Plan Your Trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin is a lovely river town just over one hour from Rochester, Minnesota. Known for its golden bluffs in the fall, paddle boarding on Lake Onalaska in the summer, great restaurants, a brewery, distillery, boutiques, and incredible Oktoberfest celebrations, La Crosse is a great place to visit any time of year! Read on for some of my favorite things to do in La Crosse!
1. Coffee and Quiche
To kick off your morning, stop by Grounded Patio Cafe. This coffee shop has a small indoor space and a large patio that gets great sunshine! Their menu includes egg sandwiches, wraps, paninis, flatbreads, lattes, and even boozy smoothies. Grounded is a very popular spot, so if there is a long line, walk across the street to Meringue. For whatever reason, Meringue Bakery & Cafe seems to always have less of a crowd but their coffee is just as delicious. I highly recommend you try a quiche and croissant at Meringue! And if you’re looking for more of a sit-down and dine-in meal, Fayze’s which is also in downtown La Crosse is another great option.
2. Grandad Bluff
Checking out the overlook at Grandad Bluff is one of the most popular things to do in La Crosse, and for good reason. It’s especially stunning in the fall with yellow and gold leaves bursting along the Mississippi River as far as the eye can see. You can hike up to the overlook, or drive right to the top.
3. Riverside Park
The Riverside Park runs adjacent to the Mississippi River. It’s a large grassy park with pretty fountains, sculptures, trees, and benches. It’s a great place to set up a picnic on the grass, or grab an iced coffee in town and sip it from a park bench.
4. Apple Blossom Overlook Park
As you drive up the bluff to the overlook, you’ll enjoy the Apple Blossom Scenic Drive, which winds past apple orchards and golden trees. Stop at the overlook on the Minnesota side for sweeping views of La Crosse and the Mississippi River. You can also take a short hike down to another overlook on the edge of the bluff. It’s especially breathtaking with fall colors.
5. Murals at Artist’s Alley
Take a stroll through Artist’s Alley, located in the heart of downtown at 118 5th Avenue South, La Crosse. Enjoy a collection of beautiful and colorful murals, it’s a great spot for a photo! Just be sure you look for 5th Ave South, not North.
6. La Crosse Distilling Co.
La Crosse Distilling Co. is a great place to grab a fancy cocktail. Try the Tom Collins with a fresh lemon wedge, the Wisco Old Fashioned, or the La Crosse Mule. They also have a great food menu; I recommend the walleye tacos, fried chicken sandwich, or the Cubano. Enjoy the bright and sunny indoor space, or grab a spot on the outdoor patio.
7. Turtle Stack Brewery
Turtle Stack Brewery is a small independent craft brewery and tasting room in the heart of La Crosse. This small, yet inviting space has a great selection of beers including a hoppy Saison, Irish Red Ale, Oat Brown Ale, IPA, Milk Stout, and more. Grab a drink at the brewery, or pick up a crowler or growler to bring home.
8. Shops and Boutiques
La Crosse has a handful of great shops with jewelry, mugs, candles and more. Drift Mercantile is a popular spot where you’ll find a lot of Wisconsin-themed items like gift cards, mugs, baseball caps, and stickers. A few other shops worth checking out are Larson’s General, Willow Boutique, Curated, and Outrageous Boutique.
9. Starlite Lounge
Follow the steep stairs up to the Starlite Lounge, which is one floor above Buzzard Billy’s. This 1950s-style cocktail lounge has delicious martinis and unique decor. I especially enjoyed the Cosmopolitan.
10. La Crosse Queen Cruises
If you’d like to get on the water, check out La Crosse Queen Cruises. These riverboat tours range from 90 minutes to three hours. You’ll ride along the Mississippi River and check out the sights while enjoying brunch or a pizza dinner.
11. Sunny the Sunfish
If you’re looking to venture outside of downtown La Crosse, heath north 10 minutes to Onalaska. Take a photo with Sunny the Sunfish, which is located at an overlook with sweeping views of the Mississippi River. And right across the street is Blue Moon Restaurant, a great place for breakfast or lunch.
If you time your visit right, you can partake in the Oktoberfest celebrations that have been happening for more than 60 years in La Crosse. Enjoy live music and axe throwing, lawn games, brats, and of course a great selection of Minnesota and Wisconsin beers!
Plan Your Trip to La Crosse
We always have a great time in La Crosse and can’t wait to go back. It’s a lively town right on the Mississippi River, surrounded by beautiful bluffs, and there’s so much to do. Looking for more Midwest inspiration along the bluff region? Check out my blog posts on Red Wing, Winona, and Stillwater, Minnesota.