Ready to experience Wisconsin’s fun-filled festivals? Tag along as we tour some of the best across the state. From the top to the bottom, there’s surely a festival you’ll love. Explore Taste ‘N Glow Balloon Fest in Wausau, Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, and Winterfest in Lake Geneva. Let the good times roll!
Up first, you’ll want to plan a visit to Taste ‘N Glow Balloon Fest in Wausau, Wisconsin. This festival holds a plethora of activities–including the hare and hound competition and world-famous balloon rallies. Though balloon rallies are not new to the Wausau area. For over 20 years, these rallies have been celebrated and enjoyed by the surrounding community. It’s because of the community, especially Trailmates Snowmobile Club, that the Taste ‘N Glow Balloon Fest was established just three years ago.
After much hard work and dedication, Trailmates Snowmobile Club fixed up what was an abandoned farm field and transformed it into the ultimate grounds to hold a vibrant festival. Featuring 70 acres of lawn and a quaint pond, the fields provided unlimited possibilities.
The event goes beyond the well-recognized balloons. From a log rolling tournament and lumberjack show to a 5k and car show, there’s a little taste of everything for everyone. The best part? 100% of proceeds go towards charity such as food donations. Captivating the interest of many, the glowing lights take center stage as they shine bright in the night sky, leaving the crowd in awe and coming back each year for a fun-filled day in the field.
Next, as some call it Nashville of the North, Hodag Country Festival captures the essence of country music. From The Pavilion, which features new and up-coming stars that entertain between main stage acts and close out each night, to lineups of the top acts in the genre, everyone is immersed in the same experience. Feel the all-encompassing energy made up of a friendly spirit and beloved traditions.
Beginning in 1978, people from across the country have been coming up to the scenic Northwoods to experience our uncanny Wisconsin hospitality and sense of community. As a generational festival, many traditions have been kept intact like the chair line lottery system, where visitors can secure seats with a chance at the front row. In addition, it’s made to be affordable and enjoyable for all, allowing carry-ins so you can see your favorite artists while sipping on your favorite beverages. Only one rule…no glass!
Hodag surpasses just remarkable country music–it’s a uniquely special event. A big part of the Hodag experience is camping. The campgrounds surround the main stage with streets named after infamous Hodag performers, adding to the amazing atmosphere and small-town comradery. This fun and friendly festival keeps not only entertainers, but also visitors coming back year after year. Embodying the spirit of country music while connecting Rhinelander to the rest of the world, Hodag is truly an unforgettable event.
Last but not least, known as the winter party of the year for 28 consecutive years, Winterfest in Lake Geneva is a must-visit. Enjoy it all from fire performers, acrobats, great food, ice sculpture tours, s'mores on the beach, and of course, the star of the show–the US National Snow Sculpting Championship!
Sculptors from across the country come to compete at the highest level. The best of the best come right here in Wisconsin! But this event wouldn’t be possible without the community of Lake Geneva to back it. It’s truly a team effort. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa provides snow from their ski area while the snow stompers shape each universal form that every team starts with. From there, it’s tools up! All snow sculptures are hand-carved and made solely out of snow. Walk around and watch as the teams bring their sketches to life. Even though the sculptures are judged by a panel, the people and place still play a huge role. Open to the public, the People’s Choice Awards allow everyone to cast a vote.
But there’s SNOW more to enjoy in the picturesque place of Lake Geneva, whether you are exploring downtown or on the frozen water! Downtown, stop by local shops and cozy restaurants. As you stroll the streets, get up and close to beautiful ice sculptures. Be sure to make a few pit stops along the way at Maxwell Mansion for the Freaky Tiki Fest and the historic Baker House, which is home to the Fire and Ice Lounge–including an ice bar! Indulge in one of the finest, signature winter cocktails. On the water, spectate as ice boats race across the frozen surface or hop in a hovercraft tour.
Experience these festivals first-hand and take the ultimate tour throughout Wisconsin. From Taste ‘N Glow Balloon Fest in Wausau, up North to Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, and down South to Winterfest in Lake Geneva, there’s an experience like none other everywhere you go.
Don’t let your exploration stop there… Watch Discover Wisconsin’s episode ‘Wisconsin’s Vibrant Festival Scene’ and see the fun festivities that await now:
Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.