20 Best Things to Do in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Set on the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin, La Crosse is a beautiful waterside city with a variety of fun things to see and do for the whole family. La Crosse is home to the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, Western Technical College, and Viterbo University and is a local technology and medical hub. There are plenty of cultural and historical institutions to explore from the Riverside Museum, which documents the city’s history, to the Dahl Auto Museum, which boasts beautiful classic cars. The city can be enjoyed from the river on a riverboat cruise, which departs from Riverside Park, or on various walking and hiking trails through Grandad Bluff Park. Here are some of the top things to see and do in the city of La Crosse. Photo: photo.eccles/Fotolia
»Riverside International Friendship Gardens
The Riverside International Friendship Gardens are beautifully landscaped and maintained gardens and grounds in La Crosse in a spectacular setting where the Black, La Crosse, and Mississippi Rivers converge. Situated east of the Visitor’s Bureau at Riverside Park and the La Crosse Convention Center, the gardens span half an acre and feature unique country-themed gardens, including French, Chinese, Russian, Irish, German, and Norwegian gardens. Visitors can explore the gardens alone or enjoy guided tours led by docents and horticulturists, and the gardens are fully accessible for wheelchairs. The Riverside International Friendship Gardens is open every day of the week throughout the year.
Contact: 345-405 E Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-789-7533
The Riverside Museum is dedicated to interpreting and presenting the history of La Crosse County through an excellent variety of industrial and cultural exhibits and displays, artifacts and objects, and educational programs. Located in Riverside Park, the Riverside Museum focuses on the Mississippi River, the area's growth and development, and documents the riverboat era through a gallery of photographs, pictures, and prints. It also provides a video that introduces the displays found in the museum and gives a brief overview of the history of the area. One room in the museum is devoted to the War Eagle steamboat, a famous riverboat that caught fire and sank in the late 1800s, and is filled with fascinating artifacts, items, and objects brought up from the boat and relating to the disaster. The Riverside Museum is open daily from 09:30 am to 4:30 pm between Memorial Weekend and Labor Day.
Contact: 410 E Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-1980
Photo: Riverside Museum
Riverside Park is a public park set on the banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown La Crosse. Established in 1911 and initially called Levee Park, Riverside Park is renowned for hosting favorite events throughout the year, such as the Fourth of July fireworks display, Moon Tunes, Riverfest, Oktoberfest, and the Rotary Lights. The park is home to a docking station where the famous steamboats the La Crosse Queen, the Julia Belle Swain, and the American Queen make stops on their journeys up and down the river. Riverside Park also boasts a network of walking and jogging trails, open green spaces for picnicking and relaxing, and serene, shady spots along the banks of the river.
Contact: 100 Block, State Street, La Crosse, WI 54601
Photo: City of La Crosse, WI
»Dahl Auto Museum
The Dahl Auto Museum celebrates classic cars and automobiles and the rich history of car manufacturing in the United States. The family-owned and operated business also gives the nod to the century-long involvement of the Dahl family in the automobile industry, one that has spanned no less than five generations of Dahls. The museum features a comprehensive history of the automobile through the eyes of the world-renowned Ford Motor Company, a display of beautifully restored and maintained classic cars from the turn of the century to the present, and an extensive mascot collection. The Dahl Auto Museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Contact: 711 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-791-6494
Photo: Dahl Auto Museum
»Children's Museum of La Crosse
The Children’s Museum of La Crosse is an interactive and immersive museum for children of all ages and features an array of fun and educational exhibits, displays, and programs that encourage learning through play. The museum boasts three floors of interactive exhibits for children up to the age of 12 as well as their adult companions, along with a multipurpose theatre that hosts performances, dance and music events, readings, and more, and a climbing wall for the adventurous spirits. Exhibits are based on educational themes such as rivers and bridges, banks, fire trucks, stores, and libraries, and children are encouraged to spend time exploring, discovering, and learning through play. The Children’s Museum of La Crosse is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Contact: 207 5th Ave S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-2652
Photo: Children's Museum of La Crosse
»Grandad Bluff Park
Grandad Bluff Park is a state park with the famous Grandad Bluff cliff at its center. Situated on the east side of La Crosse, Grandad Bluff rests at 1,183 feet above sea level and reaches a height of 590 feet above the surrounding land with breathtaking views of the city. The bluff, which is seen as a symbol of the Coulee Region, can be accessed via Bliss Road, and a park shelter in a fenced-off area at the top of the cliff provides stunning panoramic views of the city, its landmarks, and the spectacular Mississippi River Valley. Grandad Bluff Park also features coin-operated binoculars, a shelter house, and picnic areas at the top of the bluff.
Contact: Grandad Bluff Park, La Crosse, Coulee Region, Wisconsin
Photo: City of La Crosse - Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department
»Great River State Trail
The Great River State Trail is a 24-mile rail trail that runs between Marshland and Onalaska that has been designed as a multiuse trail for recreational purposes. Named for its location of running alongside the Mississippi River, the Great River State Trail is open for walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, and horseback riding and is part of the Wisconsin bike trail system. The trail is constructed along the abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway line railroad bed and features 18 bridges that cross over streams feeding into the Mississippi River. The trail is one of four connecting bike trails in west-central Wisconsin known as the Bike 4 Trails, which run southeast to northwest and include the 400 State Trail (22 miles), the Elroy-Sparta State Trail (32 miles), and the La Crosse River Trail (22 miles). These four trails span approximately one-third of the state.
Contact: Between Marshland and Onalaska, Wisconsin
»Grounded Specialty Coffee
Located in the heart of Historic Downtown La Crosse, Grounded Specialty Coffee is a cozy coffee bar and café that serves six different types of freshly brewed and locally roasted coffee every day, including a rotating flavored coffee and a cold brew coffee. The friendly neighborhood café also serves an array of local and imported loose leaf tea varieties, several varieties of craft beer and wine, and a small menu of light fare such as made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, paninis, and fresh salads. The café boasts a warm and welcoming atmosphere and stylish décor and comfy seating and is open for early breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days of the week.
Contact: 3215, 308 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-5282
»La Crosse County Historical Society
The La Crosse County Historical Society is a community-based institution that explores, discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County. The society shares their passion and knowledge about the history of the city through an array of educational and informative exhibits and displays featuring regional art and artifacts, along with fun-based educational events, workshops, and public programs. The La Crosse County Historical Society owns and operates the Historic Hixon House Museum and curates rotating exhibits at the Riverside Museum as well as serves as collections storage for both the museums.
Contact: 145 West Ave S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-1980
Photo: La Crosse County Historical Society
»La Crosse Loggers Minor League Baseball
The La Crosse Loggers are a minor league baseball team in La Crosse that plays in the collegiate summer Northwoods League. Based at Copeland Park, the La Crosse Loggers are one of 20 teams in the Northwoods League and play 72 games per season, from late May through mid-August. The La Crosse Loggers joined the league in 2003, which is designed to provide minor league competition for NCAA players who want to continue into professional baseball. As a minor league baseball team, the La Crosse Loggers play nightly to fans in Copeland Park and play with wooden bats and minor league specification equipment.
Contact: 1130 Copeland Park Dr, La Crosse, WI 54603
»La Crosse River State Trail
The La Crosse River State Trail is a 22-mile rail trail that runs between Sparta and Onalaska that has been designed as a multiuse trail for recreational purposes. The La Crosse River State Trail is open for walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, and horseback riding and is part of the Wisconsin bike trail system. The path is one of four connecting bike trails in west-central Wisconsin known as the Bike 4 Trails, which that run southeast to northwest and include the 400 State Trail (22 miles), the Elroy-Sparta State Trail (32 miles), and the Great River State Trail (22 miles). These four trails span approximately one-third of the state.
Contact: Between Sparta and Onalaska, Wisconsin
»La Crosse Segway Tours
Explore La Crosse on an exciting Segway tour through the city without breaking a sweat! Experienced guides lead tours through the city, visiting its more famous and well-known landmarks, as well as some of the lesser-known spots, taking in the sights along the beautiful Mississippi River and sharing their passion and knowledge with guests along the way. Glide effortlessly on a Segway while exploring places often inaccessible by car and covering far more ground than one would on foot. All safety equipment is provided, such as helmets, as well as safety instruction on how to ride a Segway.
Contact: 319 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-790-5419
Photo: Ruslan Gilmanshin/Fotolia
Lake Onalaska is a 4-mile-wide reservoir set on the Black and Mississippi Rivers between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Located in La Crosse County, the lake spans 7,688 acres, is 43 feet deep at its deepest, and is a popular destination for outdoor activities and recreation such as swimming, boating, fishing, windsurfing, and waterskiing in the summer. The lake’s shorelines are home to a myriad of waterfowl and migrating bird species, which makes for a birdwatching haven, and is well stocked with an abundance of fishing, such as bluegill, crappie, northern pike, small and largemouth bass, and walleye. During the fall, the bluffs surrounding Lake Onalaska and the Mississippi River explode into rich tones of reds and golds, drawing tourists from across the country, while the winter months offer excellent ice fishing and ice sailing.
Contact: La Crosse County, Wisconsin
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»Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
Savor a slice of history at the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor – a nostalgic 1930s-style café selling ice cream and sodas, thick, creamy malts and milkshakes, and handmade candies and sweets. An authentic soda fountain serves a variety of flavored fountain sodas, while thick creamy malts are topped with whipped cream, cherries, and other delectable toppings. The shop sells delicious handcrafted chocolates by the piece or the pound as well as old-fashioned candies and sugar cane and over 20 different flavors of homemade ice-cream. The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor is open from 09:00 am to 09:00 pm, seven days a week.
Contact: 207 Pearl St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-6655
Photo: Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
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Rudy’s Drive-In is a classic 1930s-era burger joint with roller-skating carhops and traditional all-American fare. Established in 1933 by Grandpa (Wm.) Rudy, the diner is still as popular today as it was then and still serves the same authentic diner-style fare such as hearty burgers and fries, hot dogs, root beer, and homemade ice cream. The drive-in offers self-service and roller-skating carhops in true drive-in style and hosts special events such as Bike Nights and Cruise Nights throughout the year. Rudy’s Drive-In is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week.
Contact: 1004 La Crosse St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-2200
Photo: Rudy's Drive-In
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»St. Rose of Viterbo Convent
The St. Rose of Viterbo Convent is the motherhouse of the American religious congregation known as the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Located on Market Street, the St. Rose of Viterbo Convent is named for and dedicated to Rose of Viterbo, who was a 13th century Franciscan tertiary, notable Italian street preacher, and mystic. The convent features three chapels, including the Adoration Chapel, which is the site of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Mary of the Angels Chapel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Contact: 912 Market St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-5610
Photo: St. Rose of Viterbo Convent
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»The La Crosse Queen
The La Crosse Queen is one of several modern-day replicas of the late 19th century grand riverboats that once sailed the Mississippi River and offers both public and private cruises from its port in Riverside Park. The magnificent vessel is divided into two levels, namely the upper deck and the lower deck. The lower floor features a dining room and galley, a full-service bar, and modern restrooms, while the upper level is open-sided with a canopy cover that allows guests to enjoy spectacular views while cruising. A large window at the stern of the boat offers excellent views of the working paddlewheels in action. When docked, the La Crosse Queen serves as an office and a gift shop.
Contact: 405 E Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-8523
Photo: The La Crosse Queen
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»Turtle Stack Brewery
The Turtle Stack Brewery is a small independent craft brewery and tasting room that produces high-quality handcrafted beers on tap and by the bottle. Located in Historic Downtown La Crosse, the Turtle Stack Brewery provides local beer for restaurants in La Crosse and the upper Mississippi River Valley. Some of the brewery’s top brews include Smash Golden Ale, Patersbier (Belgian Single), Belgian Blonde, Irish Red, Brown Ale, Foreign Extra Stout, Session IPA, and Imperial ESB. The Turtle Stack Brewery is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Fridays from 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm, and Saturdays from Noon to 11:00 pm.
Contact: 25 2nd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-519-2284
Photo: Turtle Stack Brewery
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»World's Largest Six-Pack
The World’s Largest Six-Pack is a significant landmark featuring six colossal beer tanks that have been painted to resemble a six-pack of beer. Built in the 1960s as the G. Heileman Brewing Company Old Style brewery, and later the La Crosse Brewery, which both went out of business, the building was converted into the giant six-pack, which fast became a hometown icon and popular tourist attraction. The structures can be explored on guided tours through the City Brewery, where guests can learn more about the history of the buildings and enjoy the smell of the beer being brewed.
Contact: 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-785-4200
Photo: World's Largest Six-Pack
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»Digger's Sting Restaurant
Digger’s Sting Restaurant is an old-fashioned steakhouse in the heart of La Crosse that serves prime cut steaks, fresh seafood, and an array of sides along with handcrafted cocktails and other libations in a friendly and relaxed setting. Located on 3rd Street N, Digger's Sting offers a laidback dining experience with excellent food and drinks, outstanding service, and a comfortable, cozy ambiance. The menu features a variety of made-from-scratch fare such as prime grade steaks cooked to perfection, freshly caught seafood, and homemade pasta dishes, all of which are served with fresh salads and sides. Decadent desserts are also on the menu for those with a sweet tooth, and the full-service bar provides an extensive selection of fine wines from around the world as well as imported spirits, artisan and craft beers, and more. Digger’s Sting Restaurant is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, and dinner only on Saturdays.
Contact: 122 3rd St N, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-3796
Photo: Digger's Sting Restaurant
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20 Best Things to Do in La Crosse, Wisconsin
- Riverside International Friendship Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of ismotionprem - Fotolia.com
- Riverside Museum, Photo: Riverside Museum
- Riverside Park, Photo: City of La Crosse, WI
- Dahl Auto Museum, Photo: Dahl Auto Museum
- Children's Museum of La Crosse, Photo: Children's Museum of La Crosse
- Grandad Bluff Park, Photo: City of La Crosse - Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department
- Great River State Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Yi - Fotolia.com
- Grounded Specialty Coffee, Photo: Courtesy of igorsinkov - Fotolia.com
- La Crosse County Historical Society, Photo: La Crosse County Historical Society
- La Crosse Loggers Minor League Baseball, Photo: Courtesy of mikesjc - Fotolia.com
- La Crosse River State Trail, Photo: Courtesy of carballo - Fotolia.com
- La Crosse Segway Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Ruslan Gilmanshin - Fotolia.com
- Lake Onalaska, Photo: Courtesy of Ljiljana - Fotolia.com
- Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, Photo: Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
- Rudy's Drive-In, Photo: Rudy's Drive-In
- St. Rose of Viterbo Convent, Photo: St. Rose of Viterbo Convent
- The La Crosse Queen, Photo: The La Crosse Queen
- Turtle Stack Brewery, Photo: Turtle Stack Brewery
- World's Largest Six-Pack, Photo: World's Largest Six-Pack
- Digger's Sting Restaurant, Photo: Digger's Sting Restaurant
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of photo.eccles - Fotolia.com
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