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Your weekend itinerary

On the banks of the mighty Mississippi, La Crosse is a beautiful stop for a weekend getaway. It has a lively Downtown, great dining, plenty of attractions to keep you engaged and enough natural beauty surrounding it to sustain you until your next mini-vacation. If you leave Friday afternoon, there’s plenty of time to enjoy this fine city. Here are a few suggestions for how to fill up that weekend.

Friday Evening

If you want to go all out fancy with your hotel, get a reservation at The Charmant, a historic four-star hotel downtown. Not only do you get luxury accommodations, a rooftop terrace with a view of the city, and a French-inspired restaurant, but you also get the satisfaction of staying in what was once a candy factory. Yup, this boutique hotel was originally built in 1898 to hustle chocolate and bon-bons to the good people of Wisconsin.

The Charmant Hotel opened in 2015 in a former candy
company building. Photo courtesy of the Charmant Hotel.

After you’ve checked in, you should be just in time to witness one of the best views in the state as the sun sets. Head up to the Grandad Bluff on the outskirts of the city. At the top of a winding wooded road, you park and walk to the peak, where the city has placed mounted binoculars for the especially nosy bluff visitor. The view of La Crosse is phenomenal, but this 600-ft high bluff offers way more of a view than just that — you can actually see both Minnesota and Iowa from here.

Grandad Bluff towers 600 feet above La Crosse and the Mississippi River. Photo by Matt Absolon.

Once you’ve finished enjoying the view, head back down to Wine Guyz Wine Bar for a glass or two of that sweet, sweet Pinot and a nice sandwich or luxury chocolate to end your day.

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Saturday Morning

Start your second day in La Crosse at Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery, a casual dining spot right in the middle of the historic downtown. They offer a menu full of homemade breakfast staples and Bloody Marys that will fuel you up for another day on the town — allow me to recommend the Hungry Man Hashbrowns.

Now it’s off to Riverside Park. From Fayze’s, take a stroll through historic downtown and enjoy the sites on the way to the Mississippi. Once you reach the river, you can visit the north end of the park and see the Friendship Gardens. Next to the park, stop at the La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to learn more about the park and the city around you.

Before setting out on the river, stop at the Riverside Museum and see some artifacts from La Crosse’s logging and steam boating history. Load up on information and historical context and then take a quick stroll next door to the next step on your Saturday journey.

Saturday Afternoon

La Crosse Queen Cruises offers awesome paddleboat cruises down the Mississippi. They last about an hour to an hour-and-a-half and give you the full experience of paddleboating down Ol’ Man River. On a warm summer day, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Enjoy the tour guide’s presentation or just gaze over the rail at the majesty of The Big Muddy. Then you can get a souvenir picture on the dock and stop by the gift shop for paddle-related memorabilia.

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Now that you’ve enjoyed the river and a walk through the park, you’re probably a bit hungry, so stop by Pickerman’s for a sandwich and some soup. This local stop is the perfect place for a bite on the go. It was also voted Best of La Crosse 2016 for both sandwiches and soups, so you know the people are behind it.

Saturday Evening

With your afternoon in Downtown La Crosse behind you, it’s time to sit back and relax. Head over to Copeland Park to watch some La Crosse Loggers Baseball. This Northwoods League team plays throughout the summer and is always a fine bet for a nice evening full of hot dogs, cheap beer and America’s favorite pastime.

If you’re looking for a nice dinner before or after the game, one your best bets is The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern. This restaurant offers fine dining and a patio right on the waterfront, as the name suggests. It’s an ideal spot to end your evening with a fine steak and a relaxing view of the Mississippi.

Diners save room for the Chocolate & Whiskey Caramel Bombe at The Waterfront Restaurant in Downtown La Crosse. Photo by Olive Juice Studios.

Sunday

La Crosse is home to an unexpectedly beautiful spot up in the hills outside the city. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe has amazing architecture, scenic grounds and provides a peaceful respite from the bustle of life. Whether you have religious leanings or not, this is a naturally pleasant site worth a visit just to see. And there’s a quality Mexican restaurant on the grounds as well, so you can grab a quick lunch before hopping in the car and heading back home.

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