Nothing says fall color like Wisconsin's expansive Northwoods. But when you're searching for a prime leaf-peeping locale, it's nice to target an area that offers loads of other amenities, too. Minocqua — and the neighboring communities of Arbor Vitae, Woodruff and Lake Tomahawk — is that spot. Hugged by more than 107,000 acres of state and national forest land, you'll have plenty of options for scenic drives. But you'll also be able to sample lively fall festivals, sign on to interesting tours, shop 'til you drop and get a little wild. Here's how.
Drink in Fall Color.
Grab a Color Tour map from the Chamber of Commerce, hop in your car and be ready to be dazzled. A jaunt along Rustic Road 58, one of three such state-certified routes in the area, meanders through hardwood and fragrant pine forests, crosses two burbling creeks, one with two beaver lodges, then rolls through cedar lowlands. Rustic Road 60, north of Arbor Vitae, winds through a slice of the Northern Highland - American Legion State Forest, where you're bound to spot a plethora of wildlife, plus leads you past the Minocqua area's numerous sparkling, blue lakes. When you want to experience a more intimate view of the colors, park the car and take a hike. There are more than 600 miles of trail in the area, from mysterious singletrack leading you deep into dense forestland to flat, wide paths merrily rolling past lakes and streams.
Have an Adventure.
Been there, done that with scenic drives? Then book a private tour with Lauer Aviation for a bird's-eye view of the vibrant Northwoods. Confer with the company about a custom route (you won't want to miss flying over areas thick with maple and tamarack, or a cranberry harvest in progress), or sign on for one of its two themed tours. One is based on the region's historical mining areas, while the other traces the old Flambeau Trail, a historic woodland highway that crossed the Continental Divide linking Lake Superior and the Mississippi watershed. If you want to be one with the forest, whoosh across a pine canopy courtesy of Northwoods Zip Line, which features nine lines and six adventure bridges.
Take a Tour.
Think Minocqua and its environs are all about the outdoors? Au contraire! If you're looking for some culture or history, no problem. Three Lakes Winery, located west of Lake Tomahawk and famed for its cranberry wine, offers daily tastings year-round, plus daily tours through mid-October. In addition to intriguing varietals such as wild plum and pumpkin wine, traditional wines (e.g., Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon) are also available. The North Lakeland Discovery Center, a nature-based education and community center, offers innumerable programs and activities. If you sign up for the Flambeau Flowage Nature Photography Tour, targeted at beginners, you'll be able to practice your shots on the scenic Turtle Flambeau Flowage, home to one of Wisconsin's highest concentrations of eagles, ospreys and loons. During one of the Lakeside Dinner Series events, you can listen to a guest speaker such as Tess May, who worked in Ghana and Madagascar, while you enjoy a sumptuous meal. Or you can simply hike or bike along the property's 12 miles of trail.
Celebrate with Us.
Everyone loves a good party. For 51 years Minocqua has hosted Beef-a-Rama, a fete of all things beef. There's a 5K race, roast cook-offs, live music — learn the Rump Bump! — games, a craft show and more. The Northwoods Fall Art Tour shines a light on 29 of the region's finest artists and galleries covering a wide range of mediums such as pottery, photography, furniture-making and fiber art. Pick up a map to this self-guided event from the Chamber of Commerce, then head to the spots you find most intriguing. Many are the artists' own private studios, open just for this event, with several located in Woodruff and Minocqua. You may even be able to watch them at work. And yes, if something catches your eye, you can buy it on the spot. That's part of the fun.