Eau Claire, WI
Founded in the 1800s, Eau Claire quickly became a center for logging, with sawmills dotting its local waterways. Although a wealth of newer industries now drive the city's economy, Eau Claire visitors can still get a glimpse of yesteryear while enjoying the community's cozy, small-town feel.
Begin your exploration with the numerous lumber baron mansions situated throughout the city. History and architecture buffs will enjoy building styles that vary from Tudor to Victorian to Gothic, giving the streets an aura of late 19th-century charm. Adding to the city's knack for neighborly elegance, the Emery Street District features a collection of Craftsman-era bungalows acknowledged by the National Register of Historic Places.
Just a few miles northwest of Eau Claire, in Carson Park, the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum illustrates what early logging days were like. Named for the fictional logger who traveled with an enormous blue ox, the museum displays artifacts and memorabilia depicting rugged camp life. See a replicated blacksmith shop, complete with anvil, forge, and leather bellows, and take inventory of the "dingle," where a camp's supplies were stored.
While in Carson Park, watch a baseball game at the field where Hank Aaron got his start. Or, tour the Chippewa Valley Museum, with its exhibits on Ojibwe culture, farm life in the region, and artifacts left behind by early settlers.
After perusing the valley's history, scope out the natural beauty that drew those first pioneers and loggers. A multi-purpose trail network is open to hikers, cross-country skiers and bicyclists. Stroll, ride or ski along the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers, while connecting to city parks, picnic areas and historical markers. The Old Abe State Trail, in particular, is a favorite destination, with 19 miles of flat terrain that winds through cornfields and riverbanks. Even on a bike trail, Eau Claire visitors are never far from the city's history: the Chippewa River Trail runs near the former home of the Daniel Shaw Lumber Company, which once owned thousands of acres of timber in the Chippewa Valley.
Continue your Eau Claire sightseeing with a spin through the city's shopping and dining options. Guests at the Fanny Hill Victorian Inn and Dinner Theater can watch a live show, opt for cocktails in the tiki bar or enjoy a quiet meal in a dining room that looks out on the Chippewa River Valley. Tokyo Japanese Restaurant offers a different kind of theatrical performance, with Teppanyaki-style meals prepared right at your table. Soak up more local color and select a souvenir at Tangled Up in Hue, an Eau Claire art collective and store that sells works by over 90 local artists and crafters. Special events at the shop include live glass blowing and musical performances.
That blend of creativity and industriousness made Eau Claire a thriving locale for early logging companies and continues to drive its economic growth. The city’s recognition of its history, appreciation for its neighborhoods and access to natural areas have resulted in Eau Claire sightseeing that conveys the essence of Midwestern charm.