By Lisa Truesdale
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Fond du Lac is tucked onto the southern shores of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake and a mecca for watersports. But the mid-size city’s proximity to the majestic lake isn’t its only draw—as Fond du Lac’s “fun on the farm” focus proves, the rolling hills, farmlands, orchards, and vineyards in Fond du Lac County also beckon visitors with farm-fresh meals, apple-picking, animal-petting, wine-tasting and so much more.
An easy drive from Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and the Illinois border, Fond du Lac County is the ideal place for a quick weekend getaway. With the city as your base camp for the weekend, you’re just minutes away from unique agri-tourism destinations all over the Lake Winnebago region—whether you head north, south, east or west!
Swing around Lake Winnebago’s eastern shore to find Park Ridge Organics, a small, family-run, certified-organic farm with a stand that’s open six days a week, mid-May through October. Check their calendar for news about harvest season farm dinners.
Just a few more miles north is The Little Farmer, a family-run orchard where you can pick apples and pumpkins or enjoy lunch in the on-site Farmhouse Cafe. For dessert, watch your own caramel apple being made right in front of you. Or try LaClare Farms, just a few more miles north, where kids can pet goats and adults can enjoy 30 Wisconsin wines, 50 Wisconsin craft beers and more than 80 different cheeses.
Which 25 of their 300 ice-cream-flavor creations will Kelley Country Creamery be offering during your visit? Apple Raisin Strudel, Banana Nut French Toast or maybe Maple Bacon, made with local maple syrup?
The family has been in the dairy business for more than 150 years, so they know what they’re doing! Watch ice cream being made, then enjoy your chosen flavor while rocking in one of their classic rocking chairs.
Head a bit more south to Lomira in neighboring Dodge County, where you’ll find Zedland Farm. Hands-on activities in autumn include hayrides, a corn maze, an obstacle course and pumpkin bowling. Or schedule a tour at Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa, where you can watch traditional curds being stirred or hand-scooped into forms.
The nonprofit Cristo Rey Ranch is run by nuns. The ranch is open to visitors May through October, with a guided tour including lunch, a petting zoo and seasonal activities like hayrides.
Keep heading east toward Greenbush in Sheboygan County, and you’ll find Wade House, a mid-19th-century settlement that’s open year-round. Explore the museum, have lunch at the Butternut Café or catch an old-timey baseball game on select summer weekends.
In nearby Armstrong, Armstrong Apples, Orchard & Winery grows 11 varieties of apples that they make (with other fruits) into 20 different wines, plus ciders and bakery goods. On Saturday nights during the summer, the orchard also hosts live music.
About 20 miles west of Fond du Lac is Ripon, voted one of the “happiest towns in America.” At Vines & Rushes Winery, they make their wines with Wisconsin-grown grapes and also offer a year-round tasting room and seasonal special events.
For lunch or dinner, try Knuth Brewing Company, with artisan beers crafted on-site and a menu featuring wood-fired pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Through mid-October, you also can visit Larson’s Famous Clydesdales for a 90-minute guided tour to get up close and personal with a rare baby Clydesdale.
Back in Fond du Lac for dinner, try Theo’s 24, an upscale chophouse in the heart of downtown. In the mood for comfort food? Schreiner’s Restaurant has been the “essence of Wisconsin” for more than 75 years, serving up seafood, hand-breaded fried chicken and specialty sandwiches. Or dine on the shores of picturesque Lake Winnebago at Sunset on the Water, which offers “famous” prime rib, steaks, seafood, pasta and burgers, all served with a stunning view.
Check out five more Wisconsin farms that take agri-tourism beyond cows and corn. Heading to Fond du Lac? Browse lodging options in our directory.