When the next TBEX conference was said it be in Wisconsin, I asked myself “Is Eau Claire worth visiting?”
Truth be told, many are unaware of the hidden gem that lies in Wisconsin’s heartland…
This picturesque city, tucked away at the junction of two rivers and teeming with hometown appeal, holds more than what meets the eye.
A thriving arts scene? Check. All the cheese curds and beer you could possibly imagine? Absolutely.
Breathtaking outdoor attractions for nature enthusiasts? You bet! But there’s so much more…You see, Eau Claire isn’t just another Midwest town – it’s an experience waiting to be discovered.
- Population: Around 68,000
- Pronunciation: “Oh Claire”
- Meaning: French word translating to “Clear Water”
- Nickname: EC
- Scenic bike trails
- Hiking trails
- The Children’s Museum
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So Is Eau Claire worth visiting? yes!
From its thriving arts scene to outdoor attractions and local flavors, explore Wisconsin’s hidden gem where you will meet some of the nicest people in the world. Eau Claire, nestled on the clear waters of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers in western Wisconsin, is frequently overlooked by visitors flocking to the bustling cities of Milwaukee and Madison.
Venture away from the expected and uncover a “hidden jewel”—yeah, it’s a tad overused, but it suits perfectly here!—that offers a distinct Midwestern retreat.
1. Boutique Hotels of Eau Claire
In downtown Eau Claire, you’ll find projects like The Oxbow Hotel and The Lismore that are more than just buildings. They’re catalysts for change, sparks igniting a cultural revolution akin to throwing open windows in a stuffy room. I personally stayed at The Lismore and can attest to their elegant simplicity which is extremely refreshing to the eyes.
The Lismore is home to the ECDC which fueled our daily caffeine fix in a way that energized the body and soul. While the The Dive (which is anything but) supplied us with the most creative and delicious post-TBEX marathon drinks.
2. Breweries in Eau Claire
At the breweries of Eau Claire, you can expect an experience that blends creativity and tradition for a truly unique beer-drinking journey. These crafty suds tantalize the taste buds, leaving one thirsting for more.
In the heart of Chippewa Falls, is the famous Leinenkugel’s Brewery – where traditional German brewing meets Wisconsinite flavors. This iconic brewery has been doling out barrels of joy (and beer) since 1867, from classic lagers to quirky brews that even include a hint of Wisconsin’s favorite fruit, the cranberry! If you’re thirsty for authentic midwestern charm, a dollop of humor, and a frothy pint of history, then Leinenkugel’s Brewery is your hoppy haven.
Take a popular spot like Fire House, for instance; they’ve got an impressive lineup of beers crafted using time-honored brewing methods. Normally, I cannot stand the carbonation or hoppy flavor of beer, but our favorite bartender found a white stout that kept me coming back for more and telling everyone who would listen about it.
3. Downtown Dining Scene
If food is what makes your heart sing then prepare yourself because downtown Eau Claire has quite the culinary choir. The Informalist, housed inside The Lismore, stands out among other restaurants due to its dedication to its locally sourced menu – it doesn’t get fresher than this.
In essence, whether you’re sampling innovative brews or indulging at farm-to-table eateries like The Informalist, every bite, every sip immerses you deeper into the unique gastronomic tapestry woven by this wonderful city called Eau Claire – making it truly worth visiting.
4. Outdoor Attractions in Eau Claire
Eau Claire, a city that translates to ‘clear water’ that’s nestled between two rivers and surrounded by nature’s canvas of greenery. It’s the kind of place where you feel like taking off your shoes to walk barefoot on trails stretching over 30 miles, paved with love for biking enthusiasts or those who simply enjoy leisurely strolls. The parks are beyond phenomenal too!
Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Eau Claire as you kayak down the gently winding Chippewa River. It was probably the most peaceful kayaking trip I have ever had giving me time for quiet contemplation and reflection.
With every stroke, you’ll glide smoothly over the tranquil waters, surrounded by the lush landscape of trees on either side, bathed in the soft glow of the sun. This kayaking adventure on the Chippewa River not only offers an exhilarating journey, but also a chance to embrace nature, reflect on life, and discover a new perspective.
Once you’re done, park your kayak at one of Chippewa Falls outdoor attractions, Loopy’s Grill & Saloon in Chippewa Valley. Here, you can grab a bite to eat, drink some Leinenkugel’s beer, and try your hand spiking a volleyball.
This popular spot doesn’t close when it snows though. No, they use a dome over the volleyball courts and heaters under the sand to enjoy that tropical feel all year round!
Phoenix Park, nestled in the heart of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is naturally named after yours truly. Just kidding, I am definitely not that cool.
Phoenix Park is a verdant haven where the city’s heartbeat echoes in rhythm with nature’s tranquil melodies. The glistening waters of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers converge here, providing a serene backdrop for leisurely strolls, reflective moments, and unforgettable adventures.
Whether it’s the vibrant farmer’s market, the striking Phoenix Park Bridge illuminating the night, or the gentle rustling of leaves whispering stories of the past, Phoenix Park offers a stirring blend of urban charm and natural beauty.
Artistic Flourish in Eau Claire
Eau Claire, the “millennial,” “artsy,” and “hipster” city that it is today, didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a journey of creativity and expression, nurtured by local artists who have made their mark on this Wisconsin gem.
Exploring the Eclectic Art Scene of Eau Claire
My favorite surprise was the murals the size of building faces that were as beautiful as they were varied. It was always a pleasant surprise when we would turn the corner and find another that I would make my side-eyeing teenager pose with. The sass was worth it though.
Equally amazing were the fun statues that peppered nearly every street from the more traditional metal statues to ones that looked like they were made with spare industrial parts. My personal favorite was the fed-after-midnight version of Gizmo that was displayed in Haymarket Plaza across from Phoenix Park.
Jazzing Up with Festivals
Beyond year-round displays of creativity at venues like Artisan Forge Studios, annual festivals such as the famed Eau Claire jazz festival bring together music enthusiasts from all over for a celebration unlike any other. These gatherings not only celebrate jazz but also encourage community participation through workshops led by renowned artists on improvisation techniques and performance skills a testament to how deeply ingrained music is within life here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
In fact, these very reasons, the thriving arts scene coupled with outdoor beauty; friendly people; manageable size; and affordable living costs; are why national media outlets now refer to our beloved city as a “boom” destination. And we couldn’t agree more…Eau Claire indeed has risen phoenix-like amidst all underrated getaways out there.
Eau Claire: A Millennial Magnet
The millennial crowd has been drawn to Eau Claire like skydivers to their next thrilling leap. The music scene here resonates deeply. Events like Eaux Claires festival were brought into existence by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon himself.
Beyond just tunes though, there’s something else at play, an ethos that rings true for millennials seeking balance away from big cities’ hustle-bustle, a community vibe where creativity thrives alongside tradition; local artists showcasing their work at Artisan Forge Studios being one example among many others.
During my Eau Claire travels, I discovered not only the city’s vibrant culture and serene landscapes, but also a part of myself I hadn’t known before. I embraced the warm, familiar energy of Eau Claire to my core. If you’re looking for unique, relaxing, and underrated getaways Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with its vibrant arts scene, lush parks, and friendly midwestern charm, should definitely top your travel list.
If you’re ready to uncover more hidden gems through authentic experiences that promote inner growth and transformation – consider joining us at Phoenyx Travels! Your journey toward self-discovery starts here!