Because of its location along the Mississippi
River, the city of La Crosse Wisconsin likes to refer to itself as a "Great
City on a Grand River." In fact, the borders of the greater metropolitan area
actually reach across the river and into the state of Minnesota.
This stretch of the great river is one of the most scenic of its entire course,
and the view from the rugged 500-foot tall bluffs along the river is one of
the La Crosse attractions.
The largest, (Grandad Bluff) featured in riverboat captain Mark Twain's writings,
and has views of three states, including Iowa.
This is where two major tributaries, the Black and La Crosse Rivers, flow into
the Mississippi, creating a number of islands, one of which is the location
of the municipal airport.
As with many Wisconsin cities, it was French fur traders who were the first
Europeans to arrive here. The French name (lacrosse) was given to the area for
the sticks they observed Native Americans using in a game. Both the game and
the city retain that name, and you will find many things
to do in La Crosse for everyone in the family.
The Missississippi River has always been transportation waterway, all the way from its delta in New Orleans and north through La Crosse Wisconsin and to its source - first for the Native American peoples and then later for furs and lumber. It is still a commercial waterway for transporting goods of all sorts, and another of the La Crosse attractions is as a historic port for scenic cruises on traditional paddlewheel passenger ships. The lovely old Julia Belle Swain is the city's own steam stern paddlewheel ship that has luncheon and dinner cruises.
Other popular things to do in La Crosse include river sports, boating, and fishing. One of the important events of the area, Riverfest, is held for five days in the city's riverside park. Inland from the river are more natural attractions, including national and state parks that provide opportunities for hiking, and other outdoor recreation. In fact, one of the islands (Goose Island) is a park set aside exclusively for camping. The Midway Prairie State Natural Area, offers a glimpse of what the country's vast prairies used to look like when millions of buffalo roamed the region. They are particularly beautiful when blooming in the summer, and there are many biking trails throughout this area.
Among the other La Crosse attractions is the historic downtown area, with many architectural gems, such as the Victorian Hixon House built in 1859. A five-block area of the downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and contains 96 buildings of historic and architectural importance. Organized walking tours of this section of town are available, and will give you insight into the history of the city and surrounding region. Another of the things to do in La Crosse is visit the Saint Rose Convent where at least two Franciscan nuns have kept a 24-hour prayer vigil since August 1, 1878. The convent's chapel is one of the most beautiful in the United States.
For a small city, La Crosse Wisconsin has a surprising number of arts and cultural organizations that are often showcased during special events. The farmers markets held every weekend from June through October, include musical performances from the city's symphony orchestra as well as booths and exhibits offering local arts and crafts. In addition to Riverfest, there is an Oktoberfest, a Mardi Gras celebration, and a Great River Jazzfest.
It's hard to run out of things to do in Lacrosse with its science and history museums; the fascinating Palmer Gullickson Octonal House a few miles to east in West Salem; a brewery to tour; and even a nearby skiing resort. There are plenty of great dining venues, and you'll find a variety of La Crosse hotels to choose from.