There are a ton of things to do with kids in La Crosse, WI. From educational museums and indoor play parks to cultural festivals and farm visits, there’s something for your whole family.
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.
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.
Whether you are looking for a weekend of hiking and biking, or would prefer time indoors at the cinema, there are plenty of options with kids in La Crosse.
This article will provide you with everything you need to plan and book your next family vacation to Wisconsin’s driftless area, including 35 exciting things to do with your kids in La Crosse, WI!
Outdoor Adventures in La Crosse with Kids
La Crosse is located in Western Wisconsin’s driftless area and is popular with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. It is easy to understand why!
The area hosts countlesspublic parks and a sprawling network of interconnected hiking and biking trails that would be the envy of any outdoor city. The only downside? It will take more than a long weekend to experience it all!
Island Outdoors rents everything from kayaks, canoes, and SUPs in the summer to 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 to visit with our kids in La Crosse.
Grandad Bluff Park
Grandad Bluff Park provides breathtaking views of downtown La Crosse and beyond, including Minnesota and Iowa! You can bring a picnic lunch and eat at the tables spread throughout the park, or, stop by Alpine Inn or Bluffside Tavern for a quick bite.
Cycling, Hiking, and Cross Country Skiing Trails
La Crosse has multiple trails for all ability levels. The most family friendly are the La Cross River Trail and the Great River State Trail. Both are kid-friendly for walking and biking in the summer and snow-shoe and cross-country skiing in the winter.
The La Crosse River State Trail stretches 22-miles from downtown La Crosse to Sparta. It is family-friendly, open to walking and biking, and leads to the Children’s Museum, which is a must-do experience for young kids in La Crosse.
The Great River State Trail runs 24 miles offering breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. It links up to the La Crosse River State Trail via a short bike through town.
Riverside Park & Riverside International Friendship Gardens
Riverside Park, another great park for kids in La Crosse County, hosts many events, including a spectacular July fireworks display that your children will love!
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.
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 perfect for families, a public beach, a campground store selling refreshments and canoe and kayak rentals, and camp sites.
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 boasts 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 has a ton of hiking trails and four designated parking areas. Some of the trails will take you to the top of Granddad Bluff!
The interconnectedness of the hiking and multi-use trail system is amazing. You can start at Riverside Park downtown and make your way to almost any park with hiking paths in the area.
Sports and Indoor Family-Friendly Attractions in La Crosse
La Crosse is nestled in the heart of Western Wisconsin’s Coulee Region and is a treasure trove for families seeking indoor fun. There’s an abundance of activities to choose from that cater to all ages and abilities.
Rainy weekend ruin your hiking plans? Don’t worry. There is plenty available to keep your family busy!
La Crosse Loggers Baseball
Our oldest son is baseball-obsessed, and 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 even the youngest baseball fans. Most of the players are college athletes hoping to get noticed by MLB scouts.
Jump Start Adventure Park
Jump Start Adventure Park is a great indoor option for kids in La Crosse. It isn’t just wall-to-wall bouncing – there are foam pits and dodgeball courts too.
A visit promises high-energy excitement and laughter-filled memories, and is great for kids (like ours) that are filled with excess energy.
Rivoli Theater & Pizzeria
Rivoli Theater & Pizzeria is a classic movie theater experience. One of many movie theaters in the area, it offers an historic take on a modern activity along with excellent pizza and an extensive beer selection!
During recent renovations, they even found a 90-year-old mural hiding in plain sight!
Splash Bay Adventure Water Park
No need to fret if the weather gets dreary during your stay because Splash Bay Adventure Water Park (formerly River Jacks Indoor Water Park) is indoors.
This is a small water park located inside the Americinn by Wyndham Lac Crosse Riverfront Conference Center. It is free for guests and cheap for non-guests.
Old School Fun with Roller Skating and Bowling
Both are great for children of all ages and are bound to bring back some memories for the parents and grandparents.
Educational and Cultural Attractions for Kids in La Crosse
Educational and cultural attractions abound for kids 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!
Many of these activities are great to have in your back pocket, as they do not require advanced booking and are perfect for rainy days.
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:
- La Crosse Queen riverboat tours.
- La Crosse Segway Tours through downtown and beyond.
- Historic trolley tour.
We enjoyed a Segway tour on our last trip, but without kids. It was a fun and unique way to see the city, even if it took some getting used to!
Unfortunately, kids have to be at least 12 years of age, so if you have younger kids the riverboat and trolley tours are your only option.
The International Owl Center
Nature lovers will enjoy the International Owl Center. It is an owl sanctuary with interactive exhibits, events, a gift shop, and an AMAZING natural playground that covers a full acre!
Children’s Museum of La Crosse
No weekend with kids in La Crosse would be complete without a visit to the Children’s Museum of La Crosse. This museum offers hands-on learning experiences designed specifically for young children, making education feel like playtime.
The museum is definitely geared more towards younger kids (our 9-year-old is too old) and features some hometown heroes like Kwik Trip!
Create Your Own Masterpiece at All Glazed Up
Everyone in the family can unleash their creativity painting handmade pottery pieces at All Glazed Up. It is perfect for the little artist in our family, and their creations make wonderful gifts for grandmas and grandpas!
Dahl Auto Museum – A Trip Down Memory Lane
Located walking distance from downtown La Crosse, the Dahl Auto Museum celebrates the Dahl family’s 100 years of involvement in the auto industry. It houses vintage cars and memorabilia and is definitely worth a stop!
Pearl Street Books – A Two Story Reading Experience
Literature lovers rejoice. Pearl Street Books is a quaint independent bookstore covering two stories!
We spent hours perusing the shelves, discovering new authors and genres, and picking out some goodies. They have floor to ceiling shelves and a great kids section full of used books.
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 – A Spiritual Journey in La Crosse County
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just a place for prayer. It’s 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.
Fun on the Farm with Kids in La Crosse, WI
Farm visits are a great way for kids to let out some energy while connecting with nature. It is hard to pass up a real farm experience, given Wisconsin’s namesake as America’s Dairyland.
We have visited and stayed at countless working farms all over the globe, and farm stays are our favorite method of travel with young kids.
Hidden Hills Farm
Not far outside of La Crosse lies Hidden Hills Farm in the picturesque Coulee Region. This working farm offers everything from petting farm packages to paintball and battle courses to murder mystery events.
They have activities for kids of all ages, and you can purchase farm fresh goodies right on site!
The experience doesn’t stop there; kids have plenty of space at Hidden Hills Dairy’s playground, while parents can unwind under picnic shelters nearby. And if you’ve worked up an appetite during your visit? Grab a chunck of their homemade cheese, sold right at their gift shop.
Rainbow Ridge Farms
A stone’s throw away from downtown La Crosse sits Rainbow Ridge Farms. They are a bed and breakfast that also offers educational programs designed specifically towards teaching young ones all about sustainable farming practices and animal care techniques.
Kid-friendly Festivals & Events
Oktoberfest USA isn’t La Crosse’s only claim to fame! It 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 family-friendly activities that create lasting memories.
The Rotary Lights Festival is a must-do experience around the holidays.
Oktoberfest USA is a deeply rooted tradition in La Crosse County and is held in late September. This event celebrates German heritage with traditional music performances, food stalls offering authentic cuisine, and beer… lots of it.
But don’t despair, it also hosts carnival rides, a parade, and the YMCA’s Maple Mile Run geared at the younger attendees.
The annual Riverfest is held during summer (late June) at Riverside Park and is a great family-friendly option. The festival features live music suitable for all ages, as well as magic shows and face painting specifically designed to entertain kids – making it one another great reason to book your trip in June!
Rotary Lights Festival
If you are visiting in the winter, then don’t miss the Rotary Lights Festival, where over four million lights transform Riverside Park into a magical winter wonderland.
Families can enjoy carriage rides through this park and meet Santa Claus himself while sipping hot cocoa under the lights.
Unique Dining Options for Families in La Crosse
Eating out with kids is hard. We get it. Thankfully the City of La Crosse has plenty of options.
Below are a couple of the more unique spots we found, many of which involve candy! A true guide to friendly dining options would require a whole other blog post! Hopefully this is enough to get you started.
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 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.
Best Accommodations for Families
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
For those seeking luxury, there is The Charmant Hotel. 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 families with kids in La Crosse, WI.
Do you prefer to cook meals at the hotel? We sure do. The Home2Suites is a great option. It also has an indoor pool!
AmericInn by Wyndham La Crosse Riverfront
Remember Splash Bay Waterpark mentioned above? Well, it is located at the AmericInn!
This hotel is not far from downtown La Crosse and is located on the riverfront. In additional to the water park, it also is home to a well-known tiki bar… need we say more?
Other great options include Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, Radisson Hotel, Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Grandstay Hotel, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and the unique Wilson Schoolhouse Inn!
Don’t fret… there are plenty of options!
Our Fav Things to do with Kids in La Crosse – Review
There are plenty of things to do with kids in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We have visited many times over the years and always find something new and exciting.
Whether you are outdoor enthusiasts, artists, foodies, sports fans, or something completely different, La Crosse has something for yout family.
Are you looking for more information to plan your stay? Then visit our friends at Explore La Crosse. They are the true experts and are at your service!
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