15 Best Things to Do in Onalaska, WI

Onalaska, WI
Todd Condon Photography / shutterstock.com

A New Yorker named Thomas G. Rowe founded the city of Onalaska, Wisconsin, in 1851.

You can find the city on an overlooking ridge where you can see the entirety of Lake Onalaska, the Black River, and the Minnesota bluffs.

Before Rowe arrived, Native Americans had already inhabited the area, drawn to its enticing scenery and ideal topography.

The Native Americans influenced the early Onalaska settlers’ farming knowledge and early fishing and hunting practices.

The city banked on lumber for its economic growth during the early years.

Today, you’ll notice that dozens of businesses thrive within the area.

Despite its progress, Onalaska keeps its nearby natural wonders in excellent condition, offering tourists the perfect combination of adventure and entertainment.

But with the many things you can do in this city, choosing the best ones during your stay can be tricky.

To help you out, check out the best things to do in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

Go Fishing at Lake Onalaska

Sunset view from Lake Onalaska
AllThingsOtis / Shutterstock.com

Onalaska presents you with dozens of blue waterways.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to cast your lines and catch a couple of fish while you’re there.

Lake Onalaska is arguably one of the best places to go fishing in the city, as it is home to an abundance of largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, and more.

Observation deck at Lake Onalaska
northallertonman / Shutterstock.com

It covers 8,391 acres with a maximum depth of 40 feet and a common area for public boat landings.

Other species you’re bound to see include the northern pike and panfish.

Once you’re done with your fishing trip, relax and cool off at the nearby park, sipping on your favorite drink.

Try to net a big haul at Lake Onalaska!

Traverse the Great River State Trail

Get unlimited access to Wisconsin’s most stunning views when you traverse the Great River State Trail.

Spanning 24 miles, the Great River State Trail encompasses the Mississippi River Valley and all its prairies and backwaters.

Go for a run, take your bike out for a spin, and traverse this scenic trail’s paved limestone surface.

The Great River State Trail is also an excellent area for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during winter.

As you explore the trail, you’ll also come across 18 different waterways, cross the Black River, and lead you to the La Crosse River State Trail via a short road.

Have a Glass of Custom Wine Creations at Lost Island Wine

Wine connoisseurs are sure to have a great time checking out the custom wine creations at Lost Island Wine.

Situated along Theater Road, this Onalaska original offers a great selection of semi-sweet, dry, and dessert wines and hard ciders.

Lost Island Wine first welcomed its customers in 2012.

Since then, it has performed excellent service in the form of unique concoctions made from the finest ingredients.

Take a sip of classic favorites like the Berry Bliss, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chocolate Cherry Cove, among others.

If you’re planning to stay in Onalaska for a bit longer, you can sign up for Lost Island’s wine club and get a bunch of perks and discounts to go with your purchase.

Visit Greens Coulee Park

You can’t deny that Wisconsin has many natural wonders that are second to none.

At Onalaska, you’ll get a good view of these attractions when you visit Greens Coulee Park along Stonebridge Avenue.

Spanning 81 acres, Greens Coulee Park is a protected bluff where you can engage in non-motorized activities.

Go cross-country skiing, watch birds, jog, or take a walk.

Do all these activities while admiring the unique landscape.

Check out the bluff prairie and oak savanna that decorate the area, and get a good look at the mushroom rock formations.

Spend the day at Greens Coulee Park!

Explore the Waterways with Schafer’s River Rentals

If you enjoy walking around and traveling, you’ll run out of places to check out inland.

How about venturing onto the water?

If you’re in the mood for watersports, you might want to try out a handful of these activities with Schafer’s River Rentals along North Shore Lane.

Schafer’s River Rentals will give you everything you need, from kayaks and pontoons to boats and canoes.

Before hopping on your boat, swing by the bait shop to get the latest gear and the perfect bait combination.

Also, keep in mind that weather conditions can affect your trip, so make sure to check them beforehand.

Find the Perfect Souvenir at Treehouse Gift & Home

Swing by Frontage Road and drive to Treehouse Gift & Home to find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your Onalaska trip.

Treehouse Gift & Home carries an extensive selection of gifts, home decor, kitchenware, and health and beauty products.

In 1998, Cassandra Birdd founded Treehouse Gift & Home, which features unique items from local artists, such as plaques, signs, and solar-stoned glass lanterns.

Most of the products in this local store carry a tinge of originality and personal touch, making them the perfect gift or giveaway for your loved ones.

You’ll also find other novelty items in the store and seasonal items and decor for special events like weddings and birthdays.

Shop for Great Finds at Market in the Park

Find the best things Onalaska offers when you swing by the annual outdoor marketplace at the Onalaska Omni Center.

Market in the Park usually takes place during the last Saturdays of June, July, and August, featuring a wide range of food and other products.

Check out the long line of food trucks across the area, and find the perfect snack to satisfy your cravings.

There’s usually no admission fee to check out the marketplace, but organizers encourage donating food to the pantry.

If you love cooking and you wish to share your creations with the people of Onalaska, you can also register as a vendor.

Check Out the Onalaska Community Days

Experience the life of an Onalaska local when you check out the Onalaska Community Days event at the Onalaska American Legion Grounds.

Held every August, the Onalaska Community Days is usually a two-day family-friendly event full of fun and games.

Likewise, the event creates opportunities for local businesses to thrive.

Enjoy a weekend of music, family entertainment, great food, and much more.

The event also hosts stations where you can play a game of Texas Hold ’Em and Bingo.

All in all, joining the Onalaska Community Days will surely immerse you in the city’s vibrant culture.

Take a Picture with Sunny the Sunfish

Daytime view of Sunny the Sunfish
northallertonman / Shutterstock.com

You can’t possibly leave Onalaska without stopping by Highway 35 and taking a picture or two with Sunny the Sunfish.

People recognize Onalaska as the sunfish capital of the world.

Don’t be surprised if the city boasts a massive statue of a sunfish in a place where everyone can see it.

Onalaska proudly presents Sunny the Sunfish!

This marvelous statue stands at a whopping 15 feet tall and spans 25 feet wide.

View of Sunny the Sunfish face
northallertonman / Shutterstock.com

In 1998, the city of Onalaska unveiled the giant green sunfish.

However, vandalism and graffiti compelled the government to clean up and restore the statue.

In 2012, the city returned Sunny the Sunfish to its original place, standing at a roadside stop overlooking the Mississippi River.

Hit the Cages at Timbers Zone

Sports enthusiasts will have a great time playing or hanging out at Timbers Zone, especially those who love hitting the cages.

Keep yourself entertained by practicing your home run swings at the batting cages.

Likewise, you can take your pick between a slow or fast pitch setting.

Otherwise, you can also try the golf simulator with over 40 world-class golf courses, driving ranges, and gaming competitions.

Timbers Zone also comes with several skating lanes, which only adds to the fun you’ll have in this place.

The facility also lets you book the entire place to host parties and other events.

Swing by the Onalaska Omni Center

The Onalaska Omni Center along Riders Club Road is where everything happens in Onalaska.

This indoor sports arena and convention center hosts several events across La Crosse County, including seminars, sports leagues, and conferences.

Catch live sporting events and tournaments from the center’s arenas, each covering 25,000 and 22,000 square feet, respectively.

Drop by the West Wing Shelter to check out the newly installed batting cages, turf flooring, and golf cages.

During certain seasons, the Onalaska Omni Center also opens an ice skating rink.

Chill at UnWine’d Wine Bar

There’s nothing more relaxing than sipping a glass of wine after a long and tiring day exploring the streets of Onalaska.

If you belong to the massive global population of wine lovers, you’ll enjoy the UnWine’d Wine Bar along Main Street.

You can find a fine wine selection, craft beers, and great food in this elegant wine bar, along with an Instagram-worthy interior.

Taste the best wines from around the world while chatting the night away with your friends and enjoying the calm and cozy atmosphere.

You can also give bottles from the wine bar as gifts.

Likewise, you can even have them packed with personalized labels, making them the perfect keepsake for special events.

Sip some fine wine at the UnWine’d Wine Bar.

Get Some Exercise at Rowe Park

Those who love spending their early mornings going for a jog, working out, or playing sports can spend the day at Rowe Park.

Located along Hilltopper Drive, Rowe Park has several sports and recreational facilities that anyone can enjoy.

Practice your strokes by the tennis courts or walk along Rowe Park’s paved pathways, which are also ideal for jogging and biking.

If you’re planning to bring your kids along, they can also hang out by the playground while you get your daily exercise.

Other facilities at Rowe Park include enclosed shelters and horseshoe pits.

Spend Family Day at the Riverside Amusement Park

Just a few miles outside Onalaska is the Riverside Amusement Park in La Crosse, one of the state’s premier entertainment destinations.

You can find Riverside Amusement Park at an interchange.

This park is popular with families who love to spend their weekends together.

Play a game of mini-golf or try your best to conquer 18 holes of the facility’s adventure golf course.

Otherwise, you can hit the batting cages and practice your swings for slow and fast pitch baseball or softball.

Riverside Amusement Park also has a Go-Kart track, where you can enjoy a close race with your friends and family.

This place is also five minutes from Onalaska.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Taste Craft Brews at 608 Brewing Company

If you’re looking to take a swig of expertly crafted brews, you might want to venture just a few miles outside Onalaska.

You can find 608 Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, eight minutes from Onalaska.

The brewery offers customers a wide range of drinks, leaving drinkers wanting more.

Try their signature drinks like the Mexican Lager, Coconut Cove, Citranado: SUPERCELL, and Dank Robber, among others.

You can also visit the taproom and host your private event.

Lose yourself in the company of your closest friends and spend the day laughing, chatting, and telling your favorite stories.

Bring your mates to the 608 Brewing Company!

Final Thoughts

Onalaska is indeed one of the best places to visit when you find yourself in Wisconsin.

With its picturesque views and bustling districts, it’ll be hard for you to leave this place.

If you’re planning to tick off all the best things to do in Onalaska while there, you better book a longer stay instead of a weekend trip to do everything.

Who knows? You might even get the itch to live there for good!

Let the adventure begin, and book your trip today!

You might even find more things to do in Onalaska after you arrive.

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.