Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Watertown, WI

  • Published 2023/02/23

Sitting between Dodge and Jefferson Counties is the city of Watertown, halfway between Milwaukee and Madison.

Watertown was initially called “Johnson’s Rapids,” named after Timothy Johnson, who settled the area in 1836 near an old French fur trade post.

Economic development in the city began with the opening of the first grain mill on the Rock River in 1842, which provided power, sawmills, and hydroelectric dams.

In 1853, the city exported wheat, barley, flour, corn, potatoes, and wood through a plank road that connected Watertown to Milwaukee.

Today, Watertown offers its residents a suburban feel.

Here are the best things to do in Watertown, WI:

Wander the Halls of the Octagon House Museum

Dive into the rich history of Watertown by touring the Octagon House Museum on Charles St.

Pioneering settler John Richards built the house in 1854.

The Octagon House features an eight-sided design, with inspiration from New York architect Orson Fowler.

During the 1850s, people believed that octagonal dwellings provided several healthy living benefits.

The Octagon House was one of the largest antebellum houses in Wisconsin.

The five-story brick mansion had central heating, running water, and ventilation systems.

You’ll find a four-story, central cantilevered spiral staircase when you step inside.

Go up the cupola or “tower room” and enjoy sweeping vistas of the city and countryside.

Also located within the museum grounds is America’s first kindergarten, which Margarethe Meyer Schurz founded in 1856.

You can also find the Pioneer Barn within the grounds, which was initially at the western terminus of the Watertown-Milwaukee Plank Road.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Brandt-Quirk Park

Brandt-Quirk Park is the perfect place to get some needed exercise.

Enjoy a game of soccer, practice your swings by the baseball diamond, play a game of tennis, or walk along the trails of this recreational park.

In 1985, Watertown acquired 74 acres of land for the future development of the park, which previously belonged to Herbert Lunde.

Although building the park was already underway, the city still needed more funds to develop its facilities.

Several fundraising events helped build the Brandt-Quirk Park, including a brick-selling fundraiser and a 12-hour baseball fundraiser.

Swing By Tivoli Island

It’s unbelievable to find an island in the middle of a city, but Watertown has one.

Tivoli Island is nestled in an elbow of the winding path of the Rock River and was previously one of the many unnamed islands in North America.

The island once had lush vegetation and wildlife; Indians of the Potawatomi and Winnebago tribes hunted in the area.

Tivoli Island also became a popular camping spot for French fur traders during the early years.

Today, you’ll still see Tivoli Island in its natural state, with a bowstring pony truss bridge over Rock River on Pedestrian Walkway in Watertown.

Built in 1877 over Crawfish River in Milford, the city later moved the bridge to Watertown in 1906.

It is one of the seven remaining bowstring bridges and the last example of the tubular arch design.

Sit Back and Relax at Riverside Park

There’s no better place to sit back and relax in Watertown than at Riverside Park along Labaree St.

Established in 1909, Riverside Park has become a favorite spot for locals to enjoy the cool atmosphere and scenic views.

Riverside Park is on an island in what is now known as Riverside addition, formerly the S. Kussel property in the Sixth Ward.

In 1910, the Board of Park Commissioners received only one bid for landscaping Riverside Park, which came from J.L. Frowding of Oconomowoc, priced at $8,850.

Over the years, several facilities and attractions cropped up in Riverside Park, which included footbridges, a stone turret with a birdhouse, a deer pen, pavilions, tennis courts, gazebos, and more.

Have a Cup of Coffee at Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters

Since 1992, Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters has provided premium-quality coffee for the people of Watertown.

High-quality and air-roasted coffee beans paired with expertly crafted flavor combinations are just some of the things to expect from Berres Brothers.

Take your pick from a wide selection of smooth crafted coffee blends, delicious dark roasts, and quality coffee from respected bean producers around the globe.

Indulge in the flavors of sea salt caramel-flavored roasts, hazelnut cream, English toffee, and more.

Marvin Berres founded the business as an office coffee service called Coffee Host, Inc.

After a while, the company ventured into the soda and snack vending industry.

In 1992, two years after Marvin’s passing, his sons Jeff and Pete opened the Berres Brothers Coffee Factory Outlet in downtown Watertown.

Today, you can even find their shop in significant locations like Milwaukee, Madison, and the Fox Cities.

Practice Your Axe Throwing Skills at Kiss My Axe

Unleash your inner lumberjack and sharpen your ax-throwing skills at Kiss My Axe.

Whether you’re looking for a place to spend date night or a casual hangout with your friends and family, Kiss My Axe is perfect.

Learn the ropes of ax throwing with “axepert” coaches before engaging in a competitive game with your peers.

Kiss My Axe is also a great place to host other events like birthdays if you want to do something extraordinary on your special day.

After spending your day throwing axes, you can extend the fun by hanging out at the bar for a couple of rounds of beer and cocktails.

Grab Fresh Meat at Glenn’s Market and Catering

Glenn’s Market and Catering along W Main St. is Wisconsin’s largest fresh retail meat market.

You can find almost any meat product not just for you but for your furry friends, too!

Swing by Glenn’s Deli and take your pick from a wide selection of lunch meats, salads, and smoked fish.

You can also indulge in delicious hot soups, sandwiches, and dinners一all at reasonable prices.

Check out the Brat Haus and choose from 50 kinds of brat products for your grilling pleasure.

Glenn’s also has a 36-foot fresh meat case with new cuts.

If you’re shopping for your pets, check out Glenn’s 35 feet of frozen pet food and over 18 kinds of freeze-dried pet treats.

Keep Rolling at Skate Express Family Roller Rink

Swing by Frohling Dr. and put your roller skates on at Skate Express Family Roller Rink.

Spend a day with your family going around the rink and have a good time.

If you’re looking for an excellent venue for hosting parties, family gatherings, and other events, you can count on Skate Express for fun-filled activities.

You can also check out the Skate Express Pro Shop for your child’s first pair of roller skates.

Before you stop by, follow the skating rink’s dress code, as the place strictly prohibits shorts and oversized pants for safety reasons.

Have Fun at Badgerland Park

You’ll find almost any form of entertainment at Badgerland Park.

From truck pulls and concerts to monster truck rallies and other public events, Badgerland Park has it all.

Get front row seats to truck pulling events and catch the rigs going around the course.

Badgerland Park also hosts several concerts and jamborees throughout the year, giving you a day filled with music and dancing.

Don’t forget to stop by the concession stands for various snacks and drinks.

Shop for World-Class Cheese Products at Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese

Cheese is arguably one of the many things you can’t leave Wisconsin without.

There’s no better place to get it from than Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese.

Check out domestic varieties in the form of brick and muenster, swiss, smoked, mozzarella, aged cheddar, and more.

Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese also sells imported varieties like Italian, Danish Blue, and Gruyere.

But if you can’t choose which ones to buy, you can always go for customer favorites like Kraemer’s Premium Spreads, Wisconsin Aged Cheddar, Kraemer’s Cheese and Sausage or Kraemer’s Novelty Cheese Gift Box.

Jim and Joanne Kraemer founded the store.

Kraemer Wisconsin Cheese is not only known for premium-quality cheese and sausage products but also its original cheese spreads that Jim himself developed.

Beat the Heat at Watertown Aquatic Center

Stay cool for the summer and head over to the Watertown Aquatic Center.

Hang out by the zero-depth area while enjoying heated water from the main pool.

Kids are very much welcome to play by the 12-feet mushroom waterfall and the other water fountains and waterslides.

Go on a wild ride and slide down the 216-feet water slide or take a plunge on the 24-feet drop slide.

You can also try out the one-meter diving board and 25-yard lap lane.

Shop for Great Finds at the Watertown Farmers Market

Find fresh produce and pick out the prettiest flowers at the Watertown Farmers Market on Labaree St.

Grab fresh meat, vegetables, and cheese as you make your way through the market.

You’ll also find other products like honey, bakes, goods, and other perfect souvenirs.

Sometimes, you can even catch a live cooking demonstration and learn a thing or two about cooking techniques and recipes.

You can also register as a vendor and sell your products.

Watch a Movie at the Towne Cinema

Hold on to your popcorn and catch the hottest movies at Watertown Towne Cinema.

You’ll get the bang for your buck at the Towne Cinema, as ticket prices for all ages don’t go higher than $4.25 every day.

Watertown Towne Cinema has welcomed guests since 1913.

John and Barb Bendall maintain and manage the historic cinema.

It’s also a popular place for hosting parties and school rentals.

Spend a Weekend at Riverbend RV Resort

Enjoy a weekend away from the busy streets and immerse yourself in nature’s wonders at Riverbend RV Resort.

Marvel at the beautiful and relaxing surroundings along a slow-moving river.

Riverbend RV Resort also has other amenities you can check out, including an 8,000-square-foot waterpark.

Slip down two 350-foot waterslides, outdoor whirlpools, and a heated pool.

The RV resort also has activity centers perfect for family gatherings and team-building sessions.

Enjoy your weekend with music, dancing, and other events, tournaments, and activities.

The area also has other amenities for sports activities, such as basketball and volleyball courts, a baseball field, and tennis courts.

Attend the Pumpkin Palooza

Are you spending Halloween in Watertown?

Then you definitely can’t miss Pumpkin Palooza.

Enjoy a day filled with spooky storytime, seasonal store specials, and trick-or-treating.

Take your kids on horse-drawn wagon rides while exploring the streets.

Also, don’t leave until you’ve watched the costume parade.

Have Fun with the Whole Family at Watertown Bowl

Take your whole family out for an indoor entertainment escapade at Watertown Bowl.

Family-owned and operated, this bowling alley is all about getting you and your group that much-needed time to relax.

To take your bowling adventure to the next level, the facility hosts leagues for groups.

Have a birthday coming up in the family?

Celebrate it at this center!

It also has a snack bar to get you energized for another round of fun and target.

Watertown Bowl has two locations in the city: one on West Cady Street and another on North Church Street.

Bike Along Rock River Trail’s Watertown-to-Waupun Route

With your bike, you can make the most out of your day trip all over Watertown with the Rock River Trail.

This trail, spanning 320 miles, offers 10 routes all over the Wisconsin and Illinois area.

It passes through 11 counties and 41 communities.

Each of its routes has varied themes, ranging from art and history to birding and history.

The Watertown-to-Waupun route is a bike-themed route.

Get access to Watertown’s most daring and challenging pathways on a bike and take in the scenery around you.

It’s going to be an excursion you won’t forget!

The Watertown-to-Waupun route of Rock River Trail starts on South Water Street.

Watch a Show at The Watertown Players Theater

Need a bit of live entertainment to liven up your itinerary?

Say no more to The Watertown Players Theater.

Serving the community since 1988, this theater is a staple for romantic plays and exciting musicals.

The organization behind it, The Watertown Players, is the oldest one of their kind in the city.

And alongside its amazing productions, it also hosts auditions for everyone to join.

Get the relaxing break you need with a good laugh at the comedy shows or a heartfelt lesson with one of its tearjerker performances.

You can find The Watertown Players Theater on South Water Street.

Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Watertown’s Murals and Ghost Signs

The best way to experience Watertown is by traversing its downtown district through a self-guided tour.

And one of the tours you can partake in is the Murals and Ghost Signs tour.

Around the 1830s and 40s, the early settlers used walls and the sides of buildings to paint murals and ads.

Though most have faded with the passing of time, there are still many you can explore while walking.

At the Carlton House Hotel on South First Street, there’s a ghost sign advertising its previous business establishment, Commercial Hotel.

There are Galvanic Soap ads along North Water Street and North Fourth Street.

On East Main Street, you’ll find the Gail Towers-MacAskill mural depicting various cigar companies in the past.

And there’s more for you to discover along your route.

Happy mural hunting!

Enjoy Live Entertainment at Watertown Riverfest

One of the city’s most awaited festivals is Watertown Riverfest.

This annual festival goes way back to 1902.

Back then, the festival was mainly known as Homecoming Days and the city celebrated it every August.

Among its wholesome program include live music, an arts and crafts fair, and a classic car show.

And the best part is everything is free!

Riverside Park hosts the yearly Watertown Riverfest on Labaree Street.

Final Thoughts

Watertown is arguably one of the best cities to spend your Wisconsin vacation.

It offers a perfect combination of relaxation and enjoyment and several tourist attractions that tell the city’s rich history.

It’s impossible to do everything in a few days, so you might want to consider staying for a longer time.

Don’t miss out on the adventures Watertown offers, and book your trip today!

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