15 Best Things to Do in Eagle River, WI

Eagle River, WI
Anna MZ / shutterstock.com

This city of lakes and county seat of Vilas County, Wisconsin, has become a favorite destination for vacationers and retirees.

Why is Eagle City a “city of lakes?”

It contains the biggest inland chain of lakes in the world; there are 28 lakes in all.

Not only does the city boast various amenities, but it also has ample living and vacation spaces.  

You can rent hunting cabins and vacation homes or stay in one of its many condominiums.

Over the years, several retirees have made Eagle River their new home, with many others looking to follow in their footsteps.

The magazine Where to Retire has even named the city one of the United States’ Top 100 Places to Retire.

However, don’t think this city is musty and drab.

It has enough colorful and awe-inspiring sites to see and places to explore that should rejuvenate your tired spirits.

Lose yourself in the company of nature, or immerse yourself in the city’s rich history. Eagle River has them all.

Do you want to know more about Eagle River, WI?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Explore the Snowmobile Capital of the World at the World Snowmobile HQ

Exterior of World Snowmobile HQ
Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Besides the “city of lakes,” Eagle River is also the “Snowmobile Capital of the World.”

Why?

The city has hosted the World Championship Snowmobile Derby for over 56 years.

Likewise, it is also home to the World Snowmobile Headquarters, which features various snowmobiling groups that helped grow the winter sport.

During your visit, you’ll find various snowmobile displays in the building.

You’ll also find the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame, honoring the people who developed and popularized the sport.

Then, you’ll see the World Snowmobile Championship Derby Hall of Fame, and then buy memorabilia at the Snowmobiler’s Gift Shop.

The HQ also honors “The Flying Femmes,” a women’s riding group that has left a mark on snowmobiling in Eagle River.

Bring Your Kids to the Northwoods Children’s Museum

Your kids should love visiting the Northwoods Children’s Museum in Eagle River because they are free to play with their hands-on exhibits.

In 1998, the museum opened with 13 such exhibits.

Let your kids enjoy and play in the Medical Center, Shadow Room, Bubble Station, Fishing Pond, Music Area, and the Imagination Station.

Over the years, the museum has added more exhibits, such as the Reading Tree, Snowmobile, Cozy Cottage, and Art Center.

The museum is available to rent for birthday parties, meetings, mediated workshops; likewise, you can buy souvenirs and merch at the gift shop.

Stay in Luxury at the Yellow Birch Lodge

In 2013, the Yellow Birch Lodge underwent extensive remodeling and refurnishing to provide an upgraded lodging experience.

This rental vacation home in Eagle River offers deluxe vacation options in the company of nature, particularly Yellow Birch Lake.

During your visit to the lake, you’ll find the lodge sitting in a quiet but spacious three-acre wooded area.

The property also contains a semi-private bay, boasting a sandy lakeshore stretching 250 feet.

This vacation home is perfect for families, with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus a large kids’ sleeping loft.

The three-story home provides you with a great view of the lake and the calming forest.

Likewise, you can enjoy a cold night sitting by the stone wood fireplace.

During the day, you can also take a boat out on the lake and then roast some marshmallows come evening.

Go Fishing at Catfish Lake

Make sure to drop by the largest lake on Eagle River, Catfish Lake, during your vacation.

Enjoy the vast 1,021-acre lake that’s also 35 feet deep.

However, there are zero known catfish in the lake because it sits a little too north for the fish to thrive.

On the other hand, you can join musky anglers casting around Deer Point and Indian Point.

You can also try walleye fishing next to three islands with a deep hole.

Eagle Point also contains walleyes and panfish.

You’ll also find various historic houses dotting the lakeside.

Likewise, several lake resorts populate the shore, and you won’t go wrong regardless of your choice.

Learn Local History at the Eagle River Historical Museum

On the other hand, if you want a calmer indoor experience, head to the Eagle River Historical Museum.

You’ll even learn something.

During your visit, you’ll find various documents, photos, records, and personal histories gathered from the city’s early settlers.

This museum undertakes rigorous documentation and research to give you the most interesting historical facts about the Eagle River.

The Eagle River Historical Museum houses the main collection, featuring artifacts gathered during the development of the city.

Admission is free, and group tours are available.

However, you should book an appointment for group tours during the closed season from October to Memorial Day.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Wildwood Outdoor Adventures & Campground

If you want to explore the wild outdoors at Eagle River, look no further than the Wildwood Outdoor Adventures & Campground.

This place has delivered top-quality nature adventures to guests since 2008.

Whether on land or water, you’ll see nature in a new light after your visit. Pitch your tents on their campground and spend the day riding tube floats, kayaking along the river, or joining informative land tours.

Likewise, the well-trained staff can take care of any problem and guide you along with any activity you choose.

The site is also available for corporate team-building activities, birthday parties, family gatherings, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and wedding parties.

Learn Rail History at the Eagle River Depot Museum

In 1884, the Milwaukee, Lakeshore, and Western Railroad built railroad tracks in Eagle River, which eventually connected the city to the rest of the country.

However, the Chicago and Northwestern Railway constructed the rail depot, located west of the tracks, visible to people walking from Wall Street.

This depot burned to the ground in the winter of 1923, and the railway company built another one in the spring.

During the 1960s, the depot stopped carrying passengers, while it stopped carrying freight in the late 1970s.

In 1982, the company removed the rails.

After it shut down, the City of Eagle River used the building as a city hall. Today, it is now a museum.

It underwent modernization, with new air conditioning, plumbing, wiring, heating, and insulation.

During your visit, you’ll find various displays featuring the railway history of Eagle River.

You’ll find recreations of the depot grounds, the depot telephone, along with the original tin ceiling, a waiting room bench, and the old coal stove.

Try Delicious Berries at Lake Nokomis Cranberries

Since 1973, Lake Nokomis Cranberries has provided delicious cranberry products to Eagle River residents and guests.

This berry farm grew out of the efforts of Dave Zawistowski, who worked as a hired hand on the property and eventually bought the land in 1977.

Located right next to the picturesque North Nokomis Lake, the farm has expanded to 320 productive acres, thanks to Dave’s leadership.

The farm has also improved its fruit quality, variety, quantity, as well as employee housing.

Today, the berry farm has a gift shop and winery.

You can buy gourmet cranberry products, gifts, and original Lake Nokomis wines.

If you’re curious about the wines, they come from the farm’s cranberries, and there are four varieties.

Daily tastings are available on the property.

Learn the Other Side of History with the Eagle River Twisted History Tours

If you’ve had enough of museum trips, why not discover Eagle River’s history with your own eyes?

Join Lizzie Lumley as she guides you through a tour of the seamy underside of Eagle River’s history.

During the tour, Lizzie will share interesting stories about the murder, debauchery, and craziness of Eagle River’s youth.

The tour only lasts an hour, but it’s enough to give you a deep dive into the sinister side of Eagle River history.

You’ll learn wild stories about the Native Americans, the first European settlers, and the 20th century Chicago gangsters.

Lizzie has stayed in Eagle River during every summer of her life.

Her stay in the city has allowed her to research the town that has given her unforgettable memories.

Today, she shares the products of her research with everyone who wants to listen.

Go Fishing at Watersmeet Lake

Eagle River isn’t the “city of lakes” for no reason.

It has a chain of 26 lakes with ample fishing opportunities.

If you have to pick one, you won’t go wrong with Watersmeet Lake, spanning 100 acres with a depth of 12 feet at its maximum.

Four inlets supply water to the lake, allowing for currents, so be careful.

What can you do at Watersmeet Lake?

Similar to other Eagle River lakes, Watersmeet allows for good walleye and muskie fishing.

Likewise, you can fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass.

You might even hook some northern pike.

Win Races at Kartway

Bring your kids, family, and friends to the thrilling Kartway theme park, and feel the rush of speeding along the track on a go-kart.

Besides go-karts, the park also offers bumper boat arenas, mini-golf, water balloon catapults, and even miniature jeeps.

Give yourself an afternoon of adventure during your Eagle River stay.

Besides the rides, the Kartway theme park also offers concessions like candy, soda, and chips.

You can also enjoy your food at the various picnic areas if you need a break.

Their staff is also well-trained to handle adults and kids, so you never have to worry about anything other than having fun.

Admire the Plants at the Shady Gardens

In the early 1990s, Walter Raygo and Kathleen Raygo started Shady Gardens, running it until late 2002, when Rich and Kitty Swiontek bought the property.

What are the Shady Gardens?

It’s a plant nursery for perennials, grown in gardens where they are acclimated to the area.

You’ll find more than 600 varieties of perennials in the 6 ½-acre garden, such as Daylilies, Peonies, and Hostas.

Likewise, the gardens offer shrubs and mini-trees native to Northern Wisconsin.

If you’re looking for flowers to decorate your parties or liven up your wedding, then look no further than the Shady Gardens in Eagle River.

See the Cars Go at the Eagle River Speedway

If you enjoy fast cars and racing, you’ll surely enjoy visiting the Eagle River Speedway. Its clay track stretches for 1/3 of a mile, shaped in a tri-oval course.

Make sure to visit on a Tuesday since that’s the scheduled day of races.

While watching a race, you can grab a snack at the well-stocked onsite concession stand.

The Eagle River Speedway is also unique because it’s the longest clay stock car racetrack in the entire Midwest.

Throughout the year, the track hosts races comprising Pro Trucks, Spring 600s, and Late Models.

Bring your kids, too, so you can share your passion for stock car racing with the next generation.

Release Your Stress at Kickin Axe Up North

Is your busy life stressing you out? Don’t worry.

Just go to Eagle River and look for Kickin Axe Up North, a thrilling immersive experience that would knock all the stress out of your body.

Handle an axe like a true lumberjack and set on your way to master the art of axe-throwing.

You have an hour to throw several axes at a target, but you decide what you want to do during that time.

If you just want to blow off stress, then just throw axes to your heart’s content. However, you might want to try organized activities with your group.

The center also employs well-trained and knowledgeable staff who’ll help you keep safe by teaching you proper axe-throwing techniques.

They’ll also give you a safety tutorial before each session.

You’re still throwing sharp and heavy axes, after all.

Learn to Create at The Warehouse Art Center

Located on Railroad Street in downtown Eagle River, The Warehouse Art Center has become a home to artists and a space for the community to appreciate art.

The collaboration between the community leaders and residents resulted in the center, where people passionate about arts can mingle and create.

The Warehouse is a public space that provides artists and guests opportunities to practice and enjoy art.

You can learn various arts, such as watercolor, painting, wheel throwing, music, and many others.

Adults can also enroll in lifelong learning classes, a reminder we should always learn new things.

You can also buy the artists’ creations to show your support to the flourishing scene in Eagle River.

Final Thoughts

A trip to Eagle River, Wisconsin, should be a pleasant and thrilling adventure for the whole family.

Sitting by the lake should give you the peace of mind you need from the busyness of everyday life.

On the other hand, racing go-karts might give your life a much-needed adrenaline rush.

Book your trip to Eagle River today!