: The Next Level, 6pm; Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, 8:45pm

Friday, May 29th: Dolittle, 6pm; Goonies, 8:45pm

Saturday, May 30th: Frozen II, 5pm; Men In Black: International, 7:45pm; The Lodge, 10:30pm

Sunday, May 31st: Toy Story 4, 3pm; Mamma Mia!, 6pm; Ted, 8:45pm

More showtimes into June and beyond will be available on their website.

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Wings Over Wisconsin May 12, 2020

Wings Over Wisconsin: Here’s Where the F-16s will fly Tuesday

Wings Over Wisconsin, May 12, 2020

It’s been happening across the country, and on Tuesday, May 12th Wisconsin will get the salute. The 115th Fighter Wing will pay tribute to health care workers and first responders who are working hard and supporting communities across Wisconsin during this COVID-19 pandemic response.

During the day Tuesday, the 115th Fighter Wing will perform flyovers with four F-16 Fighting Falcons over healthcare facilities across Wisconsin. They start with Froedtert hospital in Pleasant Prairie and continue past Racine, the Milwaukee area, Sheboygan, Green Bay and Appleton to Oshkosh, then up to Wausau and over to Marshfield and Eau Claire. The jets will then head south to La Crosse, over to Tomah and down essentially along the I-90/94 corridor to Madison and Middleton. Here’s the schedule for the statewide plan, including times and from which direction the F-16’s will be coming:

The flight path for the F-16s during “Wings Over Wisconsin” on May 12, 2020.

40 Wisconsin State Parks ordered closed “until further notice.” Here’s the list.

Fellow Wisconsin road trippers, thanks to COVID-19 and now some issues with people not following social distancing and trash and supply issues, our outdoor choices are once again narrowed down for a while.

Wisconsin State Parks have been kept open during the COVID-19 pandemic – and made fee-free – as a way to help people have places to enjoy the outdoors and have room for social distancing. Apparently, between problems with trash, vandalism (c’mon people, stop that crap!), and issues with social distancing and maintaining cleaning supplies, it was announced through the Wisconsin DNR that Governor Evers has ordered 40 of Wisconsin’s state parks and recreation areas to close until further notice, starting April 10th – so it’s in full effect now. Most of them are in the southern part of the state.

Point Lookout at Wyalusing State Park

According to the order, the following State Parks in question will not re-open until further notice:

Southeast Region
Big Foot Beach State Park, Harrington Beach State Park, Havenwoods State Forest, Kohler-Andrae State Park, Kettle Moraine State Forest Lapham Peak, Loew Lake, Mukwonago River, Northern Unit, Pike Lake, Southern Unit, Lakeshore State Park, and Richard Bong State Recreational Area

South Central Region
Aztalan State Park, Belmont Mound State Park, Blue Mound State Park, Cadiz Springs State Recreational Area, Capital Springs State Recreational Area, Cross Plains State Park, Devil’s Lake State Park, Fenley State Recreational Area, Governor Dodge State Park, Governor Nelson State Park, Lake Kegonsa State Park, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Mackenzie Center, Mirror Lake State Park, Natural Bridge State Park, Nelson Dewey State Park, New Glarus Woods State Park, Rocky Arbor State Park, Sauk Prairie State Recreational Area, Tower Hill State Park, Wyalusing State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park, Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area, Pewits Nest State Natural Area, Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area and Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area

Northeast Region
High Cliff State Park

The good news is, most of the state parks, forests, and recreation areas in the northern parts of the state will remain open. They include:

  • Amnicon Falls
  • Brunet Island
  • Interstate
  • Kinnickinnic
  • Lake Wissota
  • Pattison
  • Straight Lake
  • Willow River
  • Chippewa Moraine
  • Brule River
  • Flambeau River
  • Governor Knowles
  • Chippewa Flowage
  • Totogatic
  • Mendard Island
  • Pike Wild River
  • Pine-Popple Wild River
  • Turtle Flambeau
  • Willow Flowage
  • Big Bay
  • Copper Culture
  • Copper Falls
  • Council Grounds
  • Governor Thompson
  • Rib Mountain
  • Menomenee River
  • Peshtigo
  • Northern Highland American Legion
  • Hartman Creek
  • Heritage Hill
  • Lost Dauphin
  • Newport
  • Peninsula
  • Potawatomi
  • Rock Island
  • Whitefish Dunes
  • Fisher Creek
  • Point Beach
  • Buckhorn
  • Merrick
  • Mill Bluff
  • Perrot
  • Roche-A-Cri
  • Wildcat Mountain
  • Black River

Hopefully the closings will be short; we’ll keep you updated right here!

Gravity Hill south of Shullsburg, Wisconsin

Gravity Hill: where your car “defies gravity” in Wisconsin

The mysterious spot in southwestern Wisconsin where your vehicle defies gravity – and no one is quite sure why

When your car is free to roam, it should drift in the direction of where gravity takes it, right? That’s basic physics. Heck, according to Newton, it’s the LAW. Right?

Well, not always.

Wisconsin, a state with as many unusual quirks as many, has a lot of mysteries along its roads as you explore and tour America’s Dairyland. Many of these mysteries are legends that eventually get debunked or have explanations. But why gravity doesn’t seem to work in this one spot in southwestern Wisconsin remains a bit of a head-scratcher.

You’re gradually heading downhill to a low spot on Gravity Hill. But when you reach the bottom and shift into neutral, you go back up this hill!

Known as “Gravity Hill,” this location along County Highway U just south of Shullsburg in Lafayette County has a spot where you can stop in the middle of the road, put your car in neutral, and you’ll start drifting backwards, seemingly up a hill.

Now, this isn’t exactly a big hill you go backwards onto, but it’s still an incline – so it wouldn’t make sense for your car to go up and incline in neutral, right?

Well, we tried it, filmed it, and here’s what happened:

Many theories exist as to WHY this happens. Some say the “hill” you roll upwards on isn’t actually an incline; it’s just an optical illusion. If it is, it’s one heck of a good one! Gravity Hill itself isn’t a big hill. but the rate of speed you go from a full stop while in neutral definitely makes it seem like there’s something more there. Others say there’s probably a large deposit of iron or other magnetized rock underneath that hill, and it draws your car back – truly like a magnet. Makes some sense – this IS mining country, after all. Meanwhile, some say it’s just mysterious spirits.

Try it for yourself and see what you think! You’ll find Gravity Hill along County Highway U just south of Shullsburg, a lovely village with a great downtown along Highway 11 in Lafayette County. You’re only about a mile and change north of Illinois at this point, too… maybe the gravity is designed to keep you in Wisconsin!

Here’s where you can find Gravity Hill:

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New Year's 2017 Cheese Drop

3 Odd Things Wisconsin Towns Drop on New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is Tuesday night! And just like the ball drops in New York City to ring out (or wring out, depending on your perspective) 2019 and focus on 2020, so will Wisconsin. We just drop other things, since we’re a quirky state to begin with.

We’re talking cherries, cheese, and even a carp. Here are three State Trunk Tour New Year’s Eve picks for a unique and odd Wisconsin drop experience:

Sister Bay: 3rd annual Door County Cherry Drop and New Year’s Eve Celebration

Door County Cherry Drop poster. NYE 2018-2019

Door County’s only major fireworks show on New Year’s Eve gets complemented this year with a new tradition, now going for its 3rd (and probably warmest) year: the Door County Cherry Drop. Yes, a huge, lit cherry will be lowered as midnight approaches this New Year’s Eve on the main drag in Sister Bay. The party includes fireworks at Sister Bay Marina, live music and libations at both Husby’s & Sister Bay Bowl, and then one of our favorite Wisconsin radio stations, fm106.9 The Lodge, will broadcast live with the biggest party tunes of all time starting at 10:30pm. Then the giant sparkling cherry will drop in Sister Bay and welcome in 2020. You should too! The party continues for a while because, as you know, you have to keep it going for a while once a new year begins. Check this out right along Highway 42 in Sister Bay, where Highway 57 ends.

Find out more details below on the State Trunk Tour Podcast!

Plymouth: the New Year’s Eve Big Cheese Drop

New Year's 2017 Cheese Drop

The Plymouth Arts Center, touting Plymouth as the “Cheese Capital of the World,” is doing the annual Big Cheese Drop and New Year’s Eve party again this year, dropping (not cutting) the Cheese at 10pm instead of midnight to make it a family event! The party still continues to and after midnight for everyone. Live Blues & Bluegrass music, champagne toast at midnight, free cheese appetizers from Sartori Cheese – it’s always a fun time. Take Highways 23, 57, or 67 to get to Plymouth for the Big Cheese Drop and ring in 2020 the cheesiest way possible!



Prairie du Chien: Carp Fest & New Year’s Eve Droppin’ of the Carp

New Year's Eve Droppin' of the Carp in Prairie du Chien

Now a Wisconsin tradition, Prairie du Chien has been fishing a carp out of the Mississippi River, freezing him, naming him “Lucky” and adorning him with makeup and lights, and then lowering him from a crane as midnight to the New Year chimes in. This year, they’re lowering the carp a little earlier.

But how’s that for a New Years’ Eve fish story? It’s free, and the party starts at 8pm downtown and on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien. Hit U.S. 18 or Highways 27, 35, or 60 and check this out! They have some other events related leading up to it for a larger event, now called Carp Fest.

The only thing more Wisconsin wintry would be if they lowered a brandy bottle or a snowmobile at midnight (and yes, consider those ideas, ya other towns!)

Check out all kinds of fun highways, road trips pathways, events, attractions, points of interest and more across Wisconsin for 2020 on StateTrunkTour.com. We’re adding new stuff all the time!

Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a wonderful 2020!



HIghway 131 near Viola

Fall State Trunk Tour Drives: Highway 131 through the Driftless

Highway 131 mapWhy Highway 131 is one of the best rides right now

Mid-October is one of the best times to road trip around Wisconsin. The fall colors get amazing, especially on the crisp sunny days we frequently have this time of year. Pumpkins dot many farms, trees burst with a variety of colors, and towns celebrate with harvest festivals.

So many “State Trunk Tour” rides are fantastic right now. But we have go to give Highway 131 a shout-out in particular for its navigation of the beautiful Driftless Area, its frequent interaction with the Kickapoo River (it crosses it 11 times!) and the lovely little towns it traverses.




Highway 131 northbound start

Running about 80 miles from Highway 60 along the Wisconsin River up to Tomah, Highway 131 runs through the heart of Wisconsin’s incredible Driftless Area, a section of the Midwest that glaciers biffed on flattening thousands of years ago. Consequently, this area has few natural lakes; tons of beautiful rivers, streams, bluffs, and valleys make this relatively rugged terrain excellent for exploring, recreating, or just going for a drive to admire. Highway 131 primarily runs through Crawford and Vernon Counties, with a corner catch of Richland and ending in Monroe County – all in the Driftless.

Highway 131 looking towards Steuben

High points along Highway 131 can offer expansive views of the Driftless topography.

Gays Mills Antique Store, Highway 171 near 131

Charming shops offer unique items and antiques, like this one in Gays Mills where Highways 131 & 171 meet.

HIghway 131 Kickapoo River MuseumWe noted Highway 131 crosses the Kickapoo River 11 – 11 – times on its journey. The Kickapoo is sometimes referred to as the “Crookedest River in the World,” and it certainly has its twists and turns. Learn about some of them at the Kickapoo River Museum, which isn’t always open in October but it’s worth a try. The museum is located in Gays Mills at a dam on the river at Robb Park. For kayakers and canoers, an easy portage is available.

There’s also the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, which examines the area, its changing river, its tendency to flood, and more. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center is along Highway 131 a mile and a half north of La Farge. This 8,300 square foot facility – heated with geothermal and solar – offers beautiful views, educational galleries and interactive displays designed to show you more about this unique area of Wisconsin – and the country, really.

Highway 131 and 82 through La Farge

HIghway 131 connects with 82 – another beautiful Driftless drive – through the community of La Farge.

The towns Highway 131 goes through include Steuben and Gays Mills, which is Wisconsin’s “Apple Capital” and hosts a few of the aforementioned sites. There’s also Soldiers Grove, dubbed “America’s First Solar Village.” In 1979, the town was recovering from a massive flood – the Kickapoo isn’t always kind – and during reconstruction became the first incorporated town to require new buildings to obtain at last 50% of their energy from the sun. You can see it in the newer buildings. The original downtown location for Soldiers Grove is now a park – and it still floods on occasion. Soldiers Grove also holds the newer Driftless Brewing Company brewery and tap room, worth a stop if you’re traveling on the weekend.

Viola, where Highways 56 and 131 meet, has seen its share of flooding too. Some markers along the road cutting through parks downtown show just how high water has reached – and it will be higher than your vehicle! Some classic buildings downtown include stamped signs that show their original purpose, including a former opera house. La Farge hosts the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, an 8,500+-acre tract of land along the Kickapoo River leading towards Ontario. In the Reserve, you can explore sandstone outcroppings and a variety of native plants and animals in their habitat.

Canoeing the Kickapoo along Highway 131

Canoeing along the Kickapoo near Ontario.

Nearing Highway 33, Ontario is a popular town for renting canoes or kayaks to ply the waters of the Kickapoo. They also offer an interesting “historical walk” that features original structures and takes you past some ancient burial sites. Adjacent Wildcat Mountain State Park makes you feel like you’re in the foothills of a mountain range, with twisting side roads, excellent views, and great recreation and camping.

Highway 131 near Ontario in fall

Wildcat Mountain view, courtesy of the WI DNR

One view in Wildcat Mountain State Park, click for a larger view (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR.)

Past Ontario, Highway 131 winds up to Wilton, a stop about midway along the famous Elroy-Sparta Trail. This lovely town has some cool murals, downtown shops, and a few B&B’s popular with trail riders. This area is also Amish country, so watch for slow-moving, horse-drawn vehicles along your path.

Highway 131 looking towards Tomah

A vast expanse of Wisconsin’s “Cranberry Country” comes into view as Highway 131 begins its descent into Tomah. Like The Who says, you can for miles, and miles, and miles..

Since the Kickapoo River rises in Wilton, Highway 131 becomes Kickapoo-free for its next leg. After briefly joining Highway 71, Highway 131 reaches a crest that overlooks its final destination: Tomah. This major crossroads city is where railroads, early highways, and eventually Interstates meet up. It’s no surprise that Tomah is a big destination for everything from hotels to logistical companies; with all this transportation, it’s also no surprise that Gasoline Alley comic strip creator Frank King grew up in Tomah.

Tomah water towerHighway 131 crosses I-90 and then ends near downtown at U.S. 12 and Highway 16. That’s 80 miles down, and plenty of cool stuff to see and experience. From Tomah, you can connect to nearby Warrens, which also holds the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center. Warrens can be reached by connecting to Highway 21 via U.S. 12, straight north past the spot where Highway 131 ends. Basically, from Tomah you can connect to wherever you want to go pretty easily!

And there you go: a great drive on Highway 131. It’s an easy ride for an afternoon – or make it a recreation-filled multi-day trip. It’s all up to you.

Spots To See along Highway 131:

Kickapoo River Museum, Gays Mills. Located in a former dam house on the Kickapoo, this historic structure holds displays on the various geographical and ecological aspects of the entire river valley. Robb Park, 608-735-4341.

Log Cabin Heritage Park, Gays Mills. Historic log cabins and other structures together on the site of a former sawmill. Open year ’round. 212 State Highway 131, 608-735-4341.

Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitors Center, La Farge. This recent creation anchors the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, uses geothermal and solar energy, and features exhibits a’plenty about the area. Those include an attempt in the 1970s to construct a massive dam that was halted; it would have altered the valley immensely.

Wildcat Mountain State Park, Ontario. Sandstone bluffs provide excellent views across this 3,600-acre state park, which is open for year-round recreation including hiking, canoeing, fishing, and cross-country skiing. 20 miles of trails and gorgeous vistas await, and you can rent canoes and kayaks in the park and in nearby Ontario.

Drifty’s Canoe Rental, Ontario. How crooked is the Kickapoo? It runs 130 river miles but only about 60 miles as the crow flies. That’s a lot of twists and turns – perfect for canoeing, kayaking, or just floating on a tube. Drifty’s can outfit you with equipment rentals, shuttles, pick-up service, and more. (608) 337-4288.

Elroy-Sparta Trail, Wilton. The first rail-to-trail conversion in the United States, the Elroy-Sparta Trail connects its namesake communities with a 32-mile bike and recreational trail that features three hand-bored tunnels, all built around 1870. Highway 131 intersects the trail in Wilton, a charming town between tunnels #1 and #2 that offers eateries, B&Bs, camping parks, and shops.

See more State Trunk Tour routes here, and enjoy how gorgeous and fun the roads in Wisconsin can be to explore!




Explore Wisconsin’s Colorful Fall Season!

October is Wisconsin’s most colorful month. Fall in Wisconsin means autumn harvests, cooler weather, changing leaves, pumpkin patches and more all make this a fantastic month to explore the state.

Fall in Wisconsin includes river rapids and leaves changing color

Check out the Fall Color Report from Travel Wisconsin, then enjoy a barrage of fall events or scenic points of interest like the fourth highest waterfall in the country east of the Rockies, or Timms Hill, the highest natural point in Wisconsin – the view looks awesome during fall colors!

Fall colors from Timms Hill in Wisconsin

Visit attractions like the unique Johnson Wax Research Tower in Racine, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (Wisconsin Highways 11, 20, 32, 38, I-41/94; the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward (Wisconsin Highways 27, 63, 77); the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan (Wisconsin Highways 23, 28, 42, I-43); beautiful Willow River State Park just outside of Hudson (Wisconsin Highways 12, 35, 64); or the Wisconsin Maritime Museum and Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc, home of the S.S. Badger, which runs across Lake Michigan up through this coming Sunday, October 13th.

This is just a start to fun of fall in Wisconsin – there’s 54,000+ square miles of the state to explore. Pick Some Roads and GO!!

Check out our articles too, including 10 Quirky Street Names We Found in Wisconsin, 6 Cool Stops along I-94 between Milwaukee & Madison, and more!