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Wisconsin’s Fall Favorites

If you’re in the market for a great fall destination for your travel group, take a serious look at Wisconsin.

With several of the top fall festivals in the country, along with brilliant foliage, shimmering lakeshores and a culture of hospitality, Wisconsin is a serious contender for the title of best fall destination in the Midwest. Whether you’re looking for the colors of autumn or the signature smells and tastes of fall, you’ll find both in abundance throughout this state.

In Door County, groups get a memorable blend of brilliant shorelines and colorful tree lines. A river cruise in Wisconsin Dells showcases the natural environment that first drew visitors to this popular vacation spot.

There are several other opportunities to celebrate fall throughout the state, too. Fall produce takes center stage at the Dane County Farmers’ Market in the capital city of Madison. In La Crosse, Oktoberfest USA has been recognized as one of the most traditional German festivals in the country.  And the Bayfield Apple Festival on the shores of Lake Superior showcases the flavors of fall in dozens of ways.

Explore the Dells

Wisconsin Dells attracts throngs of visitors year-round, many of whom come for its abundance of indoor and outdoor water parks. But it wasn’t the water parks that made Wisconsin Dells famous. It was the dells of the Wisconsin River, which run through the area, that first attracted visitors to town.

The best way for groups to explore the natural beauty of the river is with Dells Boat Tours. Tours range from 50 minutes to three hours, depending on which segments of the river they cover, and introduce passengers to the beautiful sandstone cliffs that border the river on both sides.

During the fall, the foliage on the cliffs along the riverfront turns brilliant colors, making the scenic dells that much more beautiful. The tour company also offers a special cruise experience on Fridays and Saturdays in September and October called Ghost Boat: Season of the Witch, which takes place after dark and includes excursions on foot through a dark gorge in Cold Water Canyon.

Oktoberfest USA

German heritage runs deep in many places throughout Wisconsin, and it’s on full display each fall in the Mississippi River town of La Crosse, home to Oktoberfest USA. This festival, held each year since 1961, is consistently ranked among the top events of its kind in the United States thanks to the organizers’ focus on maintaining the German traditions of Oktoberfest.

Like any good German festival, Oktoberfest USA offers plenty of opportunities for beer tasting. Among the many activities on the docket is a craft beer night that features 50 craft brewers handing out samples in a large tent. Festivalgoers will find lots of beer available in other areas throughout the entire festival.

In addition to the beer, Oktoberfest USA has a wide-ranging lineup of entertainment options. There are multiple parades, pageants, themed dinners and musical entertainment. Carnival rides and craft vendors round out the celebration. This year’s festival will be held September 28 to October 1.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.