Photo: Michael Tatman/Shutterstock

Make These Two Small Wisconsin Towns Your Next Nature-Focused Wellness Getaway

Wisconsin Travel Outdoor Insider Guides
by Jori Ayers Dec 19, 2023

Sometimes you need a break from reality and the fast-paced lifestyle so many of us live. That reset and breath of fresh air is exactly what I found in central Wisconsin this fall as the weather started to change. Looking out of the plane window on my flight in, all I could see were changing leaves and greenery for miles. In Wisconsin, nature and wellness experiences are readily available for all, whether you’re after adventure, relaxation, or just reconnecting with yourself.

The best way to see this first-hand is to skip the big-city spas and explore what central Wisconsin’s small towns have to offer.


Downtown Wausau

Photo: Travel Wisconsin

Wausau is a quaint town of about 40,000 people that reminds me of where I grew up in Georgia. Whether you want to hang out in the downtown area and shop, visit a museum, or walk around Marathon Park, Wausau exudes comfort and relaxed living.

Hsu Ginseng Farms

Photo: Hsu’s Ginseng

Hsu Ginseng Farms is the second-largest ginseng grower in Wisconsin, and I stopped by to meet with owner Will Hsu to learn more about this traditional medicine ingredient with a long history.

Hsu’s father started working at the farm in 1974 as a hand trimmer, and he bought the farm in 1978. It has been a Wisconsin staple ever since. Hsu Ginseng Farms offers walking tours where guests can learn about the power of ginseng and its health benefits. Ginseng is used in Native American and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory and stimulant, as well as an immune booster with myriad purported health benefits. Whether you know a lot or a little about this magical root, Hsu Ginseng Farms is an informative experience and a great introduction to Wausau.

Hsu Ginseng Farms: T6500 County Road W, Wausau, WI, US, 54403

Granite Peak’s Comet Sky Ride and Observation Deck

Chairlift Ride at Granite Peak

Photo: Travel Wisconsin

Granite Peak is the oldest ski resort in Wisconsin, and it continues to hold its legacy and charm. When we arrived, the general manager, Greg, and his cute dog companion, Bear, greeted us. The day we visited Granite Peak was pretty empty, but when the snow hits the ground, people fill the slopes, dining hall, and the rest of the property.

Granite Peak has more than 200 acres of terrain, 58 trails, four terrain parks, and seven lifts. But I came for the fall foliage and awe-inspiring views. I instantly melted into the seat as we sat on the six-person Comet Sky Ride (the only one in the state). The lift operates at a slower speed during the fall to allow riders to take in the trees below, making it a soothing and quiet ride manageable even for those who aren’t the biggest fan of heights like myself.

Once I got to the top, I walked to the observation deck. Along the way, it felt like time stopped. I looked around. I saw the leaves falling and changing colors, and at one point, I said to myself, “Wisconsin, you are a sight to see.” Ninety-six stairs take you to the very top for the ultimate lookout point. I gasped as the panoramic view of Wausau stared back at me. The sun was bright, the skies were blue, and the views were unmatched. I can confidently say that this beats those city skyline views for anyone in need of a nature reset.

Granite Peak Ski Area: 3605 N Mountain Rd, Wausau, WI, US, 54401

Stevens Point

Couple walking around Downtown Stevens Point

Photo: Travel Wisconsin

Stevens Point, population 26,000, is about 35 miles south of Wausau. The town is home to fun and relaxing activities, as well as many cute cafes, restaurants, and a distillery.

The Inn at SentryWorld

SentryWorld is a premiere golf course in Wisconsin that has been named among the top 100 courses by Golf Digest, and was the host of the 2023 U.S. Senior Open. Along with recreation and dining, The Inn at SentryWorld is on the property.

Staying at The Inn at SentryWorld is a chance to unwind. Walking into the lobby, or “the Inn’s living room,” feels like walking into a well-furnished home. I’m not usually a fan of hanging out in lobby areas, but I made an exception with The Inn. I made myself comfortable on the cozy blue couch and sat in front of the soothing crackling fireplace to warm up — the perfect place to curl up with a provided blanket and a drink, a book, or company.

The rooms at SentryWorld are the perfect amount of space and peace. Automatic lights turn on under the bed and bathroom when you walk near them, and each room has a spacious balcony overlooking the property and its golf courses. The balcony is an ideal place to sit out and listen to the sounds of nature and forget about work and all of the deadlines that come with it.

The Inn at SentryWorld: 501 Michigan Ave N, Stevens Point, WI, US, 54481

The Wellness Spa

Room where meditations and other classes are held.

Photo: Jori Ayers

The Wellness Spa is in a historic home on eight acres that overlook McDill Pond. I don’t know what to tell you if that doesn’t screaming peace and tranquility. The Wellness Spa offers a variety of massage styles and Eastern therapies, as well as a salt spa. There are also knowledgable instructors who teach classes like tai chi, yoga, and meditation. On my visit, I participated in the qigong class to learn about the traditional movements and breathing techniques of the practice.

This was my first time participating in qigong, and I didn’t know what to expect. The class was held in a spacious room with floor-to-ceiling windows letting in the autumn sun. On the floor was a circular figure that many in the class gravitated toward, unsure of what awaited us. Owner Deborah Adams, who studied qigong and tai chi in China, taught our class and delivered an inner- and out-of-body experience that covered the mind, body, and soul.

The Wellness Spa: 3916 Water St, Stevens Point, WI, US, 54481

The Green Circle Trail

Ariel view of part of the green circle trail

Photo: Stevens Point Area CVB

This trail was the trip’s highlight for me and a huge recommendation everyone should make while in Stevens Point. The Green Circle Trail is a 27-mile hiking and biking trail that goes through the Stevens Point area and connects with more than 45 miles of additional trails. More than 80 percent of the trail goes through secluded parks and forests, wetlands, and along rivers, and it was a highlight on my trip.

One could spend days exploring the ins and outs of the trail, but for anyone short on time, a bike or e-bke rental is the way to go. Whatever your choice, riding around the trail is a harmonious experience. The falling leaves, cold air brushing against my face, and the bright reds, oranges, and yellows glowing on the trees left me feeling as if I were in another dimension. At one point, it seemed almost too picture-perfect to be real (until I almost fell off my bike, which brought me quickly back). The sights remain immaculate whether you want to bike or hike the trail. Take it at your own pace and enjoy the scenery and fresh air — you don’t have to walk or bike the whole trail, as views abound throughout.

The Green Circle Trail: Green Circle Trail, Stevens Point, WI, US, 54481

Stevens Point Sculpture Park

Photo: Jori Ayers
Photo: Jori Ayers

The Green Circle Trail connects and intertwines with many different trails, one of which is where the Stevens Point Sculpture Park Trail lies. This 0.4-mile trail is filled with art pieces and sculptures from local, regional, and national artists. After riding around many twists and turns, I approached Sculpture Park. It’s somewhat hidden, even to some locals, and worth venturing off to see the artwork surrounded by nature in a way that blends into the environment rather than looking out of place. My three favorites were the You Are Enough sign by Scott Froschauer, the hybrid human and elk piece called Elk Centaur by Francois Lelong, and the spinning cube called Landscape With Perspective by DeeDee Morrison.

Stevens Point Sculpture Park: 901 2nd Street North, Stevens Point, WI, US, 54481

Great Northern Distilling

Bar of the Great Northern Distilling

Photo: John Hartman, Contemporary Photography, Stevens Point, WI

What better way to take the load off than with a nice drink from a local distillery? Great Northern Distilling is Stevens Point’s first distillery and opened in May of 2023. If you’re looking for a spot to unwind from a day on the town or somewhere to go for an excellent cocktail, this is your place. It’s sophisticated yet chill enough to enjoy your company and have a good time, and the playlist is top-tier.

Great Northern Distilling: 1011 2nd St, Stevens Point, WI 54481

Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan (Potawatomi Farm)

Fresh vegetables that the farm grows in house.

Photo: Jori Ayers

Wisconsin is home to many Native American tribes and reservations, and the Forest County Potawatomi owns the Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan farm. It started in Spring 2017 at another ranch, but moved to its current location as the farm expanded. Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan’s mission is to provide natural and sustainable produce and animal proteins for the tribal community year-round (an aquaponic facility for lettuce and other vegetables keeps the produce coming in the colder months). Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan also has a meal service it provides to the elders called Tribal Elder Food Box. Touring the farm to see how everything is produced, made, and done, it’s clear that no one takes shortcuts and everything is produced right and naturally. In the future, there are plans to offer gardening and cooking classes as well.

Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan (Potawatomi Farm): 3389 County Highway H, Laona, WI, US, 54541

Discover Matador