WISCONSIN – Everyone knows Wisconsin for the cheese, the beer and the kids. Check out these kitsch roadside attractions that will only expand your love of the dairy state.
1. The biggest fish in the world – Hayward
The tallest building in the town of Hayward is a giant fiberglass musk, also known as the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. The muskellunge is four and a half stories tall and as long as a Boeing 757. Guests can enter through the muskie’s tail and walk to the viewing platform in the fish’s open jaw.
Insider tip: Fish the 88,000 gallon pond under the muskellunge.
2. Al Johnson’s goats on the roof – Sister berry
Goats grazing on the thatched roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant have been turning heads and attracting tourists for decades. These goats have earned celebrity status at this popular Door County destination with their own online “Goat Cam” and a “Roofing of the Goats” parade in June.
Insider tip: order Swedish pancakes; they are the second most famous thing about this authentic Scandinavian restaurant.
3. Pinkie the elephant – Deforestation
Travelers on I-90/94 needing gas should exit at Freeway V to find Pinkie the Pink Elephant at the nearby Shell station. This giant fiberglass sculpture, adorned with black rimmed hipster glasses, is hard to miss. What started out as a way to get customers to the gas station has grown into the perfect place for selfies.
Insider tip: Treat yourself to a super delicious piece of pie at Norske Nook Restaurant, just five miles away.
4. The largest six-pack in the world – The cross
The world’s largest six-pack is actually a set of metal beer tanks built in 1969 by the G. Heileman Brewing Company (the original Old Style brewer) for stock storage. Now owned by City Brewery and redesigned to look like a six-pack La Crosse Lager, they hold the equivalent of 7,340,796 cans of beer.
Insider tip: Head south on WI-35 to the National Brewery Museum in Potosi for the world’s largest can of beer. He is over 40 feet tall.
5. Fromage de Mars Castle – Kenosha
In a state where cheese is king, it makes perfect sense to keep it in a castle. Welcome to Mars Cheese Castle, conveniently located on the Illinois-Wisconsin border for stocking up on artisan cheese and bags of cheese curds for the road.
Insider tip: Pick up a Danish kringle, an official Wisconsin pastry, flaky, fruit or nutty.
6. The biggest talking loon in the world – Mercier
Her name is Claire d’Loon and she has a fabulous voice and great stage presence (at 16 feet tall and 2,000 pounds). This lovely lady is the biggest talking loonie in the world and although she only speaks with loon sounds, she is happy to oblige any tourist / paparazzi who want a photo.
Insider tip: Rent a canoe and paddle the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage to spot a real loon.
7. Sputnik crash site – Manitowoc
September 6, 1962 changed the course of Manitowoc history when a 20-pound piece of Sputnik IV crashed in the middle of Main Street. To celebrate this strange twist of fate, the city preserved the crash site and rescued space debris in the nearby Rahr-West Art Museum.
Insider Tip: Plan your visit in September during the annual Sputnikfest, which honors the moment space collided with Manitowoc.
8. The biggest penny in the world – Woodruff
At 15 feet tall, 12 inches thick, and nearly 9 tons in weight, the world’s tallest penny maintains a pride of place in the tiny Woodruff. The concrete coin commemorates a 1953 fundraiser designed by Dr Kate Pelham Newcomb, who challenged local school children to save their pennies to build a hospital. The news spread across the country and ultimately raised 1.7 million cents. Who would have thought that you could build a hospital with coins?
Insider tip: Visit the Dr. Kate Museum to find out all about it.
9. Rock in the house – City Fountain
Rock in the House is exactly what it says. The 55-ton boulder rolled down a hill on April 24, 1995 and got stuck in the master bedroom of the house, where it is today. A savvy local real estate agent bought the house and turned it into a one-of-a-kind open house.
Insider tip: Not to be confused with House on the Rock in Spring Green, another famous architectural gem with eclectic collections to discover.
10. The biggest M in the world – Platteville
If you’ve always wanted to stand next to the famous Hollywood sign above Los Angeles, then you might want to consider a trip to Platte Mound to see the world’s tallest M. The M was created by students of the former Wisconsin Mining School, now known as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, so the “M.” You can see the letter 241 feet by 214 feet almost 30 miles away.
Insider tip: Put on a hard hat and take an underground tour of the 1845 Bevans lead mine at the Rollo Jamison Mining Museum.
11. Dr Evermor’s Forevertron – North Liberty
Behind the salvage business in this small community is an art brut collection created by a certain Dr Evermor (yes, he’s a real person). Old pieces and salvaged concert pieces were the inspiration for his sculpture garden. The centerpiece? Forevertron, a 400-ton, 50-foot scrap sculpture often recognized as the tallest in the world.
Insider tip: Hike near Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo for a selfie with the natural rock carvings of the quartzite cliffs.
12. “Ben Bikin”, the greatest cyclist in the world – Sparta
To mark its claim as America’s cycling capital, Sparta proudly displays “Ben Bikin” aka “Big Ben” – the world’s greatest cyclist – at the entrance to the city. The 32-foot tall Victorian-era cyclist comes with a speakerphone at the base to hear “Ben” providing an audio story of Sparta.
Insider Tip: Bring your bike and hike the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the country’s first rail-to-trail conversion.
13. Concrete park – Phillips
After retiring in his 60s, Fred Smith decided to commemorate his experience as a lumberjack, tavern owner, farmer and dance hall musician by adding another title to his name – artist. Without any training, Smith created Concrete Park, a unique folk art exhibit made up of some 200 hand-made sculptures from all kinds of materials.
Insider tip: Enjoy the views from the watchtower atop Timms Hill, the highest natural point in the state.