I’ve had my eye on the Cranberry Festival in Warrens, Wisconsin for a few years now and this year I finally decided to make it happen. I dreamed about bright red cranberries floating and bobbing on gleaming bogs, pulling on waders and having some fun in the field and taking some KILLER pictures with my GoPro half submerged in the cranberry bogs. But it 1000% did not go like that as you can see in the photo below. If you know everything there is about cranberry bogs and cranberry festivals than this post is likely not for you! But if you’re like me longing to see an amazing colorful experience of floating cranberries, forge ahead.
I invited my in laws to come up with me on the drive from the Chicago area to Wisconsin so I had some company and we set off for a quick 24(ish) hour trip. The great thing was that it only took us 3.5 hours from the western suburbs to make it to the festival so it was a short drive up. Unfortunately our first year was record setting for heat with it being in the mid 90’s – it was pretty insane.
Cranberry Festival Size:
First you need to know that Warrens, Wisconsin is a town of roughly 350ish people. No – I didn’t forget to add an extra number in there – 350! The Cranberry Festival runs for 3 days, Friday-Sunday, and brings in roughly 170,000 people! As you can see the numbers just aren’t adding up are they?! The Cranberry Festival is an amazing feat that the entire town must pitch in on because it’s huge. I read there are about 3 miles and 1700 vendors! If you love shopping this is THE PLACE for you!
Cranberry Festival Lodging:
With a town that small, however, lodging (unless you’re camping there) is best done nearby in Tomah which is about 15 minutes away. If you want to attend I recommend getting your reservations the year before – everything sells out quickly as you can imagine! Every hotel we checked the day we attended was completely booked out. Please don’t just drive there expecting to find something last minute – you may be sleeping in your car! (see the note below at the bottom of this post to find out where NOT to stay!)
Cranberry Festival Events:
The Festival does have a parade on Sunday which I was not there for as well as other contests. If you go you should sign up for the Marsh Tour! This is really want we had originally planned on going for and it was a nice little trip to a local Cranberry bog where you could see the fields up close along with a slew of antique and current cranberry farming equipment. You’ll learn all sorts of history and since you won’t be able to see the cranberries very well out in the field (do you see any cranberries in the photo above?) they have a crate set out of plants for you to see up close.
Included in your Marsh Tour ticket is admission to the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center which is worth a stop in since it’s right in the middle of town and easy access during the festival. You’ll gain a better feel for the history of cranberry farming and how vast the industry stretches today. The fields look green until it is flooded with water which ONLY happens at harvest time!
They also have a great gift shop complete with cranberry ice cream, cranberry wine, cranberry tea, cranberry candles, cranberry chocolates and a ton of other cranberry related items for sale!
Although the Cranberry Festival was not at all what I was expecting we still had a nice getaway to browse around and shop. And of course there was plenty of food to try! Have you ever had deep fried cranberries on a stick?! Order these and make your own! We sure did learn a lot about the cranberry industry! Next year we are planning to go back to Warrens, Wisconsin a couple of weeks after the Cranberry Festival. There is a public harvest day where you CAN wade down into the cranberry bogs – and that is what I want to do! SO stay tuned until next year when I can hopefully get my killer cranberry shot in the bogs!
BAD Experience ALERT:
***I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT recommend the Econo Lodge in Tomah. We had major problems with the staff there stealing, lying to our faces, and changing the reservation WITHOUT our permission then refusing to give us the reservation we paid for. In fact they told the 3 of us to just sleep on the floor and gave us a room with 1 bed instead of the 2 I reserved. (long story) So if you choose to stay there you are at your own risk – I wish I had read the Facebook reviews before I went which would have alerted me that this type of experience is to be expected here.***