Things to do in northern Wisconsin – Vilas CountyPublished: October 18, 2019
(About the author: Lindsey Ranzau is a Minneapolis-based travel writer behind the Look About Lindsey blog. See the original blog post here.)
The best things to do in Northern Wisconsin can be found in Vilas County! We visited for a weekend in the second week of October, and it was AMAZING.
The colors were at their prime, but no matter what season you visit, the outdoor adventures keep the area alive, from hiking to cross country skiing, to exploring the cranberry farms!
Note: This post was created in partnership with Vilas County Tourism, but all itinerary items and opinions are my own!
First things first: Where to stay in Vilas County
The Lodge at Manitowish Waters
The Lodge at Manitowish Waters is located in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, in northwest Vilas County. It gives you the best of both worlds— a cozy log cabin with modern amenities! The lodge itself is so warm and inviting with a giant fireplace and plenty of parking.
The rooms however are my favorite. The Lodge at Manitowish Waters is one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, with comfortable beds, supportive pillows, and fluffy towels. Two of the things that take a hotel from good to great are the shower pressure and the view (weird, I know). But the shower pressure was strong, and the view is insanely beautiful! Just look at those colors!
Things to do in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin
Get a latte with a view at Dixie’s Coffee House
Dixie’s Coffee House was our first stop in Vilas County and we were blown away. Everything from the food to the coffee to the people (both the staff and customers) was amazing! Sit inside and cozy up by the fire, or take in the view from outside. It’s right on the lake! Either way, get the breakfast casserole, you won’t regret it!
Do some shopping at The Lake House
The Lake House is located right next to The Lodge at Manitowish Waters and has the cutest cabin décor and gifts. I was also really impressed by their book selection which is perfect for coffee tables and weekend reads.
Go on an adventure at WinMan Trails
WinMan trails is great for a variety of trails. You can really choose your own adventure, and the views in the fall are especially gorgeous. Find all the details (including length and features) in my Best Northern Wisconsin hiking guide here!
See a piece of John Dillinger history at Little Bohemia Lodge
Little Bohemia Lodge is the setting of the 1936 John Dillinger shootout with the FBI. John and his Chicago gang would hide out in the Northern Wisconsin wilderness, and you can still see the bullet holes all over the building today. A little eerie, but so cool! While you’re there make sure to get some traditional supper club food!
Try local beer at Some Nerve Brewing Co.
Any sports fans out there? We ordered the Cream Abdul Jabbar Ale (so punny!) and the Geronimo Jackson beer. Some Nerve Brewing‘s little taproom is located right off highway 51 and has great beer in a laid-back atmosphere.
Get the fish fry at Angler’s Fine Food and Spirits
You can’t visit Wisconsin without going to a Friday fish fry at a traditional supper club. We chose Angler’s Fine Food and Spirits and ordered a few Spotted Cows with their Haddock and Canadian Walleye special. If you like you’re fish breaded and crispy, you gotta go here!
Things to Do in Boulder Junction
Hike the Escanaba Hiking Trail
The Escanaba Hiking Trail is an easy nature hike that is good for hikers of all levels. It offers a few great views of the surrounding lakes, but most of the trail is through the woods. Find all the details on this hike (including length and features) in my Best Northern Wisconsin hiking guide here!
Eat smoked meat at Boulder Beer Bar
Boulder Beer Bar was packed on the early Saturday afternoon we visited. It was full of fishermen and women who just got off the lake, and locals and visitors alike! We sat at the bar and tried their smoked pork and brisket sandwiches. The service and all the patrons surrounding us were so friendly—even though it was so busy!
Hike the Star Lake Trail
The Star Lake trail isn’t located in Boulder Junction, but it’s close enough! This was our favorite hike of our time in Vilas County because it follows the peninsula out into Star Lake. Find all the details on this hike (including length and features) in my Best Northern Wisconsin hiking guide here!
Things to do in Minocqua
Grab breakfast at Great Northern Coffee Traders
Great Northern Coffee Traders is exactly the kind of coffee shop you would find in the North Woods. It plays country western music and is bustling with locals. You can get food here till 2:00, whether you want to sit down and eat a savory breakfast or take a few pastries to go like we did. I couldn’t resist the glazed croissant donut!
Hike the Raven Trail
Raven Trail is just east of Minocqua and offers paved bike trails and a variety of hiking trails. It’s a little hilly, but not too difficult to manage. Find all the details on this hike (including length and features) in my Best Northern Wisconsin hiking guide here!
Drink beer out of a mason jar at Rocky Reef Brewing
We’ve been to a lot of local breweries around the Midwest, but never have we ever drank beer out of a mason jar! We caught the Gopher game at Rocky Reef Brewing and had a few of their blonde ales. The beer is easy to drink and the atmosphere is great!
Things to do in Eagle River
Shop at Cotton + Birch Collective
Cotton + Birch Collective is like a mix between Anthropologie and Magnolia Market. It’s full of adorable home goods, clothes, and accessories. Definitely take some time to wander around this shop—it’s so cute!
Go on a cranberry farm tour at Lake Nokomis Cranberries
One of the most unique things to do in Northern Wisconsin is to visit a cranberry farm. We decided to visit Nokomis Cranberries which offers 3 tours a day. Visit their website for times, but the tour is FREE and ours was conducted by the most hilarious man! Get up close to the cranberry plots—this is a must do!
Get lunch with a view at Kickback Grill
Kickback Grill was recommended by an Eagle River local. It’s right on Duck Lake and has huge windows that look outside. I ordered the Rueben and Cole got the spicy chicken wrap. Both meals were great, and we loved the Northwoods vibe!
Try a local beer at Tribute Brewing Company
Tribute Brewing Company is a local favorite—it was packed just 30 minutes after it opened on Saturday afternoon. It smelled like blueberries when we walked in so I had to try the blueberry ale, which just had a subtle blueberry taste and was so yummy!
Vilas County and Northern Wisconsin is such a great place to visit, especially in the fall! Go check it out for yourself!