Family Vacation: La Crosse, WI
We are a hop, skip, and jump away from school being finished for the year and WE COULDN’T BE MORE READY! Bring on lazy days full of doing whatever we want — at least that’s what I *think* we want. Ask me again at the end of July and I’m certain I’ll be singing a different tune. 🙂
For the past several years, our summer travels have been exclusive to grandparents’ houses. Cousins and grandparents trumped our desire to see new places. I have a week of vacation to use? Grandparents. Kids off school for spring break? Grandparents. But as the kids have gotten a little older, their curiosity and desire to explore new places has started to bloom.
At the end of last summer, our family decided we were ready to start visiting new places.
Since it’s *almost* summer, this past weekend we took a road trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Located near the border of Minnesota along the Wisconsin Great River Road, La Crosse is filled with restaurants, museums, historic attractions, and outdoor adventures. This unassuming city is a great family-friendly vacation destination that is both fun and affordable.
Wisconsin Great River Road & Grandad Bluff Park
The Wisconsin Great River Road is the Wisconsin portion of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway along the Mississippi River that stretches across 10 states. La Crosse is the largest city on this road in Wisconsin and is home to the stunning Grandad Bluff Park. Overlooking the river road, these gorgeous bluffs are great for the view and the hiking. Driving along this beautiful highway, exploring the bluffs, and stopping in some of the small towns along the way would make a great full-day excursion.
We rented 2 kayaks and a canoe at Island Outdoors on French Island and spent time exploring Richmond Bay. Their dock is hidden in a quiet location behind their store and was ideal for allowing us to get some practice before heading out into the bay. To my surprise, the older kids (ages 7, 9 and 10) had no trouble independently paddling the kayaks around the bay.
The staff at Island Outdoors were super nice and accommodating. We started out with 3 kayaks but switched one of them out half-way through for a canoe– and they were flexible and happy to oblige. Also, if kayaks and canoes aren’t your thing, they also have hydro bikes and paddleboards.
The Great Escape of La Crosse
The Great Escape of La Crosse is a family-friendly escape room right in the heart of downtown. While many escape rooms have a minimum age limit, The Great Escape of La Crosse doesn’t. The owner, Toby, is a dad and believes that kids are intuitive and creative– they are often the ones that can figure things out first!
They currently have two family-friendly rooms– the Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland themed) and A Candy Conspiracy (think: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). We played the Mad Hatter room and it was INCREDIBLE. It was full of surprises and the kids totally rocked it. We escaped with a couple minutes to spare! Afterward, it was heartwarming to hear their compliments for one another- they couldn’t stop talking about each others’ contributions.
It’s a family rule that we never skip a used bookstore :). It’s just down the street from Pearl Street ice cream (see restaurant section below), so after finishing our cones, we wandered around inside the bookstore. Our favorite features of this store were: book ladders (reminded us of Beauty and the Beast!), a balcony with comfy reading couches, and a whole lot of Babysitter Club books.
We stayed in the AmericInn and in many ways it was your average hotel. Normal rooms, typical hotel breakfast, average service. However…. the indoor pool with water slide moved our experience from “fine” to “great.” Our days started and ended each day with a trip to the pool.
The indoor pool area included a pool for kids age 6 and under, a pool for bigger kids with basketball hoops and a water slide, and a small hot tub. Lifeguards were on duty the entire time and the pool was clean and well-maintained. There’s a possibility our kids would have been happy to spend their entire weekend in the hotel :).
This fun restaurant is just minutes north of La Crosse and serves your typical American pub food: pizza, burgers, nachos, etc. Patio seating overlooks the Black River and is surrounded by a green lawn- perfect for kids who don’t want to sit while they wait for dinner. The evening we went we enjoyed local live music! Bonus: Parents, you’ll enjoy the craft beers :).
For those who are unfamiliar, hibachi is the cooking of meats, veggies, rice, noodles, etc. on a large metal (portable) plate. This Japanese style of cooking is not only about eating, but also entertainment. Often times the chef will show off their utensil skills, create volcanoes out of onions, and create a huge flame that will surprise you no matter how many times you’ve experienced it.
Our kids had never been to a hibachi grill, so they were highly impressed by both the amount of the food and the grillmaster’s cooking performance :). Also, if you’re a sushi-family, we highly recommend the volcano roll.
Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery
When traveling with kids, scrimping on breakfast is the easiest way to save your pennies. Bring some granola bars to eat in the hotel room, or take advantage of the hotel breakfast.
However, many families like to eat one breakfast out. In La Crosse, Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery is the place you’ll want to go. We ate cinnamon rolls and danishes the size of our heads, and chocolate-laced croissants and muffins that were DELISH. My kids are still talking about it.
The line for The Pearl was out the door, but it only about 10 minutes to get all the way through the line. Voted the #1 Best Place to Eat in La Crosse, this ice cream parlor offers an array of cones, floats, and milkshakes, in addition to both a tea and coffee shop AND a candy store. It lived up to its reputation!
This local all-you-can-eat pizza buffet has a wide variety of pizzas: gyro, big mac, turkey dinner, brat and sauerkraut, skittles and marshmallows, oreo, etc. I’m pretty sure this pizza store is a kid’s dream! While it’s not going to be the best pizza you’ve ever eaten, it’s sure going to be the be most creative. Fun fact: Pizza Doctors was featured on both the Travel Channel and the Food Network!
If you’re looking for a fun family getaway, come explore La Crosse!
A HUGE THANKS to Explore La Crosse for inviting us on this trip!
All opinions expressed are my own.