50 Interesting & Fun Facts About Wisconsin State to Know

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A waterfront cityscape with a dome building in the center
Madison is the capital city of the state of Wisconsin

How many interesting and fun facts about Wisconsin state could you list? Would you be able to say that Wisconsin Dells is known as the "Waterpark Capital of the World?" How about the fact that the Green Bay Packers are a fan-owned team?

As part of the Midwest, Wisconsin is often an under-appreciated state. However, it's just as fascinating and important as other places in the country!

Whether you're planning a trip to the "Badger State" sometime soon or want to learn something new about it, you'll find this list useful. Continuing reading for 50 facts about Wisconsin!

  • 50 Wisconsin facts

50 Wisconsin State Facts

  1. Wisconsin Fun Facts
    1. It was the 30th state
    2. The Circus World Museum has hosted live performances since 1867
    3. The ice cream sundae might have been invented here
    4. It's called the "Badger State"
    5. Christopher Latham Sholes invented the typewriter
    6. Oshkosh hosts the largest experimental aviation event
    7. The Green Bay Packers are fan-owned
    8. The first Harley Davidson was built in Milwaukee
    9. This state produces the most cheese
    10. Children chose the state bird
    11. Madison is an important biking city
    12. There are a lot of water parks
    13. The Milwaukee Public Museum is over 150 years old
    14. Door County is compared to Cape Cod
    15. It's the birthplace of architect Frank Lloyd Wright
  2. Interesting Facts About Wisconsin
    1. Lake Michigan touches the state
    2. Devil's Lake State Park formed 100,000 years ago
    3. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has changed
    4. Wisconsin River is the state's longest
    5. The state's elevation has a 1370-foot range
    6. There are a lot of ghost stories in the state
    7. Stevens Point was voted "best place to live"
    8. The state's flag has historic roots
    9. Wisconsin's name is a translation
    10. There's a Wisconsin "Niagara Falls"
    11. The Fox River is unique
    12. Orson Welles was a Wisconsinite
    13. Wisconsin addresses are grid-based
    14. Many cities have international names
    15. The state motto is one word
  3. Cool Facts About Wisconsin
    1. Mt. Horeb is the troll capital
    2. There's a Hamburger Hall of Fame
    3. The House on the Rock is a marvel
    4. The Barbie doll is from Wisconsin
    5. Milwaukee has the largest music festival
  4. Wisconsin History Facts
    1. French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first European in Wisconsin
    2. Laura Ingalls Wilder was born here
    3. The Wisconsin Historical Society is the USA's oldest
    4. There have been five capitols
    5. Some of the original Native American tribes still remain
  5. Weird Facts About Wisconsin
    1. Green Bay was the toilet paper capital
    2. Sputnik landed in Wisconsin
    3. Temperatures dip way below zero
    4. You can surf in Sheboygan
    5. Wisconsin's size is average
  6. Random Facts About Wisconsin
    1. A lot of cranberries grow here
    2. The state banned margarine
    3. Houdini lived in Appleton
    4. A Wisconsin Senator created Earth Day
    5. The town of Cable hosts cross-country skiing races

Show all

Wisconsin Fun Facts

Thierry Weber/Shutterstock.com
Many light planes parked on a grassy field for an event
Thousands of airplanes parked during Oshkosh AirVenture 2022

It was the 30th state

To start this list of fun Wisconsin facts, you should learn when it joined the United States. In 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th state in the Union.

From 1836 until its statehood, Wisconsin was known as the "Wisconsin Territory." Before that, it was owned by the French and the British, respectively.

Keith Homan/Shutterstock.com
An entrance to a red brick building with the words "Circus World Museum"
The Circus World Museum has been around since 1867

The Circus World Museum has hosted live performances since 1867

Visiting the circus used to be a tradition for families all over America. Not many people know that one of the most famous circuses in the world, The Ringling Brothers, started in Wisconsin.

In 1867, two performers decided to create their own show. Today, circus history is celebrated at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI. There are even live performances to keep the art of circus performing alive.

The ice cream sundae might have been invented here

Ice cream sundaes are a staple dessert around the country, but they have their roots in the Midwest. Though the exact place where this sweet treat was invented is a mystery, many believe the first sundae was served in Two Rivers, WI.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society's records, Edward C. Berner, an ice cream shop owner, served the first sundae in 1881. However, credit for the dessert's creation actually goes to the customer who asked for chocolate sauce topping on his ice cream.

It's called the "Badger State"

Most people know that Wisconsin is called "America's Dairyland," but it's also known as the "Badger State." The badger is even the Wisconsin state animal and the state university's mascot. While badgers do live in the state, that's not the reason for the nickname.

When miners first came to Wisconsin, they were often too poor to build homes. To survive the winter, they slept in their mines. This earned them the moniker "badgers," which was later applied to the entire state.

Christopher Latham Sholes invented the typewriter

Though Christopher Latham Sholes was originally from Pennsylvania, he created his most famous invention in the Midwest. In 1867, Sholes made the typewriter.

Nearly a year later, the patent for his invention was issued, and it was able to go on the market. The typewriter revolutionized writing and communication. People were able to write much faster, thus cutting time and costs.

mybaitshop/Depositphotos.com
An "Internat'l Experimental Aircraft Assoc. Fly-In Convention" sign under nine flags
The popular EAA AirVenture show is held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Oshkosh hosts the largest experimental aviation event

Every year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, thousands of airplane enthusiasts gather for the annual EAA AirVenture show. Originally, in 1953, the show was held in Hales Corners, but it was moved due to the popularity of the event.

Many of the planes that debut at the show are new or experimental models that have yet to go on the market. With over 10,000 aircraft usually displayed each year, it's the largest aviation event in the world.

actionsports/Depositphotos.com
A top view of a large open-air sports stadium featuring a "Lambeau Field" sign
The Green Bay Packers are the only fan-owned team in America

The Green Bay Packers are fan-owned

In 1923, just a few years after the team was founded, the Green Bay Packers almost went bankrupt. At that time, the NFL wasn't the lucrative organization it is today, and many teams struggled to stay afloat.

In order to survive, Packers fans bought shares of the team. Today, the NFL no longer allows this sort of ownership. However, they've made an exception for Green Bay's team, which is currently owned by over 360,000 people.

paulobaqueta/Depositphotos.com
Two motorbikes stand in front of a wall featuring many Harley-Davidson vintage signs
The first Harley-Davidson motorbike was designed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The first Harley Davidson was built in Milwaukee

One of the least-known, interesting Wisconsin facts is that the Harley-Davidson company was founded in the state. In 1903, Walter Davidson, Arthur Davidson, William Davidson, and William Harley joined together in Milwaukee to design their first motorbike.

Their bikes quickly gained popularity, and they opened their first dealership in Chicago in 1906. Though it's now an international brand, the company's headquarters are still in Wisconsin.

This state produces the most cheese

Wisconsin is often called "America's Dairyland." That nickname comes from the state's dairy production. Each year, 25% of the cheese in the USA is produced in Wisconsin.

The state is also one of the top milk producers in the country. An average of 2 billion pounds of milk comes from Wisconsin monthly. There are over 1.2 million dairy cows total on over 11,000 farms.

Children chose the state bird

Between 1926 and 1927, state legislation set out to name the official Wisconsin state bird. After narrowing down the choices, the final selection was decided by schoolchildren.

When the votes were tallied, the American robin was twice as popular as any of the other options. However, it wouldn't become an official symbol until 1949.

Madison is an important biking city

With more bikes than cars in the city, Madison is considered one of the most bicycle-friendly places in the Midwest. It was even recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as one of the top four biking cities in the country.

The city has fully-integrated, rentable bikes which can be picked up at over 40 stations around Madison. There are even over 200 miles of bike-friendly trails and roads.

homank76/Depositphotos.com
A sign that reads "Noah's Ark: America's Largest Waterpark" atop a stone wall
Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells is the largest waterpark in the USA

There are a lot of water parks

Midwesterners are very familiar with Wisconsin Dells, in part because it's the unofficial "Waterpark Capital of the World." The town has over 20 parks that attract thousands of visitors each year.

Noah's Ark is one of the most popular rides. It is known as "America's Largest Waterpark" and has innovative water-based rides.

The Milwaukee Public Museum is over 150 years old

The Milwaukee Public Museum was first chartered in 1882, and two years later, it was opened to the public.

The museum has over 150,000 square feet of space, and its collections are divided into seven different exhibits. There are temporary displays as well. The museum has over 4 million artifacts and specimens permanently on display.

A natural water pool forms between tree-lined rocky cliffs
The Door County peninsula boasts picturesque bays and cliffs

Door County is compared to Cape Cod

With 300 miles of coast, the Door County peninsula has more shoreline than any other county in the country. For that reason, it's become known as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest."

The county's residents have capitalized on the area's picturesque landscape. Annual orchard and fish boil events have made it a destination location for people all over the Midwest.

jhansen2/Depositphotos.com
External view of a house with stone accent walls and a flat roof behind a lawn
Wisconsin state is the birthplace of the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright

It's the birthplace of architect Frank Lloyd Wright

A list of fun facts about Wisconsin wouldn't be complete without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright. The prolific architect was a Wisconsin native.

During his 70-year career, he designed 1000 buildings, of which over 500 were constructed. Many of the architect's most famous designs are in his home state, including the Burnham Block and the Albert Adelman House.

Interesting Facts About Wisconsin

The sun shines over a verdant breakwall in the middle of a large river
Fox River in Wisconsin is unusual, as it flows from south to north

Lake Michigan touches the state

Wisconsin touches two of the five Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Altogether, this Midwest state has over 800 miles of shoreline.

The Great Lakes have an effect on nearly every part of Wisconsin life. The state's weather is greatly impacted by these bodies of water. They are also a reliable source of water, and they provide ways to get around by boat.

A rock formation in the shape of a gate in front of a lake surrounded by greenery
The Devil's Doorway rock is one of the impressive formations in Devil's Lake park

Devil's Lake State Park formed 100,000 years ago

Devil's Lake is Wisconsin's most-visited state park. Its rock formations make it a popular spot for climbers, and it's a treasure trove for aspiring geologists.

Though the park was opened in 1911, its namesake, the lake, is much older. Over 100,000 years ago, glaciers in Wisconsin formed the Devil's Lake Gap. The glaciers carved out the land and rerouted rivers to form this body of water.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has changed

The Wisconsin Supreme Court was founded in 1848 and served as the state's "last resort" court. Initially, the court was made up of three justices, however, that soon changed.

In 1877, the number of sitting judges rose to four. This number remained for 25 years, despite multiple concerns about what to do in the case of stalemate judgments. In 1903, the number of justices increased once again to seven.

Wisconsin River is the state's longest

The Wisconsin River is 430 miles long and is a main tributary of the Mississippi River. As the state's longest river, it's where Wisconsin gets its name.

One unique characteristic of the Wisconsin River is its color. It's dark brown, but not because of dirt. Tannic acid seeps into the water from swamps in the north which causes the water's hue to change.

The state's elevation has a 1370-foot range

Since Wisconsin's landscape was formed by glaciers, it's not a particularly hilly state. However, it still has a fairly impressive elevation range.

The highest natural point in the state is Timm's Hill, which is almost 1952 feet above sea level. The state's lowest point is on Lake Michigan, with an elevation of 581 feet.

There are a lot of ghost stories in the state

It's nearly impossible to go somewhere in the US that doesn't have local ghost stories. According to stories and statistics, you're most likely to encounter a ghost while in Wisconsin.

According to the math, the state has the most ghosts per square mile compared to anywhere else in the country. Local governments embrace this reputation by hosting haunted ghost walks and hikes.

Stevens Point was voted "best place to live"

One of the most interesting facts about Wisconsin is that it has desirable places to live. That is, in part, due to the plethora of small towns and the relatively low crime rate in the state.

Stevens Point, in particular, ranks highly for quality of life. It's a small city with under 30,000 residents, many of whom are students at local college campuses.

The state's flag has historic roots

The current iteration of the state flag of Wisconsin may have been designed in 1981, but it has much older roots. Every element of the flag symbolizes a portion of the area's history.

The design closely follows the 1863 version. The number "1848" is a prominent feature since it was the year Wisconsin officially joined the United States of America. The state's historic coat of arms is also in the flag's center.

Wisconsin's name is a translation

As you've read, Wisconsin is named after the Wisconsin River, the state's longest waterway. However, the name's history is a little more complicated.

The Miami Native Americans called the river "Meskonsing" which meant "river running through a red place." The original French settlers in the region adapted this word to better suit their language and called it "Ouisconsin." "Wisconsin" is the English version.

A cascading waterfall between tree-lined cliffs drops into a dark river
The Big Manitou Falls are a stunning waterfall on the Black River in Wisconsin

There's a Wisconsin "Niagara Falls"

Though overshadowed by the cascade shared by Canada and New York, Wisconsin has its own "Niagara." In Niagara, Wisconsin, you'll find many small waterfalls, such as the Sand Portage Falls.

These natural landmarks could literally be referred to as "Niagara Falls." However, the moniker "Niagara Falls of the Midwest" goes to the impressive Big Manitou Falls in Douglas County, Wisconsin. The state has many other beautiful waterfalls worth seeing.

The Fox River is unique

Generally, rivers are formed to "help" water make its way back to the sea. In the United States, depending on where you are, that means rivers usually flow east, west, or south.

Wisconsin's Fox River is an exception. It flows from south to north, and it's the only river in the country to do so.

Orson Welles was a Wisconsinite

Orson Welles is one of the most beloved and respected figures in cinema history. His movie "Citizen Kane" is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time.

Many people don't know that Welles was originally from Kenosha, WI. Though his family had deep roots in the town, once he became an adult, he rarely returned.

Wisconsin addresses are grid-based

If you look at a Wisconsin address, you might be confused by how long they are and how many numbers they have. Though it might seem abnormal to out-of-state residents, there's a logical explanation.

Some Wisconsin cities use a grid system when determining addresses. A location's map coordinates are included in the written address.

Many cities have international names

An interesting fact about Wisconsin that you probably didn't know has to do with the city's names. You might recognize a few town names if you're familiar with international cities.

Many of the state's towns got their names from the cultures of its early residents. Native American, French, and Scandinavian names are the most common, with some cities even sharing their names with places in Europe.

The state motto is one word

If you look at the Wisconsin state seal, you'll encounter one of many amusing and funny Wisconsin facts. The state motto is just one word: "Forward."

The state motto was adopted in 1851. It's simple and to the point. The motto represents Wisconsin's drive to continue progressing and improving.

Cool Facts About Wisconsin

arsave/Depositphotos.com
A sign reading "Summerfest" mounted on top of the entrance of an outdoor event venue
Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the world's largest music festival

Mt. Horeb is the troll capital

Since many people who call Wisconsin home have Scandinavian roots, traditions from northern Europe have become part of the state's culture. One of these is the presence of trolls.

Mt. Horeb has even been dubbed the "Troll Capital of the World." Many of the town's artisans are experts at crafting troll figurines and artwork that they export around the world.

There's a Hamburger Hall of Fame

Seymour, Wisconsin is a small, quiet town. However, this little place has a potentially large claim to food history.

The Seymour Community Historical Society claims that the first hamburger in America was invented in their town. There's no indisputable evidence for this, but that hasn't stopped the city from opening the Hamburger Hall of Fame.

The House on the Rock is a marvel

Today, the House on the Rock is a tourist attraction that's full of eclectic and eccentric collections. You can see replicas of the British Crown Jewels, dollhouses, and even the world's largest indoor carousel.

Even before it became the museum it is today, the structure was considered an architectural marvel. Construction began in 1945 on the Deer Shelter Rock cliff. One of the most impressive aspects of the building is the "Infinity Room," which extends 218 feet over the cliff's edge.

The Barbie doll is from Wisconsin

The Barbie doll made its debut at the 1959 Toy Fair in New York. To make the doll more relatable, Mattel's marketers created a personal story to go with the character.

Barbie was short for Barbara Millicent Roberts, and her birthday is March 3rd. According to the story, Barbie also comes from Willows, Wisconsin, a fictional town.

Milwaukee has the largest music festival

Wisconsin might not be the first place you think of when you hear "music festival," but Milwaukee is home to the largest. In 1999, the Guinness World Records organization confirmed that Summer Fest was the largest music festival in the world.

It specified that the title is due to the number of performers that attend the festival. Each year, over 1000 musicians and bands perform on 12 different stages. These concerts are attended by over 800,000 people.

Wisconsin History Facts

Large stone stairwell leading to entrance of white building with a dome in its center
The Wisconsin State Capitol is the tallest building in Madison

French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first European in Wisconsin

A list of Wisconsin history facts should pay homage to the first settlers in the state. Jean Nicolet is credited as being the first European to set foot in the territory.

According to records, he arrived in modern-day Wisconsin in 1634 while exploring the new world for France. Less than 40 years later, the French would be the first to lay claim to the land.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born here

Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and the subsequent television series have shaped children's minds for decades. Her Little House on the Prairie books are mostly biographical and depict her life on the frontier.

Though she's often associated with Minnesota, she spent the first few years of her life in a small home in Wisconsin. Her life in the woods north of Pepin is detailed in her first book.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is the USA's oldest

The Wisconsin Historical Society is responsible for researching, interpreting, and preserving the state's history. Its work has helped not only Wisconsin residents and leaders but also people nationwide due to its comprehensive records.

The society was founded in 1846 and was officially chartered less than a decade later. Today, it's the oldest state historical society to continuously receive state funding.

There have been five capitols

In its history as a state, Wisconsin has operated its government out of five different capitol buildings. The first two were intentionally temporary, but each of the subsequent buildings was intended to be permanent.

Each of the permanent capitols was constructed in Madison. The first was decommissioned when it was no longer considered adequate, and the second was destroyed in a fire. The current Wisconsin state capitol has been in use since 1917.

A totem pole featuring the carved face of a Native American placed in front of a lake
Native American tribes have always played an important role in Wisconsin's history

Some of the original Native American tribes still remain

Currently, there are 11 officially recognized Native American tribes that live within Wisconsin's borders. Four of those tribes can trace their ancestry back to the state's original inhabitants.

The Menominee, Ojibe, Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk tribes have a long history in the state. It's very likely that these populations are descendants of the first nomadic people to come to the continent.

Weird Facts About Wisconsin

The sun sets over a waterfront urban area covered in snow
Winter temperatures in Milwaukee, Wisconsin can be extremely low

Green Bay was the toilet paper capital

In 1920, Green Bay became famous for an unconventional reason. Around the globe, it became known as the "Toilet Paper Capital of the World."

This moniker isn't due to any particularly high consumption rate. Nearly 20 years earlier, the Northern Paper Mills company was founded in the city. Over time, it became the largest producer of toilet paper.

Close-up of a spot marked by black paint on a road in a suburban neighborhood
One of the weirdest facts about Wisconsin state is the Sputnik satellite landed there

Sputnik landed in Wisconsin

In 1960, Russia launched the Sputnik IV satellite. After two weeks, it was supposed to re-enter the atmosphere and land. Due to a technical error, Sputnik stayed in orbit for over two years.

In 1962, it fell within Earth's gravitational pull. Most of the craft burned up during re-entry. However, what remained landed in Manitowoc, WI.

Temperatures dip way below zero

You don't need to brush up on Wisconsin facts about the state to know it gets cold there. However, you might not realize just how low the temperatures can get.

The lowest temperature on record in the state is -55 degrees, which occurred in February 1996. The highest temperature was recorded in 1936 and it was 114 degrees.

You can surf in Sheboygan

You can fish, swim, and sail in Wisconsin's bodies of water, but you probably didn't know you could surf there. Sheboygan, WI is one of the most popular freshwater surfing locations in the US.

When winds from the north, south, or east reach 20 miles per hour, waves start to appear on Sheboygan Lake. These waves form all year, but they're at their largest between fall and spring.

Wisconsin's size is average

Wisconsin is often considered an unassuming, average state. Its middle-of-the-road reputation is best reflected by its size.

At just under 65,500 square miles, it's the 25th largest state by territory. It's also the 31st state by population density, with an average of 109 residents per square mile. As far as the overall population is concerned, Wisconsin ranks 20th.

Random Facts About Wisconsin

Ski tracks on a snow-covered lane among snowcapped trees
Wisconsin is one of the best places for cross-country skiing in the USA

A lot of cranberries grow here

Wisconsin isn't just the nation's leading cheese producer, it's also the state that grows the most cranberries. Of all the cranberries sold in the US, 60% are from this region.

Typically, cranberries are grown in central and northern Wisconsin. There are more wetlands in these areas, which facilitate the fruit's growth.

The state banned margarine

Margarine is a butter substitute spread that is made from either animal or plant fats. It's often softer than butter, and it's usually considered a healthier alternative.

To protect dairy farmers from losing their business, Wisconsin banned the sale of margarine within the state for over 70 years. In 1967, the "margarine ban" was lifted, but it can't be used as a substitute in restaurants unless it's specifically requested.

Houdini lived in Appleton

Before he became the famed magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini went by the name Erik Weisz. He came from a humble Hungarian family in Budapest.

When he was four, Weisz's family moved to the United States. His father was offered a job as a rabbi at a synagogue in Appleton, Wisconsin. Though he only lived in Wisconsin for a few years, he always referred to Appleton as his hometown.

A Wisconsin Senator created Earth Day

In 1970, environmental issues weren't the widespread concerns they are today. In an attempt to get people interested in protecting the earth, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day.

It was meant to be a day of education about environmental issues. In its first year, 20 million people participated across the country. Since then, it's been observed annually on April 22.

One of the random facts about Wisconsin state is it hosts big cross-country ski races
Wisconsin hosts one of the longest cross-country races in North America

The town of Cable hosts cross-country skiing races

To end this list of random facts, we have an interesting fact about Wisconsin culture. Did you know the largest cross-country ski race in the world is held here? Every year, the town of Cable hosts the American Birkebeiner, a 34-mile race that ends in Hayward.

The race isn't just one of the most popular, it's also one of the longest cross-country races in North America. Due to Birkebeiner's popularity, Cable also hosts other races every winter, such as the North End Classic Cross Country Ski Race.

In Summary

That's the list! Did you learn anything new? You may have known that Wisconsin is a huge dairy producer. But you probably didn't know it used to be the "Toilet Paper Capital of the World."

Hopefully, this list has helped inspired you to plan a trip to this little corner of the Midwest. There are plenty more cool and historic Wisconsin facts for you to learn, so read on!

This article was edited by Henry Grahame.

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!


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