Gifting Memories Through Travel

Photo by Travel Wisconsin

Memories, though intangible, are some of the most rewarding gifts to give. Electronics become outdated; clothes go out of fashion; gift cards run out of value; but traveling with family, friends, or as a solo adventure is enriching and unforgettable. The thrilling activities, mouthwatering food, and awe-inspiring scenery lead to long-lasting memories—memories to be shared, relived, and cherished.

This holiday season, consider the gift of travel. Whether the loved ones on your list seek a day trip or weeklong adventure, there are plenty of opportunities to explore right here in Wisconsin.

State Park Pass for Year-Round Adventures

At a cost of less than $30, an admission sticker can be used to discover a favorite state park to visit month after month as the seasons unfold. Or put miles on the odometer by touring the state, checking off state parks as you go.

An annual pass to the Wisconsin State Park System is more than just a sticker on the windshield; it’s an invitation to discover the unexpected. Admission stickers grant entry for the year into all 49 state parks, covering nearly 156,000 acres of land which caters to a wide cross-section of interests.

For the rockhound, the billion-year-old hill at Rib Mountain State Park—one of earth’s oldest geological formations—and its wide vistas of the Wausau area are a thrill. At Wyalusing State Park, a dramatic overlook of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers is a picturesque backdrop for spotting the more than 300 species of birds that nest in or migrate through Wisconsin. For sunset seekers, the 60-foot-high, fully accessible Eagle Tower in Door County’s Peninsula State Park elevates folks of all abilities to breathtaking views.

Photograph provided by Travel Wisconsin

Spend Winter Outdoors with a Ski Hill Season Pass

There’s no need to head west for high-quality skiing and snowboarding. Wisconsin is home to 21 ski resorts spread throughout the state. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’re sure to find runs to fit your speed, and a season pass maximizes your time on the slopes.

Just 20 miles outside of Madison, Tyrol Basin features 22 ski runs, freestyle terrain parks, a tubing hill, and a charming chalet with food and drinks to warm up after a day of skiing.

Return regularly to the hill to master different runs, make new friends, and discover the joy and beauty of a Wisconsin winter. Bonus for parents with young kids: children under age five are eligible for a free season pass, making it a cost-effective option for the whole family to stay active and busy.

Tyrol Basin season passholders also receive perks at other partner ski hills. Show the season pass at Camp 10 Ski Area outside Rhinelander and Sunburst Ski Hill in Kewaskum and get 50 percent off a lift ticket.

Photograph provided by Travel Wisconsin

Appreciate the Arts in Milwaukee

For the arts lover in your life, a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum is a passport to Milwaukee’s creative, cultural, and culinary scene.

What’s inside the museum is as stunning as the outside of this soaring structure. The museum hosts a diverse collection of more than 32,000 paintings, sculptures, textiles, drawings, and other artwork. Annual memberships include free admission, previews of upcoming exhibits, access to exclusive programming, and much more.

And the museum collaborates with local businesses to give members exclusive deals. Stay in Milwaukee for the weekend with a special rate at the Drury Plaza Hotel, a historically renovated hotel in the heart of downtown. Then grab a pint and dinner at Company Brewing, where museum members receive a discount on savory burgers and picture-worthy brunch dishes.

Gain Perspective on History

History buffs will appreciate an annual membership to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which provides free admission to the 12 sites maintained by the society.

In Eagle, experience sights and sounds of the past at Old World Wisconsin. The 60 restored historic structures—relocated from places across Wisconsin—costumed staff and hands-on activities tell stories about life from the 1840s to 1910s. The grounds include recreations of European immigrant homesteads, a historically inspired brewhouse producing authentic recipes, and a main street where the clang of the blacksmith rings loud.

Or use a Wisconsin Historical Society membership for a trip to Prairie du Chien’s Villa Louis, a beautifully preserved Victorian-era mansion. Built in 1871, this grand estate is a National Historic Landmark and was home to one of Wisconsin’s most prominent families. The 25-acre site has over a dozen historic structures. It’s also the location of the only battle fought in Wisconsin during the War of 1812.

Photograph provided by Travel Wisconsin

Tour the State by Rail or Water

With three national scenic byways, including the All-American-designated Wisconsin Great River Road, and dozens of rustic roads, it’s tough to beat a Wisconsin road trip. But if you’re looking to gift something a little more unexpected, riding the rails and the waves will certainly do the trick.

In Trego, the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad guides passengers through lush forests of the Northwoods. There are rides for the whole family to eat pizza and meet Santa, for couples to make romantic getaways and spend the night aboard the train, and for friends to connect over wine and cheese.

To gift a water excursion, book a cruise on the La Crosse Queen for brunch, dinner, and sightseeing on the Upper Mississippi River. This replica paddlewheel riverboat passes dramatic bluffs, local wildlife, and historical sites.

Another great option is to set off on a voyage with St. Croix River Cruises in Hudson. These double-decker boats tour the scenic St. Croix River, separating Wisconsin from Minnesota. A variety of cruise options offer general sightseeing, onboard comedy and theatre, fall color tours, and holiday celebrations. stands at the ready to help. Here’s to finding the perfect gift for making shared memories.

Anne Sayers is the secretary-designee at Wisconsin Department of Tourism.