Eau Claire is a True Hidden Gem
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is a hidden gem! Located about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities, this up-and-coming riverfront town has so much to offer. With artwork scattered around town, upscale boutiques, coffee shops, breweries, bike trails and historic bridges, it’s a unique town that seems to be growing quickly with a lot of new construction. Read on for the top things to do in Eau Claire!
1. Walk Around Phoenix Park
Located in downtown Eau Claire and where the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers converge is Phoenix Park. This park has beautiful landscaping, flowers, park benches, and sculptures. Walk along the paved path or down to the beach to dip your toes in the water. You may even see people swimming and fishing.
2. Grab Coffee at ECDC
A great spot to start your morning is ECDC Coffee. Located inside the Lismore hotel building, this sunny spot with tons of natural light has egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos, coffee, lattes, orange juice, and more. Find a spot inside next to a window, or grab a seat outside and people watch.
3. Eat Brunch at The Informalist
The Informalist is a great brunch spot, especially if you’re looking for something more than a grab-and-go egg sandwich. You’ll find eggs benedict, fresh fruit, coffee, bacon, hashbrowns, pancakes, and more. Everything is cooked really well and they use quality ingredients.
4. Enjoy the Shops and Boutiques
Eau Claire has a lot of wonderful boutiques and antique shops. Be sure to stop into Hello Adorn for simple yet elegant necklaces and rings. Visit Tangled Up in Hue for artwork, jewelry, and crafts, like yarn and beads. The Local Store has a wonderful selection of locally made products from snacks and shoes, to bags and jewelry. And if you’re in the mood to dig around for a gem, check out Good and Sturdy Vintage, Seven Suns Vintage, or Antique Emporium.
5. Check Out the Cool Bridges
Eau Claire is nicknamed The City of Bridges and the name holds up! Eau Claire is filled with unique bridges, from pedestrian-only bridges to old railroad bridges to bridges that light up at night! As you walk around the city you will most certainly stumbled upon them.
6. Listen to Live Jazz
If you’re looking for live music, check out Stones Throw, a narrow building with exposed brick and vibrant gold and red stained glass. Grab a beer or cocktail at the bar and enjoy the music. Sometimes there is a small cover charge.
7. Sip a Rooftop Cocktail
The Dive is a rooftop bar located in the same building as the Lismore hotel. Enjoy a house-made craft cocktail or local beer inside the upscale bar area, or find a seat on a comfy couch underneath the string lights on the patio.
8. See the City by Bike
Eau Claire has so many great bike paths, which can be a great way to see the city. Rent e-bikes, trail bikes, or city cruisers from EC Adventure Rentals then download their trail map so you can see which trail interests you most. Head into the woods, ride along the rivers, or track down the beautiful murals.
9. Track Down the Murals
I absolutely love murals, especially ones with vibrant colors. Eau Claire has so much art, and one of the best ways to experience this is by checking out the murals around town. Check out this Visit Eau Claire website for more details on the murals’ locations. You can either walk and bike around the city on a search for murals, or just keep your eyes open as you experience Eau Claire. You’re sure to run into a few!
10. Take a Self-Guided Sculpture Tour
Eau Claire has an impressive sculpture collection with nearly 80 sculptures scattered around town. There is a wide variety of styles and some are even interactive, like a xylophone sculpture you can play! Check out this Visit Eau Claire sculpture tour map for specific locations. Each sculpture also has a plaque with a QR code so you can learn more.
11. Grab Lunch at the Milwaukee Burger Co.
If you’re looking for one of the best burgers in town, stop by the Milwaukee Burger Co. on the outskirts of Eau Claire. In addition to burgers, they have a large selection of local beers on tap, salads, fajitas, and soups. Grab a booth inside or a seat on the large patio.
12. Sip Beer at the Brewing Projekt
We love breweries and knew we had to check out the Brewing Projekt while visiting Eau Claire. The building is beautiful with a large and colorful mural painted on the back exterior wall, exposed brick inside, unique metal lighting fixtures, and bright orange chairs, both inside and on their back patio. The patio runs adjacent to the river, and you’ll see many people walking and biking on the path. We really enjoyed the unique assortment of beers including sours, IPAs and wheat ales.
13. Shop for Old Records
While visiting Eau Claire, you’ll want to stop into Revival Records for a unique experience. Here, you’ll find vinyl records, CDs, cassettes and audio equipment. The store is quite large and has a variety of genres. Revival Records first opened in 2009, and the founder and owner is an Eau Claire native.
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14. Enjoy Dinner at Acoustic Cafe
If you’re looking for a quick sandwich or a cup of soup, Acoustic Cafe is a great spot for lunch or dinner. I definitely recommend getting a sandwich, they use really great, fresh bread. There is a small seating area inside, and a few tables and chairs outside on the street.
15. Enjoy the Chainsaw Sculpture Event
While we were in town, the U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Event was taking place. This annual event brings wood carving artists to Eau Claire from around the world, including Japan and Australia. Watch the artists work with chainsaws, fire torches, and paint to create incredible masterpieces. There are smaller pieces for sale throughout the event, then a final judging competition on the last day for the featured artists to take home a big cash prize.
16. Tour the Logging Museum
Learn about the industry that put Northern Wisconsin on the map and helped build America. Check out historic logging equipment, and clothing the lumberjacks would wear during bitter cold winters. And of course, be sure to get a photo with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox!
17. Cool Off with Ice Cream
There are a few great ice cream spots in town, but Ramone’s is a must-stop. With award-winning flavors and a huge variety of gluten-free, non-dairy, nut-free, and even no sugar added flavors, there’s something for everyone! Grab a cone and enjoy their cute patio with flowers.
Where to Stay
The Lismore is an upscale hotel with a fancy brunch restaurant called the Informalist, and a rooftop cocktail lounge called the Dive. The rooms are bright, clean, and modern. This hotel is centrally located and walking distance to just about everything downtown.
While the Oxbow is still located downtown, it’s a few blocks over on the edge of town making it a cozy quiet spot. Grab a vinyl record from the lobby and play it in the record player in your room. Each main house suite is set up like a studio apartment with a living space, desk, sink, bedroom, and shower all in one long row. You can also find flats, which connect to the same parking lot and provide the same charm as the main house. The Lismore and Oxbow are two great options, each with their own unique personalities and styles. You really can’t go wrong.
Plan Your Trip to Eau Claire
Eau Claire is a super unique town, and a bit of a hidden gem! With artwork scattered around town, upscale boutiques, coffee shops, breweries, bike trails and historic bridges, it’s a very interesting town that seems to be growing quickly with a lot of new construction. For more travel ideas, check out my blog posts on La Crosse, Madison, and Vilas County Wisconsin.