20 Things To Do In La Crosse WI

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Located at the confluence of the Mississippi, La Crosse, and Black rivers, the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has been an important site for Native Americans since the late Pleistocene. Early European settlers arrived around the turn of the 19th century and named the area for the game played by the natives, which used a crooked stick, similar to a bishop’s crozier, or la crosse in French.

La Crosse is in the Driftless area, a piece of land left uncovered by glacial deposits during the last Ice Age. This yields a fascinating geological landscape with dolomite bluffs, sandstone river bottoms, and the mighty Mississippi. Culturally, La Crosse hosts three universities and numerous historically interesting places to experience. Of course, this is but a taste of what’s available in the area, so read on to discover the top things to do in La Crosse.

La Crosse, Wisconsin

20 Things To Do In La Crosse

1- See The River On The La Crosse Queen

mississippi river la crosse aeriel view of the river and marina
Many fun things to do in La Crosse are centered around the Mississippi River.

The La Crosse Queen provides the experience of a Mississippi riverboat ride, with various themed cruises offering anything from a pizza party to a prime rib dinner.

The bluffs of La Crosse, mentioned by Mark Twain, form a captivating scenic delight as the water wheel spins along.

A glimpse back in history, the La Crosse Queen is a must for all who wonder what it was like to ride the Muddy Miss at the turn of the century.

The La Crosse Queen sets sail at 405 E Veterans Memorial Dr, La Crosse, WI 54601.

2- Find Your Natural Place At Goose Island County Park

Goose Island County Park offers camping and hiking on a sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi.

Excellent bird watching, incredible sunsets, and great fishing are all attractions of this park.

Take a 7.5-mile (12 km) canoe trip around the island and experience the sloughs and backwaters on the well-marked water trail.

Sure to delight the nature lover, Goose Island County Park is a well-loved destination for both locals and visitors.

Goose Island County Park begins at W6488 County Road GI – Stoddard, WI 54658.

3- Find Growth At Riverside International Friendship Gardens

The Riverside International Friendship Gardens contains seven unique and beautiful themed spaces dedicated to La Crosse’s seven sister cities worldwide.

These sister cities are in Cameroon, Ireland, Germany, China, Norway, France and Russia.

Each garden celebrates the culture and flora of these international city siblings and gives the visitor a brief repose from a different perspective.

The Gardens are free thanks to a public/private partnership, and tours are available by appointment.

The Riverside International Friendship Gardens grow and flourish at 345-405 E Veterans Memorial Dr, La Crosse, WI 54601.

4- Chuss At Mt. La Crosse Ski Area

When visiting La Crosse during the Wisconsin winter, Mt. La Crosse Ski Area is a great place to get that gravitationally induced adrenaline fix.

Three lifts will take skiers as high as their bravery and skill level will allow.

A pro shop is available for gear rentals and purchases, while lessons are offered if you need to learn or refresh your knowledge.

The lodge offers warmth and comfort and maybe a tipple of the good stuff if you are so inclined and of legal age.

While not the gnarliest of downhill areas, Mt. La Crosse offers a great opportunity for the skier, giving excellent elevation change in a state mostly covered and smoothed by glacial debris.

The Mt. La Crosse Ski Area begins its run at Old Town Hall Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601.

5- Visit The La Crosse Center

From sporting events to concerts, comedy to conventions, The La Crosse Center is a great place to be a part of the action.

With over 120,000 sq ft (11,148 sqm) of space, the La Crosse Center provides plenty of room for you to enjoy the show.

Located near hotels, restaurants, trains and planes, the La Crosse Center’s downtown is an ideal spot to begin your exploration of the city.

Check the events page to see if there is a ticket with your name on it.

The La Crosse Center entertains at 300 Harborview Plaza, La Crosse, WI 54601.

6- Learn At Historic Hixon House Museum

things to do in la crosse wi

Hixon House is a historic mansion built in the 1870s and an excellent example of Victorian-era architecture.

It is a registered historic landmark and is open for tours.

Visitors to the Hixon House can learn about the history of the house and the city of La Crosse and see the elegant furnishings and decorations typical of the period.

Hixon House is also a popular venue for weddings and other special events.

It is a great place to learn about the history of La Crosse and the lives of the city’s early residents.

The Historic Hixon House teaches at 429 7th St N, La Crosse, WI 54601.

7- Explore The Great River State Trail

la crosse wisconsin riverfront
Walking along the riverfront is a relaxing thing to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The Great River State Trail traverses 24 miles (39 km) of shoreline and backwater along the Mighty Mississippi.

In summer, hikers and bikers can revel in the scenery and take in a quieter and more contemplative experience of one of the United States’ most important waterways.

In winter, delight in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

With Old Man River as the narrator, travellers will physically experience a 10,000-year-old story.

Whether you hike a mile or go the distance, the Great River State Trail will challenge and reward your efforts.

The Great River State Trail has numerous parking areas, and hikes end at Great River Road/SR 54/SR 35 at County Road P (Marshland) and County Road B/La Crosse River State Trail, east of SR16 (La Crosse).

8- Burn Your Tires To The Dahl Auto Museum

If your tastes are more road and track centered, the Dahl Auto Museum brings plenty of horsepower to the party.

Gearheads can marvel at the engineering and history of vehicles ranging from a 1915 Model T, to a 2006 Ford GT Heritage.

Though you shouldn’t drive at the GT’s top speed (205 mph, 330 kmh), you should safely get there and then take your time with these awesome pieces of history.

The Dahl Auto Museum revs up at 711 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601.

9- Express Yourself At The Pump House Regional Arts Center

The Pump House Regional Arts Center is a multi-platform art extravaganza where you can view paintings and pottery, and then grab a ticket to a play or concert.

Various events populate the calendar, so look ahead to see if your trip coincides with an exhibit or performance of interest.

A definite treat for the fine art aficionado, the Pump House Regional Arts Center is a culturally ecstatic celebration of expression.

The Pump House Regional Arts Center enchants at 119 King St, La Crosse, WI 54601.

10- Drink In The History At The World’s Largest Six Pack

For some, the art and science of fermentation is the performance they want to see.

At the World’s Largest Six Pack, brewing takes on new proportions, with six functioning beer cans holding 688,200 gallons (2,605,120 l) of the golden elixir.

Fermentation as art has never had a larger canvas.

A monument to the importance of brewing in the State of Wisconsin, the World’s Largest Six Pack is a thirsty traveller’s delight.

The World’s Largest Six Pack is brewed at 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601

11- Fish On The Mississippi

If your interests are more aquatic, casting a line into the Muddy Mississippi is an awesome opportunity to fish water that has been the lifeblood of regional people for thousands of years.

The species list of the Upper Mississippi is extensive, encompassing walleye, northern pike, bass, crappies, bluegills, and about 115 others.

Boat rentals are available, as well as the Best Dam River Float, a floating dock offering excellent shore fishing.

From catfish to freshwater drums, the Mississippi is replete with opportunities for visitors seeking to catch the history and beauty of the Great River one fish at a time.

Mississippi River fishing is available at numerous shore locations throughout La Crosse.

Goose Island and Pettibone Lagoon are easy to access and productive.

12- Catch A Show At The Weber Center For The Performing Arts 

The Weber Center For The Performing Arts is another demonstration of the La Crosse area’s allure for the fine arts enthusiast.

Performances include play productions and concerts resulting from a partnership with Viterbo College and other organisations.

Whether it’s rock or theatre you desire, the Weber Center for the Performing Arts is sure to scratch your entertainment itch.

The Weber Center For The Performing Arts rocks out at 428 Front St S, La Crosse, WI 54601.

13- Climb Grandad Bluff

Grandad Bluff rises 590 ft (180m) above the city of La Crosse and offers scenic dolomite cliffs from which to capture a commanding view of the city.

Thanks to a prominent La Crosse family, the area of Grandad Bluff was saved from mining operations around the turn of the 20th century and has continued to be a protected source of recreation and a haven for wildlife.

The cliffs look awesome from the bottom, but the view from the top is considered one of the best in the State of Wisconsin.

On a clear day, the explorer can see views of three states, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as they gaze from an ancient viewpoint down to the Mississippi Valley.

If scenic overlooks are your travel milieu, Grandad Bluff is one not to be missed in the Dairy State.

Grandad Bluff towers at 3020 Grandad Bluff Road, La Crosse, WI 54601.

14- Swim At Pettibone Park

Pettibone Park is known primarily for its beach, which offers visitors the ability to get up close and personal with the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn style.

Although a dip in the river is what most folks are there for, the park also has a disk golf course, shelters and open spaces for quiet relaxation.

Get in touch with your inner Tom Sawyer by swimming in the river whose navigational terms inspired Mark Twain’s nom de plume.

Pettibone Park swims along at 700 N Pettibone Dr, La Crosse, WI 54601.

15- Hike The Hixon Forest

The Hixon Forest is a protected natural area donated by the Hixon family along with Grandad Bluff Park.

With over 10 miles (16 km) of trails connecting Riverside Park, Grandad Bluff Park, and Myrick Park, the views are spectacular and numerous.

The forest is home to a variety of trees and plants, as well as several wildlife species.

It is a popular destination for hiking, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities.

Hixon Forest is a great place to enjoy the beauty of nature and get wild.

The Hixon Forest is at 2600 Old Quarry Rd, La Crosse, WI 54601.

16- Lounge At The Black River Beach

Black River Beach is a public beach along the Black River popular for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking, and is equipped with restrooms, concessions and a playground.

The beach is also popular for fishing and paddling and is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the river.

Black River Beach is a fabulous destination for families and is a great place to spend a summer day.

Black River Beach washes up at 1433 Rose St, La Crosse, WI 54603.

17- Find Your Overlook At The La Crosse Blufflands

The La Crosse Blufflands is a region of rolling hills and bluffs located in western Wisconsin along the Mississippi River.

Known for its natural beauty, with steep cliffs, hills and valleys, the area is also a popular destination for birdwatching, with several rare and threatened species living in the region.

The La Crosse Blufflands are an important part of the region’s natural and cultural heritage and a favoured destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The La Crosse Blufflands can be explored at N3065 Cty Rd FA, La Crosse, WI.

18- Race To La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway

The La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway is a racetrack located in West Salem, Wisconsin, just outside La Crosse.

The track is a half-mile (.8 km) oval used for stock car racing.

It hosts several racing events throughout the year, including the Oktoberfest Race Weekend, one of the biggest events on the track’s calendar.

In addition to racing, the track also hosts other events, such as car shows, concerts and other entertainment.

The La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway races to victory at N4985 Co Rd M, West Salem, WI 54669.

19- Bloom At The Apple Blossom Scenic Drive

fun things to do in la crosse wi
Picking apples is one of the fun things to do in La Crosse WI.

The La Crosse Area Apple Blossom Scenic Drive is an annual event in the spring when the apple trees in the region are in bloom.

The drive is a self-guided tour of the apple orchards in the La Crosse area, allowing visitors to see and learn about the history of apple farming in the region.

The drive usually takes place over a weekend and includes several activities, such as apple tastings, live music, and craft fairs.

It is a fun opportunity to experience the area’s natural beauty and learn about the local agriculture.

The Apple Blossom Scenic Drive Loop begins at 400 King St, La Crosse, WI 54601, but there are numerous locations to view the bloom.

20- Play At The Children’s Museum Of La Crosse

The La Crosse Children’s Museum is an interactive museum focused on young and curious minds.

The museum is designed for children and families and has several hands-on exhibits that encourage learning through play.

Activities include a water play area, a construction zone, and a farm exhibit.

The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, such as story time and art projects.

The La Crosse Children’s Museum is a popular destination for families and is an excellent place for kids (and adults) to learn and have fun.

The Children’s Museum Of La Crosse plays at 207 5th Ave S, La Crosse, WI 54601.

la crosse wisconsin
Looking for things to do in La Crosse WI? Head there in the fall for some leaf peeping.

La Crosse has been a hub of Native American life for tens of thousands of years, and settler industry and fine arts since the beginning of the 19th century. Its location in the Driftless area allows visitors to admire bedrock landscapes mostly covered in Ice Age glacial drift in the rest of the State of Wisconsin, offering the viewer a glimpse into an ancient past.

Although this list contains some of the most prominent attractions of the La Crosse area, it is by no means the final authority. The area surrounding La Crosse has supported the endeavours of humans for millennia and is a place to be revisited again and again. From the Bluffs to the Great River, the La Crosse area is a source of enjoyment and natural enlightenment for travellers young, old and anywhere in between. 

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Tom Weber was born and raised in Central Wisconsin, and still calls that area home. He lives on a small farm near the town of Cambria with his wife and two children. Weber’s travels have taken him to numerous locales in the United States and internationally. Particular favorites include Grand Tetons in Wyoming and Cozumel, Mexico. Weber also completed four tours overseas as a member of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment between 2001 and 2005. His writing includes travelogs, political and legal essays, and a book focused on natural human movement. He has a degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.