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Fun things to do in Eau Claire

Ever heard of Eau Claire, Wisconsin? While it may not immediately come to mind as a vacation destination, it’s without a doubt one of my favorite places I’ve visited so far this year. From live music to river recreation to great food and shopping, there are so many fun things to do in Eau Claire, and I’ve outlined some of my favorites below!

FUN THINGS TO DO IN EAU CLAIRE

WHEN TO VISIT EAU CLAIRE

If you know anything about the Midwest, you probably know that winters there are no joke. While there are of course winter activities in the area, Eau Claire really shines in the summer months. Drinks on patios, outdoor music festivals and river activities like boating and fishing just aren’t the same when temperatures drop below freezing!

My recommendation is to aim for between June and August. Depending on where you’re coming from, the relatively temperate northern Wisconsin weather might feel like a respite from extreme heat, and particularly in June, you’ll have tons of daylight hours to enjoy all the city has to offer!

THINGS TO DO IN EAU CLAIRE

SUMMER

Music festivals – For Eau Claire, over the last few years, music festivals haven’t been just a source of entertainment. Some credit Eaux Claires, a festival started by Eau Claire native Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, with helping revitalize the city and spurring a creative awakening. Eaux Claires, currently on a brief hiatus, will hardly be the only festival in town when it returns in 2020, though. The city is also home to Blue Ox Music Festival and various other country, rock and jazz festivals throughout the year. 

River recreation – Eau Claire sits along the Chippewa River, and its location affords lots of options for river recreation. Tube or kayak on the Chippewa river, or simply walk, run or bike alongside it on the Chippewa River Water Trail. If you’re looking for boating and fishing, try nearby Altoona Lake, and if you just want to sit or picnic with nice river views, check out Phoenix Park.

Farmers market – In a state that’s famous for its farms, you don’t want to miss the farmers market. The Eau Claire downtown farmers market runs every Wednesday and Saturday morning and Thursday afternoon between June and October, with some additional Saturday times from November to May. There you’ll find locally made crafts, food trucks, and of course, plenty of amazing cheese and produce!

ALL SEASONS

Shop hop downtown – Eau Claire has seen a surge of small businesses open over the last few years, and trendy boutiques now dot its downtown. My personal favorites were Red’s Mercantile for beautiful gifts, jewelry and clothing, Raggedy Man for fun gifts and home decor, The Local Store for all things Wisconsin (and things made in-state), and Northbound Supply Co. for outdoors gear.

Enjoy live music – For a tiny city, Eau Claire has quite a few music venues. Catch live jazz at The Lakely or see who’s performing at Acoustic Café

See the street art – Walk or drive around Eau Claire and it’s impossible not to notice the brightly colored murals painted around the city. Explore them up close (and if you’re the type, Instagram or it didn’t happen).

Check out a brewery – Perhaps unsurprising to anyone who’s spent time in Wisconsin, Eau Claire loves its beer, and it’s got plenty of places for you to indulge in all types of local brews. Whether you’re looking for more traditional European style (Lazy Monk) or something a little bit experimental (Brewing Projekt), there’s a brewery for everyone. This page has a complete list of breweries around the city!

WHERE TO STAY IN EAU CLAIRE

While Eau Claire may be small, it’s not short on beautiful, convenient and reasonably priced hotels. In fact, it has two of them in The Lismore Hotel Eau Claire and The Oxbow Hotel!

I’ve broken down what I love about each in a longer blog post you can read here, but suffice it to say you can’t go wrong between these two. The post also includes info on how to book each of them for free using points (and if you want to learn more about how to create your own points strategy for free travel, check out the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on an upcoming masterclass!)

Headboard and pillows
The Oxbow Hotel Eau Claire exterior

WHERE TO EAT IN EAU CLAIRE

The Lakely – This local-focused restaurant’s dishes and drinks reflect the biodiversity and culture of the Upper Midwest, and yet the quality and creativity is much more reminiscent of what you’d find in bigger-city restaurants. Don’t miss it!

The Lakely menu
The Lakely cheese plate

The Informalist – This farm-to-table spot serves every meal, and from brunch classics with a local twist to woodfired pizzas on cauliflower crust, it has something for everyone. It’s a design-forward space with attention to detail, yet it maintains a laid-back vibe.

Pizza from above
Bar with chairs

WHERE TO DRINK IN EAU CLAIRE

Dive Bar – This chic cocktail bar has a killer rooftop patio that you can’t beat on a summer night.

Bar with chairs
Dive rooftop patio

Northbound Supply Co. – In addition to outdoors gear, they also have coffee! The latte menu is extensive an includes some local flair. 

SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar – The best coffee I had in Eau Claire, with a side of bicycles and bicycle gear!

ECDC – This coffee shop serves organic and craft-roasted coffee, and it has a fireplace you can cozy up to when it gets cold.

STILL ON MY LIST

The Joynt – By all accounts, The Joynt—which is covered wall-to-wall with photos of musicians who have played there—is a dive bar of epic proportions. I wish I’d had a chance to make it to this place!

The Nucleus – This legendary local brunch spot was closed when I was in town. Just have to go back!

For more on Eau Claire, check out this post on the best hotels in the city!

Eau Claire rainbow view

So, did this post give you some ideas for fun things to do in Eau Claire? If you’ve been there, anything I missed? Let me know in the comments! >>

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Fun things to do in Eau Claire
Fun things to do in Eau Claire
Fun things to do in Eau Claire

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Carly

September 3, 2019

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