Oshkosh is a small town in Winnebago County, right on Lake Winnebago. Named after the Menominee Chief Oshkosh, the city of Oshkosh has a rich history and culture. Although you may initially think of Oshkosh for its eponymous overalls (OshKosh B’gosh was headquartered here for decades), the city is so much more than that. Below, find some of our favorite things to do in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
The small town is a destination for many in the region, with its recreational events, concerts, performing arts, festivals, art galleries, and museums. So, whether you’re visiting as a family, couple, group, or flying solo, you’ll find something fun to do!
All ages will love the EAA Aviation Museum, whether you have your pilot’s license or know nothing about planes. And if you happen to be in town during the summer, the museum hosts the must-see “world’s greatest aviation celebration,” the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
The Oshkosh area is also a destination for history lovers, with over thirty of Winnebago County’s historic landmarks. In addition, the Paine Art Center and Gardens is one of the most amazing attractions with its art and beautiful gardens. And with the city’s ideal location on the lake, the opportunities for water sports are endless.
Although Winnebago County is a small area, you can rest assured that you’ll have big-city fun here! This charming city has something for everyone.
- Most significant landmark – Asylum Point Lighthouse
- Best park – Menominee Park
- Best free activity – Wiouwash State Trail
- Best activity for kids – EAA Aviation Museum
- Best activity for adults – Paine Art Center and Gardens
- Best food – Chalice
- Best local brewery – Bare Bones Brewery
- Best all-around accommodation – Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel
Best & Fun Things to Do in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
1. Asylum Point Lighthouse
Address: 3300 Sherman Rd, Oshkosh, WI 54901
This historic lighthouse is located in Asylum Point Park with beautiful views of Lake Winnebago. The Asylum Point Lighthouse was erected in 1937 but was never officially used as a navigational light. While it’s not open for tours, it’s an excellent spot for a picnic and to relax. There is a wooden bridge that connects the park to the island where the lighthouse is.
As one of Oshkosh’s most notable landmarks, the lighthouse is 24-feet tall with a 7-foot cupola. At one point, a flag pole was placed at the top, making the lighthouse stand 42-feet tall. The placement of the lighthouse divides North and South Asylum Bays.
The former Northern Asylum for the Insane is within walking distance of the park, which is now the Winnebago Mental Health Institute. While the facility’s name changed to be more considerate, the bay and park continued to use their original names.
It’s worth the trip to see this old landmark, but you should also stay and enjoy the park. There are plenty of trees, walking trails, and picnic tables, all with lake views.
If you’re hoping to launch your boat, you can use the boat launch within the park to head to Asylum Bay or Lake Winnebago. Anglers will especially love the fishing in the bay.
Want to rest your head nearby after a day of fishing and sightseeing? Stay at the highly-rated Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center where you can relax in the hot tub and heated pool, just minutes away from Asylum Park.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Hayward, Wisconsin
2. Paine Art Center and Gardens
Address: 1410 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI 54901
As one of Oshkosh’s historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places, the Paine Art Center and Gardens is a sight to see. This gorgeous 3-acre estate showcases botanic gardens and art galleries.
While construction started in 1927 by the owners of the Paine Lumber Company, the Great Depression halted the building five years later. As a result, the Tudor Revival-style country estate was incomplete for another fourteen years, all but the exterior.
While Nathan and Jessie Paine never lived in the unfinished now-Paine Art Center and Gardens, they established it as a museum in 1948 after completing the remaining construction.
The Paine Art Center is home to seasonal events like the Nutcracker and revolving art exhibitions, from contemporary to classic. The historical museum has more than art, however. Visitors will find beautiful decor, from Persian rugs to decorative woodworking and British and American china.
The Paine Art Center and Gardens is a step back in time, and the surrounding botanical gardens are exquisite. You can access one of the twenty gardens with thousands of plant species when you visit.
Want to stay in an upscale B&B nearby? The Braywood Inn is mere minutes away and offers free parking, free WiFi, and a continental breakfast. It is not only close to the Paine Art Center, but also close to many Oshkosh attractions.
3. EAA Aviation Museum
Address: 3000 Poberezny Rd, Oshkosh, WI 54902
When visiting Oshkosh, you must take a trip to the EAA Aviation Museum. This Winnebago County museum is like nothing you’ve ever seen – it’s easily one of the best aviation attractions in the world! Formerly the EAA AirVenture Museum, the EAA Aviation Museum is a destination for all ages.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to know anything about planes to appreciate this attraction. As you walk through the museum, you’ll see more than 200 airplanes and numerous hands-on exhibits and displays.
Children will especially love the KidVenture Gallery, where plenty of interactive exhibits exist. In addition, kids can climb into the cockpit of an F-22 replica.
The museum is a place to let your imagination take flight (see what we did there?!), but if you want to take flight literally, book a flight at Pioneer Airport. This grassy runway is perfect for taking off in an open-cockpit biplane!
A trip to the EAA Aviation Museum will likely last about four hours, especially if you plan on heading to the Pioneer Airport hangars.
If you happen to visit Oshkosh in the summer, you MUST attend EAA AirVenture, the world’s largest aviation event! You will have the time of your life with daily air shows, a fly-in theater, aircraft rides, workshops, and more.
Want to stay nearby at a highly-rated accommodation? The Cobblestone Suites is convenient, clean, quiet, and modern, with a hot tub, swimming pool, and fitness center.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
4. Oshkosh Public Museum
Address: 1331 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI 54901
Located near downtown Oshkosh, the Oshkosh Public Museum is housed in the historic Edgar and Mary Jewell Sawyer House. This regional history museum in Winnebago County is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whether or not you’re a Wisconsin history buff, you’ll enjoy a trip to this historical museum. You can begin with one of the permanent exhibits, such as Wisconsin’s earliest history with the People of the Waters exhibit, detailing the area’s prehistoric past spanning over 13,000 years.
There are also exhibitions featuring Wisconsin’s pioneer life, the Civil War, and other significant periods. Many galleries are in the Sawyer home, constructed in the early 20th century. This home displays exquisite artwork, carved woodwork, and fine ceramics.
However, before leaving the museum, you must look at the Apostles Clock. This rare timepiece offers an hourly performance of Christ and his twelve apostles with music from a Regina music box. While it may be considered a folk art clock, it’s a pretty cool sight to see.
After exploring Oshkosh’s history, stop at nearby Bare Bones Brewery for a cold refreshing beer. If you’re a hazy IPA lover, try their Bare Bones Shar-P’haze; or if you prefer a sour, order their New Glarus Raspberry Tart. Whatever you have, you’ll be relaxed, refreshed, and ready to tackle the next adventure!
5. Military Veterans Museum & Education Center
Address: 4300 Poberezny Rd, Oshkosh, WI 54902
Whether you’re a current service member, a veteran, or an everyday citizen, you’ll enjoy a trip to the Military Veterans Museum and Education Center. This free museum is dedicated to teaching visitors about American military history through its extensive military vehicles, uniforms, weapons, and motor pool.
Kids and adults will appreciate this museum, with the excellent Brutus gun truck replica on exhibit, used during the Vietnam War from 1969-1972. This replica has two forward .50 caliber machine guns and a minigun in the rear.
Visitors can also see the Medal of Honor exhibit, honoring the military service members who acted in valor. This display highlights the 63 Wisconsin MoH recipients and the two local soldiers born in Neenah, WI.
The Military Veterans Museum also features hand-to-hand weapons, mounted machine guns, small arms, and more. You can also see thousands of uniforms and accoutrements from various wars in American history.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Address: 1550 Taft Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54902
If you visit Oshkosh in the summer, you’ll want to cool off at this fantastic water park! The Pollock Community Water Park is one of the best family-friendly attractions in the area, with splash zones, family-friendly themed events, swimming pools, and water slides.
Kids will love the waterfalls and the tipping water buckets, while more adventurous kids will love the enormous inner tube and water slides! Or you can ease into the water with the zero-depth entry pool and inch your way into cooling off.
Or, you can dive right into the water from one of the diving boards! And if you’re looking to relax, you can float along the lazy river!
There’s something for everyone here, even if you want to sit in the shaded area with a book and an ice cream cone. Or you can put on some sunscreen and relax in one of the grassy areas while watching your kids enjoy the pools.
7. Menominee Park and Zoo
Address: 520 Pratt Trail, Oshkosh, WI 54901
If you’re looking for an afternoon of fun and adventure, you should put Menominee Park on your itinerary. This 100-acre park is fun for all ages, with a playground, trails, tennis courts, a train, and even a zoo!
In addition, visitors to the park can rent stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), kayaks, canoes, and aqua bikes. Located on the western side of Lake Winnebago, this park is one of Oshkosh’s largest parks.
While the park is open year-round, the Menominee Park Zoo is only open during the summer. This seasonal zoo comprises almost 10 acres of the park and houses nearly fifty animals.
Because the animals are leased, there are usually different animals every year. The plan is to have four permanent exhibits at the zoo all year, including an eagle, otter, wolf, and elk exhibit.
Whether you’re five years old or ninety-five, you’ll enjoy visiting Menominee Park with its variety of outdoor activities, lake views, and zoo animals.
And if you’ve worked up an appetite after playing all day, stop at nearby Chalice Restaurant for a Haddock au Gratin for dinner and a strawberry shortcake for dessert. You won’t regret it!
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8. Union Star Cheese Factory
Address: 7742 County Rd II, Fremont, WI 54940
Beware: a trip to this family-owned cheese factory may turn you into a Wisconsin Cheesehead! You may wonder what makes Wisconsin cheese so unique and “udderly” delicious, but visiting Union Star Cheese Factory will teach you the wonders of local cheesemaking.
This Oshkosh area cheese factory will have you wanting cheese curds long after you’ve left Wisconsin! Wisconsin cheesemakers rely on the state’s dairy production to make more than two billion pounds of cheese yearly.
And the state has the most stringent standards for overall quality in cheesemaking, ensuring that the taste and quality are nothing less than exceptional.
The Union Star Cheese factory opened in Fremont in 1906, and its commitment to quality has remained unchanged. Their location in Fremont is only a 30-minute drive from Oshkosh and is well worth the drive!
Free tours begin at 9:00 am, and you’ll experience the freshest cheese curds firsthand! Of course, you’ll also learn about cheesemaking as a craft and everything from soft and hard cheeses and strings to curds.
9. Oshkosh Saturday Farmer’s Market
Address:547 N Main St, Oshkosh, WI 54901
Known as one of the best family-friendly events in Oshkosh, the Oshkosh Saturday Farmer’s Market is held year-round for locals and tourists.
Visitors will find over 100 vendors in downtown Oshkosh during the outdoor summer market. While the indoor winter market only has about 30 vendors, there are numerous holiday events and bazaars during that time with live music and extra shopping.
So, whenever you visit Oshkosh, take a trip to one of the biggest farmers’ markets to find the best of Oshkosh, from local produce, handmade items, artisan bread, fresh gourmet coffee, kombucha, and more! Just know that May is the only month of the year that the market is closed.
Some fun summer events include Dr. Kickbutt’s Orchestra of Death during National Farmers Market Week and Jazzercise at the Market.
Fall has fun things such as Pumpkin Decorating and Trick or Treat at the Market. Finally, the holidays bring plenty of opportunities for procuring gifts, holiday items, and food for entertaining or enjoying yourself!
See Related: Best Things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin
10. Wiouwash State Trail
Address: Carl Steiger Park, Oshkosh, WI 54901
You’ll want to check out the easily-accessible Wiouwash State Trail to enjoy the outdoors year-round. This gravel trail got its name from the first two letters of the counties that it crosses: Winnebago (Wi), Outagamie (ou), Waupaca (wa), and Shawano (sh). And it is a nationally designated recreation trail at the Tribal Heritage Crossing of Lake Butte des Morts.
Built on a former railway, the Wiouwash Trail is pretty smooth and flat, so visitors can walk, hike, horseback ride, or bike. Whichever way you explore the trail, you’ll experience views of Lake Butte des Morts, the Fox River, and various landscapes.
The trail begins in downtown Oshkosh (near the university) and ends in Hortonville. This part of the trail is just over twenty miles long, crossing the Friendship State Trail.
While summertime visitors use the trail for hiking, biking, walking, and horseback riding, winter visitors go snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Before heading out to the trail, grab a Sunrise Wrap or Bikeshop Burrito at New Moon Cafe for a delicious start to your day. Or stop by after your adventure and order the BBQ Chicken Quesadilla or a Garbanzo Burrito, both of which will ease your hunger pains.
11. The Grand Opera House
Address: 100 High Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54901
If you want to enrich your visit to Oshkosh with fine art, consider adding the Grand Opera House to your itinerary! This historic opera house, often called The Grand for short, hosts over ten youth events and 25 public performances yearly, with additional seasonal events and concerts.
And, although its name implies that it’s only for opera, the performances span from bingo to trivia and music concerts to dog tricks.
There are performances for all ages, such as “Mutts Gone Nuts! Canine Cabaret” to “80s Night Out” and everything in between. The performance schedule is already available through the end of the 2022-2023 season, so you can see all the upcoming events.
Start your evening with a visit to the full-service bar at The Grand Lounge on the second floor. You can enjoy a selection of soft drinks, fine wine, craft beers, or cocktails before the show.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Racine, Wisconsin
12. Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates
Address: 1823 Doty St, Oshkosh, WI 54902
Once you try one of their delightful chocolates, you’ll know why people drive out of state to buy some of their treats! Located in the basement of a house, Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates is a family-owned business that has been open since 1942.
Don’t be fooled by the small operation; that’s what makes the quality of the chocolate so divine! Everything is made and sold from Oshkosh’s residential basement, and recipes have remained the same since it opened.
While it’s closed in the summer, you can stock up on goodies during the fall, spring, and winter. While chocolates are their specialty, they also have special items like caramel apples, toffee, and caramel pecan clusters.
This small family-owned business is worth a visit for any of its goodies, whether it’s for chocolate Easter bunnies in the spring or holiday chocolates in the winter.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Oshkosh, Wisconsin?
A trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is fun any time of the year, but if you visit during the summer, you’ll want to go to Pollock Community Water Park or the EAA Aviation Museum. Or, you can spend hours at the Menominee Park and Menominee Zoo during the fall, winter, or spring. And if you’ve got a chocolate lover, you shouldn’t miss the family-operated business, Hughes’ Home Maid Chocolates.
What are some fun things to do in Oshkosh, Wisconsin?
The best all-around attraction in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is easily the EAA Aviation Museum. You can visit the museum year-round, but they also have an annual air show every summer that is an absolute must! Also, the gorgeous gardens and beautiful art at the Paine Art Center are absolutely worth the trip.
What are some things to do in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when it’s raining?
The Oshkosh Public Museum is the perfect spot to visit on any day, but especially if the weather is wet and muggy. You can also watch one of the many live performances at The Grand Opera House, spend some time at the indoor Oshkosh Saturday Farmers’ Market in the winter, have a frosty beverage at Bare Bones Brewery, or head to the Military Veterans Museum and Education Center to learn about our military throughout American history.
What is Oshkosh, Wisconsin, known for?
While you might think of overalls when you think of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the city is actually known for its rich native American history, lumber trade, the “Great Fire” in 1875, dairy farms, cheese making, the Paine Art Center, and “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” at the EAA AirVenture Museum. If you want to take a trip through Oshkosh history, visit the Oshkosh Public Museum!