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This post is long overdue. I lived in Eau Claire for 24 years, after all. I do think there were a couple of things stopping me from making it though.
1. I didn’t really do all that much while I lived there. Like, yeah, I did things but it wasn’t the kind of thing I would do now or wasn’t things I would do as a visitor because I lived there, you know? Or I did some of these things not knowing what they were (like the Putnam Trail).
2. Eau Claire wasn’t what it is now even six or seven years ago. That’s not to say it was bad but it’s come a long way fairly quickly and that happened after I moved out west so now I basically experience it as a tourist when I go back and make sure I try and do new things.
Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
Discover Cars – I recommend Discover Cars for rental cars.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
See all my resources here.
There are so many fun things to do in Eau Claire and I have a long way to go on doing everything, especially since there are always new things when I go back!
This is a mix of art, hiking, shopping, eating, and more around Eau Claire. There are so many new restaurants and coffee shops I still haven’t been to because I love the food at the places I do have listed here.
That means when I go home I eat those things as much as can. Like, I’ll eat Eau Claire Cheese and Deli 7/10 days. And we always go to Mona Lisa just once because it’s expensive (but worth it.)
Next time I’m back I’ll try to visit more restaurants I haven’t been to yet because I keep seeing new places on Instagram that look so good.
And just putting this together is making me want to go back and do all the things! Anyway, Eau Claire is a great little town? City? I never know what’s it’s considered.
But it’s cute and a great place to visit in Wisconsin. You should definitely go and when you do, here are some great things to do while you’re there!
Anything followed by * is something that I may have done a very long time ago and don’t remember or just haven’t done but will be next time I’m home, if I can.
- Wisconsin Legends & Lore
- Storied & Scandalous Wisconsin: A History of Mischief and Menace, Heroes and Heartbreak
- Little Faith
- Beneath the Bonfire: Stories
- Shotgun Lovesongs
- The Jesus Cow
- Best Tent Camping: Wisconsin: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization
- Monsters of Wisconsin: Mysterious Creatures in the Badger State
- Moon Wisconsin: Lakeside Getaways, Scenic Drives, Outdoor Recreation
- Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History
- A Dog Lover’s Guide to Hiking Wisconsin’s State Parks
- The Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story: An Illustrated History, with Relish
- Haunted Wisconsin: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Badger State
Bike the bike trail
The Chippewa River State Trail is 38 miles and goes from Lake Hallie to Durand! I didn’t realize until recently it started that far out of Eau Claire or that it went all the way to Durand!
I did spent tons of time on this trail between Boyd Park and Carson Park in middle and high school, and I love it. I primarily use it for biking but I do enjoy walking on here between Boyd and downtown.
It looks like you can rent bikes from Eriks Bike Shop and Electric Bike Rental.
A fun way to get outside while staying in Eau Claire, even while you’re out doing other things, is to go Geocaching!
There are quite a few around town and it’s a fun way to see areas you may not have otherwise.
Break stuff at BreakThru Rage Rooms*
Ever since watching that scene in Pretty Little Liars where Hanna and her mom go throw plates, I’ve wanted to do that and this is pretty close!
(Side note, who throws a plate soft like a frisbee when they’re angry!? Smash that plate!).
You may not be throwing plates here but you do get to smash up old electronics on your own or with friends. You can bring your own or use theirs.
Hike (or bike) Lowes Creek*
Lowes Creek is on the southeast edge of Eau Claire and is home to 8.2 miles of hiking/biking trails. Across all 8.2 miles there is just 327 feet of elevation gain so it’s not too tough.
I have wanted to hike here for years and I still haven’t. This is a great place for hiking in Eau Claire if you’re looking for a woodsy hike that isn’t right in the middle of town, and want something a little quieter.
Hike the Putnam Trail*
The Putnam Trail is right downtown and another one right by a river. It’s near the UWEC campus and can take you through neighborhoods in the area.
It does have some stairs but isn’t too busy. It’s just 1.3 miles round trip with only 65 feet of elevation gain, so it’s nice and easy.
There are some little side trails to explore but most of them don’t really go anywhere. There are tons of Little Free Libraries in this area, too, if you like those. (You can find them on the Little Free Library app).
Enjoy a coffee at ECDC
In the heart of Barstow Street is ECDC, my favorite coffee shop in Eau Claire (so far, I’m missing some). The coffee is delicious, as is the avocado toast (or so I’ve heard).
There is plenty of seating and they even have a fireplace! And if you want a fancy lunch or dinner while you’re there, pop into The Informalist. Both are part of The Lismore hotel.
Do the DIY sculpture tour
The sculpture tour in Eau Claire is one of the largest in the US with more than 80 sculptures throughout the downtown area.
I haven’t seen all of them but I have seen quite a few and there are some really great ones! I personally love the shark near Carson Park.
Get your retro game on at Reboot Social
Last October when my friends came to visit while I was home and we decided to have lunch here. It was brand new so I had never been here before and didn’t really know what it was.
Turns out it’s a restaurant with games! They have board games, retro arcade games, duckpin bowling, and pool and darts. It’s a fun place to play some games and grab a snack.
It’s right downtown on Barstow Street and near tons of shops and things. There is also ice cream nearby for dessert!
Visit all the Little Free Libraries
One of my favorite things to do in Eau Claire is stopping at all the Little Free Libraries. And when I say all, I mean ALL.
All 56 to be precise. Now, there may be more than that, I didn’t go to every single one but in October we went to a whopping 56 just in town. I counted.
I’ve never seen anywhere with such a dense LFL population and they’re definitely worth stopping at. The Third Ward and East Side Hill are the best for this.
Stop at Eau Claire Cheese and Deli
Now, I’m biased because I worked here for like, nine years total (including a couple of Christmases), but this is a must visit.
Eau Claire Cheese and Deli has the best sandwiches ever and I’m not jus saying that. They’re SO good. BUT they also have tons of cheese, imported foods, and ice cream!
Here are some of my favorites:
- Sandwiches (I realize this will look like the whole menu but it’s not): Veggie, Veggie Pita, Anns Super Sandwich, 715, Big T, Hot Chicken (but Special Sauce and smoked cheddar instead and no lettuce or tomato), and pumpernickel with pastrami, pepper jack cheese, and special sauce toasted.
- Cheese: Super sharp cheddar (12 year, 10 is good too), fenugreek gouda from Marieke Gouda, garlic cheese curds, hot pepper cheese, smoked cheddar, and colby.
Visit the Chippewa Valley Museum and old schoolhouse
This was a regular field trip stop in elementary school so I’ve been here a lot, but not recently. I have two distinct memories here: rainbow sherbet at the ice cream parlor and and operator switchboard.
The museum is right by the baseball field in Carson Park and there are Geocaches and sculptures nearby as well.
You’ll find a couple of permanent exhibits as well as rotating exhibits. I’m not sure how frequently they change though. There is also a giant Paul Bunyon statue here.
They’re closed Sunday and Monday and admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. You can find full hours and admission here.
Hike at Hoffman Hills
Hoffman Hills is home to nine miles of hiking trails and a 60-foot observation tower between Menomonie and Eau Claire.
This would be a particularly great hike to do in the fall because you would get a great view of all the fall colors from the observation tower. I’ve been here a few times and always enjoyed it.
The trails range in difficulty levels but none of them are extremely difficult. The hardest one just has a pretty solid hill but it’s usually the route I take to get to the tower.
Visit one (or two) of the haunted spots
Now, Eau Claire isn’t a haunted hot spot like St. Augustine, Florida, but it is home to some spooky spots. I haven’t experienced anything haunted here (or anywhere, actually), but rumors abound about a few locations in particular.
Stones Throw is a bar on Barstow that is reportedly haunted, Fire Station No. 10, which is now a car place, is haunted by Alex, Banbury Place is home to ghosts, and the town of Caryville in general is rumored to be a little spirited, as well.
I’ll have a whole post about haunted places in the Chippewa Valley before Halloween this year, so check back for that.
Stop into The Local Store
The Local Store is the World Headquarters for Volume One, the local events newpaper/magazine. It’s a cute little shop with local made goodies.
They have food, drinks, books, art, games, kitchen accessories, kid stuff, clothes, post cards, stickers, and so much more. I have to stop in every time I’m home.
Hike the Town of Union Conservancy
Another great place for hiking in Eau Claire, technically on the edge of it, is the new Town of Union Conservancy!
There is a beautiful river view and cozy little wooded trails that are (mostly) well marked. We hiked a little over a mile but there is quite a bit more that we didn’t get to see.
One trail does say it’s very difficult but the others seem to be on the easier side. I will definitely be going back earlier in the day to do a lot more hiking here. And I want to see how difficult that difficult trail actually is.
Search for all the murals
Eau Claire is home to roughly 13 murals in the downtown vicinity. Not all of them are right downtown but the others are at least close to it.
My favorite is Sanctuary (pictured) and that one is downtown, at the corner of Gibson and Graham. Ten of them are close enough to each other to easily walk to. You can find a map here.
Stop into Dotter’s Books
Dotter’s Books is the only independent bookstore in Eau Claire (there is one in Menomonie, too) and I go in every time I’m home.
They just opened up in a new downtown location and I can’t wait to see it! They’re about a block away from ECDC and across from Hello Adorn, another local favorite!
Visit Lake Wissota State Park*
Lake Wissota State Park is outside of Chippewa Falls and would be a great thing to do before winding down at Leinie Lodge (the Leinenkugels Brewery, if you like beer/breweries.)
There are seven miles of trails in the park for both hiking and biking. There are also nine miles of horse/bike trails in the park and you can canoe/kayak on the lake if you prefer that.
Finally, there are 18 miles of trails just for hiking. Some of these might be included in the biking part, but either way, there are more than the seven miles for just hiking.
Hike to the Top of the World
You can find the Top of the World over at Mt. Simon where you can spend an afternoon frolfing (frisbee golfing) before hiking up for sunset. The view from the top is wonderful and definitely worth the hike.
I honestly have no idea how long the trail is, but I do remember it’s a little steep. When you get to the parking area, go as far back as you can and the trail is at the end of the parking lot. I feel like it’s easy to find but I haven’t been there in probably 13 years so I couldn’t say for sure.
I do know it’s not a terribly long hike, I would guess less than two miles round-trip. There may be other hiking trails here as well, but I couldn’t really find much about it other than this.
Stop into The Goat for coffee and a sandwich
In the other part of downtown, Water St, you’ll find The Goat. This is a great place to get a delicious sandwich and coffee for lunch. Or just a coffee to start your day.
I haven’t been here for lunch in years but mother is still a fan. I’ll have to stop in for lunch next time I’m home and find a new sandwich. RIP peppadew.
Eau Claire, WI hotels
Drive through Carson Park
Before or after you visit the museum (or don’t goo to the museum at all, whatever), or if you’re out Geocaching or looking for sculptures, take a drive through Carson Park.
It’s a short drive and there are three or four short roads through the park. You get views of Halfmoon Lake through the trees. There aren’t really hiking trails here but you could walk along the road.
There are sculptures and Geocaches throughout here and it’s particularly beautiful in the fall with the leaves changing!
Pop into Hello Adorn
For a while the only earrings I wore were Hello Adorn but then I got into crazy earrings and now HA is reserved for fancy outings for the most part.
It’s been so cool seeing them grow over the years from just online to w hole flagship store with other brands in it, too! This is another place I go every time I’m home but next time will be my first visit to the big store.
Here you’ll find their beautiful minimal jewelry (love me some tiny horseshoes), clothing, and other home goods.
Visit Big Falls
Big Falls is probably technically a waterfall but don’t expect something like out in North Carolina at this stop. Big Falls is a great short hike, more of a walk, just outside of town, near Beaver Creek.
From the parking area there is a short paved walk to the shore where you can continue on closer to the falls. I would say the whole thing was no more than a mile round-trip.
There are some beaches here and some swimming spots but I would be cautious swimming, especially if the water is high.
The current can be strong. It’s still a great little place to visit and get your feet wet though while enjoying the outdoors and doing a little walking.
Enjoy ice cream from Ramone’s
Ugh, I think about the butterscotch ice cream from Ramone’s at least once a week and will be eating as much of it as I can when I’m back.
After (or before) going to The Local Store, head down the block to Ramone’s for some top notch Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream. I think it’s my favorite ice cream in Eau Claire.
Relax in Phoenix Park
In the heart of downtown you’ll find Phoenix Park, a great place to enjoy a nice day by the river. This is also where you’ll find the farmers market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
And throughout the park and area near the Pablo Center you can see some of the sculptures that are part of the sculpture tour. Thanks to it’s proximity to downtown, it makes a great addition to an afternoon perusing shops.
See the River Prairie Trolls
I say see the trolls, but all of River Prairie is nice to walk around. And in the last 13 years it has popped off. The Trolls at River Prairie are an interactive art installation.
You can cover up their eyes and they’ll make noises. This is easier with more than one person, and the more you interact, the more noise they make. It’s a fun little stop.
River Prairie also has some restaurants, a coffee shop, some businesses, apartments, a park area, musical trolls, and a paved trail along the river!
Be sure to stop by for coffee, food, trolls, and a stroll along the river one afternoon.
Do some brewery hopping
I’m not a beer gal, or a drinker at all really, but if you like breweries, there are plenty for you too visit in and around Eau Claire.
I think I’ve been to Brewing Projekt and Lazy Monk but like I said, I can’t speak about the beers. I’ve heard good things about all of them though and would love to hear your thoughts if you have been or go to any of them.
Breweries in Eau Claire, WI:
Visit the Leinie Lodge
The Big Daddy Beer Experience in Eau Claire, well just outside of it, is visiting Leinie Lodge (the Leinenkugel brewery). And I might not drink beer but every time someone has a Leinie’s near me outside of Wisconsin I have to say “I’m from like, 20 minutes from there!” It’s the law.
When you’re here you can do a brewery tour (I did this sometime in college) or you can just visit the lodge for a tasting and Leinies gear.
Shop local at Artisan Forge
Another great place for art is Artisan Forge. This is on Clairemont Avenue and is part art shop, part art studio, part offices?
The first time I went it was pretty much all art stuff but in October there were more regular business offices in there.
There are some cool sculptures and murals outside. It’s definitely worth a visit and great if you want to buy some local art.
Get outside at Beaver Creek Preserve*
Like Lowes Creek, Beaver Creek is a great place to hike close to town that isn’t right in town so it’s quieter. I have been here but it was always for field trips in school.
The blue and orange trails (according to AllTrails) are just over two miles and pretty easy. However, there are quite a few other short trails on the north and south campuses (right by each other, you don’t need to drive anywhere else) for more hiking opportunities.
Treat yourself for dinner at Mona Lisa
One of my favorite places to eat in Eau Claire is Mona Lisa, for sure. It’s fancy and expensive (relatively) and delicious.
I’ve literally only eaten the pasta puttanesca here because I love it. I’ve tried a few appetizers as well that were delicious, too. I would make a reservation if you want to eat here, just in case.
I would say it’s fine Italian dining so if you want to feel a little fancy one night, this is the place.
Hike the Otter Creek Trails
I think the Otter Creek Trails at Centennial Park in Altoona are fairly new. The signs and the park all look new and I hadn’t heard of it even though it’s not far from home.
The outer loop is about two miles but there are inner trails that all connect so you could hike more or less depending on your mood and preferences.
It’s a mostly quiet trail where leashed dogs are allowed but once you get further back where it starts to loop around you can hear some traffic from the 53 Bypass but it didn’t bother me too much.
Hike the Boyd Trail
I hike this almost every time I’m home, I love it. It’s about two miles round trip and pretty easy. The most difficult part of it is that the trail itself can be a little uneven and a little slippery with leaves on the ground.
You could easily do this then hike part of the Chippewa River State Trail. It’s a great little combination and you can follow it up with ice cream at Ramones and a stop at The Local Store.
Walk around Barstow Street
Barstow Street, if you haven’t figured by now, is the main up and coming downtown area with tons of shops and restaurants.
This area has come a very long way in the last seven years and you should definitely spend a couple of hours down here checking out the local stores.
All of the stores listed below are on Barstow (or nearby) and you can pop into Reboot Social or Acoustic Cafe and Olson’s Ice Cream for dessert.
My favorite Eau Claire shops and restaurants
Have you been to Eau Claire? Did you like it? What is your favorite thing to do there?