Northern Wisconsin used to be one of the hottest spots in America for a summer vacation. It's becoming that way again.
For years, a small group of us have been traveling to the Northwoods to chase muskies and smallmouth bass. Generally, we have stayed in Iron County, but have traveled all over around the southern Lake Superior region.
When the economy took a turn several years ago, this very select area from north of Wausau, up to Eagle River, to Hayward then over to Minnesota, may have taken it the worst out of anywhere in the state.
Now, though, things are moving back in the right direction. However, if you're making plans to head that direction, there are some pitfalls waiting for you if you don't know what you are doing.
Back in the 70s and 80s, Northern Wisconsin was the place to be. Small towns thrived, the fishing was incredible, and the tourist industry was booming. Vacation homes weren't very common because most people stayed in resorts with lots of little cabins. But now, most of those places are in need of lots of repair. Some are still nice around the Mercer and Minocqua areas but don't expect to just walk into a five-star place to stay. If you're headed up to a remote lake for some rest and relaxation, make sure you do your research. These days, there are many vacation home rental services online. A little research in this area can make or break your entire stay.
When most people think of a Northern Wisconsin vacation, they might think of the Green Bay Packers, Native American culture and, of course, the fishing. However, this might be where many go wrong. Yes, the northern parts of Wisconsin do have some incredible fishing. Also, traveling a short distance into Michigan can pay dividends. However, if you just go where the local baitshop tells you, you're going to be crowded out pretty quickly.
Just like in Canada, there are a ton of lakes to go and try. If you camp out on the lake where your vacation home or cabin is, you are doing yourself a true disservice. Part of a fun vacation is exploring. Find a vacation guide and check out a few wild rivers in the area or some off the beaten path lakes. You'll be glad you did.
If your idea of a great place to eat is a Friday fish fry at the local bar in town, you're gong to be in heaven. Wisconsin has some of the best fish fries in the United States, hand down. Odds are good you won't find any reviews online or on social media, but what you will get are some meals you may never forget.
However, that same bar will probably have specials every other night of the week, too. This is where asking around can really get you somewhere. Don't just rely on the place in town with the biggest sign to serve the best meal. If you talk to the person at the gas station, bait shop or just somebody you met on the lake, they'll know where to go. Trust them.
With the economy on such a strong upswing over the past year and change, Americans are looking for way to enjoy themselves again. If you're looking a good idea of a place to go, look north. If you do, just make sure you pay a little attention to these things and you should be in some solid shape for a great week away.