Cheese lovers around the world know that Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. Wisconsinites have been making cheese for more than 175 years, since before Wisconsin was even a state. Wisconsin cheese producers make more than 600 varieties of cheese -- more than 3 billion pounds annually -- earning them the top spot among American cheesemakers. In fact, Wisconsin is so serious about its cheese that it’s the only state in the country that requires a license to make cheese for retail consumption.
While cheeseheads revel in this abundance, it can be overwhelming to choose from so many options during a visit. To help you navigate this incredible cheese landscape, we’d like to offer you our suggestions for the perfect cheese lover’s tour of Wisconsin. We’ll include places that make cheese, some that serve it, and others that sell it for you to take home for a complete Wisconsin cheese experience.
Mars Cheese Castle
Kenosha is a great place to begin your cheese lover’s tour of Wisconsin. Mars Cheese Castle stands alone as a mecca for cheese fans everywhere. Yes -- Wisconsinites literally built a castle-shaped structure and filled it with cheese. But Mars Cheese Castle is so much more than that.
With 46,000 square feet of space and more than 700 types of cheese, Mars Cheese Castle is an unparalleled cheese emporium offering tons of samples and items like cheese popcorn and addictive cheese bread. They also sell things that go with cheese, like sausages, beer, wine, and of course, cheese-centric merchandise.
You can eat in the deluxe dining room, have a drink in the lounge, and check out the expansive room full of souvenirs. Enjoy it all while nibbling samples to decide what cheese you want to take with you.
Clock Shadow Creamery
It’s fun to take a tour of Milwaukee’s urban cheese factory, Clock Shadow Creamery. You can learn about the history of cheesemaking, sample fresh cheeses, and see how cheese is made. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they make fresh curds, so plan accordingly if you love fresh, squeaky cheese.
Tours take place on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and take about half an hour. This will give you plenty of extra time to explore the historic Walker’s Point neighborhood where the creamery is located.
Wisconsin Cheese Mart
When you’ve built up your cheese hunger again, pay Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Cheese Mart a visit. These folks have been selling Wisconsin cheese since 1938, and they know what they’re doing. They’ve got more than 150 Wisconsin varieties of cheese, including the state’s best gourmet and award-winning cheeses. They’ve also opened a taproom where you can try Wisconsin cheese paired with Wisconsin craft beer and wines from around the world. With plenty of other gourmet foods, gifts, baskets, and sweets, it’s easy to see why this place wins the hearts of cheese lovers everywhere.
For more to see and do in Milwaukee, see this page.
Pine River Dairy
This family-owned gem has been making cheese for almost 80 years over six generations. Pine River Dairy sells more than 250 varieties of cheese in its store in the manufacturing facility. The award-winning cheese spreads are out of this world. They also make many different cheeses, including curds and string cheese, Cheddar, Colby, brick, Muenster, Swiss, and more. You might spy them making butter through the window. And don’t skip the 25-cent ice cream cones. They’ve got lots of fun souvenirs and gifts for guests to take home as well.
Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival
It should come as no surprise that Little Chute, founded by Dutch settlers, loves cheese. You might recognize the local producer Bel Brands USA. They make Babybel, Merkts, The Laughing Cow, Boursin, and the irresistible Kaukauna spreadable cheese.
If you happen to plan a trip for the first weekend of June, check out the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival. Cheese activities abound, including cheese tastings, cheese-carving demonstrations, a cheese-curd-eating contest, and a cheese breakfast.
Simon’s Specialty Cheese
Visit Simon’s Specialty Cheese for a great selection of the best Wisconsin cheeses, including Simon’s own specialty cheeses like chocolate cheese fudge, smoked Provolone, and marbled Cheddar.
Marieke Gouda And Penterman Farm
If you’re a cheese nerd like us, you’ve probably heard about Marieke Gouda. A Grand Champion of the United States Championship Cheese Contest, Marieke has won numerous awards for handcrafted Gouda cheeses that are the best of the best. Marieke Gouda comes in 23 unique and delicious options like caraway, chipotle, onion garlic, pesto basil, honey clover, truffle, smoked cumin, hatch pepper, and many more.
If you want to learn more about the cheesemaking process, you can take a self-guided tour during business hours or pay $10 during the summer months for a guided tour that includes a visit to the barn and a cheese sampling. You can visit the cheese store and enjoy a meal at the cafe for breakfast or lunch.
Don’t forget to head across the street to Penterman Farm to say hello to the cows that make all this wonderful cheese deliciousness possible.
We have to include our own town of Madison in any cheese lover’s tour of Wisconsin. Aside from being the Wisconsin state capital, Madison is a cheese haven.
You’ll want to stop by Fromagination, one of the most elegant cheese shops you’ll ever see. There are so many Wisconsin and other artisanal cheeses there it’ll be hard to choose a favorite. They encourage you to taste and decide for yourself. While you’re there, you can have a handcrafted sandwich or salad and a local craft beer.
If you have some time, take one of their incredibly fun classes, like The Science of Cheesemaking, Cheese and Tea, or Wisconsin’s Best-in-Show Cheeses.
The Old Fashioned
If you haven’t already tried cheese curds, you’ll want to try them at The Old Fashioned. Voted Wisconsin’s best cheese curds year after year, theirs are house-made fresh Wisconsin beer-battered cheese curds. Add your favorite dipping sauce for total cheesy joy.
If you’re still hungry after the curds, The Old Fashioned has plenty of other cheesy delights to fill you up. Try their Wisconsin beer cheese soup, the Wisconsin grilled cheese with Swiss and aged Cheddar, or the bacon mac and cheese with Wisconsin aged Cheddar, SarVecchio cheese, and hickory-smoked bacon.
Then walk around the square, explore the beautiful capitol building, and visit the cute local shops to burn a few of those cheese calories.
Carr Valley Cheese
When you say Carr Valley to a Wisconsinite, you’ll probably get a big, cheesy smile. That’s because Carr Valley is one of the most beloved names in Wisconsin cheese. Carr Valley produces a wide range of award-winning cow’s milk cheeses, goat’s milk cheeses, sheep’s milk cheeses, and mixed milk cheeses. You’ll find Wisconsin favorites like bacon cheese, Havarti, and Pepper Jack along with European-style cheeses like aged Swiss, Asiago, Gruyere, and Parmesan. Of course, they also make great cheese curds and spreads.
They have a few retail locations, but for a real treat, visit one of their factory and retail store locations like the one in La Valle, where they produce more than 50 original varieties.
Monroe, known as the Gateway to Cheese Country, is in a league of its own when it comes to cheese. The city is steeped in cheese history and is home to The Swiss Colony, which expanded its offerings to become an American favorite food gifts catalog company.
National Historic Cheesemaking Center
If you want to learn more about cheese culture and history, you’ll want to visit the National Historic Cheesemaking Center.
Alp And Dell Cheese Store
Check out Alp And Dell Cheese Store to get your fix of cheesy delights. In addition to lots of delicious Wisconsin cheese, they offer a tour of the Emmi Roth chalet-style factory. Get there in the morning for the best views of the cheesemakers in action, and don’t miss the famous Emmentaler Swiss.
Baumgartner Cheese Store & Tavern
To relax a bit and enjoy a chat with some very friendly locals, grab a seat at Baumgartner Cheese Store & Tavern. You can have a beer and get a sandwich. Try the local favorite Limburger “stinky cheese” and gaze at the incredible painted walls. On your way out, you can choose some delicious cheeses from their showcase to take with you.
Green County Cheese Days
If you happen to be heading to Wisconsin in the fall, you’ll discover cheese nirvana at the Green County Cheese Days. Here you’ll join other cheese lovers for demonstrations, entertainment, food, parades, contests, cheese tastings, yodeling, cow milking, beer sampling, and more. Wedgie, the Swiss cheese wedge mascot, even has his own song. There’s so much to see and taste -- we recommend that you come hungry, because you will certainly leave full.
Cheese is an important part of Wisconsin’s culinary culture. We hope you enjoy the possibilities when planning your perfect cheese lover’s tour of America's Dairyland.