If you like art, indie music, murals and the outdoors, Eau Claire is a must! This often-overlooked destination in Wisconsin is vibrant, fun and full of adventure activities. The city is located at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers, making it an ideal place to explore by water or land. There are so many fun things to do in Eau Claire, the hardest part is choosing between them!
There’s a reason Eau Claire is called “The Indie Capital of the Midwest”. It’s the home of the popular singer-songwriter, Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver and live music is around practically every corner. Eau Claire is also the “Kubb Capital of North America”, hosting the annual US championship for the Swedish lawn game.
Have I piqued your interest? In short, Eau Claire is a gem and I’m embarrassed it took me over 10 years of living in Minnesota to visit. I already can’t wait to go back.
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- Where is Eau Claire Wisconsin?
- Recommended Eau Claire Hotels
- Fun Things to do in Eau Claire
- 1 | Explore the largest sculpture tour in the US.
- 2 | Try your hand at Kubb.
- 3 | Grab a bite at Eau Claire Cheese & Deli.
- 4 | Enjoy the view from the Phoenix Park footbridge.
- 5 | Snap a photo in front of one of the murals.
- 6 | Go paddling on the Chippewa River.
- 7 | Go hiking at Northwest Park.
- 8 | Bike along the Chippewa State Trail.
- 9 | Go shopping in downtown.
- 10 | Enjoy a delicious meal at Thai Orchid.
- 11 | Sip craft cocktails and listen to live music at The Lakely.
- 12 | See a show at the Pablo Center.
- 13 | Grab coffee at Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (ECDC).
- 14 | Visit a local winery and distillery.
- 15 | Visit the iconic Leinie Lodge.
- 16 | Get one of the free experience passes.
- Best Things to Do in Eau Claire
Where is Eau Claire Wisconsin?
Just 2 hours east of the Twin Cities and 3 hours northwest from Madison, Eau Claire is a fun destination for a weekend getaway. The downtown area rests at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. The city’s location along two rivers creates a blend of urban and outdoor activities.
Recommended Eau Claire Hotels
Whether you prefer boutique hotels, lakeside lodging, or your favorite hotel chain, Eau Claire has a lot of options for lodging. Here are my favorite options for lodging in Eau Claire Wisconsin.
The Oxbow Hotel
Owned by musician, Justin Vernon, for Bon Iver this boutique hotel has a great location just steps from restaurants, shops and the Eau Claire River. Every room comes with it’s own record player and guests are invited to borrow from the vinyl library in the lobby. Free parking and wifi is included.
Also onsite is The Lakely bar and restaurant which has outdoor seating and frequent live music. There is a grass court for Kubb and other lawn games as well.
The Lismore Hotel
Located right in the heart of downtown, The Lismore Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Eau Claire. It’s a Doubletree property, which means you can earn and redeem Hilton Honors points with your stay. The rooms are modern and comfortable, plus there are great amenities like a 24/7 fitness center, complimentary wifi and an great onsite restaurant (Informalist).
Fun Things to do in Eau Claire
Eau Claire is an artsy and outdoors destination that happens to have great food. There’s no shortage of Eau Claire activities to choose from. These are my favorites!
1 | Explore the largest sculpture tour in the US.
I had no idea that Eau Claire had such an indie music and art scene! Explore the city while searching for the over 150 sculptures on Eau Claire’s sculpture tour.
Find either a downloadable or interactive map of the sculptures here.
2 | Try your hand at Kubb.
No visit to Eau Claire is complete without experiencing the Swedish lawn game, Kubb (pronounced koob, rhymes with tube). In fact, Eau Claire is known as the “Kubb Capital of North America”! Each summer the city hosts the US National Championship, but the game is played year-round.
If you aren’t ready to hit the competitive Kubb circuit, that’s ok. Many hotels, bars and restaurants have a Kubb set for guests to use or you can ask to join a group if you see one playing.
Pro Tip: For a complete list of Eau Claire hotels with Kubb sets you can rent or borrow, visit this website.
3 | Grab a bite at Eau Claire Cheese & Deli.
Come for the tasty Wisconsin cheese, stay for the delicious deli sandwiches. Eau Claire Cheese & Deli is in a small unassuming building just outside of downtown. Inside you’ll find an incredible selection of Wisconsin cheese, a deli, and fresh ice cream.
The sandwiches are huge! I recommend trying the veggie sandwich (I added turkey). While you’re there, be sure to pick up some cheese. Any of the cheddar aged over 10 years won’t disappoint!
4 | Enjoy the view from the Phoenix Park footbridge.
Downtown Eau Claire sits at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. Phoenix Park is located right where the two rivers meet. The park has a beautiful footbridge across the Eau Claire River into the heart of downtown.
While you’re there, look for some of the sculptures from the sculpture tour!
5 | Snap a photo in front of one of the murals.
In addition to the over 150 sculptures, Eau Claire has an impressive collection of murals as well! It seems like there’s a mural around almost every corner in this artsy city. My favorite is the “sanctuary” which can be seen right across the street from The Pablo Center in downtown.
Find them all with this guide to Eau Claire’s murals!
6 | Go paddling on the Chippewa River.
For a fun way to experience Eau Claire, try tubing, canoeing or kayaking the Chippewa River! Follow the 4.2 mile Chippewa River Water Trail right through downtown Eau Claire. The trail offers a unique perspective on the history, nature and wildlife of the area.
Pro Tip: Protect your phone and other important items with a waterproof pouch like this one.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch from Phoenix Park right in downtown Eau Claire. If you are looking for kayak rentals in Eau Claire visit Loopy’s Saloon! They offer tube and kayak rentals as well as shuttle service to a launch point so you can float back to the saloon at your own pace. Rentals are also available through the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire’s Environmental Adventure Center.
Pro Tip: Loopy’s is known for their sand volleyball courts. In summer they overlook the Chippewa River and in winter they transform into the world’s only heated sand dome!
Be sure to download the Chippewa River Water Trail guide to help navigate on your paddling adventure!
7 | Go hiking at Northwest Park.
Northwest Community Park is a great place for hiking in Eau Claire, on the edge of a residential community. The park is relatively small but there is a complex system of trails to explore. This 6-mile loop on AllTrails winds through a forest with minor elevation changes.
For a more accessible Eau Claire hiking option, try the Chippewa River State Trail. This paved trail goes right through downtown Eau Claire and stretches for a total of nearly 40 miles.
Pro Tip: While the bugs weren’t awful, I recommend bringing bug spray. Here are my recommendations for avoiding mosquitoes and ticks while hiking.
8 | Bike along the Chippewa State Trail.
Speaking of the Chippewa River State Trail, it’s also an excellent option for biking in Eau Claire! If you stick to the section of the trail in downtown near Phoenix Park, there is no fee. However, if you explore a bit further out of town a state trail pass is required.
Pro Tip: This is a multi-use trail. Be sure to pass others on their left and give an audible warning as you approach.
9 | Go shopping in downtown.
Be sure to spend some time wandering through the shops throughout downtown Eau Claire. There are too many to mention but there a couple that stood out to me.
The Local Store is a must for shopping in Eau Claire, located next to The Oxbow Hotel. It is filled with items made locally or “evokes local in some way.” This is the perfect store to buy a gift for a Wisconsin-lover or a treat for yourself.
Pro Tip: The Local Store offers e-bike and scooter rentals! Reserve a pickup time online or just drop in!
Another great place for shopping in Eau Claire is the relatively new Eau Claire Refillery. This zero waste and eco-friendly store has a selection of items that are good for the planet. They even have a refill station for items like hand soap, body wash and more.
10 | Enjoy a delicious meal at Thai Orchid.
Sometimes you walk into what seems like an unassuming restaurant, only to discover it’s a beloved local treasure. That was my experience walking into Thai Orchid. This popular restaurant in Eau Claire serves authentic Thai cuisine.
If you prefer to take your meal to-go, call ahead to place an order for pickup.
11 | Sip craft cocktails and listen to live music at The Lakely.
The Lakely is the place to go for live music in Eau Claire! Inside The Oxbow Hotel, The Lakely is a cocktail bar and restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Outside is a Kubb pitch and a set to play can be found in the lobby of the hotel. Be sure to share a Koldtbord while you’re there. This Scandinavian version of a charcuterie plate features a variety of cold items!
Pro Tip: The Lakely does not accept reservations, so seating is first come first served. Plan accordingly during peak periods.
12 | See a show at the Pablo Center.
If you love the performing arts, be sure to get tickets to a show at the Pablo Center at the Confluence! Find anything from a live music to theater and more on the event schedule. While you’re there check out the rotating art exhibits throughout the Pablo Center.
13 | Grab coffee at Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (ECDC).
ECDC (or Eau Claire Downtown Coffee) is a great place to fuel up for a day of adventure! The menu features an assortment of sustainable and fairtrade coffee and tea drinks, plus smoothies, pastries and savory breakfast options. I loved the northwoods wrap!
14 | Visit a local winery and distillery.
Taste the innovative and unique wines and spirits at Infinity Beverages Winery & Distillery. They offer an assortment of flavors you’ve never tried before like the chili pepper and cracked black pepper vodka (bloody mary, anyone?) to apple pie sangria! For a guided experience, book a tasting and tour or library wine tasting event on their website.
Don’t drink alcohol? Try one of their mocktails. Light bites are also available.
Pro Tip: For an alternative, visit River Bend Winery & Distillery in nearby Chippewa Falls! Their spirits are made from local grain and wine is made from the onsite vineyard. The outdoor patio has terrific views and is dog friendly.
15 | Visit the iconic Leinie Lodge.
Leinenkugel’s is a beloved beer brand in the upper midwest and they are based in nearby Chippewa Falls. A visit to the Leinie Lodge is a must on an Eau Claire itinerary! Not only are their most popular beers on tap but you can also try their experimental flavors that aren’t available anywhere else.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss happy hour Monday to Thursday from 4-6:00pm for a great deal on a cold beer!
Be sure to bring a coozie to keep your beer cool! My favorite is the Rumpl beer blanket, made of recycled materials.
16 | Get one of the free experience passes.
Looking for a unique and fun way to explore Eau Claire? Get one of the free experiences passes! There’s two to choose from.
The Eau Claire Brew Pass is a mobile pass (no app required) where you collect points as you visit breweries throughout the city! Redeem points for stickers, a deck of cards or a t-shirt.
Love cheese? You’re in luck! The Curd Crawl is also a mobile app (with no app required) where you can earn points for tasting the best cheese curds in Eau Claire. This campaign is running through the end of 2023, so grab your pass asap!
Best Things to Do in Eau Claire
Eau Claire truly has something for everyone. Have fun planning your visit!
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