By Amy Bayer
From vacationers to student summer staff, the populations of our communities practically double as our lakes and rivers provide plenty of space for fishing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, boating and paddle sports. In addition, our forests provide spectacular opportunities for bicycling, hiking, bird watching, photography and camping.
With such a boon to the population, evenings come to life with music, dining and summer events. Here are a few small towns in Wisconsin that bustle with activity every Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If you’re looking for something away from the water’s edge, go on a tour of the Three Lakes Winery, which has been producing Wisconsin’s Original Cranberry Wine since 1972.
Downtown Three Lakes provides old-fashioned charm with unique gift shops, restaurants and small businesses. While you’re there, take a refreshing break at Lick-a-Dee Splitz ice cream parlor and candy shop, and for dinner try the Black Forest Pub & Grille to experience "Gemütlichkeit," which the German-born owner recognizes as the essence of good food, good company, a drink or two, and plenty of time to enjoy it all.
Starting in mid-May, every Thursday Spring Green residents and visitors alike turn out for Local Night at The Shed. It’s an outdoor celebration of all things local, featuring entertainment by area musicians along with locally sourced food.
Theatergoers are swept up into the magical world at the American Players Theatre, an outdoor theater with more than 1,100 seats tucked into the area's wooded hills. The experience is made complete by bringing a picnic to enjoy before the performance.
For music lovers, The Sh*tty Barn is the place to go. Don’t be fooled by the name. They offer world-class, contemporary music in an unlikely—but oh-so-Wisconsin—place: a humble red barn.
Nestled along the shores of the Wolf River, one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the state, Fremont springs to life every Memorial Day with waterfront restaurants and bars. Local hotspots include Pier 5, Historic Hotel Fremont Steakhouse, Hahn-A-Lula Resort & Ball Room Supper Club and The Bridge Bar & Restaurant.
Don’t miss the Webfooters Water Ski Show every Wednesday and Sunday along the waterfront in downtown, or get free wakeboard lessons on Wednesdays throughout the summer from Gordy Bubolz Wakeboard Camp.
This small community celebrates the return of summer every year with Aquafest, a 10-day event featuring bands, food, fun, tournaments, parades, a carnival and arts festival.
Home to three different theater companies, Rice Lake knows how to put on a show. Spend your evening enjoying the Barron Spotlighters, Northern Star Theatre Company or the Red Barn Theatre. In addition, every Thursday evening from June through August there is live music at the bandshell in Rice Lake's Veterans Memorial Park.
For some great dining opportunities head to Adventures Restaurant & Pub, which features casual dining in a Northwoods-inspired atmosphere, or Lehman’s Supper Club & Cocktail Lounge for fine dining with hand-cut steaks, seafood, ribs and pasta.
If you have a sweet tooth, one of Wisconsin’s finest pie company’s, Norske Nook, has a location in Rice Lake.
Do you have your own favorite small-town getaway for summer? Let us know in the comments below!