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. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Riverside International Friendship Gardens
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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.
345-405 E Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-789-7533
2.Mount La Crosse
Winter sport enthusiasts will find a varied winter wonderland at the Mount La Crosse Ski Area. The ski area has been a favorite winter haunt since 1959, offering beginners the gentle MIleway Trail, the longest nursery slope in Wisconsin. At the opposite end of the scale, daredevils will enjoy taking on the challenge of the Damnation Trail, the steepest ski trail in the state. Between the 2 extremes skiers and snowboarders can enjoy a total of 18 trials, serviced by a rope tow and 3 double chair lifts. Lessons are available on site and there is also a Terrain Park to explore. Everything you need to enjoy the snow is available at the on-site Pro Shop.
Mount La Crosse Ski Area, Old Town Hall Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601, 608 788 0044
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3.Riverside Park, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© City of La Crosse, WI
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.
100 Block, State Street, La Crosse, WI 54601
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4.Dahl Auto Museum, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© 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.
711 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-791-6494
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5.Children's Museum of La Crosse, La Crosse, WI
© 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.
207 5th Ave S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-2652
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6.Grandad Bluff Park, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© City of La Crosse - Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department
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.
Grandad Bluff Park, La Crosse, Coulee Region, Wisconsin
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7.Great River State Trail, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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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.
Between Marshland and Onalaska, Wisconsin
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8.Grounded Specialty Coffee, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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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.
3215, 308 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-5282
9.Goose Island County Park
Located on an island in the Mississippi backwaters, about 3 miles from La Crosse, the Goose Island County Park is a great outdoor space with good recreational activities. The park encompasses a large campground where you can pitch your tent and get back to nature for a day or two. A great way to see some resident wildlife is to hop in a canoe or kayak and paddle around the perimeter of the island – you could be lucky enough to see deer, mink and muskrat. Other activities include fishing and hiking in summer and snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Goose Island County Park, W6488 County Rd GI, Stoddard, WI 54658, 608 788 7018
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10.La Crosse Loggers Minor League Baseball
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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.
1130 Copeland Park Dr, La Crosse, WI 54603
11.La Crosse River State Trail, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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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.
Between Sparta and Onalaska, Wisconsin
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12.La Crosse Segway Tours, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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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.
319 Main St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-790-5419
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13.Lake Onalaska, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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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.
La Crosse County, Wisconsin
14.Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
© 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.
207 Pearl St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-6655
15.Rudy's Drive-In, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© Rudy's Drive-In
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.
1004 La Crosse St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-2200
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16.St. Rose of Viterbo Convent
© 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.
912 Market St, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-5610
17.The La Crosse Queen, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© 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.
405 E Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-784-8523
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18.Turtle Stack Brewery, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© 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.
125 2nd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-519-2284
19.World's Largest Six-Pack, La Crosse, WI
© 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.
3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-785-4200
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20.Digger's Sting Restaurant, La Crosse, Wisconsin
© 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.
122 3rd St N, La Crosse, WI 54601, Phone: 608-782-3796
21.Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
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The Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a deeply spiritual place which attracts visitors from all over America and beyond. The Shine was built between 2005 and 2008 to celebrate the miraculous appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1531, in what is today Mexico City. The shrine covers about 100 acres of beautifully laid-out gardens, devotional places, a pilgrimage trail with Stations of the Cross, a rosary walk and the lovely Shrine Church. The site welcomes thousands of devoted pilgrims each year and everyone who would like to spend a few hours in this serene place is very welcome to visit – you can plan your visit or pilgrimage on their website.
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 5250 Justin Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601, 877 799 4059
22.Pump House Regional Arts Center
© Pump House Regional Arts Center
Pump House Regional Arts Center should be a must-visit attraction during your stay in La Crosse. The Pump House was founded in 1977 in a bid to improve the cultural quality of life in La Crosse through maintaining the historic Pump House as a center of visual and performing arts. To this end, the non-profit center hosts a full calendar of art exhibitions which showcase the visual arts of a wide range of local and national artists. The performing arts arm hosts various theatrical performances as well as story-telling festivals, a film club and much more. All the proceeds from ticket sales are utilized to offer free exhibitions for everyone to attend and enjoy.
Pump House Regional Arts Center, 119 King Street, La Crosse, WI 54601,
608 785 1434
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23.Myrick Park Center
© Myrick Park Center
Nestled in the heart of a beautiful outdoor oasis, yet located just 5 minutes from downtown La Crosse, the Myrick Park Center is a popular wedding and event venue. The center is adjacent to the La Crosse River Marsh, and boasts extensive views of woodlands, wetlands, native prairies and the La Crosse bluffs. The Nature Center offers a variety of fun and interesting programs for children (from as young as 2 years of age) and adults, aimed at fostering a love of the natural environment and all its inhabitants. Visitors can also enjoy a few pleasant hours of hiking along the Myrick Park Trail System which connects to the Hixon Forest Trails.
Myrick Park Center, 789 Myrick Park Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601, 608 782 2494
24.La Crosse Amtrak Station
It’s not often that the local Amtrak train station features as a tourist attraction, but the La Cross Amtrak station is a little different. The station was built in 1927 by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad and still serves the public today. The station forms part of Amtrak’s Great American Stations project, which aims to preserve and restore historic train stations across the US. The historic building has a beautiful interior with original marble surfaces, passenger benches and a wooden ticket counter. More modern additions include vending machines and accessible restrooms. Today the station is still serviced by Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder service which runs across the American West from Chicago to Seattle.
La Cross Amtrak Station, 601 St. Andrew St, La Crosse, WI 54601, 800 872 7245
© Hixon House
On a mission to protect and showcase the history of La Crosse County, the La Crosse Country Historical Society would be happy to arrange for you to tour the historic Hixon House. The house was built in 1858 by Gideon Hixon, one of the county’s pioneer settlers. The elegant Italianate home has been beautifully preserved and restored and is filled with many original period pieces which belonged to the family. A tour of this grand old dame offers an accurate insight into the life and times of the Hixon family and their peers. Tours of the house are docent led and need to be booked in advance.
Hixon House, 429 7th Street North, La Crosse, WI 54601, 608 782 1980
25 Best Things to Do in La Crosse, Wisconsin
- Riverside International Friendship Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of ismotionprem - Fotolia.com
- Mount La Crosse, Photo: Milan/stock.adobe.com
- Riverside Park, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: City of La Crosse, WI
- Dahl Auto Museum, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Dahl Auto Museum
- Children's Museum of La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, Photo: Children's Museum of La Crosse
- Grandad Bluff Park, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: City of La Crosse - Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department
- Great River State Trail, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Yi - Fotolia.com
- Grounded Specialty Coffee, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of igorsinkov - Fotolia.com
- Goose Island County Park, Photo: GCapture/stock.adobe.com
- La Crosse Loggers Minor League Baseball, Photo: Courtesy of mikesjc - Fotolia.com
- La Crosse River State Trail, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of carballo - Fotolia.com
- La Crosse Segway Tours, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Ruslan Gilmanshin - Fotolia.com
- Lake Onalaska, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Ljiljana - Fotolia.com
- Pearl Ice Cream Parlor, Photo: Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
- Rudy's Drive-In, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Rudy's Drive-In
- St. Rose of Viterbo Convent, Photo: St. Rose of Viterbo Convent
- The La Crosse Queen, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: The La Crosse Queen
- Turtle Stack Brewery, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Turtle Stack Brewery
- World's Largest Six-Pack, La Crosse, WI, Photo: World's Largest Six-Pack
- Digger's Sting Restaurant, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Photo: Digger's Sting Restaurant
- Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Photo: Jill Clardy/stock.adobe.com
- Pump House Regional Arts Center, Photo: Pump House Regional Arts Center
- Myrick Park Center, Photo: Myrick Park Center
- La Crosse Amtrak Station, Photo: queen1987/stock.adobe.com
- Hixon House, Photo: Hixon House
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of photo.eccles - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Riverside International Friendship Gardens
The Riverside International Friendship Gardens is a collection of stunning public gardens that celebrate the relationship La Crosse, WI has with its sister-cities in Ireland, Norway, Russia, France, Germany, and China. The gardens are open to the public at any time Riverside Park is open. The gardens are designed to be a beautiful reflection of the appreciation the city has for the different cultures that all share this planet.
Visitors are greeted by two stone dragons as they enter the Chinese Garden, which celebrates La Crosse’s sister-city of Luoyang in China. The walled garden is reflective of the walled gardens of noblemen in ancient China. The small space symbolizes the entire world represented in a single small garden. Feng Shui was used in the garden’s design to create a free-flowing movement and bring good fortune. Unique forms of plants, architecture, water, and rocks are all part of the Chinese Garden.
The German Garden at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens was inspired by Friedberg, La Crosse’s sister-city in Germany. In southern Germany, fruiting shrubs, roses, and hydrangea fill the gardens during the summertime. The rock garden set atop a hill echoes a mountain slope and features dwarf conifers, as well as short, tough plants. Visitors will find a fountain in the garden’s friendship square, or Gemeutlichkeitplatz, as well as a pocket watch sculpture almost six feet high by Wolfgang Auer.
France’s Epinal, a city full of flowers, served as the inspiration behind the French Garden, which features a more formal design. The garden’s includes a pavilion that overlooks a rose gardens, a patterned garden, and a knot garden. This knot garden features a parterre and cut hedges that form a geometric pattern. The walk through the French Garden is lined with topiaries. Imported roses from Epinal, as well as a collection of daylily and hydrangea, are also featured in the garden.
Visitor may be able to catch a glimpse of a face behind a small waterfall, as well as several trolls, in the Norway Garden. Plants typically found on a farm in Norway are also on display in the garden, such as blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. Shrub roses introduced to the garden include the Sigrud, Sven, Lena, and Ole types. Digitalis, Norway’s national flower, adds more color to the garden. Guests enter the Norway Garden through its stunning “torvtak,” which is reflective of the sod-roofed structures often seen in Norway.
Gardens in Russia are typically informal, aiming to create a natural setting. This can be seen in the Russian Garden at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens. The trees of the garden are displayed in groves. A beautiful structure along the river called a besedka can be seen by visitors, similar to the one that exists in Dubna, La Crosse’s sister-city in Russia.
The Ireland Garden features a riverside amphitheater, as well as a mill wheel modeled after a larger version in Bantry in Ireland. A Celtic cross pattern can be seen in the center of the garden’s walkway. Filling the garden are plants suggestive to the green of the country of Ireland, such as wildflowers, mosses, ferns, hostas, and hydrangeas.
405 East Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-791-4769
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