Feature photo: Shaman Motion Pictures
To most outsiders, Wisconsin is a curious place—a wonderland of beer, cheese, and brats, somewhere in the middle of flyover country. But for anybody who has lived here for any amount of time … we know how special and unique our home really is. We don’t always have a choice when we leave the Dairy State but no matter where we end up, Wisconsin will always be home. This list could be 10 pages long, but we’re limiting ourselves to 10 things that Wisconsinites miss most when they’re away.
10. Cheese Curds
Wisconsin cheese curds get their fresh flavor from top-quality Wisconsin milk. It takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. Mmmm … 10 pounds of milk. Squeaky or fried, we love ’em all. We even celebrate the majesty of the curd with a two-day festival in Ellsworth. You’ll definitely want to come back home for that.
9. New Glarus Beer
The quaint little brewery nestled on the outskirts of New Glarus is owned and operated by Dan & Deb Carey. And they’re hell-bent on not taking over the world. When they say “Keep it Local,” they really mean it. Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel, Two Women, and Moon Man just to name a few. You’re not going to find these treasures anywhere but Wisconsin. And don’t try sneaking any out of the state either. It’s ours, and we don’t like sharing.
Bloody Mary bars, rows of beer coolers, toolboxes full of spatulas and tongs, six-pack holders full of condiments, beer pong tables, jumper cables, the smell of grilled brats for miles—Wisconsinites take their annual pregame rituals more seriously than anybody else, anywhere. And we’ve gotten extremely good at it. We set up shop and become citizens of temporary communities united by the common theme of eating, drinking, and cheering on our local teams Check out our Ultimate DW Tailgating Guide for full step-by-step instructions.
7. Friday Fish Fry
Wisconsin has a rich history when it comes to bars and restaurants, and at no time is it more evident than on a Friday night. The classic Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition which dates back to when European immigrants landed and adapted their cooking techniques to our local fish. Since many were Catholic and avoided meat on Fridays during Lent, the weekly fish fry became a staple. During the Prohibition era, fish fries became a way for establishments to stay in business. It was a clever way to mask their speakeasy under the intoxicating aroma of frying cod, haddock, perch, and walleye.
6. Wisconsin Dells Waterparks
Black Anaconda, Flash Flood, Bermuda Triangle, Scorpion’s Tail … yes, please! The indoor waterpark was pioneered in the Wisconsin Dells. Noah’s Ark is “America’s Largest Waterpark” and considered by most to be the city’s premier attraction (sorry Ducks and Nig’s). Today, the Dells has the largest concentration of indoor and outdoor waterparks of any place on the planet. It just doesn’t get any better than a cool drink and a giant slide in the heat of a Wisconsin summer.
5. Old Fashioneds
As the story goes, in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, Korbel began pouring the classic “Old Fashioned” whiskey cocktail using brandy. The state of Wisconsin took to it right away, and it’s now known as our official unofficial state beverage. (Korbel still sells more brandy in Wisconsin than in any other state.) Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody outside of our great state who can make a decent brandy Old Fashioned. This video of JaNee from California has made the rounds over the past few years. It’s still extremely cringe-worthy and difficult to watch. You’ve been warned. Where do we even start listing all the ways she mutilated this ‘Sconsin classic?
4. Construction Barrels
Wisconsin has five distinct seasons: Summer, spring, fall, winter, and construction. Unfortunately, construction season is the one that lasts the longest and endlessly overlaps the other four. According to our research department (intern Kyle), this annoying orange barrel barrage has been perpetually underway since 1968—and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon. They irritate you when you live here, but when you leave, admit it, you kinda miss ’em.
Eleven days. Eleven stages. More than 800 artists and nearly 1M people in attendance. Summerfest is our annual music festival (World’s Largest according to Guinness) held each summer along 75-acres of Milwaukee’s magnificent lakefront. In 2017 Summerfest celebrated its 50th anniversary. My most memorable trip to Summerfest was in the summer of 1989. I was 15 and worked a job for the day on the grounds handing out free Milwaukee Sentinal newspapers. I only did this to get in early to get my hand stamped for the ‘Club MTV’ concert at the Marcus Amphitheater that night. This was the concert of the fest, and it didn’t disappoint. Veejay Downtown Julie Brown with chart-topping artists Tone Loc, Paula Abdul, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, and Milli Vanilli! Damn, those Vanilli’s could really sing.
There’s no denying the brat (only outsiders call them bratwurst) is Wisconsin’s favorite meat. The best—and in the opinion of most of us here at DW—the only way to eat them is grilled and soaked in beer and onions. A true Wisconsinite will only ever put a Johnsonville, Klement’s, or Usinger’s on the grill. The big question is whether you put them in the beer before or after. This dilemma has started many a heated backyard brawl. And does the beer you soak them in matter? Some would argue that it’s best to use a cheaper beer like PBR or Milwaukee’s Best. While others preach that a good beer means better brats in the end. But this is Wisconsin, so it’s not easy to pour a pricey micro-brew into a pot instead of your mouth. And don’t bother with bratwurst buns. Your inexpensive, everyday hot dog bun is all you’ll ever need. Happy grilling!
Fine, nobody is going to miss these bitey little jerks. I was really just checking to see if anybody reads all the way to the bottom of these lists. But you do have to admit, many of your fondest summer memories include swatting away pesky mosquitoes. So weirdly … these tiny terrors are just as much a part of Wisconsin as we are.
This list is only a small sampling of the fantastic things that make Wisconsin amazing and unique. What else do you miss when you’re away? Leave your comments below.