By Sam Kislia
The Eaux Claires music festival offers one of the most vibrant and eclectic experiences you can find in Wisconsin. Many attendees are drawn to the diverse music lineup, while others are curious about the innovative, world-class art installations.
Founded in 2015 by Bon Iver frontman and Eau Claire native Justin Vernon, the festival attracted at least 20,000 guests from across the United States and other countries in its first year. What makes Eaux Claires truly unique is the way that it both celebrates and showcases all of the incredible talent, food and natural resources that our state has to offer.
Eaux Claires is taking the year off in 2019, but will return in 2020 with a full lineup of great music and some exciting new changes. Planning your visit? Check out our recommendations on nearby places to stay, restaurants and activities!
Festivalgoers have plenty of lodging options during their time at Eaux Claires. For those wanting to maximize their time within the festival gates, camping on-site is the way to go. There is even a shuttle service that will pick you up at the campground and drop you off right at the front gate that will save you both time and energy.
For those who’d rather sacrifice a bit of convenience for flexibility, consider renting a dorm room at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire or a room at a nearby hotel. Many of these options provide a shuttle service for a small fee and will also give you the opportunity to get out and explore the great city of Eau Claire.
UW-Eau Claire Dorms
This may not be the most glamorous option, but it’s most definitely economical. Each dorm room houses up to two guests and includes fresh linens, free shuttle service and a heaping helping of nostalgia!
Aside from providing top-notch hospitality and comfortable rooms, the Metropolis Resort is home to the Chaos indoor waterpark, complete with slides, hot tubs and a lazy river. Can you think of a better way to cool off after a full day in the summer sun?
This Best Western branch features newly renovated rooms, an indoor swimming pool and access to an exercise facility. The lodge is conveniently located within walking distance of five local restaurants. Luckily, these rooms also come with a fridge and microwave to store your leftovers!
If you do decide to stay off-site, you’ll quickly realize that when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat, the prices tend to be more reasonable outside the festival gates. There are plenty of places to grab a quick, affordable meal before heading over to the festival to catch your first concert of the day.
Since headlining artists likely will be performing through the dinner hour, it’s a good idea to have a hearty lunch to help tide you over.
This downtown café has delicious hot hoagies, pita sandwiches, scones and more. What’s better is that all of the baked goods are made fresh daily. This is a great place to fill up before heading out for a full day in the sun. Don’t forget to grab a gourmet coffee for the road. Trust us – you’ll probably need it!
If you’re looking for something fast and fresh (and maybe a little bit spicy), look no further than Burrachos. They use ingredients sourced from the local farmers market to prepare delicious quesadillas, burritos and other Mexican fare.
Nothing quite compares to the atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub. Since 2005, Dooley’s has been both a popular dining and late-night destination. The Irish stew made with Guinness gravy is always a popular choice from their menu of classic fare! If you’re still looking for fun after your day at the festival, pop in for a pint or check out their expansive Irish whiskey collection.
Things To Do
Whether you plan to arrive early, stay late or have some time to kill between shows, Eau Claire has no shortage of fun things to do. Take some time to explore and appreciate the area. Adventures await!
Located across from the beautiful Phoenix Park, the seasonal Eau Claire farmers market features a huge variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers midweek and Saturdays.
Instead of making beer that everyone will like, the Brewing Projekt's mission is instead to create beer that many will love. The brewery has been crafting unique beer flavors since they first opened in 2013. Many of the ingredients, like fresh ginger root, are locally sourced from right here in Wisconsin.
Stop in for a tour of this up-and-coming brewery and top it off with a tasting in the tap room!
Carson Park is located on a peninsula surrounded by Halfmoon Lake, and covers a total of 134 acres. This park really has it all – grills, picnic tables, tennis courts, softball diamonds and more than two miles of wooded hiking trails.
The park is also home the Chippewa Valley Museum and the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, which honors the region’s rich history as a logging community. With such wide open spaces and a long list of amenities, Carson Park will almost make you forget that you’re still downtown.
Remember that a weekend-long festival is a marathon, not a sprint – eat well, stay hydrated and take plenty of breaks. The city of Eau Claire has everything you could need for the perfect festival experience. Let us know what local gems you find during your exploration!
Looking for more musical fun? Check out Wisconsin's top 25 outdoor music festivals!