15 Best Things to Do in Nelson, WI

Nelson, WI
Randy Runtsch / shutterstock.com

The village of Nelson is an excellent place for self-reflection and a change of scenery.

This crossroads village runs parallel to the Mississippi River, bringing a seafront view to tourists visiting the place.

Rich in history, Nelson got its name from Englishman James Nelson in the 1840s.

By the mid-1850s, the place, formerly called Nelson's Landing, was buzzing with people and businesses.

Now, it's a diversified place that keeps tourists satisfied when looking for fun activities to do.

If you're looking for outdoor entertainment, trust that this village can give you what you need.

Below are some of the best things to do in Nelson, Wisconsin!

Explore the Prairie and Trails at Thrive! Park

East of Highway 35, Thrive! Park offers the best seat in Nelson for wildlife and nature exploration.

This donated tourist spot opened in 2016 and offers over 25 acres of scenic bluff tops and sides.

From hiking trails to bluff prairies, this park offers an impressive view of the wild.

Along your walk, you'll find wild sunflowers blooming everywhere, especially during spring.

In the dry prairies, find birds and reptiles scour the area.

Take an interest in local fauna and snap a picture or two to help you commemorate your visit.

Thrive! Park's breathtaking landscape can also bring you the refreshing meditation and reflection you need.

Enjoy an Ice Cream Cone at Nelson Creamery

Nelson Creamery is one of Nelson's remarkable historical landmarks.

Once called the Nelson Cheese Factory, it has served the community for over 100 years.

Now, this store offers desserts, gourmet food, fine wine, and some of the best cheese in Wisconsin.

There are various sandwiches to choose from, as well as homemade pizza.

Thanks to recent developments, it's now a snack bar with outdoor dining spots.

Your pets are welcome on the outdoor patio.

At Nelson Creamery, located on Highway 35, expect good food and seats indoors and outdoors.

Eat Pizza in a Barn at The Nelson Stone Barn

If a slice of local pizza is what you're looking for, The Nelson Stone Barn can satisfy your cravings.

This rustic barn pizzeria started in 2014 as a summer gig.

Its building goes back to 1896, an establishment spearheaded by the Olson Family.

After restoration in 1991, the barn now serves unique, wood-fired pizzas of different varieties.

The Nelson Stone Barn is also an event venue ideal for weddings and other rustic-themed celebrations.

Stop by the shop to purchase their official merchandise as souvenirs.

Get a taste of Wisconsin at The Nelson Stone Barn on County Road KK.

Camp at Nelson's Landing RV Park

Becoming one with nature in Nelson is the best way to experience this small village.

You will surely enjoy nothing but the best at Nelson's Landing RV Park.

This park, located at the heart of Nelson on Cleveland Street, offers 100 landscape RV sites.

Pull-through sites are available, including level sites with full hookups.

Picnic tables also line the site for your ideal picnic and camping journey.

But, perhaps, the scenic topography makes Nelson's Landing RV Park a go-to site for travelers and residents.

Since the park is right below the river bluffs of the Mississippi river, you get a front seat view of forested slopes and an open view of the sunset and sunrise.

Stay at the Loft at Cedar Ridge Resort

At Cedar Ridge Resort, await surprises in the shape of majestic bluffs and tranquil lakes.

This resort on State Road 35 will keep you comfortable in private cabin lodgings.

Among its impressive accommodations include The River Stone and The Log Home.

Relax by the deck of The River Stone or chill by the stone fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.

What makes this resort more admirable is its pet-friendliness.

Cedar Ridge Resort also offers boat rentals, so those with an affinity for fishing can find relaxation by the waters.

Admire the Sculptures at GChris Sculpture Studio/Gallery

Among its nature-filled spots, Nelson also has its fair share of art exhibits and tours.

Part of Thrive! Park, GChris Sculpture Studio/Gallery is located on Cleveland Street.

Gary (Chris) Christopherson is the sculptor behind the works of art at this center; he's also an author, health advocate, and leader.

His art masterpieces include copper, wood, and mixed sculptures.

Explore art inside the 1885 farmhouse where it's situated.

Get up close and personal with the sculptures inside and learn about the conceptualization process from the founder himself.

GChris Sculpture Studio/Gallery is adept at mixing art with health activism through the profound messages the sculptures portray.

Buy a Specialty Gift at Forget Me Not Gifts

On Highway 35, visit the specialty shop of Forget Me Not Gifts, right beside Beth's Twin Bluffs Cafe.

This shop offers more than your typical gift shop, from clothing to souvenirs like candles and decor items.

Find amazing thrifts you'll want to take home with you or gift to loved ones.

When you've finally exhausted yourself from all the shopping, you can stop by Beth's Twin Bluffs Cafe for a quick snack.

Nothing is more mood-lifting than a short drive to Forget Me Not Gifts.

So, be sure to include this local shop in your Nelson itinerary.

Get Custom Rods at JSOutfitter

Build your own rod based on your fishing preferences at JSOutfitter.

This sports shop on Lincoln Street specializes in custom ice rods and fishing lures or jigs.

There are also fly ice guides for purchase and other accessories needed for your fishing escapade.

Now, the next time you go fishing, you're prepped to enjoy a relaxing time by the waters.

JSOutfitter also sells official merchandise to serve as your memento on your Nelson trip.

Taste Premium Barbecue at J & J BBQ and Catering

J & J BBQ and Catering is a family-owned and operated business that started its mark in 1993.

Back then, it was only a mobile concession business that traveled across states.

It was in 2001 that the restaurant stood its ground in its current location on Main Street.

Get a taste of ribs and briskets for lunch or dinner.

Whether it's chicken or pork, this restaurant can bring you a smoking hot meal that caters to your palate.

What makes this barbeque restaurant unique is its Grandpa's Saloon, which offers high-quality bourbons around the village.

If you've got a party coming up, J & J BBQ and Catering can also handle your food through catering or bulk orders.

When you're full from all that food, drop by the antique shop for a rare find.

Survey the Vegetable Garden at Hickory Hills Farm

For a feel of the countryside atmosphere, you can never go wrong with a visit to Hickory Hills Farm.

This valley farm is along Sage Road and houses a vegetable garden and a vast flock of animals.

It delights itself in taking sustainable measures in agriculture, animal raising, and nature conservation.

Along the fields of this farm graze turkeys, ducks, sheep, and other fowl species.

Its wool products come from well-pastured lamb breeds and come in various natural colors.

Care for some lamb products or a meal?

The farm provides several processed and fresh lamb cuts.

Take this stop to Hickory Hills Farm as an opportunity to find serenity in countryside living and learn more about farming.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Refreshing Walk at Buena Vista Park

Scenic view of Buena Vista Park
Joe Ferrer / Shutterstock.com

Only 15 minutes from Nelson, Buena Vista Park offers wonder and amazement.

This picturesque landmark overlooks the Mighty Mississippi River.

Choose to share a meal with friends or family at the picnic tables and benches littered all over the site.

Aerial view of Buena Vista Park's dam
Aaron J Hill / Shutterstock.com

If you visit during winter, watch snow-capped branches frame your view of the river and the sky above.

Walk down cobbled pathways and vast expanses of grassy lawns.

It's also a recommended place for meditation and self-reflection.

Learn the Winemaking Process at Villa Bellezza Winery

Have time for a well-needed wine-tasting afternoon?

Head on over to Villa Bellezza Winery!

In the nearby city of Pepin, Villa Bellezza Winery stands only 11 minutes from Nelson.

This winery offers an Italian-inspired tasting room, piazza, and restaurant.

This tourist spot on Third Street supplies you with an immersive wine production experience you won't surely forget!

Explore the sandy and loam soils of the vineyard where white and red wine grapes grow and thrive.

Come by Il Forno, its Country Italian restaurant, for a bite of pizza or pasta al forno.

You can also chill by La Fontana, a fountain right at the center of the piazza, and throw in a coin for a magical wish.

You are always welcome at this little Italian space called Villa Bellezza Winery.

Observe Swans at Rieck's Lake Park and Campground

A short seven-minute drive from Nelson and into Alma can bring you to Rieck's Lake Park and Campground.

On State Road 35, this outdoor recreation space lets you explore nature in its bold glory.

Rieck's Lake Park and Campground is famous for its Tundra Swan Watch.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to view swans as they go through their annual migration phase.

Take a photo of the scenic vistas and landscapes to honor your visit to this park.

A playground and picnic area are also within the site—perfect for family bonding.

To fully embed yourself in the natural offerings of the place, pack your tents and bags and camp there.

Join a Group Tour at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Exterior of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum ensures you have what you need for a historical excursion.

This museum on Third Street in Pepin tells the story of the famous author it's named after.

Organized in 1974, this historical landmark was a tribute to Wilder's early days spent in Pepin.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum offers a selection of media, including books and DVDs inspired by the life of the remarkable author.

Sign up for a group tour all over the museum and at the Wayside Cabin, which inspired the novel Little House in the Big Woods.

This was also the original site where Laura grew up—restored through the efforts of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society and the Pepin community.

Best of all, it's only 10 minutes from Nelson, so if you're within the area, it's a convenient place to visit.

Rent a Pontoon Boat at Alma Marina

Alma Marina, on Beach Harbor Road, is a full-service marina.

It provides pontoon boat rentals and mechanical restoration for many kinds of water vessels.

Temporary docking and boating supplies are available for those who need them.

Its pontoon holds 12 to 14 people, so this may be convenient if you're in a large group.

For your aquatic recreation dreams, this marina has your back!

Alma Marina is only 10 minutes southeast of Nelson.

Final Thoughts

With its extensive history and impressive outdoor recreation sites, Nelson proves itself as a gem in the state of Wisconsin.

If you're the outdoorsy type, you'll find there's so much to see and explore!

Nelson is also an excellent avenue for exploration and learning, as proven by its abundance of galleries and educational sites.

You won't just have fun; you'll also gain insight into various subjects.

Now that you've taken note of the best things to do in Nelson, Wisconsin, have you decided on your itinerary?

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.