Local Secrets: Where to Go in Southwest Wisconsin

Looking to add some “extra” to the “ordinary” in your getaway? Venture beyond the expected to find these brag-worthy local secrets in southwestern Wisconsin, from the best pie you've ever had to a converted caboose "cottage" to a river where you can see the best of wild Wisconsin.

Restaurants

Driftless CaféViroqua

Most farm-to-table restaurants offer a menu that rotates with the seasons, but Driftless Café’s selections are even more ephemeral than that. The fresh and local menu changes daily, shared with customers on the cafe’s Facebook page.

One constant: the sourdough crust pizzas are sinfully good, with combinations like house organic chorizo, goat cheese, spinach and red peppers.  

The Historic Trempealeau HotelTrempealeau

Two words: walnut burger. Skip the ground round and take a walk on the nutty side with this wildly popular vegetarian delicacy at the Trempealeau Hotel.

You can also try walnut balls as a starter if you’d rather have a meaty meal, like a bacon-wrapped steak or an ale- and apple-infused pork chop.

Norske NookOsseo

Famous for its pie, this Norwegian bakery has four locations throughout western Wisconsin, but Osseo is where it all started in 1973. The pies are made from scratch with a hand-rolled crust, with more than 50 varieties to choose from.

But it’s more than pies. Norske Nook also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, so come hungry!

Features Sports Bar & GrillWest Salem

Looking for the local hangout to tip back a cold beer and watch the game on a big screen? Features is that place and more, with a breakfast-to-dinner menu and even an eight-lane bowling alley!

Try a Lineman’s Omelette – “big enough for an NFL player” – or order a steak cut fresh on site.

Places to Stay

Charmant Hotel – La Crosse

This boutique inn’s decadent Sweets Bar is a nod to the hotel’s history as a renovated candy factory. An on-site restaurant serves mainly French fare, with bars in the lobby and on the rooftop providing additional changes to imbibe.

Pick a room or suite with Mississippi River views and amenities like clawfoot bathtubs and rainfall showers, Euro-top mattresses, flat-screen TVs and Bluetooth speakers.  

Justin Trails B&B Resort – Sparta

If you have pets in tow, take them where they can run free at this 200-acre resort with accommodations in a log cabin, upscale cottage or 1920s farmhouse. You can also camp, but amenities like air conditioning or fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and kitchenettes make the brick-and-mortar lodging hard to pass up.

Play on two championship golf courses, hike a 10-mile trail system or, if you’re visiting in the winter, enjoy the tubing hill and ski and snowshoe rentals.

Coulee Junction Caboose – De Soto

Love trains? This caboose converted into a cozy cottage is unlike any lodging option you’ve seen before!

There’s a wood-burning stove in the living room and a huge Jacuzzi on the attached deck outside, but the best part is the little cupola atop the car. Climb up and enjoy your morning coffee along with views of the beautifully hilly Driftless Area.

Attractions

Ho-Chunk Pow-Wow Black River Falls

Today headquartered in Black River Falls, the Ho-Chunk Nation’s people were once spread across half the state. The tribe is credited with building many of the Native American mounds throughout the region.

Twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, the Ho-Chunk tribe hosts a heart-pounding pow-wow with drums and dancing, along with crafts from across the country and cultural delicacies.

Lower Wisconsin State RiverwaySauk City to Bridgeport

The Wisconsin River flows for nearly a hundred uninterrupted miles on its final stretch to the Mississippi, and most of the surrounding shoreline is protected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. For a magical camping experience, pick a sandbar to pitch your tent and take in 360-degree views of natural solitude.

Southwestern Wisconsin offers the most secluded stretch of this popular paddling river, with numerous outfitters and access points from Muscoda to Bridgeport.

Grandad Bluff – La Crosse

You can see three states from this local favorite overlook, a 600-foot bluff towering above the Mississippi River Valley. The community loves it so much, it’s the setting for the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

La Crosse marks roughly the halfway point in Wisconsin’s 250-mile stretch of the Great River Road, a national scenic byway following the path of America’s mightiest river.

Looking to explore more of the region? Try this Driftless Area road trip, or check out these seven man-made wonders of southwestern Wisconsin.