If you adore smaller cities that are filled with art, great food, and folks that are invested in their community, head to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Not only is the area quaint, but it houses a host of surprises. Whether you’re considering a romantic getaway or a full-fledged vacation, here are the 14 best things to do in downtown Eau Claire WI. P.S. It’s also a fabulous place for the creative couple to honeymoon!
This is in partnership with SATW and Visit Eau Claire. Opinions are mine. In short: I loved it!
How to Say Eau Claire WI
Before getting started, there’s one thought on everyone’s mind — how to say Eau Claire Wisconsin? Assuming you know how to say Wisconsin and most likely Claire, it’s the Eau that throws people off. This French name is said like the letter “O.” So, if you’re in town, be sure to say “O” Claire, and you’ll sound like a local.
Where is Eau Claire Wisconsin on a Map?
Naturally, the next question is, “Where is Eau Claire WI?” It’s best to show you on a map, so take a peek below.
There are a few distances that are popular to search, so here are a few to get your bearings.
- time from Eau Claire WI to Buffalo NY – almost 17 hours by car, about 5 hours by plane (fly!)
- travel time from Eau Claire WI to Canada border – depending on where you want to go, about 7-8 hours
- how long it takes to go from Eau Claire WI to Minneapolis MN – approximately 90 minutes
Eau Claire, WI on map
Other FAQ About Eau Claire
Is Eau Claire WI safe?
Just like any city, you need to be mindful, but overall, yes! The downtown streets and river bridges are well lit, and lots of folks enjoy walking around day and night.
What is the Eau Claire WI weather year round?
This adorable city sees most of its tourism traffic during the warmer months of May through September when the highs are 80° and above with lows in the mid-40s through low 60s. The coldest months are December through February when the lows are single digits with highs in the 20s. Brrr!
Eau Claire WI is in what county?
The city actually spans two counties. The majority is in Eau Claire County, and the rest is in Chippewa County.
What is the Eau Claire WI website?
Although there are a few sites, visitors can find the most help at the Visit Eau Claire website. It holds a wealth of information about how to spend your time.
Of course, I’ll talk about what to do in Eau Claire WI, but the tourism site has everything — festivals, lodging, restaurants, events, shopping, and more. It’s user-friendly, too.
Is there an Eau Claire WI Airport?
Yes! The Chippewa Valley Regional Airport is in the city limits and houses many airlines, such as United. The Eau Claire WI airport code is EAU, which makes total sense!
Where to Stay While You’re in Town
There are quite a few Eau Claire WI hotels. However, boutique accommodations are a quick way to get a true taste of a town. I had the pleasure of staying at The Oxbow Hotel, which was absolutely perfect.
It’s a walkable distance to the main hub of all the things to do in downtown Eau Claire WI. That’s important, but there are so many other features I enjoyed.
Both the open spaces and hotel rooms are bright and airy. The decor is a mix of vintage-inspired and artisan, which creates such a cozy feel. There is also an on-site restaurant, and they serve morning breakfast snacks and coffee. If you just want to relax for a day, you can just scope out the hotel itself.
Here are a few of my favorite things about this wonderful Eau Claire WI lodging spot.
Pay close attention to the photos as you’ll see these details.
- Each room has a record player, and guests can check out records. There are clear instructions on the player, which is helpful. I listened to The Cars and AC/DC while I was in my room.
- I adored the common areas — so cute! I truly was into the decor, complete with plants and unique touches.
- Live-edge wood was used for the headboard, and you could purchase the art in the hotel rooms.
- Not only is there a cozy bedroom, but my room also had a suite with a single bed/couch and a workspace. The room also had a fridge.
- The trifecta of having a great stay (for me, at least) is a comfortable bed, quiet space, and shower with great pressure. Check, check, and check!
- Sidebar: as a lover of sustainability, I was thrilled they ditched plastic bottles in lieu of refillable bottles on the shower wall. Kudos!
Here’s a peek into The Oxbow Hotel, including the common areas, small event space, and my room (#26!).
Things to Do in Downtown Eau Claire WI
1. Go on the Sculpture Tour Eau Claire.
What is Eau Claire WI known for? The arts! And going on the free, walking sculpture tour is the perfect way to see the city. These installations are all over town, from the riverside and downtown to sidestreets and outlying areas.
Art lovers can consider purchasing a sculpture as many are for sale. The 2021 tour also includes a few interactive sculptures, including one with instruments and another (a pup!) that visitors can give a high 5. Putting this first on your list is a fantastic way to get a lay of the land.
2. Grab a coffee at SHIFT Cyclery and Coffee Bar.
Part bike shop, part coffee shop, and part artspace, SHIFT is an uplifting place to go. Whether you go first thing in the morning or head there in the afternoon (beer alert!), you can find a seat inside.
However, the best part may be the back alleyway — complete with seating — where a variety of murals take residence. Don’t miss the opportunity to peruse these art walls with a coffee or beer in hand.
Also, the name is a play on words. Of course, it has to do with shifting a bicycle’s gears, but it also is a nod to having a mindset shift. The owner not only redid an old building, but SHIFT is a place where people can gather and build relationships.
P.S. Please note the Eau, SHIFT merch in the coffee photo below. Brilliant!
3. Head to Artisan Forge to see art in process.
Although I’m mainly concentrating on the Eau Claire WI downtown, Artisan Forge Studios is around three miles away. It’s well worth the barely 10-minute drive. Promise!
Whether you’re looking for a souvenir or want to experience artists perfecting their craft, this place has it all. The central gallery focuses on showcasing works of art. Then you can head to various rooms to view paintings, purchase handcrafted jewelry, and even see guitars being made from scratch.
Artisan Forge is filled with positive vibes and is a hub for artisans. It’s a fabulous place to go for one-of-a-kind works of art. While you’re there take a peek at the murals outside, experience a Chinese tea room, and grab a piece of artisan chocolate for the road!
4. Sit by the river and have a beer at The Brewing Projekt.
The Brewing Projekt prides itself on its stubbornly crafted beer, but its craft brews aren’t the only thing that’s impressive. Like so many other businesses in downtown Eau Claire WI, the owner restored a dilapidated building. The result is tasty beer — and spiked seltzer — in a fabulous space.
Drink in the courtyard, inside the brewery, or on the rooftop overlooking the river. There’s plenty of room to converse with others or find a private space to chat at this Eau Claire WI brewery. It’s an upbeat atmosphere where you can drink beer made right in the city!
5. Spend time perusing The Local Store.
Good news: The Local Store is right across the street from The Oxbow Hotel. It’s filled with amazing goodies from Wisconsin artisans, and they have something for all ages. The Local is a fabulous place to shop for mementos from your time in the city.
Not only do they have great merch sourced from Wisconsinites, but one of the best things is that their in-house designers have crafted the cutest items. From adorable Eau Claire posters to t-shirts featuring retro businesses, they have a great selection.
Plus, the store itself just has a great vibe, so be sure to stop by on your way to or from the hotel.
Bonus: This is the view of The Oxbow Hotel from The Local Store. So close!
6. Sign up for an event at Forage.
In the heart of downtown Eau Claire WI, there is an unassuming, bright, airy space. It’s so lovely that onlookers wonder what exactly it is, but the truth is — it can be just about anything! Forage serves as an event venue and often has artisan markets and other events of interest to visitors and locals alike.
While I was in town, Northwoods Grazing held a class on how to make a charcuterie board. So fun! I learned how to create a basic board with vegetarian ingredients (my preference), and I love how mine turned out.
Our time also served as lunch, which was perfect. The charcuterie was more than filling, although it was a bit sad to eat my artwork. But that’s what a charcuterie board is for, right?
7. Experience sustainable shopping at Seven Suns Vintage.
Be still my vintage-loving heart! If you, like me, adore shopping in an eco-friendly way, stop by Seven Suns Vintage. They have something for everyone. From vintage T’s and cowboy boots to adorable dresses from the ’50s and ’60s, I think that preloved clothing makes the perfect souvenir.
The vibe at the store is eclectic, and it has a fabulous selection of styles and sizes. That is important to consider since vintage pieces are often one-of-a-kind. Definitely pop in and say “hi” even if you just want to experience a bit of a throwback to your childhood days. I loved this fabulous Eau Claire WI shopping spot (and, yes, I bought something!).
8. Make time for ice cream.
There’s no treat like a sweet, cold one, and there are a few Eau Claire WI ice cream shops downtown. Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor is close to the Oxbow and serves ice cream made in nearby Madison. I chose This Just Got Serious, which is a delicious combo of salted caramel ice cream, sea salt fudge, and salted cashews.
Olson’s Ice Cream has been around since 1944 and makes its own flavors. My choice was Mint Cookies & Cream. So good! Head to both spots for a creamy, refreshing treat while you are in town.
9. Take a relaxing walk on the waterfront.
The Eau Claire WI river area is so lovely! There are several pedestrian bridges that cross over the river, so you can walk for exercise or simply to get out into nature. If you walk during the day, you may see tubers or fishermen on the water. Although if you choose to go at night, you’ll see how beautifully lit the area is.
It’s very walkable for most skill levels, and if you are in a wheelchair, there are several flat surfaces that offer lovely river views.
10. Head to Banbury Place for local history and art.
Banbury Place has a unique history all its own, which you can learn at the basement museum. A former tire factory — closed and leaving thousands of employees without jobs — has been brought back to life as a location for businesses to thrive.
Although some of the companies are private and can’t be visited, there are certain sections (building 13, in particular) that have artisans and even spots to grab a quick bite.
One of my favorite spots was the Mural Art Gallery in building 6. The murals used to cover boarded-up windows in the downtown area, and they are now on display for all to see at Banbury Place.
11. Peruse the Eau Claire WI farmers market.
One of the best ways to get to know the flavors of an area is to head to the local farmers’ market. Let me just pause and say that I LOVED the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market. The flowers were lush and beautiful (and inexpensive as the majority of bouquets were only $10!), and the veggies were abundant and reasonably priced.
Another highlight was the presence of artisan vendors at the market. They had their own separate section, and there were quite a few talented folks selling handmade pottery, leather moccasins (so cool!), and laser-cut jewelry. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around on such a beautiful morning. There is a lot to see, so be sure to stop by.
12. Wander and explore.
Of all the Eau Claire WI things to do, sometimes just wandering around allows you to organically discover. Wander Barstow Street and the surrounding area, and pop into shops (check out Revival Records!) and grab coffee at EC~DC, which stands for Eau Claire Downtown Coffee — so creative! The downtown scene is safe and flat for walking.
Whether you stay in the downtown area or head a bit off the beaten path, keep your eye out for murals. Many buildings showcase gorgeous outdoor works of art that you can drive past or pull into a lot to view.
Bonus: You’ll see a lot of sculptures along the way, so wandering is fabulously paired with the walking sculpture tour.
13. See a show at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.
Known to locals as simply “the Pablo” this performing arts venue is the perfect counterpart to the many Eau Claire WI music festivals that happen throughout the year.
From musical theater shows and orchestra performances to classes and art exhibitions, the Pablo fosters creativity and a love for the arts. Check their schedule, and see if you’re fortunate enough to be able to catch a show while you’re in town.
14. Eat at the Eau Claire WI restaurants.
By now you may be wondering if I was ever going to get to eateries, but I thought I’d save them for last. After all, you need to eat while you’re exploring all of the Eau Claire WI attractions, right? Beyond coffee, ice cream, and delicious charcuteries, the city is packed with fabulous restaurants.
I’m highlighting ones I visited while I was there, so just be aware that this isn’t an all-inclusive list. For a full rundown of eateries, see here.
~ The Lakely
Having a fabulous restaurant inside your hotel is a big plus! Such is the case with The Lakely, which is connected to The Oxbow Hotel. We enjoyed an amazing charcuterie board and drinks — both the Great Grampa (pictured) and the Koldt Vinter. I’d highly recommend either…or both.
~ The Informalist
The Informalist is housed on the same property as EC~DC inside The Lismore Hotel. As a vegetarian, it was easy to find options, and the food (the Savory Cannolis are pictured) and drinks were delicious. The restaurant also has a nice vibe and minimalist decor, which add to a nice evening out.
~ Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub
For a classy evening out, head to Houligans, which is right in the downtown area. It’s a fabulous place to get steak, seafood, and tasty cocktails. We had such a great time that I neglected to take photos, which is ok every once in a while!
~ The Nucleus
The hottest Saturday morning breakfast spot has to be The Nucleus. We arrived shortly before 8 am, and there was already a line outside. From visitors to regulars — truly some Eau Claire residents make this a weekly Saturday morning stop — it’s an airy restaurant with delicious options for breakfast.
Save this and visit downtown Eau Claire, WI!
Have I convinced you yet? I truly think that everyone can find something of interest within this list of Eau Claire WI things to do. Definitely plan a few days to explore what the area has to offer.
It’s such a lovely city that its residents truly care about. Great things are happening in their little corner of Wisconsin, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it. Happy travels!