Current Issue -

8 Fun Spring Driftless Things

As we wrap up winter, let’s embrace the new season upon us with a refreshed weekend itinerary. Join the area’s artists, farmers, and fest-goers for fun-filled events, both indoors and out. From its beautifully blooming flora to its lively city streets, the Driftless is ready for exploration! Here are eight cool activities to fling yourself into this spring. 

Illustrations by Allison Thomley

1. Pick pretty flowers

Spring means flowers and the Hidden Springs Peony Farm in Spring Grove, Minnesota has flowers aplenty! Pick your own peonies for a bouquet or plan a picnic among them (see below). Peonies aren’t the only plants on the farm, you can also make your own succulent planters, an activity that’s available year-round.

Check out this fun spring thing: A Picnic at Hidden Springs Peony Farm!

Saturday, June 1, 4 – 7 pm. 
Sunday, June 9, 11 am – 2 pm

“Come when you can, stay as you like and leave when you must.” 

Charcuterie boxes from Hunt + Gather Grazing (no outside food permitted). You may choose one non-alcoholic drink option. If you choose, you may (responsibly) bring your own alcoholic beverage of choice. Picnic blankets supplied or bring your own. Closed-toed shoes are recommended. Service animals are welcome but please leave pets at home. 

Buy tickets here.


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

2. Sample maple syrup

Spring also means that maple syrup season is upon us. Head to B&E’s Trees, a farm in Cashton, Wisconsin where Embark Maple Syrup is made. An extra cool way to experience the farm is via the Ramp Romp (held in 2024 on Apr 27), a biking adventure through the property. You’ll get to forage, eat, and even camp, if you’d like. |

Green’s Sugar Bush in Castalia, Iowa, is also in the business of maple syrup. Every spring they host a pancake breakfast where you can sample the delicious syrup they’ve been perfecting since 1851. 2024 Maple Festival dates are Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, April 7 – check Greens’ Sugar Bush Facebook for details, and read more about the Greens’ long history of syrup-making in this issue’s Sum of Your Business interview


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

3. Explore a state park

For example, Wyalusing State Park near Bagley, Wisconsin, is a great spot to get out into the fresh spring air. One of Wisconsin’s oldest and most well-loved state parks, you’ll find no shortage of fun, including two mountain bike trails, a six-mile canoe trail through the Mississippi River backwaters, a fishing pier, and 14 miles of hiking trails featuring caves, waterfalls, and amazing bluff views. 

Come back in late spring or early summer for an astronomy program at the Huser Astronomy Center, which features several high-powered telescopes in an ideal location for observing the night sky. Check your state’s DNR website for listings of State Parks near you (IA, MN, WI).


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

4. Shop the farmers markets

Even before the snow melts, you can get your farmers market fix at the Justin Trails Makers Market in Sparta, Wisconsin. This indoor market takes place on Saturdays through March. Sample homemade goods, buy cool decor, and even enjoy breakfast on site at The Lodge.

And in communities across the Driftless, early May marks the month when you can grab your reusable bags and make your way to your local farmers market, where you’ll find an abundance of agricultural goodies grown and produced by your neighbors and friends. Check with your local chamber for farmers market dates and details. 


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

5. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

On Sunday, March 17, put on your green attire and head to Waukon, Iowa, for one of the liveliest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Driftless. Go for the parade at 1 pm, and then stick around for the live music and dinner specials at local hangouts.


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

6. Listen to local artists

Experience the eclectic sounds of the area by checking out Midwest Music Fest in Winona, Minnesota May 10-11. Artists like Charlie Parr and The People Brothers Band play different locations around town for two whole days, giving attendees the opportunity to hop around and find their favorite vibes and venues.


Illustrations by Allison Thomley

7. Stroll through the Shrine

There’s no better time than spring to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. Nestled in the bluffs, the beautifully landscaped grounds are a great place for a stroll. Admire the flowers, sculptures, and buildings that adorn this world-renowned location.


8. Get festive with Syttende Mai

Illustrations by Allison Thomley

The Driftless has a rich Norwegian heritage that’s celebrated each spring in the form of Syttende Mai. This festival takes place on or around May 17th in honor of the day Norway ratified its constitution in 1814. 

If you’re interested in some delicious Norwegian foods, crafts, and a hunt for trolls, head to Westby, Wisconsin May 18-19 to immerse yourself in the culture.

Or join the proud folks of Spring Grove, Minnesota May 15-19 for similar festivities, including a 5K adorably dubbed “Running with my Gnomies.”

In Decorah, Iowa, the Vesterheim Norwegian-American museum celebrates the holiday on May 17 with free admission all day, a Children’s Parade throughout Vesterheim Heritage Park, a performance by Decorah’s Nordic Dancers, hands-on crafts, and more.

Headshot of Sara Walters

Sara Walters

Writer Sara is a mom and writer living in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has been an Inspire(d) contributor since 2018.

Allison Thomley

Illustrator Allison Thomley is a junior at Luther College studying Visual Communications and Art. Originally from Madison, WI, she loves listening to music and playing Mario Kart in her free time.