Unique Things To Do That Make This Destination The Best Winter Town In Wisconsin

If you are bored at home, avoiding the cold, and unsure of what to do this winter, we recommend you plan a trip to Hayward, Wisconsin. It's pretty unlikely that you've heard of this small, midwestern town. Located in the northwestern region of Wisconsin, Hayward is home to just over 2,500 residents. Though this community is small, they definitely know how to have fun.

In 2010, community volunteers banded together to make the winter season a spectacular one in Hayward. Every year since, the town has come together to do just that. With the dedication of volunteers, efforts by Hayward's Downtown Business Improvement District, and community donations, Hayward transforms into a winter wonderland every December. Through February, you'll find that the city's calendar is stacked with events taking advantage of the snowy landscape and holiday spirit. Whether you're with the family or on your own, a trip to Hayward in the winter will provide you with a handful of exciting and wholesome things to do.

Things to do in December

Starting just after Thanksgiving, the entire city is aglow with thousands of lights that get strung across businesses and homes alike. With this Google map created by The Northern Nerd, you'll find all of the businesses and homes in Hayward that residents have decorated to the nines for the holidays. Not only does this make the overall atmosphere look worthy of a Hallmark Christmas movie, but you can also make a whole evening of entertainment by touring these different locations.

You'll also get a great look at downtown if you hop on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. A few times throughout December, you can bundle up on an old-timey carriage and go dashing through the snow for free. For another incredible display of holiday lights, make sure to attend the annual Light your Engines Parade. Early in December, North Country Riders ATV Club hosts a parade on Main Street with floats covered in festive LED bulbs.

Sweet treats in Hayward, Wisconsin

When it's cold and dreary out, pastries and sweets provide the comfort we crave. Fortunately, Hayward offers plenty for you to indulge in. One of Hayward's most beloved traditions is the annual hot chocolate crawl. Local cafés and businesses open their doors and offer free, homemade cups of hot chocolate. The businesses compete with one another, showcasing their creative twists and toppings on this classic beverage. As an attendee, you'll stroll down the beautifully lit streets and sip on delicious hot chocolate amidst the cold December air. Everyone gathers for this event, casting their vote for the best hot chocolate of the season.

If you're looking for more sweet treats, be sure to visit Angler's Bar & Grill Beer Garden for s'mores. Gather around a fire pit and enjoy roasting marshmallows with the locals. Or get crafty and put together a gingerbread house for Hayward Mercantile's annual gingerbread house competition. Assemble and design your best gingerbread house to have it put on display in downtown Hayward.

Getting in the holiday spirit

For anyone in need of Christmas spirit, Hayward has an abundance of it and plenty of events to share it, transforming into one of the world's most magical Christmas towns from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. If you're with kids, Hayward offers multiple chances for them to meet Santa Claus. Kiddos can get a cute picture taken with St. Nick and tell him their wishlist to get them even more excited about the upcoming holiday.

If a visit with Santa Claus doesn't get you in the Yuletide mood, then watching a classic Christmas movie definitely will. Hayward hosts a community viewing of a holiday, family-friendly film for everyone to enjoy. Another wonderfu Christmas tradition in Hayward is the Carols for Christmas event. Groups of two or more perform their favorite Christmas songs for the community and compete to win $500. Get a good spot and listen to the cheery, nostalgic holiday tunes. Or, if you and your company want to give it a go, sign up and show Hayward what you've got!

Outdoor winter activities in Hayward

During the winter season, Downtown Hayward is lively with various activities. Despite the bustling atmosphere, the area maintains its rural charm. With its sprawling countryside, Hayward is teeming with chances for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy winter sports and recreation. For those who are fans of cross-country skiing, Hayward has a wealth of trails. With over 124 miles of groomed cross-country skiing paths and plenty of snow, you'll be free to explore the midwestern backwoods.

Another great way to explore Hayward's snow-covered forests is to hop on a fat-tire bike and take advantage of the 300+ miles of paths. If you don't have your own bike or skis, we recommend you rent some gear from the area's top-rated rental shop — New Moon Ski & Bike Shop for the best experience and service.

Anyone who likes to fish will be in paradise while visiting Hayward. Just because the water freezes over, doesn't mean you have to take a break from casting your line. Lakes like Chippewa Flowage and Ghost Lake are popular places for fishermen to post up and go ice fishing during the winter. If you need some instructions on ice fishing and want to make sure you hit the best spots in the area, you can book a tour with Wisconsin Northland Outdoors Guide for expert guidance around the Hayward lakes.

Hayward's winter races

Participating in recreational activities by yourself is a great way to get some enriching alone time. However, there's something extraordinary about challenging yourself and working hard side by side with a huge group of people doing the same. Hayward clearly knows how to organize and execute events. So it's no surprise that they do a fantastic job planning several coordinated winter sports events throughout the season. One of the less competitive, family-friendly races is Hayward's Ugly Sweater 5K walk and run hosted in December.

Hayward's most well-known winter race is the Slumberland American Birkebeiner. Skiers from around the country fly in every year in late February to complete the race. For almost 50 years, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has been hosting this intense cross-country skiing competition in Hayward. For a total of 33 miles, participants ski across frozen lakes, forests, and bridges to cross the finish line on Main Street. Whether you're participating or watching on the sidelines with some hot cocoa, it's a thrilling event to attend.