Fact of life: Wisconsin knows how to have a good time. Smattered across this fun-loving state is a collection of iconic bars and taverns worth visiting. Here are just 10 of them:
- Del’s Bar (La Crosse)
La Crosse has a thriving nightlife scene. And at the heart of it is this gem of a tavern. Del’s Bar is iconic to the state of Wisconsin. Drink of choice? Hands down, with a doubt: The Bloody Mary.
- The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Fitchburg, Madison and Wausau)With four locations in the greater Madison area and one in Wausau, the Great Dane has made its mark in Wisconsin thanks to its lovely outdoor areas, hearty menu, and of course, fantastic beer selection. Don’t leave without challenging your friends and family to a competitive round of shuffleboard.
- Little Bohemia (Manitowish Waters)
For those with a penchant for gangster history, Little Bohemia way up in Vilas County is your place. Have a beer at the destination made famous thanks to John Dillinger’s dramatic 1934 shootout.
- The Monarch Public House (Fountain City)
Located right off the Great River Road in the pretty little town of Fountain City, The Monarch Public House is your spot for everything Irish. The Monarch also happens to be Wisconsin’s oldest operating tavern. Sláinte!
- Nelsen’s Hall & Bitter’s Club (Washington Island, Washington)
Nelsen’s Hall – located on Washington Island in Door County – is the largest purveyor of Angostura Bitters in the world. It’s at Nelsen’s Hall that one has the opportunity to join the oh-so-prestigious “bitters club,” of which this author is a proud member. Are you?
- Showboat Saloon (Wisconsin Dells)
FREE BACON ON THURSDAYS…because that’s all you really need to know.
- The Plaza Tavern (Madison)
Oh, Madison has no shortage of legendary bars: There’s Paul’s Club, Come Back In, Essen Haus, Wando’s and Vintage—just to name a few! But I decided to include the Plaza for a few unique reasons: It’s a dive bar that seemingly hasn’t changed a thing since its inception. (For the record, the Plaza began serving during Prohibition…allegedly.) Thankfully, it’s legal to drink at the Plaza these days. From the affordable beers to the world-famous Plaza burger, there’s so much to love.
- SafeHouse (Milwaukee)
First, keep an eye out for the covert signage outside this spy-themed hideaway. It reads: “International Exports LTD.” Next, slip inside the red door. (Double agents, need not attempt.) If your password is correct, you’ll enter a world of espionage…and experience a classic Milwaukee tradition.
- Tom’s Burned Down Café (Madeline Island, La Pointe)
Our second island tavern on this list, Tom’s Burned Down Café comes with a story: The bar literally burned down years ago. While owner Tom Nelsen stared at his charred building, a beer truck showed up with that week’s delivery. Tom decided right then and there to keep the bar as is. Today, it’s an open-air tavern with eclectic signage sure to make you chuckle.
- Wolski’s Tavern (Milwaukee)
Known far and wide as Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Bar, Wolski’s is a staple in southeastern Wisconsin. Stick around until close and you’ll earn a coveted “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper sticker.
There are hundreds more worth mentioning. Which Wisconsin bars are legendary to you? Comment below. And remember to plan ahead, travel safe and have fun!
Mariah Haberman hosts the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. Watch the show Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block or online at DiscoverWisconsin.com. Follow Mariah on Facebook (facebook.com/mar1ahha3erman) and Instagram (@MariahHaberman)