Located in the West Central part of Wisconsin, Eau Claire is a great city with a Midwest feel. The town is friendly, bustling, and active. Known by some as “The Indie Capital of the Midwest,” Eau Claire, Wisconsin is a university town with an independent feel.
People who visit Eau Claire enjoy the art, entrepreneur, and indie scenes. With great food, fun festivals, and plenty of nature, Eau Claire is an excellent place for people of all ages to visit. The city prides itself on being a place that encourages individuality, hospitality, and originality.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin weather is colder than middle and southern states of the United States. People in Eau Claire experience the traditional weather all four seasons, with the spring and fall being mild, the winters filled with snow and low temperatures, and the summer being warm to hot.
Whether you are searching for a new place to explore, or you are just stopping through, Eau Claire has so much to offer anyone who visits. Here is a look at the history, things to do, places to stay, and restaurants to try during your stay.
The History of Eau Claire
Located at the junction of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers, Eau Claire is a town with a rich Native American history. Previous to being settled in 1845, Sioux and Ojibwe Indian tribes lived in the Eau Claire area for many generations.
The first description of the city was noted in 1767 by Jonathan Carver and by 1784 fur trading operations were in full swing. During the winters, French fur traders stayed in the area until the early 1800’s. People began settling in the area in 1845, and by 1850, the town of Eau Claire had a population of around 100 people, with most of them working at a local sawmill. The 1860’s brought in significant numbers of Norwegian and German immigrants, their influence still strong.
The Civil War brought the rapid growth of the lumber industry, and Eau Claire became known because it had more than 75 factories and sawmills. Known as “Sawdust City,” the town made many different items, like electric motors and furniture.
As the lumber industry collapsed in the early 1900’s, Eau Claire’s economy turned to tires and education. In 1916, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was founded, and in 1917, Raymond Gillette started a rubber company to produce auto tires. The tire company, renamed Uniroyal when bought by U.S. Rubber in 1931, was the largest employer in the city, and one of the largest tire producers in the world. It remained a central industry of Eau Claire until 1992.
Education is still significant in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the city is home to the University of Wisconsin plus two other colleges, Immanuel Lutheran College and Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Things to do in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
While there are many things to do in Eau Claire, the city is well-known for its music festivals. One of their biggest ones being the annual Country Jam USA festival every summer. Located on the Chippewa River in the heat of the summer, Country Jam USA features the biggest names in country music and hosts between 22,000 and 30,000 people. Country Jam USA started in Eau Claire in 1987 and had been growing every year for the last thirty years.
Whether you are headed to the music festival or are visiting for another reason, here is a list of five other fun things to do in Eau Claire.
Explore Carson Park
A favorite spot for people of all ages, Carson Park is a must-see. While you are there, visit the statues of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe. Explore the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, fish in Braun’s Bay, pick up ice cream at Dairy Queen and learn more about the history of the park while you visit its many attractions.
Visit Local Museums
Exploring local museums is a great way to learn more about the town you are visiting, and to discover sites you never knew before. Eau Claire has two museums worth checking out. The Children’s Museum and the Chippewa Valley Museum have a lot to offer.
If you are traveling with kids and looking for an interactive experience that inspires their imagination and encourages creativity and discovery, the Children’s Museum is a great option. The museum is a favorite among visitors and locals alike.
The Chippewa Valle Museum in Eau Claire is nationally recognized and also open all year long. From preserved historic structures, a 1950’s ice cream parlor, award-winning exhibits, and many other fun activities, the museum is part of Carson Park, with a beautiful scenic view.
Hike the Chippewa River Trail
The Chippewa River Trail in Eau Claire is 26 miles of an 80-mile project for nature lovers and outdoor explorers. Walk along the Chippewa River and experience the wildlife and beauty of the surrounding area.
Take in the Eau Claire Music Venues
If you are hoping to experience the Indie scene, there are no limitations, and the local bars, cafes, big stages, and galleries are the places you want to go. Depending on when you visit, you may catch one of the several major music festivals they are known for in the summer, but there are also many other places to enjoy music on any night of the week, during any time of the year. Owen Park is known for its Tuesday Night blues; Phoenix Park has its Sounds Like Summer concerts on Thursdays.
Visit the State Theatre or The Little Grand Theatre for a show or swing by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) for soothing sounds during the winter. House of Rock is a great experience year-round, and there are also bars and cafes that feature locals. There is no shortage of music in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Experience the Eau Claire Nightlife
Whether you are looking for an energetic dance scene, a quiet date night on the river or anything in between, the nightlife in Eau Claire is made for you. Water Street is the scene for dancing the night away, craft beer and local band scenes pepper downtown Eau Claire, and candlelight wine dates on a patio by the river are an option as well. Check out The Plus or Mousetrap if you want entertainment and energy. If you want low-key, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse is an excellent choice.
Places to Stay in Eau Claire
If you are looking for places to stay in Eau Claire, you will be pleasantly surprised by the choices. The city has many different options for places to stay, beyond hotels. Here is a list the various lodging and hotel options in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
- Hotels and Motels. There are a large number of hotels and motels in Eau Claire, with many amenities, and in several different locations. If you want to stay downtown, on a specific side of the city, or even outside of the town, there are plenty of options.
- Bed and Breakfast Lodging. If you are looking for a quaint and home feeling stay, there are a few bed and breakfast options, and each of them are highly-rated with positive reviews.
- Resorts. Whether you want an RV resort, a water park, or a nature retreat, Eau Claire has several resort options to fit your needs.
- Camping. There are plenty of cabin, tent, and camper spots available for anyone who wants to camp while visiting Eau Claire.
- Boutique Hotels. Boutique hotels are smaller, stylish, and upscale. They offer a unique experience to people who want to be in the heart of downtown. Eau Claire has a boutique hotel called The Oxbow Hotel, located downtown.
Where to Eat
If you are planning to travel to this city during any of the music events, the festival foods in Eau Claire are well known and loved. If you have the opportunity to check out the festival foods or the food trucks, you will find a great variety of highly recommended food.
If you are looking for a good restaurant, there are several top choices:
- Randy’s Family Restaurant is a local American food joint with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
- Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill and Steaks is an American bar scene with plenty of options for all people, including those who need gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan options.
- Mona Lisa’s restaurant is Italian and also has plenty of GF, vegetarian, and vegan options.
- The Nucleus is an American themed breakfast and brunch joint with plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians, and those who need GF food.
- Egg Roll Plus is a good option for people who want Asian food. The website says they are vegetarian-friendly.
If you are looking for a vacation destination, Eau Claire, Wisconsin is an exceptional place to visit. Whether you are going on a date, traveling alone, or bringing your family, there are plenty of things to do, places to visit, and adventures to be had.
Eau Claire Wisconsin has something for everyone and is a town that prides itself on being a beautiful place to visit.