While Wisconsin’s most popular destinations draw a dedicated crowd, there’s also plenty of exciting spots to explore just off the beaten path. Find your next adventure at these hidden gems!
Magician Museum – Appleton
Starting out on a literal note—let’s discuss a master of secrets and concealment:
Harry Houdini, famous for his feats of deception, was born in Appleton. Visit the Harry Houdini Historical Center at the History Museum at the Castle to get an inside look at his life.
• The building itself is an unexpected hidden gem—a castle in the middle of Wisconsin, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally a Masonic temple, this 1923 building is a hidden gem in its own right.
• Check out Houdini’s actual props with things like strait jackets, iron legs, and lock picks, as well as a tour to some of his most frequent boyhood spots.
• You can’t miss the demonstrations that show how Houdini pulled off some of his most famous tricks.
• A leisurely brunch at Houdini’s Escape Gastropub is the Sunday ticket. This is a plated brunch, plus there are three Bloody Mary’s on the menu that come loaded with items like cheese, sausage, fried avocado and truffled baguette.
Wildcat Mountain State Park – Ontario
This park is a hidden gem, often overlooked in favor of the more well-known state park destinations. Located in the beautiful Driftless area right on the Kickapoo River (between the Dells and La Crosse), this park has six miles of cross-country ski trails groomed for both classic and skate skiing. Snowshoeing, hiking, and visiting the Ice Cave are other popular winter activities.
• There is an observation point in the upper picnic area that overlooks the Kickapoo River.
• Ice Cave Trail: This short, easy trail leads to a rock formation that looks like the mouth of a large cave as you approach it. A small spring runs over the edge of the rock formation and freezes into a giant icicle in winter.
• The park's seven-mile-long ski trail takes you to five scenic overlooks. The trail begins and ends at the upper picnic area. There's a rest stop midway. Beginner and intermediate skiers can enjoy this trail with easy bypasses of steeper areas.
Maxwell Mansion Speakeasy – Lake Geneva
Whether it’s historical refurbished bars that were home to real operating speakeasies or modern-day interpretations on the culture, Wisconsin is still the place to experience a rich gangster history and see some seriously cool hidden spots.
• Built in 1855 as the first mansion in Lake Geneva, the European-style Maxwell Mansion is full of rich history, including the infamous Prohibition era, which was the inspiration for this relaxing hideaway. Descend the dimly lit stone stairs to the basement of Maxwell Mansion, and you’ll find something unexpected—a hidden speakeasy. True to 1920s form, you can only get in through an inconspicuous back alley entrance.
• Filled with edgy 1920s décor with a modern twist, this little-known bar is as good as it gets, as long as you have the password to get in! Keep your eyes open—Maxwell Mansion opens their bar for special events and on certain nights of the week, whether it’s for live music performances, cabaret shows or murder mystery events.
• And the new Ice Castle just opened this week. So, it’s the perfect time to explore Lake Geneva. The life-size frozen playgrounds are created entirely by hand. Each ice castle is made up of one giant piece of ice that weighs more than 25 million pounds and takes up a little over an acre. Color-changing LED lights are embedded within the ice to illuminate the castles at night and twinkle to music.