June 16, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

Wisconsin’s culinary scene attracting tourists

3 min read

DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) – The busy summer travel season is upon us, but there’s one thing that’s drawing visitors to Wisconsin now more than ever: food.

“We are an all-seasons destination, but summer historically is when we do see the highest number of trips,” Travel Wisconsin’s Senior Communications Specialist Logan Wroge said.

Wroge says the state’s tourism industry is strong right now. Wisconsin saw a record-breaking $23.7 billion in economic impact in 2022.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming more visitors to experience those sweet summer moments this year,” Wroge said.

Wroge says, more recently, tourists across the nation are looking for some sort of experiential component to their travels.

“We know people want to travel by fork and Travel Wisconsin, we’re here to help them do that,” Wroge said.

It goes well beyond what Wisconsin is typically known for.

“There’s definitely a perception of Wisconsin and it’s a pretty basic one, the beer and cheese,” Rob Gard, Director of Communications for Destination Madison, said.

Gard says Madison’s culinary scene is what’s bringing travelers to the Capitol City.

“We find that food is really the number one driver for tourism economics when people come to visit a place,” he said.

The popularity in ‘traveling by fork’ comes from the recent filming of Bravo’s Top Chef: Wisconsin which featured episodes filmed at Madison restaurants and the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

“We know there is a strong sense in interest in something that is called ‘setjetting’ – people visiting places they’ve seen on TV or in film,” Gard said. “We think the culinary opportunities in Madison for 2024 and beyond are strong and really limitless.”

The Top Chef: Wisconsin episodes feature the Dane County Farmers’ Market vendors, Wisconsin’s supper club scene and the unique farm-to-table offerings in Madison.

“I think it really unveiled the variety that we have here in Madison,” Gard said. “People want to experience that.”

Just thirty minutes outside of Madison, the farm-to-table experience comes to life.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Sprouting Acres Farm owner, manager and farmer Andy Watson said.

The Cambridge farm offers Pizza Nights on the Farm twice a month. But because of recent popularity, Watson says they are adding more pizza nights to the lineup.

Watson says Sprouting Acres had a CSA farm for the past nineteen years. CSA meaning Community-Supported Agriculture, or a farm that allows both the producer and consumer to share the benefits of farming.

After ending the CSA two years ago, Watson says they are now focusing on pizza nights, which he says draw in 400-600 visitors in a six-hour time period on a Sunday evening.

“Trying to keep it as local as we possibly can and I think it is a draw for people to come out and know that their food is coming from just a few miles away,” he said.

What many visitors who have been enjoying the pizza nights for the past six years don’t know, is that a lot of the products used are from Sprouting Acres.

“All of the tomato sauce is our tomatoes that we freeze over winter and make all summer and so I think that’s part of it too,” Watson said.

Both locals and tourists make stops at Sprouting Acres from May through October for the Sunday night pizza parties, which include free live music and 20-acres of farm land to explore.

Watson says the farm will add four extra days of pizza nights this summer, and they hope to add even more next year.

“It’s changing perceptions and letting folks know how many unexpected activities and flavors are in Wisconsin,” Wroge said.

As both tourists and locals continue to fuel themselves and the Madison-area economy by enjoying food, the term ‘travel by fork’ is adding stops to their itineraries.

“We think visitors will walk away from Madison satisfied with the experience and really satisfied with the taste,” Gard said.

Destination Madison has compiled a list for foodies to discover all of the Madison locations seen on Top Chef: Wisconsin. You can find that here.

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