Posts Categorized: Driftless Day Trips

Driftless Day Trips: Winona, Minnesota

winona_overview

By Benji Nichols • Photos by Inspire(d) unless noted
Originally published in the Summer 2012 Inspire(d)

The sprawling Mississippi River tapers her current just before Blackbird Slough and Lock and Dam #5A above Winona, Minnesota. There, the giant river flows humbly through a high and wide valley that in 1805 Zebulon Pike called “a prospect so variegated and romantic that a man may scarcely expect to enjoy such a one but twice or thrice in the course of his life.”

Founded in the mid 1800s by Captain Orrin Smith, Winona was the site of a native village called Keoxah. It was Henry Huff who named the stake after a Native American tale involving a Dakota Chief’s daughter, “We-no-nah” (which translates to first-born daughter), who made the ultimate lover’s leap from Maiden Rock on Lake Pepin just up the river. By the late 1850s Winona was on the map as lumber, wheat, and milling operations grew leaps and bounds, with plenty of rail and steamboat traffic to support them. Through the years the community has seen a lot come and go, but an entrepreneurial theme seems to be strong – from grain and milling operations that still exist, to manufacturing and businesses such as J.R. Watkins and the Hal Leonard Corporation. Winona State University (which was the first normal school for teachers west of the Mississippi in 1858) and St. Mary’s University also add crucial lifeblood to this great river town’s fabric – in addition to culture, sports, and a fun college vibe.

In more recent years, Winona has also become home to a number of annual festivals. The Great River Shakespeare Festival has become well known across the Midwest as a top-notch summer staple, and in just a couple short years both the Mid West Music Fest and Boats and Bluegrass have claimed their place on the musical map, not to mention the popular winter Frozen River Film Festival, the Dixieland Jazz Festival, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Steamboat Days…you get the idea. There’s definitely festival fun to be had in Winona.

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In addition, Winona is home to cool museums like the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Winona County History Center, and the J.R. Watkins Museum and Store. The Marine Art Museum is a more recent addition and has an impressive collection of water-themed art from masters such as Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh, plus great rotating exhibits as well. And the Watkins Museum and Store is a fun stop whether you’re a lifelong Watkins fan or have only just heard the name. From the iron entrance gates outside the enormous factory, to the Winona diorama and complete historical collection of Watkins products, you’ll get a peek into the life behind the man who invented the “money back guarantee”!

DowntownWinona

Downtown Winona is charming and historical, with the largest collection of Victorian commercial architecture in Minnesota outside of Saint Paul. You can even take a virtual tour of over half a dozen of the most prominent buildings at winonamntours.org/tour, including the Joan Soranno-designed Laird-Norton addition of the Winona County History Center. It’s worth a look both inside and out as this museum is not only an architectural pleasure, but also features great artifacts and displays from the town’s history.

BlueHeron

While you are downtown, don’t miss out on a quick bite to eat or a pint at one of the several fine, local establishments. The Blue Heron Coffee House is a favorite for a homemade treat or lunch, and the Bluff Country Co-op is just down the street if you need quick supplies for a picnic or adventure (or a Mon Petit cupcake!). The Acoustic Café is also a great spot to hang out and grab a house-roasted coffee or sandwich. The bustling café atmosphere and free wi-fi brings in the college crowd, and weekend evenings often host acoustic music. For a throwback-dining affair, don’t miss the popular Lakeview Drive Inn. It holds all the retro appeal of a typical drive-in – you park, someone takes your order at your car window, and then brings your tasty food on a tray that attaches to the door – with some more modern twists added in – there’s a walnut burger on the menu, for example. It’s a busy spot, so make sure you’ve scheduled time, and while you wait, sit back and enjoy the views of – what else? The Lake! (And Sugar Loaf too!)

GranddadsBluff

If it’s the river view you’re looking for, check out local favorite The Boathouse. Their menu features fun, new American cuisine and tasty drinks to boot! (Check out our Chef on the Block feature on them from last year!)

While on the topic of food – we here at Inspire(d) HQ may have been known to go the distance for a really good donut. And it just so happens that Winona is home to the Bloedow Bakery on East Broadway, where, since 1924, they’ve been perfecting the Long John in addition to other delicious donuts. (They even sell a giant “Party Long John! Sold!”)

Bloedows

Then if you’ve worked up a thirst, you’ll find no shortage of watering holes in Winona. Being a river town, Winona holds a long-standing tradition of small taverns and neighborhood spots – many that feel almost like a time warp upon entrance. Check out the Mankato Bar (Mankato St.) or the Handy Corner Bar (East 5th) for some serious local flavor. And if you love good beer, art, and music, Ed’s (No Name) Bar on 3rd Street is perfection. Owner and local artist Ed Hoffman opened his doors in 2007 and has found a loyal following ever since with fantastic beers on tap, local art on the walls, and the best of the Midwest music scene stopping through his funky establishment.

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Don’t spend all your time inside while you are in Winona though! Incredible views of the Mississippi River valley that surrounds the city can be had at Garvin Heights overlook just above town (pictured at top of the page). It’s a short drive up Huff Street just past Lake Winona to the top of the bluffs and an easy paved walk to check out the impressive view – bring your camera! For those with a little more sense of adventure, Winona holds some challenging off road mountain biking and hiking action on the Holzinger Lodge Trail, Great River Bluffs State Park, Cherry Hill Trails, and Perrot State Park. For all the latest trail info check in with the folks at Adventure Cycle and Ski on Center Street; they’ll point you in the right direction. And of course, Winona is right on the banks of the mighty ol’ Mississippi with easy access to the river in many locations for boating, canoeing, and fishing – or even just a drive along its banks. A short field trip up the river will land you in Wabasha, home of the National Eagle Center, and the US Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam system is also fascinating to check out along the way, especially when large barges are going through the locks. From the south, the Great River State Trail will get you out on the trail and take you all the way from La Crosse to Trempealeau and just south of Winona via some beautiful and more remote parts of the river valley.

So what are you waiting for? Get packing for a great adventure in Winona – here are a few details to get you going:

Museums & Things To Do:

Marine Art Museum • 800 Riverview Dr • (507) 474-6626 • www.minnesotamarineart.org
Features marine related works by international and local artists, including Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, and Van Gogh.

The Winona County History Center • 160 Johnson St. • (507) 454-2723 • www.winonahistory.org
Located in the historic former National Guard Armory, this great Winona area museum features the recently opened (Joan Soranno designed) Laird Norton Addition. Great local history and fun for kids, families, and beyond.

Watkins Heritage Museum • 150 Liberty St • (507) 457-6095 • www.watkinsonline.com
Both the Watkins Administration building (a grand Prairie School specimen designed by George Maher), and the
Museum on 3rd St. are a fun trip through the history of one of the oldest companies in the nation. Step into the world that J.R. Watkins built – including the origination of “the money back guarantee” – and don’t miss the restrooms – stocked kindly with Watkins products!

National Eagle Center • 50 Pembroke Ave, Wabasha • (651) 565-4989 • www.nationaleaglecenter.org
Opened in 2007, this awesome interpretive center is home to 5 rescued eagles that you can meet up close and personal. The center is a not-for-profit entity that offers a wide variety of programs and outreach as well. Make the scenic drive up the river – you won’t be disappointed!

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Great River Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Kathy Greden Christenson. Shakespeare for Young Actors, 2014, The Tempest. 

Festivals in Winona:
As mentioned above, there are tons of fun festivals in Winona. This weekend, the Great River Shakespeare Festival opens with the WOW (Will’s ((Shakespeare, of course)) Opening Weekend) events! There are so many great things to do in conjunction with WOW, so check out GRSF site for details.

Great River Shakespeare Festival, June 24 – Aug 2, www.grsf.org

Minnesota Beethoven Festival, June 28 – July 19, www.mnbeethovenfestival.org

Dixieland Jazz Festival, June 27, winonadixieland.webs.com

Boats and Bluegrass, September 24-27, www.boatsandbluegrass.com

Great Dakota Gathering and Homecoming, September, www.dakotahomecoming.org

Frozen River Film Festival, February 24-28, 2016, www.frff.org

Mid West Music Fest, Spring 2016, www.midwestmusicfest.org

Steamboat Days, June 15-19 (2016), www.winonasteamboatdays.com

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Dining & Drinking:

Acoustic Café • 77 Lafayette St • (507) 453-0394• www.theacoustic.com

Bloedow Bakery • 451 E Broadway St • (507) 452-3682 • www.bloedows.com

Blooming Grounds Coffee House • 50 East 3rd St • (507) 474-6551 • www.bgcoffeehouse.com

The Boathouse • 2 Johnson St • (507) 474-6550 • www.boathousewinona.com

Blue Heron Coffee House • 162 West Second St • (507) 452-7020 • www.blueheroncoffeehouse.com

Bluff Country Co-op • 121 West 2nd St • (507) 452-1815 • www.bluff.coop

Bub’s Brewing Co. • 65 E. 4th St • (507) 457-3121 • Find them on Facebook

Ed’s No Name Bar • 252 E 3rd St • edsnonamebar.com

Garvin Heights Vineyards • 2255 Garvin Heights Rd • (507) 474-WINE • www.ghvwine.com

Jefferson Pub & Grill • 58 Center St. • (507) 452-3723  www.jeffersonpub.com

Lakeview Drive Inn • 610 East Sarnia St • (507) 454-3723 • www.lakeviewdriveinn.com
Cruise in nights every Wednesday!

Mon Petit Cupcakes • (Available at Bluff Country Co-op and Winona Sandwich Shop) • monpetitcupcake.com

Signature’s Restaurant • 22852 County Road 17 • (507) 454-3767 • www.signatureswinona.com

Winona Sandwich Company • 619 Huff St. • (507) 452-1170 • Find them on Facebook

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Benji Nichols is a seeker of River Town Fun and has found it on more than one occasion at Ed’s in Winona!

Driftless Day Trips: Cedar Rapids

NewBoToStreet

By Benji Nichols
Photos by Inspire(d)
www.cedar-rapids.com 

Driving through Cedar Rapids on I-380, you might catch a peek at Mays Island, and the Veterans Memorial Building stretching up from the Cedar River. You’ll also likely catch a grainy whiff of Quaker Oats (one of four original Quaker Oats plants!), and see the sleek glass upper windows of the newly renovated Doubletree Hotel at the US Cellular Center (formerly Five Seasons Center). What you won’t see driving, however, is the size of Cedar Rapids’ huge collective heart – worn proudly on its sleeve. Luckily you don’t have to detour far to see just how deep Cedar Rapids’ roots run – or Grant Wood’s studio!

The second largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids (named so because of the large Red Cedars that once lined the river banks more than a century ago) is home to more than just industry. Art, culture, food, and local business have defined – and are redefining – Eastern Iowa. With a rich history in grain and meat processing, and the influx of Czech and Slovak immigrants that helped power those industries, Cedar Rapids has balanced between major industrial center and fringe art magnet for decades. And then there are the tales of the 2008 flood. More than 1,100 city blocks were under feet of water, with some neighborhoods completely devastated. In fact, there are still reminders everywhere – like the desolation of the “Time Check” neighborhood just across from downtown, or the “High Water Mark” sign eight feet up on the wall behind the bar at Little Bohemia on 3rd Street SE, an establishment so steeped in local bliss that you won’t believe it was flooded by anything but rowdy Czech beer drinkers. In fact, by the grace of the ghosts of thousands of Czech-beer-drinkers-passed, the giant front windows of Little Bohemia even survived the flood – a metaphor that could represent well the idea that although much history was washed away, the local culture still stands tall.

Just up the street you’ll find the freshly opened NewBo Market – a local food lovers dream, with over 25 permanent vendors, as well as outdoor market vendors, teaching space, and much more – a sign of not just recovery, but respectful re-visioning of what Cedar Rapids can look like. And across the street – Legion Arts, based in the CSPS building, has been presenting and showcasing world-class art and music since 1991.

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Through various means, the dynamic non-profit was able to purchase and refurbish the CSPS building (a home for over a century to neighborhood fraternal and community groups). It continues to host incredible visual, musical, and movement performances in incomparably unique spaces. The CSPS building frontage also now houses the fantastic Brewed Café and equally stunning NewBo Books.

If you want to know what really makes Cedar Rapids a unique place though, you have to look to the people – past and present. Ask almost anyone in the shops and establishments of Cedar Rapids and they’ll tell you about a place that not only they are proud of, but a place that continues to reinvent itself while hanging on to its slightly faded and rinsed history. Eateries are popping up downtown, local museums like the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library are drawing crowds from afar, while favorites like Sakora’s bakery, the Red Frog, Blue Toad, and the Village Meat Market in the Czech Village continue to draw faces new and old. In many ways, strolling around downtown Cedar Rapids, one feels like a new leaf is just turning over in a city that still maintains much of Eastern Iowa’s modern past. So go Czech it out  (oh yes we did…) – here’s a few of our favorites to get you started!

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LANDMARKS

Legion Arts / CSPS
1103 3rd St SE
www.legionarts.org
Since 1991 Legion Arts has been presenting world-class music, art work, and presentations in the CSPS building and beyond. Their contributions to the creative fabric of Eastern Iowa continue to be immense. Having fully refurbished the CSPS building after the 2008 floods, this incredibly active non-profit organization continues to anchor and attract creative arts to Cedar Rapids. It’s worth a visit in itself, but even if you just have a minute, peek in to see the beautiful refurbished digs!

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
1400 Inspiration Place SW
www.ncsml.org
In the heart of the Czech Village, this museum celebrates the deep historic and cultural ties of Czech and Slovak immigrants to Cedar Rapids. With exhibitions ranging from traditional immigrant home details to modern traveling exhibits, the museum is a great destination. The large library and oral history collection make this a true and important treasure to Cedar Rapids.

Brucemore Mansion and Estate
2160 Linden Dr SE
www.brucemore.org
This National Historic Trust Site sits on a 26-acre estate in the middle of Cedar Rapids. From 1884 to 1981 three different families lived in the mansion (and also three different Lions – no kidding – but you’ll have to visit to get that piece of history!) Beautiful gardens and grounds host countless events throughout the year including Bluesmore, Brucemorchestra, Garden & Art Shows, and much more. The tour alone is worth the stop!

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Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
410 3rd Ave SE
www.crma.org
The CRMA features, amongst many other things, the world’s largest Grant Wood collection! And while that collection is always rotating, upcoming traveling exhibits are always worth the trip too!

Grant Wood Studio
810 Turners Alley SE
www.crma.org/content/grant_wood/grant_wood_studio.aspx
This is Grant Wood’s cute-as-a-button studio where, among many other things, Wood painted American Gothic. Used from 1924-35, this property is part of the CRMA (above) and open seasonally on weekends 12 to 4 pm April to December. Studio entry is free!

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Paramount Theatre
123 3rd Ave SE
www.paramounttheatrecr.com
Reopened in 2012 following extensive renovations, this 1700-seat “Crown Jewel” is home to Orchestra Iowa as well as a busy schedule of Broadway shows, ballet, comedy, and music tours.

African American Museum of Iowa
55 12th Ave. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
www.blackiowa.org
319-862-2101
10-4 Mon-Sat.

Theatre Cedar Rapids
102 3rd St SE
www.theatrecr.org
Having performed over 80 seasons, TCR is a much-loved local theatre company. Their building and theatre are worth the peek alone, not to mention their performances!

U.S. Cellular Center
370 1st Ave E
www.uscellularcenter.com
Following a massive multi-year renovation, the US Cellular Center (formerly Five Seasons Center) reopened May 31, 2013. Home to concerts and entertainment, along with indoor pro football team the Cedar Rapids Titans, this space will once again be a major event destination in Eastern Iowa.

EAT/DRINK

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NewBo City Market
1100 3rd Street SE
newbocitymarket.com
With over 25 permanent vendors, seasonal market vendors, an educational culinary kitchen, and even growlers of local beer (!), this indoor/outdoor market in the heart of the NewBo district offers an incredibly vibrant eating and shopping environment. Plan on spending some time looking around as well as eating.

Bata’s
1006 3rd St SE
www.batasrestaurant.com
Father and son Tony and Nick Bata sling some pretty fun and tasty food – and beverages – in their fresh clean space on 3rd St. SE. “Local…global…indigenous” is one way their fare is self described – a better way is perhaps to reinforce that the blueberry muenster burger with caramelized sweet potato strips is pretty much the stuff of gooey delightful dreams. Go hungry and shoot for the exotic – that goes for the beverages too including small craft beers ever-rotating on tap!

Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary
219 2nd St SE
www.cobblehillrestaurant.com
Iowa natives Andy and Carrie Schumacher went round trip from living in NYC to returning to Iowa seeking the good life (ed. Hey – this sounds familiar!). They’ve recently hung out a very fine new shingle in downtown Cedar Rapids with their stunning new restaurant. Handcrafted local foods – and cocktails – along with a unique and vibrant interior put this spot on the map. Worth the drive from wherever you are reading this…

Village Meat Market & Café
92 16th Ave SW
www.villagemeatmarketcafe.com
The motto is “If it’s legal, we smoke it!” and Lou Thompson isn’t messing around, smoked or otherwise: Jaternice, Rope sausage, Butcher Loaf, Czech dogs, Head & Liver Cheese, Souse, Old Fashioned Loaf, Olive Loaf, and that’s just the meat case. The café is an amazing combination of Cajun and southern favorites like shrimp boil specials or pan friend chicken (thanks to a 20+ year field trip cooking on the Gulf Coast) as well as Czech favorites like goulash and dumplings, or schnitzel. There are also tenderloins, and beignets, and bacon candy, and bottles of beer, and well – you should really just go see it for yourself. Nothing fancy here, just serious down home cooking and meat market.

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Parlor City
1125 3rd St SE
www.parlorcitypub.com
56 beers on tap. 56 really good beers on tap. Just go, and start a tab, and don’t bother looking at how much you’re spending. We suggest doing a flight or two if you really want to taste your way around the taps – and still walk out. From small Iowa favorites like Toppling Goliath and Confluence Brewing, to hardcore west coast outfits like Green Flash, and those crazy bastards at Ommegang – there’s a lot of really precious, delicious amazing beer to taste here. Oh yeah – they also serve pub grub, and have a delightlful outdoor patio, complete with bike repair station. Apparently they also serve breakfast on the weekends, but remember – “Beer has food value, but food has no beer value.” We’ll also offer the obligatory reminder at this point that you should always drink responsibly. Now go drool over the beer list, don’t worry, its covered in plastic for a reason.

Brewhemia
brewhemia.com
Housed in the front of the CSPS building, Brewhemia is the coffee shop that you always hope you’ll find when searching for that perfect coffee shop. Sleek, spacious interior, chalkboards, minimalist display – and killer coffee. They also have delightful quiche, quick sandwiches, treats, and dinner served on the weekends! And if you’ve had plenty of coffee for the day, they serve a nicely selected list of wines and craft beers.

Little Bohemia Tavern
1317 3rd Street SE
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‘Little Bo’s’ – as it is affectionately called – is exactly the kind of place you want to wander into in the middle of the afternoon and not leave – maybe until much after dark. Despite having been completely inundated by the flood of 2008, this bar feels like it hasn’t changed in 50 years. Actually more like 78 years, and that’s a good thing. Pork Tenderloins the size of tall tales, homemade Czech goulash, a few beers on tap, and the kind of folks who are happy to strike up a conversation with you, and introduce you to their friends, who might even buy you a beer – you get the idea. Prost!

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Al’s Blue Toad
86 16th Avenue SW
In the heart of Czech Village, serving authentic Czech fare along with American favorites. Bring your appetite, as the portions are impressive! And if there’s apple strudel, save room!

TREASURE

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Mad Modern
227 14th Ave SW
www.facebook.com/MadModern
This resale shop specializes in all things mid-century modern and beyond. Their sign letter collection alone is worth checking out, and inventory changes often. Just across the street from Little Bo’s!

Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity Restore
350 6th Ave SE
www.cvhabitat.org/cvhfh/restore
Probably the best Habitat Restore we’ve ever seen. You never know what you might find, but be prepared to find it! You can also feel good shopping from a great organization!

Cellar Door Antiques
2900 1st Ave NE
thecellardoor.net
Facilitating consignment and tag sales since 1983, this is a serious treasure hunt.

Farmers Daughters Market
495 Miller Rd, Hiawatha
www.fdmarket.com
Jennifer Goodlove presents an eclectic mix of farm fresh produce, specialty food items, antiques and gifts. A fresh soup, sandwich, panini, quiche, and dessert menu is also available on site.

SNOOZE

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The Hotel at Kirkwood Center
7725 Kirkwood Boulevard SW
www.thehotelatkirkwood.com
One of only two Iowa Hotels to have the AAA Four Diamond rating, this property is especially unique as it acts as the teaching hotel for Kirkwood’s hospitality management program. Don’t let that fool you though, the rooms are sleek, stylish, and extremely comfortable – and the details are perfect (they even emboss the toilet paper triangle!). Just three miles from the Eastern Iowa Airport, the hotel also offers free shuttle service to the airport, and also houses a state-of-the-art conference and event center. The Class Act Restaurant – a gourmet establishment served by Kirkwood’s groundbreaking Culinary Arts program – is on-site and worthwhile. Watch for special dinner event offerings and feel free to splurge on room service – you won’t be disappointed!

DoubleTree by Hilton
350 First Avenue NE
www.doubletree.com
Opening in early June, this property, once known as the ‘Five Seasons Center’ has had a multi-million dollar facelift and joined the DoubleTree by Hilton family of hotels. Brand new rooms and views of the city extend from both the guest rooms as well as the top floor ‘350 First’ restaurant. Attached to the US Cellular Center, this facility can accommodate the largest of events with over 28,000 square feet of indoor space.

OUTSIDE:
There’s plenty to do outside in the Cedar Valley as well. Check out a few of these local favorites while visiting!

LAMBA
Linn Area Mtn Bike Association
lambaonline.org
LAMBA is the regional organization responsible for developing and maintaining area mountain bike trails – located in Beverly Park as well as Squaw Creek Park and others.

Cedar Rapids Kernels Baseball
950 Rockford Road SW
www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t492
Now a class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins! Get out to a game this summer!

Wickiup Hill Learning Center
10260 Morris Hills Road, Toddville, Iowa
www.facebook.com/wickiuphill
Fantastic outdoor learning center with unique new features for kids of all ages!

Indian Creek Nature Center
6665 Otis Road SE
www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org
With over 200 acres and four miles of trails, this Nature Center offers tons of family friendly programming near the city!

Prairiewoods
www.prairiewoods.org
Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center is a retreat and conference center focused on ecology and spirituality (or ecospirituality) located in Hiawatha just outside of Cedar Rapids. It features 70 acres of quiet nature walking trails, an outdoor labyrinth, and a lending library with an extensive collection of environment and meditation materials.

IF YOU MUST WORK

Vault Coworking
crvault.com
“Vault is a community of founders, innovators, entrepreneurs, starters and creatives. In short, we’re big idea people, and we’re building the bright future of Iowa together Join the community and get connected to inspiring people, new opportunities, resources for your projects, and if you’re looking for a place to work too, we have an awesome brand new shared office.”

Driftless Day Trip: Viroqua, Wisconsin

ViroquaDowntown

By Inspire(d)

Viroqua, Wisconsin, is just one of those places – the kind you hear about and so want to visit, but getting there seems impossible – literally. We’re pretty sure it’s uphill both ways. But once you do get there, and you take in the views of valleys and bluffs, you wonder: “What took me so long?” And then, “I might never leave.”

That seems to be the case for a lot of people who call Viroqua home. Folks came for a variety of reasons – like those who settled there in the mid-1800s, it might simply be the beauty of the region pulled them in. Or more recently, the surge of organic farming – not to mention the headquarters of organic biz-moguls Organic Valley nestled one town over in La Farge. Maybe it was the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School that drew one family to town, and the great food co-op recruited another.

Whatever brought these people together, they’re working hard – together – to make their little town of 5,000 special, sustainable, and a fun place to be.

Which, in turn, makes it a fun place to visit! We made our way on a sunny weekend to check out this little community big on cooperatives. The historic downtown is easily traveled on-foot and is filled with quirky stores, handmade shops, cafes, and boutiques. And behind every counter is a person recommending the place next door or just down the street. Calling these people friendly would be an understatement.

Tip: Check it out this Saturday (January 10, 2015) for the annual Kickapoo Valley Winter Festival!

We’ve laid out just a few of our favorite spots to help you find your way – whether it’s packing out into the 8,000+ acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve, or hunkering down for a quiet romantic weekend, enjoy all the bounty of the Driftless Region!

Get Outside:

Kickapoo Valley Reserve. S3661 St H 131. La Farge, WI . 608-625-2960. kvr.state.wi.us
The “KVR” (as they say…) is one of the most impressive expanses of land in the entire Driftless Area. 8,500 acres between La Farge and Ontario, Wisconsin (just a few miles from Viroqua) cradle the Kickapoo River, offering up unlimited recreational opportunities. Originally pegged for a controversial damn dam project in the early 1960s, the project failed to ever be completed, leaving this treasure to eventually become a public reserve.

Snowflake Ski Club. Westby, WI. snowflakeskiclub.com
Giant ski jump in a town of 2000 (just up the road from Viroqua)? Awesome. Make sure to mark your calendars for the 92nd (yes, you read that right!!) Annual Snowflake Ski Jumping Tournament January 30 and 31. Fun!

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Bluedog Cycles & Brewdog. 210 South Main Street. 608-637-6993. bluedogcycles.blogspot.com | Pete and Alycann Taylor have been holding things down at this unique bike/coffee shop since 2005. Not only do they offer great products and service, but they are great resources on getting outdoors near Viroqua. Stop in, grab a cup of coffee, and check it out before you get outside!

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Check It Out:

Design Menagerie. 207 E Jefferson Street. 608-638-0638. designmenagerie.com | Just a block off of Main Street sits a gorgeous century old Victorian – finished in clean, unique colors and lines. The first floor houses an incredible designer boutique of hand crafted and selected products ranging from gourmet goods to beautiful fabrics and jewelry – “Objects of Utility and Design”. Stop by to take in this one-of-a-kind shop.

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Viroqua Public Market. 215 South Main Street. www.viroquapublicmarket.com | The Viroqua Public Market is the center of many good things downtown. First, the market serves as an outlet for hundreds of vendors from across the region. The same building also houses Bramble Books and the Viva Gallery, as well as the occasional indoor farmers market. The building also houses the Rooted Spoon (more below).

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Tulips General Store. 207 S. Main Street. 608-638-3838. tulipsgeneralstore.com | Part teashop, bakery, and local goods emporium, this store is a fun mix! Fresh scones (and bagels if you’re early!) on the weekend, plus a huge selection of loose leaf teas.

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Temple Theatre. 220 S. Main Street. 608-6637-8190 | www.temple-theatre.com Refurbishment was finished in 2002 on this anchor of downtown Viroqua. With nine murals, a full rehab of the 1922 Temple Theatre’s Wurlitzer organ, and the grand marquis, it’s a grand venue for events and performances.

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The Ark. 401 E. Jefferson Street. 608-637-7824. artarkviroqua.org | Viroqua’s community and regional arts center – offering classes, space, movement, and a home for the arts in the midst of the Driftless Region.

Viroqua Farmer’s Market. 116 S. Rock Avenue. 608-637-2575. Saturdays 8am-12pm | Rockin’ farmers market – amazing variety of local and Driftless Region products. Traditional outside market runs spring through fall, with winter market open many Saturdays as well – check out their Facebook page for latest updates and locations.

Driftless Folk School. 401 E. Jefferson (office based at The Ark!). www.driftlessfolkschool.org | Ever wanted to learn more about practical, sustainable, lifelong skills? Do you like to work with your hands, create objects, or learn traditional crafts? Check out all of the classes at the school – from ‘Clay in a day’ and ‘Design your own small building,’ to ‘Fruit tree grafting’ – the possibilities are great, and ever changing. Check out the schedule online.

Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center. (Coon Valley) 608.452.3424. www.norskedalen.org | Norskedalen or “Norwegian Valley” is a 400-acre site dedicated to preserving and interpreting “the natural environment and cultural heritage of the region”. Open daily for visiting, in addition to special events, a guest cabin, historical displays, and much more.

Eat / Drink:

Driftless Café. 118 W Court St. www.driftlesscafe.com | “Seasonal menus – Locally Sourced – Written in Chalk” Seriously good local food. Really, these guys aren’t messing around. We mean it. Go now. Get a Wisco Pop with dinner, and don’t skip dessert.

DriftlessCafe2
DriftlessCafe1

Rooted Spoon. 219 S. Main St. www.rootedspoon.com | Adjacent to The Viroqua Public Market, these fine folks host “219 Drinkery” every Friday, often with different themes, and an amazing brunch every Sunday. They also offer incredible monthly dinners and special events, but are not open for regular daily service. Plan ahead to hit one of their events – great space, good people, fun menus.

RootedSpoon

Tangled Hickory Wine Bar. 120 S. Main St. www.tangledhickory.com | Downtown wine bar with changing seasonal entrees, a wide and affordable wine list, and nice ambiance. Happy Hour specials on wine and appetizers everyday from 4-6pm.

Viroqua Coop. 609 N. Main St. viroquafood.coop | Cooperative awesomeness! Beyond the normal co-op grocery and bulk findings, offerings include a great deli/hot bar, coffee and bakery counter, fun gifts, and a fantastically selected beer cooler. You can even get Kickapoo Coffee or a WiscoPop! to go! Early or late-ish, this is a great stop for supplies!

7 Rivers Sausage. 608-637-8088. www.7riverssausage.com | Travis Anderson may very well be the sausage king of Viroqua – we’re not sure that title has ever existed, but we are sure that there’s a whole lot of delicious charcuterie going on at 7 Rivers. Highest quality ingredients, no junk, and all natural casings equal truly regional delights.

WiscoPop! www.wiscopopsoda.com | If you didn’t already know it (perhaps you read the story here?), we love WiscoPop! Three Viroqua business partners making incredible craft brewed soda from nothing but great ingredients. Their product is currently available only on tap or by special order mini-kegs (bottling coming soon!). You can find them in Viroqua at the Coop, Driftless Café, and in La Crosse at the Root Note. And word on the street is that WiscoPop! may soon be on tap in Decorah!

Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. 1201 N. Main Street #10. www.kickapoocoffee.com | Since 2005, Kickapoo has been sourcing and roasting incredible coffee beans from around the globe. We drink it here at Inspire(d) HQ every day! Co-owners TJ Semanchin and Caleb Nicholes don’t cut corners when it comes to finding the best coffee beans possible and coaxing out their incredible flavors. Check out their once-a-month coffee cupping / tastings – it’s a wildly educational (and caffeinating) experience!

Kickapoo2
Kickapoo

Stay:

Heritage Inn. 220 & 217 East Jefferson Street. 608-637-3306. herinn.com  Beautifully restored historic Inn with private baths, cable, AC, etc. Just a block off of Downtown Viroqua, leaving you easily on foot for in-town adventures!

Natures Nook Retreat. S4878 Cty. Rd. S. 608-637-3928. www.naturenooksretreat.com | Rural Kickapoo Valley cabin rentals meant for relaxing – there’s the Little Barn, Cabin-in-a-barn, and Kinship Place gathering space. The west fork of the Kickapoo River runs through the 95-acre property, including access to brown trout, kayaking, and hiking trails.

Kickapoo Valley Reserve. 608-625-2960. kvr.state.wi.us | If you really want to get out there and enjoy the woods, this is your place to throw down a tent and watch the stars. 25 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis with minimal fees. Remember to pack necessities as the KVR is a little ways away from civilization – which is all the more of a reason to visit!

PLAN AHEAD:
Driftless Wisconsin Portal. driftlesswisconsin.com
This portal is a fantastic guide to all things in the Viroqua area. Take a look and plan your own adventure!

Community Powered Radio – WDRT 91.9FM. Also listen online: wdrt.org
Viroqua’s community powered radio station. You’ll hear an eclectic mix of music, shows, and events broadcast from their downtown studio!