Home Sweet Home: A Love Letter to Wisconsin

I just spent a week visiting South Dakota, and while places like the Badlands and Black Hills are impressive, it was another case of making me appreciate my home state of Wisconsin even more.

This is a place to appreciate Milwaukee, but MKE is in the state of Wisconsin, and its home state is to be celebrated as well. While Wisconsin is known for its outdoor recreation as one of its features, I think it is underrated for its grandeur. It may not have the scale of natural features of some states like mountains, canyons, or the ocean, we have a lot of variety and beautiful landscapes. I have visited many regions of the nation now in my early 50s, at this point really just the Northeast rural/wilderness areas (outside of the metropoles) and as I already stated, none of them have tugged at my heartstrings more than my home state.

What makes Wisconsin so great in my mind?

The cliffs of the Apostle Islands

It starts with nature. 

We are surrounded on 3 of 4 'sides' by grand bodies of water, 2 Great Lakes (Michigan and Superior), and the Great River, the Mississippi. Many people especially from the eastern half of the state forget we are a Mississippi state. In between, there are plenty of other large rivers (Wisconsin, Rock, Wolf, and Oconto), lakes (Winnebago, Petenwell, Chippewa Flowage, Castle Rock), as well as smaller bodies like ponds and creeks including waterfalls to see. There is a friendly argument between us and Minnesota on who has the most 'lakes' in the US depending on definitions. Those all provide plenty of amazing views and outdoor recreation opportunities. 

We have a wide range of natural features. We have the kettles and moraines left by the glaciers and in contrast the Driftless area where the glaciers never visited. A National Forest in the north and sandstone cliffs in the south and limestone cliffs throughout. Protected wetlands, the Niagara Escarpment, islands, and caves. Travel Wisconsin has a great list of 7 'awe-inpsiring' natural wonders. We have four seasons, Autumn here is beautiful with the changing of the colors.

We have bald eagles, and monarch migration paths. Bear, elk, cougar and wolves; and of course deer -  you can't drive far without seeing a deer crossing sign. We have great hunting and fishing.

My favorite place is Rock Island off of the Door Peninsula

It continues with the people and communities.   

The people, and the places they live, also make Wisconsin great. We are known for being friendly people (maybe not on the level of Canadians, but pretty nice). Our state motto could be 'Ope!", an exclamation usually of apology. I am a fanboy of Milwaukee of course, but we also have Madison our capitol of Wisconsin and home to the University of Wisconsin with lots of great culture as well as cities like Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Manitowoc and many, many quaint smaller communities like my first hometown of Cedarburg, all of the Door County towns and Lake Geneva which both are like the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Mount Horeb, and Elkhorn, Baraboo, Bayfield, Princeton, Spring Green; and too many to list (apologies if I missed your favorite).

There's also all the great products.

Every state has its exports, whether natural or man-made. Agriculture is big here, with the common grains. But we have many local specialties. We have the most and best cheese in the world, producing 1/3 of the nation's total. We have apples, Door County cherries, cranberries and lots of strawberries. Idaho may be best known for potatoes but we are a leading producer as well. Bratwurst (no other state makes them like we do), kringle, cheese curds, frozen custard, fish fries, Brandy Old Fashioned cocktails all are great state foods and beverages to try while here. 

Kringle. Photo cr. O&H Danish Kringle

Other stuff we make includes: bikes - powered or not (Harley-Davidson and Trek), shoes (Allen-Edmunds), motors (Briggs & Stratton, Ariens, Mercury Marine), locks (Masterlock), Oshkosh Trucks, Milwaukee Tools, paper goods (check out the Paper Valley), Kohler plumbing +, and many more great products.

And things built here.

Wisconsin has its fair share of cool architecture. We are of course the home of Frank Lloyd Wright with his home an Taliesin. Milwaukee has the Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Public Museum. We have many lighthouses being on two lakes with shipping. Octagonal barns and covered bridges. Our domed capitol building is a majestic example of classic architecture. The House on the Rock. The Basilica of Holy Hill.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin photo cr. wrightinwisconsin.org

I will always enjoy getting out and experiencing the rest of our great nation and what each state has to offer, but I am always overjoyed to return home. With a river nearby not unlike the creek I walked along as a child in the same great state.

The Menomonee river in the Village of Wauwatosa


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