30 Fun Things to Do in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Enjoying one of the best things to do in La Crosse, WI - A cold drink on the river

There are a ton of things to do in La Crosse, WI. From outdoor adventures and baseball games to bars and restaurants, there’s something for everyone. 

Over the years we have visited countless towns and cities in the upper Midwest, probably too many to count. La Crosse is by far one of our favorites. Our most recent trip to La Crosse was just the two of us. No kids. Just adult fun!

The combination of a walkable and vibrant downtown, diverse indoor and outdoor activities, high-quality lodging, and its location on the Mississippi River makes it a must-visit Wisconsin town.

This article will provide you with everything you need to plan and book your next vacation to Wisconsin’s driftless region, including 30 exciting things to do La Crosse, WI!

Visiting with your family? Then check out our gide to 35 Exciting Things to Do with Kids in La Crosse, WI.

Things to Do in La Crosse – Hiking, Biking, and Paddling

La Crosse with Kids - Paddling the Black River in Kayaks
We enjoyed a day on the water with the Explore La Crosse team

La Crosse is located in Western Wisconsin’s driftless area and is popular with outdoor enthusiasts. It is easy to understand why!

The area hosts countless public parks and a sprawling network of interconnected bike trails. The only downside? It will take more than a long weekend to experience it all!

Island Outdoors rents kayaks, canoes, and SUPs in the summer abd ice houses, cross country skis, and snowshoes in the winter. They are a great option if you do not own your own equipment or, like us, tend to plan last minute and forget to bring it all along!

Below are our favorite outdoor spots in the La Crosse area.

Looking for another fun town with great outdoor activities? Check out the 25 Best Things to Do in Northfield, Minnesota

Grandad Bluff Park

Grandad Bluff Park provides scenic views of downtown La Crosse from the top of the bluffs. On a clear day you can see Minnesota and Iowa! Stop by Alpine Inn or Bluffside Tavern for a quick bite or pack a romantic picnic lunch and enjoy the views.

La Cross River Trail

The La Crosse River State Trail stretches 22-miles from downtown La Crosse to Sparta, WI. It is best exprerienced walking and biking in the summer or cross-country skiing in the winter.

The trail leads right into downtown La Crosse’s bar and restaurant scene!

Great River State Trail

The Great River State Trail runs 24 miles along the banks of the Mississippi River, offering breathtaking views of the entire river valley. It links up to the La Crosse River State Trail via a short bike through town. .

Another option is to drive the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River in its entirety.

Read More: 20 Breathtaking State Parks Near Rochester, MN

Riverside Park & Riverside International Friendship Gardens

Riverside Park is the backbone of the downtown area. The park hosts many events, including a spectacular July fireworks display!

Adjacent to this park is the Riverside International Friendship Gardens, which houses many different gardens inspired by international cultures, including a very cool Chinese garden.

Both are on the river and a short walk from downtown and most hotels and bars.

Goose Island County Park

Goose Island County Park is located three miles south of downtown. This public park has over five miles of forested hiking and biking paths, picnic areas, a public beach, a campground store selling refreshments and canoe and kayak rentals, and camp sites. 

The park is perfect spot if you are looking to avoid hotels and camp for the weekend.

Pettibone Park and Beach

Pettibone Park is mostly known for its expansive beach which can be seen from downtown, however it also offers picnic shelters, volleyball, trails, disc golf, fishing, and plenty of open space.

It is the perfect place to escape the heat and enjoy stunning views of the city.

Mount La Crosse Ski Hill

Mount La Crosse is home to the steepest vertical ski slope in Wisconsin! Enjoy their 18 trails, terrain park, night skiing, and award-winning “Après-ski” bar. Definitely a highlight if visiting in the winter months!

Hixon Forest

Hixon Forest has a ton of hiking trails and four designated parking areas. Some of the trails will take you to the top of Granddad Bluff and are not for the feint of heart.

The interconnectedness of the hiking and multi-use trail system in La Crosse is amazing. You can start at Riverside Park in the heart of downtown La Crosse and make your way to almost any park with hiking paths in the area.

Things to Do in La Crosse – Sports and Indoor Activities

La Crosse with Kids - Enjoying the historic Rivoli Theater downtown
You must check out the Rivoli Theater

La Crosse is nestled in the heart of Western Wisconsin’s Coulee Region and has plenty of indoor activities and attractions.

Rainy weekend ruin your hiking plans? Don’t worry. There is plenty available to keep you busy!

La Crosse Loggers Baseball

The La Crosse Loggers provide a thrilling baseball experience close to downtown.

The outdoor field, called the Lumberyard, offers close seats and plenty of action for baseball fans. Most of the players are college athletes hoping to get noticed by MLB scouts.

While not technically inside, you can stay relatively dry and enjoy great baseball up-close-and-personal.

Jump Start Adventure Park

Jump Start Adventure Park isn’t just for kids. It is a great indoor option for adults as well. It isn’t just wall-to-wall bouncing – there are foam pits and dodgeball courts too.

Adults will love their performance olympic trapolines and ninja warrior course.

Rivoli Theater & Pizzeria

Rivoli Theater & Pizzeria is a classic movie theater experience. They serve excellent pizza and boast an extensive beer selection! Step back in time and enjoy a riveting movie experience.

During recent renovations, they even found a 90-year-old mural hiding in plain sight!

Roller Skating and Bowling

Looking for some old-school fun? Check out High Roller Skating Center for an afternoon of rollerskating, or Pla-More Lanes for some competitive bowling.

Both are excellent and would be a great combination with a movie at Rivoli Theater and Pizzeria.

Educational and Cultural Attractions in La Crosse

Best Things to Do in La Crosse, WI - Segway Tour across Mississippi River Bridge

There are many Educational and cultural attractions in La Crosse. We are always amazed at the options given a total population of roughly 50,000. Being a college town definitely has its perks!

In addition to the list below, there are a ton of family-friendly options like the Children’s Museum, kid-friendly restaruants, and parks aplenty.

City Tours

One of the best ways to see a city and learn about its local history is with an organized tour! La Crosse has a couple of options:

We enjoyed a Segway tour on our last trip. It was a fun and unique way to see the city, even if it took some getting used to!

The La Crosse Queen Cruise is probably the most popular option and the boat takes of right from Riverside Park.

The International Owl Center

Nature lovers will enjoy the International Owl Center. It is an owl sanctuary with interactive exhibits, events, and a gift shop.

It can be paired with a day of birding at Van Loon State Wildlife Area or Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, two popular birdwatching destinations.

Potter Classes

Looking to let your artistic abilities shine?Then check out the potter classes at All Glazed Up. You will learn first-hand how to craft your own ceramics from start to finish.

Dahl Auto Museum – A Trip Down Memory Lane

The Dahl Auto Museum is walking distance from downtown La Crosse celebrates the Dahl family’s 100 years of involvement in the auto industry. It houses classic cars and memorabilia and is definitely worth a stop!

World’s Largest Six Pack

OK, this is probably not the most educational experience, but it is a huge local landmark. The World’s Largest Six Pack is made with six colossal beer tanks from the 1960s. It is a hometown icon and it is rumored that City Brewing is going to repaint them in 2024/2025.

Pearl Street Books – A Two Story Reading Experience

Pearl Street Books is a quaint independent bookstore with two levels of literary fun. I tend to have a problem when visiting used bookstores, one that results in far too many books coming home. Pearl Street Books did not disappoint!

Pump House Regional Arts Center

Pump House Regional Arts Center, nestled in Downtown La Crosse, serves as a hub for the local artists’ community. You’ll discover works by regional artists and various performances and workshops throughout the year

The goal of the center is to foster understanding and appreciation for the various forms of art in the community.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a place of prayer and an educational center offering guided tours and educational programs.

The interactive exhibits provide insight into the history and significance of various religious symbols and rituals, and the walking trails are breathtaking.

Things to do in La Crosse – Festivals & Events

Oktoberfest USA isn’t La Crosse’s only claim to fame! The City is also renowned for its vibrant local festivals and non-beer related special events.

These gatherings offer an exciting blend of cultural experiences, entertainment options, and fun activities that create lasting memories.

The Rotary Lights Festival is a must-do experience around the holidays. 

Looking for another fun Wisconsin town known for its festivals and events? Then check out Eau Clair, WI.

Oktoberfest USA

Oktoberfest USA is a deeply rooted tradition in La Crosse County and is held in late September. This event celebrates German heritage with traditional live music performances, food stalls offering authentic cuisine, and beer… lots of it. 

But don’t despair, it also hosts carnival rides, a parade, Medallian hunt, and craft beer night.

Riverfest

The annual Riverfest is music festival held during summer (late June) at Riverside Park. It is known for attracting top regional talent. The real highlight is the venue on the banks of the Mississippi river!

Rotary Lights Festival

The Rotary Lights Festival is the most popular winter event. Over four million lights transform Riverside Park into a magical winter wonderland.

Enjoy ice castles, carriage rides, ice skating, and the Ugly Sweater 5K run!

Things to Do in La Crosse – Food and Drinks

La Crosse with Kids - Couple having a gluten-free meal at Buzzard Billy's
You have to try Buzzard Billy’s on Pearl Street

La Crosse is home to a number of unique restaruants, sweets shops, and breweries.

Below are the ones we find the most interesting.

Pearl Ice Cream Parlor

Pearl Ice Cream Parlor is a can’t-miss spot located right on Pearl Street in downtown La Crosse. Serving up delectable homemade ice cream since 1938, their sweet offerings extend beyond frozen treats to include candy apples and other homemade delicacies.

It’s a perfect start to a stroll down Pearl Street!

Rudy’s Drive-In Restaurant

Don’t forget to make a stop at Rudy’s Drive-In Restaurant. Their unique roller skating carhop service adds extra charm to the overall dining experience. The menu features classic American fare and their famous root beer float.

The Sweet Shop

More candy? Stop by the locally owned business, The Sweet Shop, which was started in 1921!

Imagine a room full of homemade candy and chocolates, all with a classic ambiance. We absolutely love places like this.

Buzzard Billy’s

Buzzard Billy’s offers an exciting blend of American and Cajun cuisine. We loved the vintage decor and the fact that they have a separate, and amazing, Gluten-Free menu!

Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery

Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery is La Crosse’s best breakfast destination for families, hands down! This cozy eatery offers class American breakfasts in an old-school diner atmosphere.

After your meal, don’t forget to visit their bakery section, offering homemade European breads and pastries.

Coulee Region Craft Beverage Trail

The Coulee Region Craft Beverage Trail runs through Downtown La Crosse. Key stops include:

Things to Do in La Crosse – Hotels

La Crosse offers a wide range of accommodations, many of which are located right on the river AND offer easy and free parking.

Below is an overview of the types of accommodations you will find, ranging from high-end boutiques to common chains.

The Charmant Hotel

The Charmant Hotel is perfect for that romantic getaway. This boutique hotel provides modern conveniences while maintaining its historical charm, with rooms offering views over downtown or the river. This is oriented more towards the adult crowd, but kids are more than welcome.

The Rooftop Terrace is open to the public and is a great place for a night cap. Looking for more nightlife? Check out our friend Christine’s guide to La Crosse without kids!

Courtyard by Marriott Downtown/Mississippi Riverfront

We stayed at Courtyard by Marriott on our last trip. It is located on the Mississippi River and was recently upgraded, with new and spacious rooms, and large indoor pool, and a great patio overlooking the river.

This hotel is the perfect spot for the whole family.

Home2Suites

Do you prefer to cook meals at the hotel? We sure do. The Home2Suites is a great option. It also has an indoor pool!

Other options

Other great options include AmericInn, Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, Radisson Hotel, Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Grandstay Hotel, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and the unique Wilson Schoolhouse Inn!

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