Nov 12, 2018

10 Ways to Enjoy a Wisconsin Winter Wonderland

Opportunities for family memories and adventure abound across Sawyer County

By Chelsea Wisner

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Wisconsin. Way up north – not quite the North Pole but getting close – lies Sawyer County, where family fun and adventure wait.

The area becomes transformed after the first snowfall. Like you’re inside a snow globe, with the perfect snowflakes falling to the ground, you’ll find local stores nestled between sparkling trees and smiling faces everywhere you go.

Sawyer County is home to several towns that are always in the winter spirit and are full of fun activities. Adventures range from big to small, for the young or old, and the locals are happy to show you the way. Whether you’re in town for a week or the afternoon, you’re bound to have a good time.

  1. Take a Walk Outdoors

Whether you lace up your hiking boots or strap on snowshoes, getting outside and breathing in the fresh air of winter is bound to lift your spirits. In Sawyer County, there’s plenty of places that you and the family can get adventurous.

Snowshoeing is a silent sport that allows you to soak up nature as it was meant to be – in stillness with the fresh powder of snow on the ground. You never know what you might see on the trails – a bunny hopping in front of you or a pileated woodpecker with his telltale red head. Snowshoeing through the trails also provides the perfect opportunity for a winter-themed photo scavenger hunt (see #4).

The HASTA Hospital Ski Trail in Hayward has a 1-mile loop that is perfect for the whole family, including the four-legged members! The quaint village of Winter is also home to the well-known Tuscobia Trail.

  1. Try Ice Fishing

Just because the lakes have frozen over doesn’t mean fishing season has ended. In fact, for a lot of people, the fun is just beginning.

It sounds a little crazy, but once the ice is thick enough, it’s not uncommon to see several pick-up trucks and a small herd of rosy-checked fishermen and fisherwomen circled up on the frozen lakes. Pop-ups are a handy little mechanism that hang out in the cold for you and when something pulls at the line, a flag “pops-up” to let you know that you’ve caught a fish!

  1. Go for a Snowmobile Ride

Sawyer County is known for incredible trails. In fact, there’s more than 600 miles of groomed trails to explore!

There’s a magic in exploring the natural beauty of Wisconsin on a snowmobile that you can’t get anywhere else. The Tuscobia Trail can connect you from Hayward to Birchwood and all the way over to Winter. Snowmobiling is a popular hobby in the area and one the whole family can be a part of. Hitting the trails is a perfect way to spend an afternoon – or even an entire weekend – and lets you combine your need for speed with a chance to explore the winter wilderness.

Many local restaurants are a part of the snowmobile trails, so when you get hungry, you can simply pull over and enjoy a Friday night fish fry. Several resorts are also a part of the trail system, so as soon as your feet hit the floor, you can get out on the powder. Snowmobiling is a winter activity that really allows groups of people to connect over the love of their hobby. Without a doubt, it should be at the top of your “to-do list” when visiting Northwestern Wisconsin.

  1. Create your own Winter Photo Scavenger Hunt

With the picturesque views Sawyer County offers, it’s impossible to resist taking photos of the incredible landscapes. So, why not turn it into a game? Before you go out on your snowshoe trip or hit the ski trails, make a list of photos you and your travel buddies want to try and capture. You can make it a competition and assign points on level of difficulty or creativity, or you can do it just for fun. Either way, you’re bound to come out with some amazing pictures of the beautiful area. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A single snowflake
  • An icicle hanging from a tree
  • Christmas lights
  • Someone making a snow angel
  • A bluejay
  • Christmas cookies
  • A snowman (bonus points if he has a red scarf!)
  1. Hit the Ski Trails

Sawyer County has a rich history when it comes to skiing. It is home to the American Birkebeiner, an annual event where competitors from all over the world come to compete in the 50-kilometer race! In fact, in 2018 skiers from 49 states and 36 countries participated.

You don’t have to be a professional to take advantage of the ski trails. Throughout Sawyer County, there are many ski trails for various levels. Whether it’s your first time in a pair of skis or you’ve been on the trail since you could walk, you’re bound to find a trail that matches your skill.

  1. Build a Snowman

Not just any snowman. The best snowman. Start a competition against your kids or your spouse and see who can roll together the best snowman.

It seems silly, and it is, but it’s a great way to simply get everyone outside and playing in the snow. It’s nostalgic and something that will keep everyone off their phones for at least a little while. It can end with snow angels or a snowball fight or perhaps crowning a winner of the snowman competition.

No matter what, it’s a memory you will cherish in the winters to come. You can even pop in Frosty the Snowman when you get back inside to watch while you warm up your fingers and toes.

  1. Take Part in a Community Event

Sawyer County, whether you’re a tourist or a local, has perfected the feeling of a tight-knit family and is happy to welcome you into it.

Friday nights can be spent by the fire enjoying a traditional fish fry or cheering on the local hockey team. Either way, you’re bound to meet smiling faces and the winter cheer that takes over in Wisconsin.

Locals don’t dread winter. They wait for it like kids on Christmas morning waiting for their parents to come downstairs. It’s the time of year when magic and snowflakes fill the air and the town transforms into a warm home for locals and visitors alike.

Breakfast with Santa is just the beginning. You can enter in a gingerbread house contest or enjoy Winter’s Annual Cookie Walk. There are Christmas parties and Winter Fests that are just waiting for you and your family to take part in.

  1. Warm Yourself Up with a Drink

Whether you’re in the mood for hot cocoa or a glass of Merlot, Sawyer County has just the right drink to warm you up.

After a day out on the trails, sometimes you just need to curl up in front of the fire with a peppermint flavored cup of coffee. Hayward Coffee Company is a local shop that will tempt your taste buds and Whistle Punk in Stone Lake can treat you to a craft beer while the snow falls outside. If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat as well, Lakewood Café in Winter is bound to satisfy your craving.

There are also several wine tastings in the area if you’re looking to be warmed from the inside out. Local wineries and breweries, such as Red Schoolhouse Wines and Angry Minnow Brewery, are a great way to stay local and find your new favorite drink.

  1. Make Someone’s Day

Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” It can be that simple to help make someone’s day a little better.

Non-profits can always use help, but during the winter months charities can struggle to meet an increased request of services. Something as simple as buying a bag of groceries for the local food pantry can make a world of difference. The whole family might enjoy volunteering. Talk to local non-profits or churches to see if they need extra hands for annual events.

This time of year there is also often toy drives for children who might not otherwise receive a gift. A fun way to get the kids involved could be to take part in a Random Act of Kindness. You can help them write happy notes to put around town or bake dessert for a neighbor. Whether you’re donating your time or your money, you can make a big difference in someone’s life.

  1. Explore Downtown

Small towns offer a unique and heartwarming experience when holiday cheer begins to take over. ‘Main Street’ in the winter can offer a variety of activities. Often the local hub for winter fairs or hot cocoa crawls, downtown provides a charming and homey way to enjoy winter in Sawyer County. Winter parades and shops with holiday sales mark this time of year where magic and holiday spirit are in the air.

Downtown Hayward offers the Lure of Lights where the local stores put on a beautiful and colorful light display with evening shows. As Christmas music plays, you’re bound to feel like you’re walking down the street in the North Pole rather than right here in Wisconsin.


There are so many wonderful ways to explore Sawyer County in the winter. Today, it’s hard to find a place where families can find something for everyone, but winter in Wisconsin has an activity suited for every personality. So pack up the snowshoes and the sleds and get to the heart of the North.

Whether it’s at 60 miles per hour on a snowmobile or on your skis, winter wonderland has never looked better than right here in Sawyer County.