So you’re headed to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and you’re not sure where to stay. Great news—you have fantastic options! Eau Claire’s downtown hotels are clean, modern, centrally located and design-forward, and they’ve got great dining options to boot. And the best part is, they’re cheap both in cash and in points. In this post, I’m diving into a couple of the best hotels in Eau Claire—The Lismore Hotel Eau Claire and The Oxbow Hotel—and how you can book them for free!
THE BEST HOTELS IN EAU CLAIRE, WI
THE LISMORE HOTEL EAU CLAIRE
If you’re looking for the ultimate in convenience, you can’t beat The Lismore. It’s right downtown just off of Barstow St., a main artery in the city filled with shops and eateries. From The Lismore, you’ll be able to walk to just about anything in just a few minutes (the beauty of small cities!). But should you have a car in tow, the hotel also sits right next to a parking garage, where the rate is—I kid you not—50 cents per hour.
I booked a double queen room at The Lismore, and it was definitely as large—if not larger!—than most of the double queens I’ve seen lately. Beds were comfortable and toiletries were all-natural, which is a plus I always appreciate. (Also always appreciate well-placed outlets, and I’m happy to report that The Lismore had plenty!)
While the room was pretty minimalist in color scheme, as a journalist I definitely loved the newsprint wallpaper, and the lamps and light fixtures were modern and stylish. The views also didn’t hurt—scroll up to see the double rainbow over the city we got to watch from our room!
Whether you want to huddle inside by a fireplace or enjoy cocktails on a rooftop patio, The Lismore has an option for you. And in Wisconsin, you’ll probably want to do both—yes, sometimes even in the summer (temps were in the low 60s for our mid-June visit)!
There are also ample spots for lounging in the lobby or inside by the bar at Dive, which I’ll get to in a second. All of them are trendy and beautiful—trust me when I say that if no one told you, you’d never know you were inside a DoubleTree property (aside from the free chocolate cookies at check-in, of course). Chain hotels often get a bad rap for feeling too corporate or cookie-cutter, but The Lismore is anything but. It’s unexpectedly hip, yet inviting at the same time—not unlike Eau Claire itself!
The Lismore also has a basic fitness room that I didn’t personally see, as well as a small shop in the lobby selling travel conveniences and items you may have forgotten at home.
DINING AND DRINKS
In my opinion, this is where The Lismore really shines. While I was doing my Eau Claire research, I found over and over that the farm-to-table restaurant or the cute coffee shop or the rooftop cocktail bar I was eyeing was actually inside The Lismore.
The hotel’s main restaurant is The Informalist, a farm-to-table spot serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. From brunch classics with a local twist to woodfired pizzas on cauliflower crust, it really has something for everyone. The space itself is bright and open, the staff was super friendly, and the description the restaurant has on its Facebook page about where its name comes from captures its vibe perfectly:
“Our restaurant is informal, but not casual. We are ‘intentional’ and treat our space and our guests with the utmost importance and attention to detail; while allowing for the comfortable, home-like vibe of a classic Wisconsin restaurant.” Nailed it.
Locals and hotels guests alike take advantage of The Lismore’s two options for drinks, ECDC (for Eau Claire Downtown Coffee) and rooftop cocktail bar Dive. ECDC offers typical light, grab-and-go cafe fare in addition to a selection of coffee drinks, and the swanky Dive features an inventive cocktail selection (they’re strong!).
Even more good news: In addition to being convenient, if you’re a Hilton elite, some of these restaurants’ offerings are also free! I have Hilton Diamond status thanks to the Hilton Honors Aspire card, so the hotel gave us vouchers good for $11 per person per day at ECDC or for select breakfast items from the menu at The Informalist. We also got one drink token (per room, not per person) good toward any cocktail at Dive.
As I mentioned, The Lismore is a DoubleTree hotel, meaning you can book it with Hilton Honors points or earn Hilton Honors points on your stay if you pay for your room in cash. Cash rates were reasonable for our two-night stay (the same room type on the same weekend next year lists the semi-flexible rate at $217, not including taxes and fees and with a discount applied for Hilton Honors members). But since I was covering the room on my own as part of my mom’s birthday present, I was more than happy to part with 30,000 Honors points per night instead of $500. 30,000 is among Hilton’s lowest nightly rates in points, and The Lismore has to be one of the nicest 30,000 points-per-night hotels out there!
THE OXBOW HOTEL
Eau Claire is a small city, so while The Lismore may technically be more “central,” it’d be laughable to call The Oxbow out of the way. It’s a six-minute walk across the Chippewa River between the two hotels, and The Oxbow actually sits closer to some of my favorite shops in town (including Red’s Mercantile and The Local Store). Plus, if you dine out once while in Eau Claire, it had better be at The Lakely (more on that in a sec!), so you’ll be headed The Oxbow’s direction at least once anyway!
I didn’t stay at The Oxbow myself, so I can’t vouch for the comfort of its guest rooms. But judging from photos online, they’re simple and unfussy with colorful, retro touches (think record players!). There’s also a clear emphasis on the local, from the Wisconsin wall art to the minibar selections to the wood used in the furniture.
Rooms are in two buildings: the Main House (where the front desk/lobby and The Lakely are), which features classic lodge vibes, and the Flats, a mid-century motor lodge. Flats guests either share a large balcony or have semi-private patios outside their doors!
If you’re looking to hang out indoors, The Oxbow’s lobby is a small but cozy place to do it. There’s a den-like area with a couch and some chairs near a fireplace, as well as counter stools near the window so you can bring your computer and people-watch at the same time. The lobby also has vinyls you can check out and bring to your room, a small shop, and an array of books, games, magazines and newspapers. Outside, you’ll find a patio with fire pits, couches and tables to enjoy if the weather’s nice. There’s also what The Oxbow calls an “outdoor hammock nook,” which I didn’t see myself but am highly intrigued by! It also lists a grass court for games, and if you want to take your outdoor activities further afield, you can take out bikes, kayaks, canoes, tubes, skis, snowshoes or skates.
The Oxbow’s love for local also extends all throughout the property. Check out this link for a list of its local collaborations; the hotel partnered with Eau Claire residents and businesses on everything from its stage lighting to its art to its public bathroom sink!
DINING AND DRINKS
Enough build-up already: Let’s talk about The Lakely. Like the rest of The Oxbow, this restaurant showcases the local, and it does a fantastic job doing it. Dishes and drinks reflect the biodiversity and culture of the Upper Midwest (like the Koldtbord, a Scandinavian-style charcuterie board that you can and should customize, or the cocktails featuring spirits from nearby distilleries). And the menu’s creativity is much more reminiscent of what you’d find in a larger urban area. Major hats off to The Lakely’s chef, Nathan Berg, on this one!
The Lakely is more than just a bar and restaurant, though. It’s also an intimate music venue, where live jazz musicians perform in the evenings and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during Saturday and Sunday brunch hours. The combination of great food and live music is pretty much unbeatable, and it makes The Lakely a great place to linger on a summer evening.
The Oxbow isn’t part of a chain hotel with its own major points program, but luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your points to stay there. You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover all or part of your stay by booking through the Chase travel portal, or if you have a purchase-erasing card such as the Capital One Venture, you can wipe the purchase from your statement after paying for your stay.
MAKING YOUR DECISION
Overall, you can’t go wrong with either of these two hotels. I’d say if you’re looking for comfort or convenience over everything and/or trying to use points, opt for The Lismore. And on the flip side, if you’re looking to connect with Eau Claire’s local scene and soak up the essence of this city as much as you can, give The Oxbow a try. That doesn’t mean that The Oxbow isn’t perfectly comfortable or convenient or that that The Lismore isn’t a proud product of its surroundings—but you have to choose somehow, right?!
For more on Eau Claire, check out this post on fun things to do in the city!
Hope this post helps narrow down your search for hotels in Eau Claire WI! Have you been to Eau Claire? Where did you stay? Let me know in the comments! >>
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