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by Debbie Fogle

It seems that every region of the U.S. has a place that people like to escape to, and for the Midwest that place would be the great state of Wisconsin.  Well known for its’ water and woods, Wisconsin has a pleasant climate that attracts a lot of visitors trying to escape the oppressive Midwest summer heat.  Water is abundant both inland and along the 1,100 miles of coastline where land and Lakes Michigan and Superior meet.  From quaint fishing villages to sophisticated cities, Wisconsin is a true summer playground.

To get an overview of what the state has to offer check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s web site  It is an excellent jumping off point for exploring all of the different regions and has a page with links to all of the local tourism contacts.  This is a very helpful resource.  You can also use the advance search feature which allows you to choose if the facilities are suitable for a variety of disabilities including; visual, hearing and mobility.  You will find listings for accommodations, local tourism contacts, transportation, airports and more!

While there is not a bad place to visit in Wisconsin we did find a few that seemed to stand out.  Wisconsin Dells  welcome’s more than 2.5 million visitors each year making it the Midwest’s number one family vacation destination.  It is located along a seven mile stretch of the Wisconsin River offering the unparalleled natural beauty of sandstone cliffs, in some places rising up over 100 feet out of the water.  Some people do not know that Wisconsin Dell’s is not a theme park but rather the name of a city that is home to at least 21 indoor and outdoor water parks.  I’m sure that is why it holds the distinction of being the Water Park Capital of the World! 

amusment parkOne of the most popular attractions is the African-themed Kalahari Resort and Conference Center which claims to be the largest indoor water park in the world!  The hotel has 596 guest rooms, 17 of which have roll in showers.  Most have two queen beds but there is a Jacuzzi suite that has a king size bed.  All rooms are non-smoking with wide doors, refrigerators and ample room to move about.  The bathroom is equipped with grab bars, raised toilet and hand held shower but you must request in advance a shower chair.  The water park is largely accessible including hot tubs, wave pool and lazy river ride - they also have a wheelchair available that can go into the water.  There is also a restaurant, nightlife, movie-theater and many attractions minutes away, making the Kalahari Resort is a great option when visiting the Dells.

The coastal region of Wisconsin has no shortage of fun, sun and water.  Milwaukee is the largest city in the state, sitting right Riverwalk cafealong the shoreline of Lake Michigan.  Recent developments along the lakefront and in the downtown area have revitalized the area making it a desirable vacation destination.  One such lakefront example is the Milwaukee Art Museum  which has recently undergone a $121 million dollar expansion that was so monumental it has given the city’s skyline a new signature piece.  The museum is also the fourth largest repository in the U.S. for Georgia O’Keefe’s work and host’s the only gallery east of New Mexico.  The museum is fully accessible including restrooms and there is a loaner wheelchair available.  Accessible parking is available in the underground parking garage.

Within rolling distance of the Art Museum is the ultra romantic Hotel Metro  This European-styled boutique hotel features an acclaimed restaurant, rooftop garden and spa and is famous for its’ luxurious suites.  One suite is accessible, it has a separate bedroom with king size bed, living room with fireplace and bathroom with roll in shower, grab bars and shower seat.  This is a non-smoking room with terrific views located on the top (6th) floor right next to the elevator. All public areas of the hotel are accessible and the staff is willing to assist however necessary.

Further up the shoreline you will find one of the most famous places in Wisconsin, Door County.  This 75-mile peninsula was named one of the “Top 10 Vacation Destinations in North America” by Money Magazine, and has five state parks, 10 lighthouses and miles of rugged shoreline to explore.  The Door County Chamber of Commerce has a great web site  to help orient you to the region.  You will learn about all the things that make the area unique such as experiencing the fiery spectacle and delicate taste of one of the area’s fish boils, followed by a piece of Door County’s signature cherry pie.  The site is packed with useful information including a list of accessible accommodations  throughout the entire county.

accessible log cabinOutdoor recreation is big in Wisconsin and the Department of Natural Resources  is committed to providing greater access and more programs for persons with disabilities. Their goal is to make it easier for individuals with disabilities to hunt, fish and pursue other outdoor activities.  They are currently one of only five states to participate in the nationwide program called “Open The Outdoors”, established to provide a user-friendly means of accessing recreation activities.  Wisconsin state parks, forests, and trails have more than 650 miles of trails that are accessible to wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments. These trails provide access to interesting natural features, picnic areas, and other accessible facilities. Their web site  has an extensive list of accessible trails, along with their length, challenge level, and surface as well as detailed information about accessible hunting and fishing. 

If staying in a rustic cabin sounds like a slice of heaven then you’ll be happy to learn that there are 7 fully accessible cabins located throughout the park system.  You will find them at; Copper Falls and Blue Mound state parks and at Mirror Lake, Buckhorn, High Cliff , and Potowatami state parks as well as Kettle Moraine State Forest (Southern Unit).  There are two different types of cabins; one fully equipped and the other minimally equipped.  Each of the fully equipped cabins include; a full kitchen, 2 hospital beds with lifts, roll in shower, heat, air conditioning, screened in porch and more while the minimally equipped cabins have an outdoor picnic table, fire ring, small porch and accessible toilet/shower nearby – the DNR web site  has all the details.  Whether you like to rough it or go with a few more conveniences, camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.

The Wisconsin Innkeepers web site  is also available to help you find lodging throughout the state.  They offer information on hotels, motels, B&B’s, resorts, condo’s and vacation homes - and you can search by accessibility. 

Wisconsin’s northern location and abundance of water make it a great place to play in the summer.  They truly do have something for everyone; outdoor recreation, sophisticated cities, charming villages and relaxing resorts.  Before you take your next vacation be sure to check out the listings in the Access-Able Database for Wisconsin and across the globe.


About the author: Debbie Fogle is a staff writer for Access-Able and enjoys researching and writing about travel and the outdoors. Debbie works out of her home in Arizona where she lives with her husband, four-year old son and several four-legged friends. 

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