Words by Shelby Deering
Everyone knows that the east coast has some great locales to see the leaves change color—New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York—but we’d hedge our bets that Wisconsin is a formidable contender. From mid-September to late October, the state glows with the fiery hues of autumn leaves in all their glory. And it’s the prime time of year to visit popular summertime destinations without all the tourists.
These are the best places to spot fall leaves and what to do nearby when you’ve had your fill.
The Best Leaf-Viewing Spot: The 26-mile Shore Path winds completely around Lake Geneva, which is also one of the only lakes in the state on which you can walk the entire shoreline. The highlights? Historic mansions and a public library designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé.
Area Activities: See the leaves from the water on a boat tour. Savor a slice of locally-made apple pie at The Elegant Farmer. Then get a bird’s eye view of the fall hues on a zip line at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours.
The Best Leaf-Viewing Spot: Peninsula State Park is a Door County treasure known for its 3,700 acres with beautiful bike paths and the storied Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. Head to Sven’s Bluff scenic overlook for the best seat in the house.
Area Activities: Head to Edge of Park Rentals, which is appropriately located on the edge of Peninsula State Park. Take a two-wheeled tour of the fall leaves during a family biking adventure or speed things up with a moped rental. Then restore your energy with a slice of pizza at the nearby Wild Tomato—don’t miss The Fun Guy, loaded with five types of mushrooms.
The Best Leaf-Viewing Spot: Devil’s Lake State Park isn’t far from Wisconsin Dells, and there’s nothing devilish about it. Hike up 500-foot quartzite bluffs to view fall foliage as far as the eye can see.
Area Activities: The lavender fields won’t be in bloom, but you can still shop lavender-infused, year-round boutiques and attend events at Rowley Creek Lavender Farm, Devil’s Lake Lavender, or New Life Lavender. Take a detour to the Dells to visit Sundara, an award-winning spa. During fall, they offer treatments with ingredients like cranberries, pumpkin, and cinnamon. Spot leaves from the water with Dells Boat Tours or book the Halloween-appropriate Ghost Boat cruise.
The Best Leaf-Viewing Spot: The Apostle Islands is the only national park in Wisconsin. Trees dot the craggy, yet stunning, shoreline and there are sea caves to explore from your kayak.
Area Activities: Apostle Islands Cruises is another idyllic way to view fall colors from the water. The 55-mile Grand Tour is narrated and you’ll have copious leaf-peeping opportunities. You’re also sure to see wildlife gliding and ambling around Lake Superior. And for a gourmet bite at the end of a long day of sightseeing, stop by the Landmark Restaurant at the Old Rittenhouse Inn for striking views and a cup of the Lake Superior Chowder.