The name Wisconsin means "meeting of the waters" and is of Native American origin.
Wisconsin borders Illinois, and Iowa to the south, Minnesota to the west, and Michigan to the north. To the east lies the long Lake Michigan shoreline and in the northwest a smaller Lake Superior shoreline.
Wisconsin is known nationwide for its dairy heritage, or as "America's Dairyland". Being home to two Great Lakes, thousands of inland lakes and waterways, the state could easily be called the nation's "waterworld" instead.
The southern portion of the state is mainly agricultural and urban while the northern half is mostly rural and forested and is more similar in appearance to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The central region acts as a transition zone with both forests, farm land and small cities.
The state's largest city and urban area is Milwaukee located in southeastern Wisconsin. In south-central Wisconsin lies the state capital Madison. Green Bay is listed as the state's third largest city. Wisconsin is a popular Midwestern travel destination both in the summer and winter months.
Wisconsinites speak with a dry Midwestern accent and tend to emphasize their vowels. Perfect examples include the words "roof" and "Wisconsin"!
People in the state commonly refer to a drinking fountain as a "bubbler". Also note that unlike most of the Midwest, Wisconsinites in the eastern part of the state (especially the Milwaukee area) refer to soft drinks as "soda" rather than "pop".
Wisconsin is in the Central Time Zone, as are all neighboring states except Michigan, which is in the Eastern Time Zone (with the exception of a small portion of the Upper Penn. which borders Wisconsin also in the central time zone).
Unless flying to Milwaukee or Madison, it is often easier to enter Wisconsin by making a connection in another state. Midwest Airlines/Frontier Airlines , with a hub in Milwaukee, serves most Wisconsin cities and is known for its excellent service but has limited service nationally. The most comprehensive service from a hub/hubs to Wisconsin is provided by Delta Air Lines  through Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. United  also provides frequent service to the southern two thirds of the state via Chicago O'Hare. American  has a substantial number of flights from Chicago O'Hare as well. Other carriers providing less frequent service include Continental Express (Cleveland and Newark), US Airways, AirTran, and Southwest.
Milwaukee handles a very limited number of flights from Toronto and some Mexican destinations. Travelers originating internationally will find the greatest number of flight options if they opt to make connections through Chicago O'Hare. Connections from international services are also available through Minneapolis and Detroit as well as Cincinnati.
These services are only available from late Spring through early Fall.
Greyhound and Megabus serve Milwaukee, Madison, and other cities. Also check Van Galder and Jefferson Bus lines. Check their websites from services, schedules, and fares.
The state publishes Getting Around Wisconsin Without A Car: A Public Transportation Guide.
Unless there is a sign saying otherwise, it is legal to make a right turn after stopping for a red light.
Several bus companies provide service with-in the state.
Wisconsin has two international airports, Mitchell International in Milwaukee (MKE), which is a hub for Midwest Airlines/Frontier Airlines, and Austin Straubel International in Green Bay (GRB). Regional airports with scheduled service exist in Madison (MSN), Appleton (ATW), Wausau/Stevens Point (CWA), Rhinelander (RHI), La Crosse (LSE), and Eau Claire (EAU). Service to the far western "Indianhead" region of the state can be found across the Minnesota border in Minneapolis (MSP) and Duluth (DLH). Travel by air within Wisconsin has become rather impractical in the last 25 years. Unless traveling to/from Milwaukee, travel between Wisconsin cities by air requires a connection in Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis or even Detroit. It is usually faster and less expensive to travel within the state via automobile.
Amtrak has two lines that service the state. The Hiawatha has 7 daily roundtrips between Milwaukee and Chicago, with additional stops outside of Racine and at Mitchell Field Airport. The Empire Builder runs once daily, and effectively parallels I-94 to Chicago coming all the way from Seattle, Washington. The Train station has recently been remodeled into a nice clean and modern looking building located downtown.
Milwaukee has a number of good attractions:
Madison is the state capital. The capitol building has one of the world's largest domes. The University of Wisconsin has several small museums and a large hill crowned by Bascom Hall. Connecting capitol square and the university is State Street, with many shops and ethnic restaurants. Other attractions include the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, UW Arborteum, and Henry Vilas Zoo.
Wisconsin Dells has many touristy attractions:
Door County is a scenic peninsula with numerous sites. Peninsula State Park is the third largest in the state and has beaches, campsites, a lighthouse, and an observation tower high on a bluff. There are several other lighthouses, and wineries. The county is also well known for its cherries, and there are many stands selling them. Boats run to Washington Island off the northern tip, through an area littered with shipwrecks.
Tourism is one of Wisconsin's largest industries, relying on Illini and others who enter during the summer for fishing and its parks and recreational facilities such as those in Wisconsin Dells, those entering during the fall for a very popular hunting season, and Winter for ice-fishing, ice-sailing, ice-skating, skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, and much more.
If you look at your left hand, palm facing away from you, some locals say it looks like the shape of Wisconsin. Door County would be your thumb, a peninsula extending far into Lake Michigan. However, only the mentally disadvantaged espouse the belief that the shape Wisconsin resembles a hand. Michiganders and most Americans dispute this claim. Anyway, Door County is well known as a vacation destination for family outing (esp. family reunions) and its laid-back vacations. It has numerous apple and cherry orchards, boating opportunities on Lake Michigan, and many B&Bs. As well, there is an active arts community with several galleries worthy of note like the Edgewood Orchard Gallery and the Potter's Wheel.
Noah's Ark is "America's largest Waterpark" in Wisconsin Dells. Wisconsin Dells is full of waterparks, amusement parks, shopping and shows. It also includes Tommy Bartlett's Watershow, one of the world's greatest waterski shows. Wisconsin Dells is also famous for its ducks, truck-like vehicles that can travel on land and sea that travel from lake to lake and along the rivers of "the Dells" to demonstrate the sights and nature. A good family destination.
Hiking, bicycling, and in the wintertime, cross-country skiing are popular overland activities. Wisconsin was one of the first states to begin conversion of abandoned railroad right-of-ways into bicycle trails. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail traverses all parts of the state, extending for more than 1,600 km (1,000 miles), and offering evidence of Wisconsin's recent natural history. The most popular segments of this trail, since they are nearest to large urban centers, are in the Kettle Moraine region.
As a consequence of the large German immigration to Wisconsin, German meals found their way into the local eating habits. Bratwursts are common and well liked, with Sheboygan claiming to be the home of the bratwurst. The Bratwurst is a state delicacy served during summer cookouts, preferably boiled in beer prior to being grilled.
The modern hamburger was said to have been first served as a meatball-like product when its creator realized they stayed on the bun better if flattened. It was first sold at a Seymour, WI fair.
Frozen custard is also a Wisconsin delicacy not found often outside the Midwest. Frozen custard is similar to ice cream (it is NOT yogurt!). It is unique in that there is far less air in it (making it less "fluffy" and far more smooth and creamy). It contains egg, making it richer and creamier. It has an inappropriate reputation as unhealthy relative to ice cream when in fact most frozen custards have less calories, less fat and less sugar, being less healthy only in that it has slightly more cholesterol than ice cream.
Wisconsin and the surrounding area is famous for its dairy products, and there are various regional specialties following this theme. Even fast-food chain restaurants in this region often give the option of fried cheese curds as a side in addition to the more common french fries.
Bouja soup (various spellings include Bouya and Booya) is a popular Polish Soup found in Eastern Wisconsin reflecting the heratage of a large Polish immigrant population. Bouja is typically made from chicken, pork, beef, beans, cabbage, rutabagas, and other vegitables and seasonings, which is then simmered for period of 6- 24 hours (see recipes for Bouja Soup). Bouja is a favorite food sold at church gatherings, fund raisers, large family gatherings and some county fairs. It is not uncommon to see signs for a "Booya Boil" throughout the summer months.
Alcohol Drinking Age
The drinking age in Wisconsin is 21. However, persons under 21 and over 16 who are with a parent, legal guardian, or spouse (if the spouse is 21 or over) may, at the discretion of the establishment, be sold and allowed to drink alcohol beverages. http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/stat0125.pdf
Milwaukee is home to the Milwaukee Brewers - both the baseball team and numerous breweries. Until Pabst closed its Milwaukee brewery and began contracting out its production during the late 1990s Milwaukee was the brewing capital of the nation. Although only one major brewer (Miller) remains in the city, it's brewing heritage lives on in the large number of micro-breweries and brewpubs it has to offer. Some more famous "small" breweries in Wisconsin include Point (located in the college town of Stevens Point), City (formerly G Heileman), New Glarus, Berghoff, Leinenkugels (in Chippewa Falls), Riverwest and Sprecher (both from Milwaukee, the latter also makes many fine sodas). Many restaurants and bars have their own local breweries inside the facility such that patrons can see the tanks as they eat.
Grays Brewing is well know for its sodas also using real grain sugar (rather than the fine, processed sugar used almost everywhere else in all American food) which gives the flavor a unique and outstanding flavor. Gray's makes primarily fruit-flavored sodas and reuses (not recycles) its bottles, so bring 'em back.
Point Brewing is now offering various sodas, including rootbeer, diet rootbeer, cream and other flavors. The tour of the brewery is said to be quite fun and extensive and concerts are held in the summer (Rock the Brewery).
Sprecher Brewing also is well known, and is gaining recognition nationwide, for its sodas, particularly its root beer and unique labels such as Orange Dream, Raven Red, etc. A Root Beer or Orange Dream float with vanilla Frozen Custard is about the best beverage one can find. Tours are held Fridays and Saturdays all year-round, and everyday during the busy summer season. The cost of the tour is $4 for adults and $2 for those under 21. The price is well worth it, however, considering that the tour includes plenty of social time with unlimited samples of their sodas, and up to 4 samples of their beer.
Wisconsin offers the usual assortment of chain motels, usually located just off the interstate highways, as well as a number of larger resorts. Bed & Breakfasts-- from the one bedroom in a home to large, historic, buildings, and inns are also popular. Some areas, such as Baraboo also specialize in casino hotels.
When driving in rural areas during dusk and after sunset, keep on the lookout for wildlife, especially whitetail deer. Slow down when you see wildlife near the side of the road or crossing the road in front of you. If you see one deer cross the road in front of you, slow down. It's always wise assume that a single deer has one or more friends with them. Car/deer collisions can cause serious damage to your vehicle, and in very rare circumstances, even injury to the driver and/or passenger(s).
Avoid going for walks in the woods during late November. The week of Thanksgiving is Wisconsin's peak deer hunting season, and you may be mistaken for a deer by an errant hunter. If you must venture out, wear a blaze orange colored jacket and hat. You can purchase blaze orange clothing at any store that sells hunting gear.
When driving at night, particularly during the weekends, be on the lookout for people driving erratically. Drive defensively. Wisconsin has a serious problem with drunk driving. If you spot a drunk driver, keep the following tips in mind:
Keep your distance. The closer you are to a vehicle that is being operated by a drunk driver, the greater the danger.
Do not try to pass the vehicle.
Call 911 and tell them you wish to report a drunk driver.
Give the exact location of the vehicle, including the name of the road or cross-streets and the direction the vehicle is travelling.
Give a complete description of the vehicle, such as make, model, color, and license plate.
Describe the manner in which the vehicle is being driven.
Do not follow or try to stop the car or detain the driver. Leave that part to the police.
Use caution in certain areas of Milwaukee, the state's largest city. The north side of the city tends to be higher-crime, however not much there is of interest to visitors.