• Milwaukee to Green Bay, Wisconsin: Dairyland to Packerland

      200 miles - About 6 hours

      In a matter of moments after leaving the great city of Milwaukee, you'll be cruising past rolling hills dotted with farms and dairies and visiting small towns that hearken memories of yesteryear. The route meanders through the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and pays homage to the birthplace of the Republican political party before swooping into Oshkosh (home of a memorable contender in the DARPA Grand Challenge) before making a run into the end zone at Lambleau Field in Packerland, USA.

      Here are just a few of the highlights on this route:

      Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Starting point)
      Although this route uses Milwaukee as the starting point, the city is a great destination spot. If you have some time, here are some of the things I like to do here: Tailgate at a Brewers game, enjoy Summerfest, wander the historic Third Ward, visit Lincoln Village, walk the Riverwalk, tour a brewery (or two), and play in Lake Michigan. This route starts on I-794 (Lake Freeway) and Lakeshore State Park.

      Watertown, Wisconsin (mile 42)
      Watertown is located halfway between Milwaukee and Madison along the Rock River. When in Watertown, visit Octagon House Museum (built in 1854) and listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Plank Road Pioneer Barn. The first kindergarten in the United States was begun in Watertown in 1856. The old buildings in Watertown, which include numerous churches and private residences, have varied architectural styles. The murals in Watertown are outstanding works of art, and the Arthur 'Turkey' Gehrke mural at 416 E. Main Street is a must see.

      Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (mile 73)
      The route enters the 32,000 acre Horicon National Wildlife Refuge from the east and exits 20 miles later near its northwest corner. Horicon Marsh, which is one of the largest in the U.S., is an important spot for migrating ducks and Canada geese. It is considered a 'Wetland of International Importance.' It's a wonderful spot for capturing photographs of migrating waterfowl.

      Ripon (mile 103)
      The Little White Schoolhouse in Ripon is the birthplace of the Republican Party. Now on the List of Registered Historic Places, the Schoolhouse is currently a museum. The Republican Party was created on March 20, 1854 by a group of citizens and, according to this site, the purpose for creating this new political group was to 'fight against the spread of slavery.' Ripon is working on revitalizing its historic downtown business district, and there are ample photo opportunities.

      Oshkosh (mile 124)
      Oshkosh is a small town in the Fox River Valley that has two scenic lakes -- Lake Winnebago and Lake Butte des Morts. During the mid-1800s, Oshkosh was a major player in the lumber industry. Be prepared to do some walking when in Oshkosh because the town has six National Register Historic Districts (i.e. six groups of historically significant structures). It's also home to one of the most famous airshows in the world, when more than 10,000 aircraft land at the local airport and hundreds of thousands of fans descend to celebrate this annual aviation event, during the last weekend of July. The Oshkosh Truck Company -- home of TerraMax -- is based here, too. Click here for photos of TerraMax in the last public event that showcased its cutting edge technology.

      Green Bay (mile 197)
      You're in Packer country when you're in Wisconsin. Green Bay, although not the capitol of Wisconsin, is the capitol of Packerland. Football fans will enjoy seeing Lambeau Field. If you like trains, then head on over to the National Railroad Museum located in the Green Bay suburb of Ashwaubenon. Don't worry about going thirsty while in Green Bay -- the town has a tavern on almost every street corner. This route ends at the Bay Beach Amusement Park located on the southern edge of the Bay of Green Bay. Note: You can get back to Milwaukee in
      two hours using I-43.

      Road Trip heaven along a rural highway in Wisconsin at sunset
      Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com / © James Brey

      Click here for more photos of this route by Gerald Thurman

      Comments 3 Comments
      1. AZBuck's Avatar
        AZBuck -
        I spent every other summer of my childhood in this area, and a few of the places the Gerald overlooked would include the Kettle Moraine with great hiking and views; Fond du Lac which is home to a lakeside park with a miniature train ride and small children's zoo, a real old fashioned drive-in with car hop service and the only saloon which Carry Nation really did attack with an axe; and Appleton which was the boyhood home of Harry Houdini.

      1. Mark Sedenquist's Avatar
        Mark Sedenquist -
        Buck, maybe you can get you to write one of these routes to cover some of those areas of Wisconsin that Gerald missed? That would be really swell!
      1. Midwest Michael's Avatar
        Midwest Michael -
        Buck beat me too it, but I was going to mention Kettle Moraine.

        Specifically, I'd start actually heading towards the village of Eagle and tour the "Old World Wisconsin" historic site. then go north through the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and rejoin this route near Oconomowoc.

        I'd also mention that in addition to the annual Fly-In, there is a fantastic air museum at the EAA site in Oshkosh.

        Coming back, there are several great state parks right along the Lakeshore. I'd also consider a stop at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc which has a featured attraction of a WWII sub that is available to tour. That's actually on my list of places to visit here yet this summer.