Highway 36 Trunk Tour

  • Southern terminus: Walworth County, at Highway 120 east of Lake Geneva
  • Northern terminus: Milwaukee County, at Highway 241/27th Street (Historic U.S. 41) in Milwaukee
Distance: 36 miles

Counties along route 36

  • Walworth
  • Racine
  • Milwaukee

STH-036“36 Miles on Highway 36”

WisMap36_200wQuickie Summary: Highway 36 once began in Walworth, later in Lake Geneva. Today, the road that was Highway 36 northeast out of Lake Geneva as Highway 120, which runs north to East Troy. Highway 36 begins at Highway 120 about four miles north of Lake Geneva. It winds through the beautiful rolling countryside of Walworth and Waukesha Counties, hitting the “Chocolate City” of Burlington along with Waterford and Muskego on its way into Milwaukee County, where it serves as a major thoroughfare through the suburbs of Franklin and Greendale on its way to connect into the heart of Milwaukee’s south side and the city’s downtown via the freeway system. Lots of little history pieces line the way, and beyond the road at either end there’s plenty of adventure ahead.

The Wisconsin Highway 36 Road Trip

The Drive (Southwest to Northeast):

Hwy 36 sb end at Hwy 120

Highway 36 as it ends southbound at Highway 120. Lake Geneva is a left turn and just a few minutes away. Meanwhile, Highway 36 northbound is about to head for 36 miles to Milwaukee.

Through the rural fields of Walworth County, Highway 36 works its way east and north. This area skirts the southern end of Kettle Moraine, which is a hilly section of SE Wisconsin formed when the advancing glaciers stopped – and left hills behind filled with all the stuff they pushed southward.

Burlington (pop. 10,464) started out as a settlement called “Foxville” – for its location along the Fox River – in 1835. A few years later, locals changed the name to Burlington, after the Vermont city many of the recent transplants from New England felt a need to salute (heck, it’s easier to spell than Montpelier.) Railroads came in 1855, and by 1900 Burlington officially became a city, nestled in the southwest corner of Racine County.

Burlington welcome sign

Entering Burlington, they make sure you know it’s “Chocolate City.”

Burlington once featured three breweries, including the former Finke-Uhen Brewery along the Fox River; its building is now occupied by the Malt House Theater, whose community theater company (called the “Haylofters“) have been operating since 1932.  Three years prior to that – or so they claim – the Burlington Liars’ Club was formed. They celebrate “Fibbing for Fame and Folly” (also alliteration, apparently) and annually hand out an award for “World Champion Liar.” We can’t lie when it comes to chocolate, and the addition of a 1966 Nestle plant gave Burlington the name “Chocolate City, USA.” Every Memorial Day weekend, Chocolate Fest tantalizes taste buds and offers plenty of music and activities. Several notable people hail from Burlington, including three-time World’s Strongest Man winner Bill Kazmaier, actor Gregory Itzin from “24”, former Miss Wisconsin winner and Miss USA finalist and current Milwaukee TV personality Caitlin Morrall, and perhaps most famously Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo; Romo got the nod on the “Welcome to Burlington” signs with the “home of” honors. Romo went to Burlington High School and worked at a State Trunk Tour favorite, Fred’s, as a busboy. Fred’s proclaims itself home to the “World’s Best Burgers,” a tall order indeed. Are they?  You’ll have to judge for yourself, but they’re definitely a State Trunk Tour pick!

Fred's in Burlington

Fred’s, one of the many places in the world laying claim to its best burger.

The “city version” of Highway 36 runs through town southwest-northeast. Southwest of downtown, it’s primarily State Street and Milwaukee Avenue; northeast, it’s Milwaukee Street. Downtown along Milwaukee Avenue, the Logic Puzzle Museum offers a wild array of hands-on puzzles, brain teasers, and more. Next door, the Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum offers yo-yos, gyroscopes, spin toys, and plenty of hands-on science exhibits…. over 2,000 in all! Call first and get tickets, though; they are by appointment only. And, since it’s “Chocolate City USA”, check out the Chocolate Experience Museum (113 E. Chestnut Street, 262-763-6044), which houses exhibits that survive the annual Chocolate Fest, and other chocolate sculptures… even one that replicates the brick road from the Wizard of Oz – only this one is chocolate instead of yellow. Hurry, before somebody eats it!

Burlington’s Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum is right downtown.



Tour Gallery

  • Hwy 36 sb end at Hwy 120

Events on this Tour

  • Waterford Balloonfest

    Jul 23, 2017
    Waterford Balloonfest 2017

    Ready for colorful dotted skies over this pretty southeastern Wisconsin town? The 7th annual Waterford Balloonfest features over a dozen balloonists from around the nation through the weekend of July 21-23, 2017. The classic "evening balloon glows" are take place Friday and Saturday evenings, plus balloonist flight competitions which will highlight their amazing flying skills... which is tricky in a balloon! (Trust us, we've been in one.) Craft and business vendors will show their wares and provide information on their businesses. Local food establishments will offer food and beverages, including many desserts. Another activities include a kids' area with games, activities, and entertainment, a 5K run/walk, helicopter rides, and much more! Information on getting a hot air balloon ride or a tethered ride can be found by contacting WindDancer Balloon Promotions by e-mail: aballoonride@gmail.com. Admission is FREE! Preferred parking is available for $10, motorcycles $5. Highways 20, 36, 83, and 164 all bring you to Waterford, which is in far western Racine County. Address: Evergreen Elementary School 817 W. Main Street Waterford, WI 53185 Website Here's the Daily Schedule for Waterford Balloonfest: FRIDAY 4PM - 8PM 4pm: Event Starts 4pm - 8pm: Helicopter Rides* 4pm - 8pm: Arts & Crafts Fair, Kids Activities, Fire Department 4pm - 8pm: “Say Cheese for Charity” 4pm - Close: Inflatable Amusements / Games 4pm - 9pm: Food Vendors 5pm: Square Dancers 5:45pm: Opening Ceremony 6pm Tethered Rides* 6pm - 8pm: Kids From Wisconsin 6:30 - 7:45pm: Balloon Launch Window* 8:15pm: Evening Glow* SATURDAY 6AM - 9PM 6am - 7:30am: Balloon Competition Window* 6am: Tethered Rides* 6am - 11am: Pancake Breakfast 6am - 9pm: Food Vendors 9am - Close: Inflatable Amusements / Games 10am - 5pm: Business Vendors 10am - 5pm: Say Cheese for Charity 10am - 8pm: Helicopter Rides* 10am - 8pm: Arts & Crafts Fair, Kids Activities 10am - 6pm: Entertainment 11am - 2pm: Meet & Greet with Pilots 2pm: WUHS Alumni Jazz Band 6pm - 8pm Rock Band “Clove” 6pm: Tethered Rides* 6:30 - 7:45pm: Balloon Launch Window* 8:15pm: Evening Glow* SUNDAY 6AM - 10AM 6am - 7:30am: Balloon Launch Window* 6am: Tethered Rides* 6am - 10am: Food Vendors
  • Milwaukee Air & Water Show

    Jul 15, 2017

    Milwaukee Air & Water Show [caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignright" width="300"]20130803_122308 An "M" for Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Air & Water Show we snapped from Back Bay Park on Milwaukee's East Side.[/caption] The Milwaukee Air & Water Show, sponsored by Waterstone Bank, offers one of the top air shows in the Midwest along the city's gorgeous lakefront. The Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron will return and headline the show! The Blue Angels’ six demonstration pilots fly the F/A-18 Hornet at over 34 locations throughout the U.S. each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques used in their aerial displays when formed in 1946. Other exciting acts to perform in Milwaukee’s skies this July include the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team, Team Aerostars, Firebirds Xtreme, Lucas Oil Airshows and the A-4 Skyhawk. Water acts scheduled for this year’s Milwaukee Air & Water Show include Tony Demattero’s “Hustler 50 Raceboat” and Gene Greber's MTI Racing Team on the Wake Effects Champion Superboat. Gary Burtka will perform an exciting Jet Ski freestyle show, and the Water Show Ski Team will show off their skills. The Milwaukee Fireboat and a demonstration from the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter will show the crowd their detailed skill when dealing with crisis on the water. In addition, Seven Marine outboard boats will take their talents to the western waters of Lake Michigan to show off power and speed. Milwaukee Air & Water Show, two planes You can watch from Bradford Beach and many other areas along Milwaukee's lakefront for free. Ticketed areas offer the closest proximity, the best views, hosted narration, the best access to concessions, and great seating. This is definitely a benchmark summer event in Milwaukee! U.S. 18, Highways 32, 36, 38, 57, 59, 145, 190 and more all bring to within eye (and definitely ear!) shot of the show. Address: 2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive Milwaukee, WI 53211 (414) 482-2069 Website
    Friday, July 14th Air Show Practice Food & Beverage Air Show Exhibits Air Show Box Office 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
     Saturday, July 15th Air Show Box Office Water Show Daily Air Show Navy Blue Angels            8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. Noon – 4:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.
     Sunday, July 16th Air Show Box Office Water Show Daily Air Show Navy Blue Angels   8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. Noon – 4:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.

Route 36 Facts

  • • Highway 36 is 36 miles... probably the only state highway whose number matches the mileage!
  • • Highway 36 once continued southwest through Lake Geneva and ended at U.S. 14 down in Walworth, a route covered by Highway 67 today.
  • • Highway 36 was originally designated in 1918; other than truncations at each end and the Burlington bypass opening, the current route of Highway 36 has changed little.

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