Hit the Right Note

Appears in the June 2021 issue.

Music is a really important part of the culture here in Wisconsin,” says Anne Sayers, acting secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. “It’s endless outdoor concerts all summer long.”

A five-hour drive from Naperville will land you in Cadott, Wisconsin, home to Country Fest (countryfest.com), a massive outdoor country music festival running June 24–26 with Dierks Bentley, Thomas Rhett, and Kane Brown headlining. Attendees can purchase one-, two-, or three-day passes and either book a camping (or glamping) plot onsite or take a shuttle from nearby hotels.

“Country Fest is a blast. Whoever is headed to that will have a great time,” Sayers says. “I also think people will find there are a lot of unexpected adventures to discover in the Cadott–Chippewa Falls–Eau Claire area.”
Agritourism retreat Cabin Ridge Rides (cabinridgerides.com) offers themed horse-drawn carriage rides throughout the 440-acre property. “They have bonfire rides … even a western hoedown ride that includes a meal from a local barbecue joint,” Sayers says.

For some local flavor, take a 15-minute drive to Chippewa Falls, home to Leinenkugel Brewery (leinie.com) as well as Chippewa River Distillery and Brewster Bros. Brewing (chippewariverdistillery.com), all located along the Chippewa River. Artsy enclave Eau Claire is 30 minutes from Cadott, with an array of art galleries, murals and a flourishing food truck scene.

On the way to or from Cadott, consider a stop near Wisconsin Dells at Mirror Lake State Park (mirrorlakewisconsin.com) to hike, bike, canoe, or picnic. “The lake itself has really earned its name,” Sayers says. “It’s so calm that most of the time you don’t even see a ripple; it’s just so serene and peaceful.” A side trip to Ishnala (ishnala.com), a supper club nestled in the forest canopy on Mirror Lake, is also worth a stop.
Can’t make it to Country Fest? Consider a trip to Appleton, Wisconsin, for the Mile of Music Festival (mileofmusic.com) August 5–8. “It’s a completely free music festival that spans a full walkable mile of downtown Appleton,” Sayers says.

Photo courtesy Country Fest