15 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to Wisconsin

To compliment my recent story “15 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to Michigan“, I felt compelled to offer similar insight for anyone venturing out to America’s Dairy State. Living in Wisconsin is the same, but totally different, than living in Michigan.

Here’s what you need to know:

One. People in Wisconsin get water from the bubbler (drinking fountain) and money from the TYME machine (Take Your Money Everywhere, Wisconsin’s original ATM). If someone says, “Before we go to the bar, I have to find a TYME machine,” they are really just getting money to pay the cover charge. Saying TYME machine, is like calling tissues Kleenix (the brand doesn’t matter, it still means ATM).


Bubbler for six!

Two. Most Wisconsinites, and all of Milwaukee County consumes soda. Sometimes a pop will sneak in, but it could be soda pop. Don’t ask for a Pepsi Coke or you will be branded as a Texan.


Three. No one really knows for sure what the Hodag is, but if you go to Rhinelander, you need to find this statue and take a picture. When you are done, go into the visitor’s bureau and buy a bumper sticker that says, “I saw the Hodag in Rhinelander, WI”. Other popular bumper stickers in Wisconsin are “I Closed Wolski’s” and anything from the Thorpedo Restaurant in the town of Thorp.


We survived a Hodag attack!

Four. If you are thinking about visiting Northern Wisconsin, brush up on your Sheepshead skills. If you don’t play Sheepshead, say you know Euchre and you are from Michigan. This will help to save face.

Five. If you visit Madison or Dane County, chances are good you will see the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile more than once. If you are driving on I-94 and think you see a giant hot dog in your rear view mirror, you need to speed up or get in the right lane.

Six. While Wisconsin is one of two places in the world where you can stand at the bisection of the 90th Meridian of Longitude and the 45th Parallel of Latitude, the town of Pittsville draws its fame from being the exact center of the state. As proof, here I am holding up the sign.


You know you are thinking it…”This vacation is the pits!”

Seven. The Old Fashioned is the unofficial “old people” drink of Wisconsin. Served everywhere, including weddings (more on this in a bit), the Old Fashioned comes in four varieties: whiskey sweet, whiskey sour, brandy sweet, brandy sour. For the mental health of bar tenders everywhere, please be prepared with the specifics of your order (but if you don’t specify, brandy is the default).

Eight. If you are invited to a Wisconsin wedding, you will dance the Polka at least three times. Accomplish this by alternately hopping between legs while spinning in a giant circle. The Polka is a great sobriety test and keeps America’s remaining accordion players gainfully employed. If you are too drunk to Polka, then just join in on The Chicken Dance.

Nine. Friday Night Fish Fry is a big deal across the entire state. Many places serve only fish on Friday and the experience is social as much as getting your money’s worth of fish and fries. Larger restaurants sometimes hire a Polka band.

Yum, fish fry!

Yum, fish fry!

Ten. In small town Wisconsin, your primary grocery store choices will probably be either Pick N’ Save or Piggly Wiggly. Pick N’ Flick Save is your best bet for kringle, Wisconsin’s breakfast pastry of choice (but if you go to the State Fair, do not leave until you eat a cream puff). People will say they have to “stop and shop the pig,” which means they are getting milk on the way home from work.

Eleven. If you do go grocery shopping, you will put your items into a “baaaaaaaag”. Say it, “baaaaaaaag.” Wisconsinites also love the word “sure.” As in, “Sure! I can help you carry your baaaaaaaag out to the car.”

Twelve. Wearing your pajama bottoms out in public is socially and culturally acceptable, especially in the winter months and if you have anything in Looney Tunes print.

Thirteen. Wisconsin is fiercely loyal to the Green Bay Packers. I’ve seen more than one home painted green on the bottom and gold on the top. (These homes probably also have wood-paneled interior rooms that doubles as a bar/shrine to The Pack.) Note: wearing a foam triangle of cheese on your head might get you on television during football season. Also, if you take the guided tour of Lambeau Field, there’s an honest-to-God sign instructing you not to eat the turf (AKA, The Frozen Tundra). Just sayin’.

Packer farm house sighting.

Packer farm house sighting.

Fourteen. Lake Winnebago is the place for sturgeon spearing in February. If you go, make sure and bring your lucky decoy, as it will be the only thing you are staring at besides mud and water for up to sixteen frigidly cold days.


Is that a sturgeon? Nope. Wait. Nope.

Fifteen. While the word “club” conveys membership and exclusivity, Supper Clubs are open to the general public and are scattered all over the state (prime rib and fish fry are your best bets).

In general, Wisconsin is AWESOME. Go kayaking in Door County, rock climb at Devil’s Lake, eat squeaky cheese curds, and visit all of Milwaukee’s museums.

If you need some ideas, read this story: 10 Amazing Places in Wisconsin.

P.S. What did I miss? Did I accidentally insult anyone? Leave a nice comment below.

Consumption of the Frozen Tundra is not allowed!

Consumption of The Frozen Tundra is not allowed!

Happy Trails!

15 Important Things to know before traveling to Wisconsin

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. In March 2018 Julie Henning published the book "100 Things to Do in Eugene Before You Die" (Reedy Press). She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. She has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, Travel Wisconsin, Travel Oregon, Hometown News Group, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine (DNR publication), Experience Michigan Magazine, the Official Oregon Wine Touring Guide, Metro Parent Milwaukee Magazine, Eugene Cascades & Coast Official Visitors Guide, Trivago, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, Amtrak.com, Eugene Magazine, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio. She has produced episodes for Journey of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. Julie has also produced travel apps with Sutro Media and Bindu Media. She works full time in marketing. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.