“Voici l’eau claire!”
Legend has it that was the phrase exclaimed by early French explorers upon discovering Eau Claire’s clear waters. If immersing yourself in the Eau Claire or Chippewa rivers isn’t enough to get you to visit the small city nestled at the confluence of the two, maybe you’ll want to immerse yourself in their music scene instead: namely, the Eaux Claires Music Festival.
Eaux Claires is the musical lovechild of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of The National. The bar has been set pretty high from two back-to-back years of great music and great turnouts. Troix is shaping up to live up to the hype, however, with Chance the Rapper returning and other great acts like Paul Simon, Wilco and Sylvan Esso. (Get the full lineup.)
A weekend getaway to this simultaneously outdoorsy and musically-rich city (only an hour-and-a-half drive from the twin cities) is always a good idea. It’s an even better idea when there’s a festival involved. Experience the milieu of a city that feels like it’s both a purely Wisconsin getaway and a destination with some truly great cultural perks.
While many will embrace the outdoor experience in totality and pitch a tent on the festival campgrounds, others will choose the comfort of a warm bed. This year, warm-bed-opters have a quaint new lodging option: Oxbow Hotel. (The hotel is already booked for festival weekend, but keep it in mind for future getaways if you weren’t lucky enough to snag a room during Eaux Claires.) This boutique hotel is yet another vision brought to life by Vernon, along with several other local movers and shakers. Enjoy the woodsy feel, and rent a bike or kayak to get your adventure going. When you’re back in your room, play some vinyl on your personal record player.
Take a tour of at the Leinenkugel Brewery in neighboring Chippewa Falls. The brewery, founded in 1867 by Jacob Leinenkugel, with it’s brick-building campus is fun to wander. After you’re fully educated on beer brewing and all things Leinenkugel related, sample your favorites in the Leinie Lodge.
Or if wine is more your speed, then try Autumn Harvest Winery and Orchard. This relaxing spot opened more than a decade ago, making it the first winery in the Chippewa Valley. Taste some samples, or purchase a glass or bottle to enjoy on the patio.
Explore UW Eau Claire, a lovely, walkable campus of more than 300 acres on the banks of the Chippewa River. Celebrate the Blugolds and pretend you’re in college all over again.
Get outside and get onto the Chippewa River State Trail. Walk, run, bike (and even cross-country ski and snowmobile in the winter). Find the trailhead in Phoenix Park downtown. Thirty miles later, find yourself in the city of Durand.
June 1 marks the start of farmers market season in Eau Claire, so be sure to wander through the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market and stock up on blueberries, honey, cheese and other locally-grown and locally-made favorites.
Try The French Press for your caffeine fix, Milwaukee Burger Company for a burger and cheese curds, The Classic Garage for throwback diner fare or the Bijou Bistro if you’re feeling fancy.
The folks at Visit Eau Claire even have fun daily to-dos if you decide to make it a four-day weekend. (And, see their suggestions last year for filling any down time – yoga or cribbage, anyone?)
Thursday Night: Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park
Thursday Night: (sold out) Oxbeaux Concert and Pre-Party
Friday Night: Eau Claire Express Northwoods League baseball game
Saturday: Leinenkugel’s Family Reunion event
Sunday: FATFAR river floating event