What a great victory last week! The atmosphere in Lambeau was as electric as it ever has been during my time here in Green Bay. While it got a little too close for comfort at the end, coming away with the victory over Minnesota was a great way to start a new week and energize the team.
After the big win over our archrival neighbors, the thought of western Wisconsin came to mind. Both of my brothers and their families live in Rochester, Minn., so our trips to visit them several times a year always take us through La Crosse. I feel like every time we drive over the Mississippi River and see those rolling bluffs, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the state.
La Crosse is nestled in between the mighty Mississippi and the awe inspiring bluffs, but this city has so much more to offer besides its incredible scenery. The population is under 100,000, but La Crosse is home to three colleges, a vast number of parks and trails, and their downtown is renowned for its many restaurants and taverns.
As the month of October comes to a close, it should be mentioned that one of the state’s great festivals has just passed: Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a major draw for tens of thousands of tourists on an annual basis as it celebrates La Crosse's German heritage. In the past we have attended the Maple Leaf Parade, which is several miles long and contains hundreds of floats. We typically select a location on the parade route and tailgate, socialize, and watch the many different costumes (people get very creative with outfits for Oktoberfest) and floats. As the festival draws to a close, there is also a torch light parade that dazzles over 30,000 people every year with its illuminated floats and twinkling lights. Throughout the week, there are also a number of activities on the fairgrounds including carnival rides and a bean bag tournament (one of my personal specialties).
When visiting the area we also enjoy, Granddad's Bluff, which displays an incredible panoramic view of three states in the same frame: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. As you make the trek up to the top of the bluff, the Alpine Inn and Bluffside are two local favorites for food and drink. If you don’t have time to take a hike, driving through the bluffs can be just as spectacular.
If you want to continue with the outdoor adventure, the La Crosse region has activities available year round. Some of the activities that allow visitors to truly enjoy the scenery include biking trails, canoeing, camping, hiking, tennis, cross- country skiing and snowshoeing. My wife and I attempted to cross-country ski once and although I enjoyed the experience, I found myself on the ground more than I would have liked. Some of the parks I have enjoyed include Myrick Park, which is very close to the UW-La Crosse campus and offers a zoo and several tennis courts. The Hixon Forest Nature Trail is also in this vicinity. This trail offers several opportunities to see wildlife in the woods and marshland, and it runs from the Mississippi River to the top of the bluffs without any city road interference. My wife and I enjoy canoeing, and have tried our skills on the Kickapoo, which is a short drive from La Crosse. If you’re looking to sightsee along the Mississippi with less potential for getting wet, the La Crosse Queen takes tours daily on their 19th century replica steamboat. This is a lot of fun because it is scenic, informative and the Mississippi River Valley is also home to a number of majestic bald eagles and other fascinating bird species. You can also have lunch or dinner on the cruise.
La Crosse also has a large number of great restaurants and bars. Third Street is famous for its bars and a few of my favorites are The Helm, Animal House, and Cheap Shots. The Waterfront Restaurant offers a stunning view of both Riverside Park and the Mississippi River and they serve a delicious surf and turf menu. Some other popular eateries are Piggy's, Fayze's, Edwardo's, River Jacks, and Ebeneezer's.
I’m not one to tie everything back to football, but there is a unique anecdote for me with regards to La Crosse. Among the collegiate ranks, we all know there is great football played all over the state of Wisconsin across all levels. It seems like every December the Division 3 national championship game includes a Wisconsin school from the WIAC. Truth be told, back in 1995, I was recruited by Roger Harring, the legendary coach of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football team and I thought long and hard about making La Crosse my undergraduate home. As we’ve discussed in this space previously, I wound up attending UW-Madison, but I have always had a great deal of respect for Coach Harring and the accomplishments of the program at WI-La Crosse.
Next week I will delve into some of the great hunting experiences I have had across the state and look forward to sharing some of those stories with you.