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Wisconsin Parent

Family Activities in Tomah, Wisconsin

Sep 29, 2014 08:00AM ● By Melissa Schwartz
Many people know Tomah, Wisconsin as the place where the I divides. Of  course, they are correct—Tomah is quite literally the place where the I-90 and I-94 divide. For me though, Tomah has been somewhat a second home. My grandparents have lived in this town of 9,000 since the 1960's, so I have made many a pilgrimage over the years. My family and I have experienced more of the town than a crop of buildings immediately off of the highway. Whether staying for a visit or looking for a place to stop while on the road, Tomah certainly has attractions inviting family fun.

Burnstad's Market, European Village and Restaurant is a Hidden Surprise

Burnstad's  Market and European Village is a bit of a curiosity. As a market, you will find your typical grocery needs.  However, you will also find an adorable cluster of shops along a cobblestone pathway à la a European Village inside. The stores include a sizeable florist shop, home decor shop, Amish country store, a place for Wisconsin gifts and a ladies' apparel store. You can also stop for bite to eat at the restaurant or pub. The European Village, while not extensive, is really one of those cases where you don't know what is inside a building until you explore.

Run, Jump, Climb and Crawl

tomah3If the kids need a place to stretch and run around, Tomah is the perfect place! Tomah is the home of some pretty impressive spaces for kids to climb, crawl, jump, swing and slide.

The Winnebago Wonderland is a dream for parents and kids alike. The wonderland has a lovely view of Lake Tomah and sports sections appropriate for various age groups. My grandmother proudly informed me that the 10,000 square foot play area was put together by volunteers from the Army. I can say that many children and parents are very appreciative!

Lake Tomah itself is a beautiful recreational area with fishing, boat berths, volleyball courts, picnic areas and more. Really a lovely area!

tomah2In the Fairgrounds, we found the new Burnstad's Adventure Park (funded by the Burnstad family of Burnstad's Market). The park is farm-themed and quite adorable. While smaller than Winnebago Park, Burnstad's Adventure Park offers plenty to play with including my daughter's favorite—the zipline! Located near the park are some picnic tables so you can stop for lunch and a little playtime!

Celebrating the Cranberry

Tomah lives in the heart of Cranberry Country so celebrating the brilliantly red, tart fruit is part of any visit! The Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center is located in nearby Warrens. This extremely hands-on museum is tucked away in a former cranberry packing warehouse. The museum contains an impressive collection of cranberry growing, harvesting and processing artifacts while incorporating functional elements giving guests a real experience. The museum's gift shop bursts with cranberry products and items made in Wisconsin supplying the perfect mementoes of your visit.

cran13A Bit of Cheese

Humbird Cheese in Tomah is one of my favorite stops on any visit to Tomah. Of course, I am always tempted by the large selection of Wisconsin cheese. However, the gift shop also contains a huge array of Wisconsin souvenirs and products. Plus, it is located next to an antique shop. A wonderful treasure hunt!

Rural Roads through Amish Country

Tomah is also situated within Amish country and the Amish often make visits in the town.  A bit further afield is Cashton where you can find Down a Country Road featuring a cluster of shops with a focus on Amish handicrafts including Amish furniture, quilts, preserves, and more. Down a Country Road also offers guided and self-guided tours of Amish county.

Learning History at the Little Red Schoolhouse

tomah7The Little Red Schoolhouse sits in Gillette Park, not too far from my grandparents' home. I have a fond memory of my grandmother taking me to the schoolhouse not only to show off this interesting bit of history in town but also a little bit about her younger years as a teacher in a one room schoolhouse. Originally built in 1864, the schoolhouse displays historical exhibits and artifacts. The schoolhouse is free and is open sparingly during the summer but is fun for a mini-adventure!

Town History at the Tomah Area Historical Society & Museum

A small museum in the downtown area houses exhibits about the town. The creator of the comic strip "Gasoline Alley," Frank King, was from Tomah so the museum holds various Frank King memorabilia including his early artwork. The museum also contains other artifacts reflecting the town's heritage. The museum is free but like the schoolhouse, it has sparse hours.

Tomah Area Veterans Memorial Honors Tomah's Veterans

tomah5The Tomah Area Veterans Memorial is simply outstanding. Sandwiched between Camp Douglas and Fort McCoy and the home of many veterans, Tomah has a long military heritage. The new memorial is one of the most impressive that I have seen and powerfully honors Tomah residents that have served in the military. Near the memorial, you also will find a little park; a nice little aside.

Festivals that Provide Extra Fun Throughout the Year

For the past 40 years, Tomah has been host to The Budweiser National Dairyland Super National Truck & Tractor Pull. The summer event includes an arts and crafts fair as well as a flea market. The town also hosts the Monroe County Fair complete with amusements, draft horse shows, a rodeo, dog agility contests and more. In the fall, Cranfest in Warrens takes center stage as Cranberry Country celebrates the state fruit. Cranfest features bog tours, demonstrations, a parade, crafts, antiques, a flea market, and more.

Family Memories in a Family Town

For my family, Tomah has the sense of home. My memories of Tomah will always be fondly wrapped up with my childhood as well as that of my daughter. Whether your visit is short or long, Tomah will provide wonderful family memories for your family as well.

icelandbiophotoMelissa Schwartz is a contributor and editor of Two Moms, a Little Time, and a Keyboard, a hyper-local blog in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. She also manages the social media for Norton’s U.S.A., a general store in Barrington, Illinois only selling products made in the U.S.A. She has a passion for traveling a little off the beaten path and finding gems that others have overlooked. She especially enjoys creating special travel memories with her husband and 9-year-old daughter.