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Its name is nearly synonymous with cheese, and seeing as the 30th state in the Union produces about 25% of the nation's supply, there's good reason. And it's no fluke: Wisconsin's gentle lands have long provided fertile farming ground for European immigrants wanting to take their skills from the Old World and use them in the new one. French explorers were the first Europeans to fall in love with the land and settle in. Until about the mid-18th century, the territory was controlled by France, hence the glut of French city names (La Crosse, Fond du Lac, Eau Claire, Benoit, et al.). But once the territory became a state in 1848, it was a different group of Europeans who moved in droves to set up farms and make a go of the American Dream. Today, Wisconsin has more people of German and Scandinavian heritage than any other state in the country, communities that greatly shaped its farming and dairy industries -- and, of course, the brewing of beer as well, made even more famous with shows like Milwaukee-based sitcom Laverne & Shirley (could anyone forget the famous Milwaukee brewery glove-on-a-beer-bottle scene?).

Geographically, though, the terrain is varied enough to make it an excellent spot for outdoor adventures. With the Great Lakes Superior and Michigan to the north and east, the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers in the west, tons of forest land, and hundreds of glacial lakes throughout, there's a lot of hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and skiing to be had throughout Wisconsin's windswept lands. Cities like Madison and Milwaukee, with more than a half-million population, offer lots of urban-based cultural fixes if you're looking for great theater, art, and shopping. Outdoors or in or both, Wisconsin has much to offer vacationers of all tastes and types.