Guide to the must-do activities and events in La Crosse, Wisconsin for locals and visitors
La Crosse is an often overlooked destination in Wisconsin, which is a real shame as the city has a lot of offer visitors.
There are many fun things to do in La Crosse, WI for families, solo travelers, couples, or even a group of friends on a road trip.
From hiking to visiting the local breweries and pubs, to relaxing spa getaways, you can find it all in La Crosse.
Here are all my top recommendations for the best activities in La Crosse, WI for an unforgettable visit!
“Paulina on the Road” is supported by you, dear reader. As you buy through my links, I earn a small commission. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support
Top resources to travel Wisconsin
✎ Plan the ultimate Wisconsin road trip (no backtracking!) with the Perfect Wisconsin Road Trip itinerary – Buy now for less than 12$
✈ Find the best hotel deals in Wisconsin with Trivago
➳ Book vacation rentals in Wisconsin with VRBO
✔ Book tours in Wisconsin with Viator
☘ Get the best discounted outdoor gear (outlet) at REI.com
$ Get Wisconsin hiking guides and maps at REI.com
✎ Never leave without travel insurance. I get mine at SafetyWing. It is easy to set up, cheap, and reliable.
Overview: Top 5 Things to do in La Crosse, WI
- Visit the breweries & pubs
- Grandad Bluff
- Children’s Museum of La Crosse
- Mountain biking
- Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
1. Visit the Breweries & Pubs
A pub stop might not be for everyone, but for those who love a good brewery or pub stop, La Cross, WI, is full of fantastic options.
In fact, La Crosse is known for being a beer town, so you really can’t pay the town a visit without trying out a few of the local beers!
Not only is a brewery visit one of the top things to do in La Crosse, WI, but you’ll find some of the best breweries in Wisconsin here.
Many of the breweries offer tastings, which are a great way to spend an afternoon for adult visitors.
As you can imagine, they’re popular with college kids who are spending their spring break in Wisconsin.
And some of the pubs are fun places to hang out and meet locals, with a few offering great La Crosse, WI, events like live music evenings.
One of my top recommendations is the Pearl Street Brewing Company, which is perfect for tastings thanks to their range of unique beers.
Another La Crosse staple is the 608 Brewing Company where you’ll find some of the best craft beer you’ve ever drank.
Started by a group of friends who love delicious beer, this brewing company is renowned for its unique craft beers, many with fun names like Hop Warlock and Googly Eyes.
If you’d prefer a pub rather than a brewery, try out the Bodega Brew Pub, said to be one of the most haunted places in Wisconsin.
It is believed that the original owner of the pub, who died on the premises in 1901, still haunts it – of course, it doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of the drinks being served!
Of course, there’s always the Dublin Square Irish Pub and Eatery, which offers up a classic Irish pub atmosphere and is a great spot for the whole family to enjoy a tasty Irish meal!
There are many other pubs and breweries throughout the city, but one of the best LaCross things to do is to discover them for yourself!
And don’t miss out on seeing the world’s largest six-pack, one of the biggest (literally) La Crosse attractions – and one of the best things to do in Central Wisconsin!
2. Enjoy a Romantic Spa Getaway
A spa getaway is one of my favorite romantic getaways in Wisconsin, and I think La Crosse is the perfect city to enjoy one in.
Whether you’re visiting or live here and looking for a relaxing day out, spa treatments are one of the top things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
There are a number of excellent spa getaway options to choose from, by my number one recommendation is the Orange Pearl Salon & Spa.
They offer a range of couples packages, including all-day options that allow you to completely bliss out and revitalize your body.
Another fantastic option is The Ultimate Salon & Spa, which uses the AVEDA concept of spa relaxation and has 25 years of experience to ensure the perfect spa experience.
A few other great options are the Metropolitan Salon and Day Spa and Sue Kolve’s Salon and Day Spa.
If you’re here for a romantic getaway, I recommend staying at The Charmant Hotel, I think it is one of the most romantic hotels in Wisconsin.
Book here romantic cabins in La Crosse, WI
3. Go Mountain Biking
Seeing as there are numerous amazing outdoor activities in Wisconsin to enjoy, it’s no surprise that many of the best things to do in La Crosse, WI involve the outdoors.
And one of these fun outdoor activities in La Crosse, WI is mountain biking!
There are trails everywhere in and around La Crosse, arguably some of the best mountain bike trails in Wisconsin.
A few mountain bike trails in the area you must try out are:
- Three Rivers Trail: located across from La Crosse river marsh, this is one of the easier trails in the area and takes about 90 minutes to complete.
- Hixon Forest: there are many trails within the forest of varying lengths that are worth exploring for a fun day out.
- The Wolfsbane, War Eagle, Wilder Way, and Tramway Loop: this 2.5-mile circular trail is located within Grandad Bluff Park and is a true hidden gem.
4. Take a Hike
If mountain biking is too intense for you, hiking is a great alternative and one of my favorite free things to do in La Crosse, WI.
And like mountain biking, there are many trails to choose from, in fact, there are a lot of great hiking trails in the area – arguably some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin.
A few of the best hikes in or around La Crosse to try out are:
- Iron Man and Butterfly Trail Loop – perfect for a shorter hike as you can finish in 30 minutes
- Oak Trail to Hickory Trail to Bicentennial Trail Loop – 3 separate trails you can combine into one for a bit of a longer hike
- Birch to Vista Prairie Lookout Loop – enjoy relaxing views of the area
- La Crosse Blufflands Quarry Loop – quick and easy trail for beginners
- George’s Point, Grand Prairie Xee Xete (Quarry East) Loop – a unique hiking experience on the old tramway
- Riverside Park Loop – shortest walk in La Crosse (just 15 minutes) offering stunning views over the lake.
- Rim and Sidewinder Loop – best hike for prairie views
Additionally, all of the mountain bike trails can also be used as hiking trails, as well – just keep an eye out for bikers!
5. Pay Respects at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
This beautiful building is one of the most iconic La Crosse, WI, attractions and a must for any visitors who love architecture or religious sites.
Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this Catholic shrine church has become an important pilgrimage site.
Within, there are several statues and paintings of important Catholic figures, as well as a large mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Be sure to stop by, pay your respects, and maybe even attend a service as all are welcome.
Visitors can also enjoy a stroll through the garden, where you can sit and reflect for a moment, or enjoy a picnic under the watchful eye of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The shrine won’t be for everyone, but it’s one of the most beautiful things to see in La Crosse, WI for those who enjoy religious sites.
6. Dahl Auto Museum
For anyone who loves cars or is interested in the history of automobiles, the Dahl Auto Museum is easily one of the top La Crosse things to do.
The Dahl family has been involved in the automobile business for over 100 years, so they know what they’re doing.
They’ve also poured all that love and knowledge into the museum, which is why it’s one of the most fun things to do in LaCrosse, WI for the whole family – and especially car enthusiasts.
Due to their involvement with Ford, most of the cars within the museum are Ford.
In addition to being a Ford-focused museum, most of the cars are classic cars from the 1930s and 40s.
You’ll also find several fully restored vehicles with manufacture dates that range from the early 1900s to the present.
For a fun day out with the whole family, be sure to pay a visit to this La Crosse staple.
7. Riverside International Friendship Gardens
When it comes to free things to do in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, you can’t beat the beautiful Riverside International Friendship Gardens.
As the name somewhat suggests, the gardens represent the friendship that La Crosse shares with its sister cities around the world.
You can explore gardens from seven countries: Cameroon, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, and Russia.
Each garden is designed with its respective nation in mind incorporating different sculptures, designs, and vegetation.
A stroll through the gardens is one of my favorite things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and a must when you visit the city.
8. Grandad Bluff Geologic Formation
One of the most popular things to do around La Crosse, WI is to visit Grandad Bluff.
This uniquely-formed plateau is 590 feet above the surrounding area, which means it offers fantastic panoramic views over the city.
From here, you can see the whole city, as well as the surrounding mountains and forest.
On a clear day, you can see for miles, while at night, you can enjoy seeing the city lit up.
Alternatively, one of my favorite things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is to hike up to Grandad Bluff for sunset or sunrise and take in the amazing views.
If you’re visiting in autumn, this is hands down one of the best places to see fall colors in Wisconsin.
9. Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Motherhouse
Another one of the top religious La Crosse, WI, things to do is to pay a visit to the Perpetual Adoration Motherhouse run by the Franciscan Sisters.
The institute traces its roots back to 1849 when the foundresses traveled from Bavaria to Milwaukee before becoming established in La Crosse.
Visitors can arrange to have a tour of the chapel from one of the sisters and marvel at the stunning architecture within.
Everyone is also welcome to join in on mass which happens every day except Saturdays.
While visiting, you can light a candle for a loved one, or request that a prayer be said for yourself or someone else.
Make sure to also check out the Mary of the Angels Chapel, which serves as their place of worship.
Additionally, you’ll find many regular religious as well as secular events in La Crosse, WI here that are available to the public.
The sisters host everything from poetry nights to advocacy events concerning local and national issues.
Please remember that this building operates as a convent and a church, so be quiet and respectful while there.
10. Children’s Museum of La Crosse
It may seem that a lot of things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin, are for adults, but there are plenty of fun things for kids too!
And as the name suggests, the Children’s Museum of La Crosse is one of the top things to do in La Crosse for kids.
First opened in 1999, the Children’s Museum is dedicated to education and growth for kids and adults alike.
The museum features many fun interactive exhibits, including dressing up and pretending to be a firefighter and the giant Dino Maze.
With three stories of exhibits, kids will be happy to visit again and again!
11. Visit the wineries
La Crosse may be known for its breweries, but there are also some great vineyards and wine bars in the city and surrounding area worth a visit.
A wine tasting is among the best things to do in LaCrosse for the over-21 crowd.
DnA Vintners is the best winery in the city of La Crosse and are well known for their popular cranberry wines.
They are only open May-December, but if you’re able to visit during this time, you must stop by for a tasting!
For a wine and cocktail bar in the city, Christos Taverna provides a great atmosphere and tasty food with their drinks.
If you’re looking for some things to do near la crosse, WI, and prefer a traditional vineyard, check out Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau, or Branches Winery in Westby.
12. Hixon House
Hixon House is one of the oldest standing homes in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past.
Gideon C. Hixon was a lumber baron and one of the pioneer settlers of La Crosse and built the house for his family in 1859.
It is a two-story Italianate-style home that is still fitted with original furnishings from the period.
Additionally, Hixon incorporated many items purchased abroad during business trips into the home.
For anyone interested in La Crosse’s history or in architecture, the Hixon House is one of the most interesting things to do in La Crosse, WI.
13. Pump House Regional Arts Center
Anyone interested in the arts will find something to love about the Pump House Regional Arts Center.
The center hosts various exhibitions, puts on performances of different mediums and even offers workshops and classes.
You can spend the day learning how to make pottery, attend a musical in the evening and come back the next day for a photography exhibit.
For patrons of the arts, this is easily one of the best things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin any day of the week!
14. Antique Center of La Crosse
Located downtown, the Antique Center is one of the best things to do in La Crosse, WI.
Antique enthusiasts will love wandering around and finding all the hidden gems from vintage clothing and dolls to old signs and food tins.
There is also a cornucopia of old books, furniture, and memorabilia collected over the last century and beyond.
Even the building that houses the Antique Center, the century-old Gantert building, is itself a relic.
If you’re visiting during winter in Wisconsin, this can be just as good as any of the Christmas markets in Wisconsin for finding unique gifts.
15. Pettibone Park
One of the best things to do in La Crosse, WI on a nice day is to head to Pettibone Park where you can spend the day.
Located on Barron Island surrounded by the Mississippi River, Pettibone Park is a popular spot for swimming and other water sports.
Visitors to the park can enjoy various water activities, including fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking and much more.
There are also volleyball and disc golf facilities, spaces for picnics, and trails for walking, hiking or biking.
Pettibone Park is a perfect spot for the whole family to spend the day, or even to escape for a romantic afternoon out.
Don’t forget there are many free things to do in La Crosse WI, from indoor activities like visiting museums to outdoor activities like swimming and hiking.
La Crosse is also a great place to visit year-round, whether you want to enjoy the fall colors or have an epic spring break.
La Crosse attractions range from breweries to art, to outdoor pursuits like hiking, biking and swimming.
There are so many choices for things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin, your whole family will enjoy a visit.
Short FAQs About Things to do in La Cross, WI
What are the top attractions to visit in La Crosse?
The breweries are easily the top attractions in La Crosse. Some of the other most popular things to do are visiting Grandad Bluff and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
What are the most popular things to do in La Crosse with children?
If you are visiting La Crosse with kids, some of the best La Crosse attractions are the Children’s Museum of La Crosse, hiking, mountain biking, and the Riverside International Friendship Gardens
What is La Crosse Wisconsin known for?
La Crosse is a popular college town, known for its amazing nightlife and breweries.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries. Consider trying some of these eco-friendly vegan hiking boots.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel is protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, you’ll find all the tips to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road together!