With so many possibilities, planning a long weekend escape can be a little overwhelming. So, We've pulled together a sample three-day itinerary to get you started. You can follow it all, select just a few options or use it as inspiration to jump-start the creation of your own version.
With more than 1,700 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Minocqua area, spending some time on a sled is almost a requirement. Kickstart your weekend by signing up for a half-day (three-hour) guided tour with Adventure North Snowmobile Tours. Don't worry if you've never driven a sled before; the business tailors its tours to your skill level. Be prepared for a beautiful ride through thick woods, past glacial lakes, and through a true winter wonderland.
Follow up your ride with a visit to the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain. The museum bills itself as having the world's largest collection of historically significant snowmobiles. This means you'll see innovative sled prototypes, snowmobiles for the average consumer, and championship sleds used in a variety of competitions, such as racing on an oval track or drag strip, speeding cross country, and hill-climbing. The museum also contains memorabilia, photos, and more.
In the afternoon, head to the North Lakeland Discovery Center, home to some 20 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, groomed for classic skiing. The scenic trail system winds through the woods, along the Manitwowish RIver, and past Statehouse Lake. A dedicated snowshoe trail piggybacks on the property's bog boardwalk; the center has some snowshoes available for rent. Check out its scheduled events, too, many of which are free. You may wish to sign up for a guided snowshoe hike through an old-growth forest, for example, or an "owl prowl" where you'll hike through the woods at night with a naturalist, searching for various elusive owl species.
End your day with a relaxing meal at Northfork Fin & Filet in Arbor Vitae. The restaurant serves up dishes such as Gouda seafood alfredo, a medley of fresh scallops, jumbo shrimp and crab served atop a bed of linguini, then topped with house-made Gouda alfredo. Or try the porcupine balls, a creative dish featuring large meatballs that are stuffed with green pepper, onion, and rice, then baked in a red sauce.
Start your day by snapping a selfie with Snowmy Kromer, a 30-foot-tall snowman set out along Highway 51 near the Let's Minocqua Welcome Center. Snowmy's height and 16-foot width make it easy to capture some great shots. Make sure to check out Snowmy's hat, a size 96 Stormy Kromer cap that was the impetus for Snowmy's name.
Head across the bridge to spend some time nosing around the various antique shops and boutiques scattered throughout the area. When it's time for lunch, grab a juicy burger or ribeye steak sandwich at Minocqua Yacht Club, or nosh on an authentic Sheboygan bratwurst at Otto's Beer & Brat Garden. The European-styled pub has 11 beers on tap, plus a wide selection of both domestic and imported bottled beer.
After lunch, head to Minocqua Winter Park for another dose of wintertime fun. The sprawling, 6,500-acre park is considered one of the top cross-country ski areas in the Midwest, with 86 kilometers of trails groomed for both classic and skate skiing. The park offers some 10 miles of snowshoe trails, plus dedicated paths for skijoring, a sport where you're harnessed to your dog while on skis. Warming shelters and fire pits dot the trails to make sure you don't get too cold. If you're a newbie to winter sports, the Minocqua Winter Park Ski Shop offers equipment rentals and lessons. And if that's not enough, the facility is also home to an ice skating pond, and multi-use fat-tire bike trails.
Wrap things up in time to head over to Northern Waters Distillery for its 4 p.m. tour, where you'll see how they make vodka, bourbon, gin, moonshine, and more. The 45-minute tour includes a complimentary craft cocktail, served in the tasting room, where product samples are also available. If you enjoyed the tour, the distillery also runs a program where participants can create their own custom bourbon, vodka, or gin. You can even elect to spend a day working at the facility to gain a real feel for how mashing, fermenting, and distilling works.
Tonight, dine at Smokey's in Manitowish Waters. The cozy, elegant restaurant serves a variety of dishes, including jumbo lump crab cakes, braised pork shank, and rack of lamb; the house specials are salmon Oscar, bourbon steak, and chicken chasseur. Enjoy your meal with a bottle of wine from Smokey's well-stocked wine cellar. Before Leaving, grab a tiny bucket of Smokey's popular bar nuts as a memento of your evening.
You've got one final day to experience as much of Minocqua's offerings as you can. Sign on for a half-day ice fishing experience with The Angler's Choice Guide Service. The program includes all equipment, plus bait and even fish cleaning. Children are welcome. Don't worry about being too cold out in the ice shanty, as all of them are insulated and heated. You'll also be ferried out to the shanty via snowmobile or four-wheeler. Perhaps best of all, the experience comes with a "no fish, no pay" guarantee.
If you've got a little more time and energy, pop in at Northwoods Zip Line Adventure Tours. The attraction's most popular canopy tour lasts 2.5 hours and features nine zip lines, five adventure bridges, and a zip over a wilderness lake. Its aerial trekking tour, also 2.5 hours, is for thrill-seekers, as it involves not just zipping, but also aerial challenges and obstacles, such as bridges sans handrails, beam walks, and more. Kids as young as three can join in the fun via a special kids' tour, where they'll get to fly along three pint-sized zip lines and walk across two adventure bridges.
During your final evening in town, enjoy dinner at The Thirsty Whale, a Minocqua favorite for more than 100 years. The restaurant sits right on Lake Minocqua and dishes up tasty, casual fare. Think deep-fried cheese curds and coconut shrimp appetizers, wild rice clam chowder, plump burgers, and a variety of hearty salads and sandwiches.
Before turning in for the night, reflect on the weekend and jot down your favorite experiences. This way, you'll have a head start for next year's planning.