This post is sponsored by Visit Eau Claire
When summer arrives, I sometimes find myself dreaming of far off locations and distant destinations. What I have to stop and remind myself is that there are plenty of midwest locations that I’ve never stepped foot in despite living my entire life in this region.
One location I’ve never visited is Eau Claire, WI. Despite its close proximity to Rochester MN, I’ve only so much as driven through or heard of friends who attended University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The city has experienced a bit of a fun renaissance in the last decade or so: arts, entrepreneurship, music and culture take center stage in this decidedly very indie city.
When Visit Eau Claire suggested I take a mother-daughter trip to Tree City, I jumped at the chance. Little did I know how enjoyable this little city in the Chippewa Valley is for families. This is the perfect midwest destination if you’re looking for fun not too far from home! You could easily spend a weekend and still not have enough time to do everything. Below is our suggestions of what to see and do when visiting Eau Claire, WI!
Where to Go
220 Barstow Street // (715-832-5437)
This wonderful museum in the heart of downtown Eau Claire was a delightful surprise. With three stories of interactive fun, the exhibits inspire imagination, creativity, discovery and the love of learning. Lots of non-traditional opportunities are present in CMEC – we loved the chance to see, touch and learn. My daughter particularly loved crawling through the larger than life digestive tract and “milking” Oreo the cow. Bitty City was also a fan favorite: kids can explore in a grocery store, restaurant, post office and even “vote” during each visit!
1814 North Oxford Avenue // (715) 839 – 8877
During our visit to Eau Claire, we were able to catch a performance by the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre of Go Dog, Go! It was a darling performance with a cast that was almost primarily all children. The show was a little less than an hour long and was engaging the entire time: my 4 year old loved it! The Eau Claire Children’s Theatre offers shows all season long and at various times of day. Be sure to check out if they have a performance when you visit! They also sell candy (which my daughter also loved) with the proceeds going to the theatre. One of the most charming parts of the performance was the venue: The Oxford is a quaint, historic building that was renovated in 2010 by the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre to make theatre more accessible to people of all ages.
5150 Fairview Drive (located inside Metropolis Resort) // (844) 855-2724
This 35, 000 square foot newly renovated waterpark was super impressive! After a long day seeing and doing new things, we ended the day perfectly content splashing and playing in the water, and gliding down the lazy river. The Chaos Waterpark (located inside of Metropolis Resort) offers so many attractions: an aquatic playground (with a giant bucket at the very top the slowly fills with water and the splashes everyone below when all the way full), activity pool, lily pad climbing area, two water slides, lazy river, and whirlpool hot tub. We also loved that they provided us with towels – so don’t worry about bringing yours from home!
5150 Fairview Drive (located inside Metropolis Resort) // (844) 855-2724
Whoa! This gigantic indoor entertainment center has something for everyone including: the largest indoor g0-kart track in the Midwest, a 20, 000 square foot trampoline park featuring ninja warrior courses, laser tag, a climbing wall, batting cages, an arcade, bumper cars, outdoor mini-golf and more. A family could spend all day here and still have things to do the next day! We loved the go-karts (check out the video below!!) as well as flying high at the trampoline park (I was impressed with the safety standards and personnel that implemented them).
Where to Eat
208 Barstow Street // (715) 832 – 8844
Located in the heart of downtown and just up the block from the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, The Plus is an old school pizza shop with the coolest vibe. We loved ordering a pizza to split and while we waited it was fun to play the arcade games in the dining hall! In addition to awesome pizza, The Plus is also home to music, comedy and other celebrations almost every day of the year.
503 Galloway Street // (715) 895 – 8186
Ramone’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor is everything you want in an ice cream shop: hand-dipped, hand-made (by the Chocolate Shoppe in Madison, Wi), and historic! If the scent of the house-made (right before your very eyes!) waffle cone doesn’t lure you in, the 24 flavors will! With award winning choices such as Fat Elvis, Iced Latte-Da (caffeinated), and Superman – you’ll find something you love, we promise! (My daughter’s choice was Blue Moon). The shop is located right downtown in an old building that brings a lot of charm to the atmosphere. And just when it couldn’t get any cooler, we found out that all weekly tips are donated to an employee chosen charity. Win/win.
4212 Southtowne Drive // (715) 834 – 1733
We loved this great shop! So much more than a coffee shop, The Coffee Grounds also offers a great wine shop, cooking, baking and kitchen gadgets and supplies a monthly rotating menu of hand-crafted sandwiches, breakfast choices, salads, soups, muffins, pastries, and house-made chocolates and truffles. OUR FAVE! They also offer an impressive 30 different house-roasted coffee-bean varieties!
2111 3rd Street // (715) 598 – 7200
This 1950’s style diner with a classic car theme will be the talk of the trip. With giant milkshakes, gourmet burgers, fabulous fries and a classic car on display IN the restaurant, this is a FUN restaurant for families. We also love that they have classic car parking out front for classic car enthusiasts to park their cars for restaurant patrons to enjoy. INSIDER TIP: Head there just before the lunch hour to beat the line and get a great seat!
Where to Shop
205 North Dewey Street // (715) 552 – 0457
What a gem! If you’re looking for something local to commemorate your trip, look no further than The Local Store. With gifts, toys, apparel, music, art prints, postcards and more – all produced or made by people in the Eau Claire Community. We were more than happy to support local at The Local during our visit. INSIDER TIP: Make sure you pick up some house-made popcorn from the Dewey Street Candy Company when you’re there. Our favorite was the chocolate peanut butter and it’s worth the trip alone!
224 N Dewey Street // (715) 271 – 3065
Just up the street from The Local Store, Red’s Mercantile is the most charming shop. With a super cool vibe, warm and bright aesthetic, Red’s Mercantile is a modern home goods + accessories shop with an eye for Scandinavian design. We loved this cozy shop and were delighted to meet Becca, the owner (AKA, Red). One of the best aspects of Red’s Mercantile is their Red Letter Grant program – a social entrepreneurship arm of the store that awards grants bi-annually to women in the Chippewa Valley who want to start their own business.
Where to Stay
5150 Fairview Drive // (866) 212 – 3636
Metropolis Resort has it all! This huge complex is home to not only the Metropolis Hotel located in the center of the building but also Action City and Chaos Waterpark mentioned above! It’s the perfect place to stay if you plan on enjoying either of those attractions (and we suggest you do)! The hotel is perfectly appointed for a busy family that has spent a day exploring. The Metropolis Resort is the ONLY venue in the Midwest to feature this many attractions under one roof! We also loved that they had on-site dining options: both the Monkey in the Middle Pizza and The Pub had family-friendly dining. If you plan on visiting and enjoying all the attractions, check out all of their package deals!
516 Galloway Street // (715) 839 – 0601
While we didn’t stay at The Oxbow Hotel this visit, it is on our list for our next visit to Eau Claire. Nestled right downtown (and on the same street as The Local Store and Red’s Mercantile mentioned above), The Oxbow was recently renovated by a team of people including Justin Vernon. You might recognize him from his stage name Bon Iver. Vernon has made Eau Claire home, basing his music studio here as well as starting the growing and popular Eaux Claires music festival. The Oxbow Hotel featured design elements that pay homage to the Chippewa Valley and the growing arts scene in Eau Claire.
Check out our Field Trip Friday page for even more ideas!