Massive pine forests and the powerful Wisconsin River first drew lumbermen to Wausau, Wisconsin, in the mid-1800s. As the supply of pine trees dwindled, sawmills were exchanged for manufacturing businesses that were attracted by the arrival of the railroad. The Wausau Insurance Companies brought an influx of white collar jobs to the city in the early 1900s. Today, the city remains small, with a population of fewer than 50,000. Situated 200 miles east of Minneapolis, the community draws city slickers looking for outdoorsy things to do in Wausau, such as skiing, kayaking, angling, golfing, hunting and participating in curling.
Located only eight miles southwest of Wausau, Granite Peak Ski Area at Rib Mountain State Park is home to 74 ski runs and a variety of terrain suitable for beginners and pros alike. The 1,200-acre park offers several other things to do near Wausau, including ice skating, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
For visitors interested in curling, which is a bit like shuffleboard on ice, the Wausau Curling Club hosts weekend events from November to March at their custom-designed curling facility, which is located about two miles south of downtown Wausau. If you visit in the middle of winter, do not be surprised to see ice fishing shanties pop up on frozen Lake Wausau. Inside, hardy anglers catch muskie, walleye and northern pike through holes drilled in the ice.
As the weather begins to warm in spring, the Wisconsin River becomes one of the busiest Wausau attractions, drawing whitewater kayakers and canoeists. The Wausau Whitewater Park, just south of downtown, hosts world-class whitewater competitions and offers classes for serious kayakers.
Even at indoor venues, such as the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum on Wausau's east side, the beauty of nature remains a dominant theme. Since 1976, the museum has held an annual Birds in Art exhibition that features some of the best artistic representations of birds from around the world. The permanent collections also include paintings and sculptures depicting a menagerie of other animals, from wolves to hippos.
In the realm of performing arts attractions in Wausau, The Grand Theater in downtown presents plays, concerts, ballet performances and comedy shows in a stately Greek Revival-style building. Within a few blocks of the theater, there are a number of restaurants ranging from the slightly upscale Back When Café to the relaxed Fillmor Pub and Eatery, which also has live music.
For a taste of Wausau's German heritage, visit Bull Falls Brewery, a few blocks south of The Grand, to sample a selection of more than a dozen hand-crafted beers made with authentic German ingredients. The nearby RedEye Brewing Company offers a smaller but more adventurous menu of craft beers, such as Peach Wheat and Scarlet 7, a malty Belgian-style brew. Plus, the RedEye offers a full menu of burgers, wraps and wood-fired pizza. Finish off the local brewery tour at Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co., which produces artisan lagers and ales and serves upscale pub grub.