Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in La Crosse, WI

  • Published 2022/05/10

A quaint and gorgeous city on the banks of the Mississippi River, La Crosse is one of the most spectacular yet overlooked cities in Wisconsin.

For tourists, the city has it all: unique shops, entertainment venues, museums and galleries, and even festivals situated downtown.

Moreover, the best thing about La Crosse is its natural attractions, among them the awe-inspiring Riverside Park.

From the breathtaking Mississippi River to the bustling restaurants and bars downtown, this destination truly has something for everyone.

Here are the best things to do in La Crosse, Wisconsin:

Admire the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Exterior of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pgnielsen79 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Many come to appreciate the Basilica’s exquisite design.

Interior of The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pgnielsen79, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You do not need to be a Catholic if you want to visit and appreciate its beauty.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe receives an immense number of visitors all around the year.

The bell of The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Stephen, O.Cist., CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Walk around the Gorgeous Riverside Park

Christmas light decoration at  Riverside Park

Aaron of L.A. Photography /

Riverside Park is one of many scenic spots in La Crosse.

If you are someone who finds peace amid nature, La Crosse is for you.

Having opened its gates to the public in 1911, Riverside Park was not always known by this name.

Aerial view of the beautiful Riverside Park

Wirestock Creators /

Earlier, people used to call it Levee Park.

This park hosts various events throughout the year, including Fourth of July celebrations and the annual Oktoberfest.

There are also a lot of trails where you can go walking or jogging in the morning.

Night lights of a water fountain at Riverside Park

John Vue /

Hike the La Crosse River State Trail

Natural Area at La Crosse River State Trail

Joshua Mayer from Madison, WI, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Running from Sparta to Onalaska, the La Crosse River State Trail is one of the most popular trails in Wisconsin.

There is a path known as the Wisconsin Bike Trail, and the La Crosse River State Trail is a part of that.

The La Crosse River State Trail is filled with recreational activities such as running, jogging, hiking, or even trekking.

Go on this unique trail, and enjoy it to your fullest.

See the Stunning Exhibits at Pump House Regional Arts Center

Exterior of Pump House Regional Arts Center

Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Pump House Regional Arts Center while you’re in La Crosse, and you won’t regret it!

Founded in 1977, the Pump House was created to enhance La Crosse’s cultural life by preserving the historic Pump House as a cultural center.

Consequently, a comprehensive schedule of art exhibits is presented by the non-profit institution, which includes works by local and national artists.

There are a variety of theater productions, storytelling festivals, a film club, and other events held by the performing arts department.

All of the money raised from ticket sales goes toward free exhibits.

Go Running along the Great River State Trail

The Great River State Trail is one of the most well-known and accessible trails in La Crosse.

This trail is exceptionally longer than its predecessor, exceeding 24 miles.

Originally built on a train line, the trail has become suitable for walking and cycling.

It’s suitable for various recreational activities, and many visitors come to run and jog through the marshlands.

If you wish to visit in winter, the path is also ideal for snowmobiling, skiing, and snowshoeing.

This trail is also very accessible and links with the La Crosse River Trail.

Furthermore, there is direct access to Perrot State Park, which offers a variety of camping options and other recreational activities such as fishing and canoeing.

Be Awed by the Riverside International Friendship Gardens

Entrance of Riverside International Friendship Gardens

Helene Woodbine /

There is no end to the beautiful sceneries of La Crosse.

Countless tourists have fallen in love with the stunning Riverside International Friendship Gardens.

It comprises some of the most breathtaking gardens in all of Wisconsin.

The Riverside International Friendship Gardens include French, Irish, Chinese, and German gardens, and many others.

Sitting on the convergence of the Mississippi River, the Black, and the La Crosse River, this collection of gardens is a splendid piece of work.

Appreciate the Cars at the Dahl Auto Museum

Are you a car lover?

This particular attraction is a must for your itinerary.

At the Dahl Auto Museum, you can see many classic car collections.

The Dahls have been in this business for the past five generations, and the museum shows all their classic treasures to visitors.

The collection is spectacular, exhibiting a range of fascinating automobiles.

One of the museum’s most prominent features is the Starlite Drive-In—an homage to La Crosse’s own drive-in, which ran until 1978.

The screen shows a variety of classic films and traditional shows worth checking out.

Additionally, the museum offers educational experiences and special events with historical society partners.

These events include historical dress-up activities and much more.

Take the Kids to the Children’s Museum of La Crosse

Are you looking for some fun and cool things to do with your kids?

The Children’s Museum of La Crosse is an interactive space where children of every age will find something to take part in and enjoy to their fullest.

There are three floors in the museum.

Each floor is filled with exhibits and sculptures for children.

Additionally, there is a theater where musicals and a wide range of performances are hosted.

Grab Lunch at Rudy’s Drive-In

Open since 1933, Rudy’s Drive-In has since become a firm favorite among locals, offering some of the best staple foods in La Crosse.

One of the most popular joints in the area, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience that will transport you back in time.

In terms of the food, Rudy’s offers it all, from classic burgers, fries, and milkshakes to the other options on the menu.

This is the perfect place to come for a laid-back evening meal.

Fall in Love with Nature at Grandad Bluff Park

View from Grandad Bluff Park

Alan Froegel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

La Crosse is filled with spots that are rich in raw, natural beauty.

Grandad Bluff Park is one of the best places to enjoy the best of what La Crosse has to offer.

The best part about the state park is the presence of the stunning Grandad Bluff cliff.

View of the city from Grandad Bluff Park

mbaylor, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that this bluff has a particular significance in different cultures?

It’s seen as a symbol of the Coulee Region.

Offering the most splendid scenes of the Mississippi River Valley, the park is popular amongst tourists.

Catch a Game of La Crosse Loggers Minor League Baseball

Are you in for some sport?

During the summer, La Crosse Loggers compete in the Northwoods League for college teams.

One of 20 teams in the Northwoods League, the La Crosse Loggers play 72 games every season, from late May to mid-August, at Copeland Park.

Founded in 2003, the La Crosse Loggers are a minor league team for college baseball players who aspire to pursue their careers in the professional ranks.

The La Crosse Loggers, a minor league baseball club, play nightly at Copeland Park and use wooden bats and low league-spec equipment.

Snap Pictures of the World’s Largest Six-Pack

Three of the World’s Largest Six-Pack

Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The World’s Largest Six-Pack is one of La Crosse’s most popular attractions.

They’re basically six large beer tanks.

These were originally a building in which iconic bars were constructed.

Later, those bars could not keep up with their expenses and were forced to close down.

The government decided to turn the building into this landmark.

Now, there are six huge beer towers that provide the perfect photo opportunity for your Instagram feed.

Sample Locally Crafted Beer at Turtle Stack Brewery

After a hectic day of sightseeing, there is no better way to unwind than to enjoy some authentic beer.

Turtle Stack Brewery is one of the best places to relax and drink some beer in La Crosse.

With a bustling atmosphere, this downtown brewery is the perfect place to visit with some friends in the evening.

Turtle Stack Brewery offers a range of beers, many of which are locally crafted.

The brewery also offers some much-loved classics, such as Smash Golden Ale, Belgian Blonde, and Session IPA.

Visit the Incredible Lake Onalaska

Gazebo near Lake Onalaska

northallertonman /

Lake Onalaska is the most famous lake in La Crosse.

If you love scenic destinations, don’t miss out on this particular attraction.

Scenic sunset at Lake Onalaska

AllThingsOtis /

The lake runs for around 4 miles, and it mainly acts as a reservoir for the Black and Mississippi rivers.

This lake is most famous for its fishing activities.

You can also go boating or swimming here.

Cruise aboard The La Crosse Queen

The La Crosse Queen cruising the waters

Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to public and private trips, the La Crosse Queen is one of several modern-day reproductions of late 19th-century magnificent riverboats that previously traveled the Mississippi River.

Both decks of this stunning ship are accessible through a stairway from the other.

People getting on board in La Crosse Queen

Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Open-sided on the top level with a canopy cover, the upper deck has a dining room with galley and bar area and contemporary bathrooms and shower facilities.

The boat’s operating paddlewheels may be seen up close and personal via a massive glass at the back.

While moored, the La Crosse Queen doubles as an office and a gift store.

Join the La Crosse Segway Tours

You’ll find this tour company near Riverside Park’s northern border, where it’s possible to get a unique perspective on La Crosse’s best attractions.

Segway tours in La Crosse allow you to see the city’s most exciting attractions without exerting effort.

This trip, led by knowledgeable experts, will teach you interesting facts about the city.

The best part is that you’ll get to see some of the city’s lesser-known gems on the way there.

Take a stroll around Pettibone Park and cross the Cameron Street and Cass bridges for a memorable experience.

Riverside and Pettibone parks provide stunning views of the three rivers as you make your way around the city.

Give Your Sweet Tooth a Treat at The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor

Established in 1874, The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor has since evolved into a popular family-friendly spot.

Offering a wide variety of homemade flavors, from classic vanilla to indulgent fudge, this ice cream parlor is a paradise for those with a sweet tooth.

Aside from ice cream, they also offer an extensive range of toppings, sodas, and confectionery.

This is the perfect place to take the family for a coffee and ice cream break.

Head here to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

Say a Prayer at St. Rose of Viterbo Convent

Chapel in St. Rose of Viterbo Convent

Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are into massive beautiful centers, St. Rose of Viterbo Convent is the place for you.

It’s also known as the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

There are three intricately detailed chapels inside the convent.

Located on Market Street, its beautiful exterior catches everyone’s eyes.

The convent is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it a must-visit attraction in La Crosse.

Enjoy Authentic French Cuisine at Le Chateau

If you want to indulge in a fancy dinner on your trip, Le Chateau is the place to go.

Whether you are looking to have a casual dinner or are dining out to celebrate a special occasion, this restaurant appeals to all.

Le Chateau offers a range of exquisite French dishes and provides guests with the ultimate Parisian dining experience.

Visit the La Crosse Amtrak Station

Night scene at La Crosse Amtrak Station

Peter Van den Bossche, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

La Cross Amtrak station is unusual for a train station to be featured as a tourist destination.

The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad erected the station in 1927, and it is still in use today to serve the community.

An Amtrak initiative called “Great American Stations” is responsible for the station’s preservation and restoration.

Ticket booth of La Crosse Amtrak Station

Znns, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beautiful original passenger seats, marble surfaces, and a wooden ticket counter decorate the ancient interior.

Vending machines and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms are among the more up-to-date features.

Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder service, which travels from Chicago to Seattle across the American West, continues to serve the station today.

Wooden chairs of La Crosse Amtrak Station's waiting area

Znns, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this small city is awash in natural beauty and rich in history.

La Crosse, Wisconsin, has a lot to offer those interested in outdoor activities, photography, or learning about the city’s history.

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