3 Day Getaways / Explore America

Where to Stay, Sip, Eat, See Falls, and Catch a Sunset in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Just 1.5 hours from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Eau Claire sits at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers. The affordable destination has a thriving downtown filled with public art installations, cool breweries and bars, and intriguing historic buildings being revived with locally owned businesses. It’s a very walkable downtown with spectacular river views. The coolest thing is how excited folks in Eau Claire are to share their vibrant downtown.

Admittedly Eau Claire wasn’t on my travel radar until I was asked to speak at TBEX North America 2023. The conference gave me a great excuse to explore this small city in northern Wisconsin. I was pleasantly surprised by Eau Claire’s vibrant and accessible art, cool culinary scene, and quick access to outdoor adventure.

Stay at a Boutique Hotel

The Lismore Hotel is the boutique hotel to book in downtown Eau Claire. It’s especially great for Hilton Honors members since it’s a Doubletree by Hilton. I typically like to stay on higher floors and was intially concerned when they put me on the second floor near the elevators, stairs, and bar but honestly I didn’t hear much noise in the room. The rooms are spacious, the bed was comfy, and the blackout shades are great since sunrise is before 6a.m. in summer. You can easily walk to Phoenix Park and Pablo Center. Plus, there’s a local coffee shop on the ground floor and a snazzy rooftop bar on the second floor.

Cool Coffee Shop for Breakfast or Lunch

I was a frequent customer at ECDC (Eau Claire Downtown Coffee) partly because it is in The Lismore and they open at 6a.m., which is great for this early riser who loves a great almond milk latte. Plus, they have a great selection of healthy, filling, and delicious food options beyond just pastries typically found in coffee shops. I tried the Northwoods Wrap minus the bacon and peanut butter toast with house-made jam for breakfast two mornings and sipped a green smoothie packed with kale, spinach, chia seeds, and more for a lunch. It’s also a great spot if you need to work on your laptop while sipping coffee. I also noticed a lot of locals patroning ECDC.

Happy Hour Hotspots

Since Wisconsin is known for cheese and beer, Eau Claire has a plethora of breweries including The Brewing Projekt and Lazy Monk Brewing in downtown. The Fire House is a lively tavern with 38 rotating craft beers on tap. When I went they had the garage doors open, sports on the tvs, and music playing. No worries if you don’t drink beer. I tried one of their cider offering and they have cocktails. We got some popcorn to nibble on but you order one of their pizzas. They also have some fun themed events like trivia nights and Pitchers and Packers on game days. The District Pub and Grill is a local taphouse with 30 beers on tap and known for great burgers. They have a great happy hour and we noshed on their Hand Battered Pickle Planks and District Curds, which are the District’s twist on traditional Wisconsin cheese curds. I’m not a big beer drinker and opted for one of their refreshing handcrafted cocktails. For an elevated cocktail experience head to Dive on the second floor of The Lismore. My friend and fellow travel creator Adeina Anderson and I enjoyed both their open air lounge and stylish inside. I’m a big fan of French 75 cocktails and their 75 Fahrenheit is a great twist on the classic cocktail. We turned happy hour into dinner with a margarita pizza. It’s one of the wood stone pizzas from the Informalist restaurant on the ground level of The Lismore.

We All Scream for Ice Cream

I love a good locally owned ice cream shop and downtown Eau Claire has two fabulous ones. Yes, I tried a scoop at both on two different nights. Olson’s Ice Cream has been serving up scoops since 1944. I went for a scoop of Heath Supreme. They also have coffee, sundaes, floats, and a large array of flavored popcorn. Ramone’s is an old fashioned ice cream parlor owned by a young couple who are lifelong Eau Claire residents. The vintage ice cream shop has hand dipped cones, shakes, floats, and fun ice cream pies and sandwiches. I went with This *&^ Just Got Serious flavor solely because of the fun name! The sweet and salty combination has sea salt fudge and salted cashews in it.

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Big Falls County Park is a popular summer spot for locals and tourists. Local fishing guide Hunter with Wisconsin Fly Fishing Company took Adeina and I early one morning. If you want solitude at the falls, that’s the time to go. It’s also a great alternative to the very popular Dells of the Eau Claire. We went to two locations in Big Falls County Park to do two short hikes for great viewpoints of the Eau Claire River and Big Falls. I was pleasantly surprised with the sandy beaches and rock scrambling opportunities in the 135-acre wooded park.

Slow Down with a Sunset

The best spot to catch a sunset in Eau Claire is from Pablo Center at the Confluence. You’ll likely see locally and tourists enjoying the view of the sun setting over the confluence of the smaller Eau Claire River with larger Chippewa River running through downtown outside of the state-of-the-art venue.

Author Jennifer Broome has traveled extensively across the United States. Check out post on St. Croix River and Ice Age Trail for day trip ideas from Eau Claire.

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