Nearly as many cows as humans call WISCONSIN home; more than five million of each reside in this rich, rolling farmland. However, America’s self-proclaimed “Dairyland” is more than just one giant pasture. Beyond the massive hills, red barns and silvery silos lie endless pine forests, some fifteen thousand sky-blue lakes, postcard-pretty valleys and dramatic bluffs. The state, whose Ojibway name means “gathering of the waters”, is bordered by Lake Michigan to the east, Lake Superior in the north and, to the west, the Mississippi and St Croix rivers.

The history of Wisconsin is a familiar one in the American narrative of westward expansion. Seventeenth-century French and British explorers began by trading with the Native Americans and soon ousted them from their land. The European settlers who followed – predominantly Germans, Scandinavians and Poles – tended to be liberal and progressive; such major national social programmes as labour laws for women and children, assistance for the elderly and the disabled, and unemployment compensation found their first manifestation in the USA right here.

Wisconsin today is best known for its liquids. The milk from all those cattle yields cheeses of all kinds, while the beer, as the song says, is what made Milwaukee famous. Sparkling Madison apart, Wisconsin’s other cities can veer toward the quiet and tame side, but they’re also safe and amiable.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

This year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south – a route…

10 Jan 2018 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

For dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York City is hard to beat. The city is a global leader in art, architecture, music and food, and is cramm…

10 Jan 2018 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Though it may be tempting to escape to the sunshine this winter, there's a lot to be said for revelling in the snow and ice, too. And there’s plenty of beau…

27 Dec 2017 • Michelle Bhatia insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right