In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, while people are cooped up inside to remain healthy, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is offering online activities to inspire travel plans for the future and virtually explore the state’s natural wonders.

Through digital ads, sweepstakes and online activities, Travel Wisconsin aims to “keep people engaged and full of hope,” said Sara Meaney, Wisconsin Department of Tourism secretary-designee.

The Great Wisconsin Sweepstakes will be hosted over 10 weeks over TravelWisconsin.com, and visitors to the site can be entered to win. The 10 different Wisconsin-themed destinations include a variety of activities and meals, Meaney said.

“For example it would be overnight accommodations plus gift cards to specific restaurants and activities curated to a specific location,” Meaney said. It includes 10 different and unique prize packages.

While tourism officials are encouraging people not to travel now, they can take advantage of trips when it’s deemed safe, so the goal is to ensure people know about some of the best places to spend time.

“At the same time, it raises awareness for some of the businesses in the communities,” Meaney said. “We want to make sure people are supporting them.”

Along those lines, in late April, Travel Wisconsin will launch a Fish Fry Faceoff, a friendly competition in which the public is asked to submit a favorite fish fry location. The top 10 locations will advance to the voting round on TravelWisconsin.com to claim the bragging right of the best place for fish fry.

“Many of the fish fry places are still open for carryout or pick-up,” Meaney said, adding the faceoff is intended to continue driving activity for them.

Meanwhile, the nominations will drive awareness of the others.

“This is an example of the consideration of how do we support businesses now while also supporting travel later?” Meaney added.

Other online activities are meant to help people cope with the quarantine while inspiring them to learn about Wisconsin. Slow TV, now on the Travel Wisconsin Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube, features aerial footage of the state’s scenic areas.

“It is designed to help you relax, almost like guided meditation for four minutes,” Meaney said. While watching guided scenery, viewers will hear a guided voice telling them to imagine a time in the future when you and your loved ones can explore natural places. The first episode is titled “Endless Wisconsin Shores.”

Similar to that is “Campfire,” which will soon be on the Travel Wisconsin Facebook page and other social media. Visitors can virtually engage in a social gathering around a campfire complete with the sounds of birds, crickets and a crackling fire in a shared social online setting.

“Really, it’s finding ways to be creative about how we offer that authentic campfire experience even at a time when we can’t go do it in person,” Meaney said. “It makes me immediately think of summer camp or camping with family and friends.”

A Wisconsin Memory Match game offers memory match cards of different areas in Wisconsin, allowing players to learn more about iconic landmarks and gems.

“The intention is to give people a fun distraction and a way to engage further in places they’d like to visit,” Meaney said.

While we remain home during the pandemic, we can plan for future adventures with family and loved ones, and TravelWisconisn.com can help. It offers trip planning to review all of the places and activities people may be inspired by with the tools to plan ahead once the stay at home order is lifted, Meaney said.

The tourism department’s new commercial, Perfect Summer, features 13 seconds of inspiration for people to think about making memories with the people they love spending time outside in natural beauty, she added.

“There’s things we can do now and things we need to be ready to do later. That is a big piece of it – being ready to promote Wisconsin as a place to travel when the order is lifted,” Meaney said.

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