Here and There

your Best of the Chippewa Valley 2009 winners for local places

V1 Staff, illustrated by Erik Christenson |

1st Place: Rock-n-Roll Hardee’s
2nd Place: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp
3rd Place: The Heckel’s Bull

Of course Rock-n-Roll Hardee’s is the winner of this category! Have you seen all the cheese they pile on the Thickburger? But seriously, folks, the Rock-n-Roll Hardee’s is marvelously cheesy – it’s like our own little po’ man’s Hard Rock Café. You can admire a plaque commemorating the Rolling Stones before they have to roll you out of there! Second place Paul Bunyan Logging Camp is actually a nice place to learn about the logging history of Eau Claire, if you are a museum nerd. If not, it will put you to sleep like a log. You’ll be sawing wood all afternoon long! And in third place, joining Paul Bunyan and Babe on the big list of local giant fiberglass statuary, is the Heckel’s bull out on Highway 53. You might want to pull up and get a picture with the big bull. You should, that is, if you want to be heckled by the locals driving by. Ha-HA! How much more cheese can you handle? – Eric Rasmussen

1st Place: Phoenix Park
2nd Place: Carson Park
3rd Place: Irvine Park

In big cities, it doesn’t take much to make a nice park – slap down some grass and trees, and, compared to the concrete and steel of the cityscape, you’ve got a nice little chunk of nature. Around here, though, nature is not in too short of supply, so our parks need to step up with some outstanding features to really shine. This year’s line-up proves our big name local parks have some staying power, as the award winners are the same as 2008. Phoenix Park, with it’s amphitheater, converted railroad bridge, and farmer’s market pavilion, continues to be the best money the city has spent in quite some time, even if the bathroom is really, really far away. Carson Park, with its lake, sports fields, and acres of woods, still impresses after decades of existence. In third place, undoubtedly bolstered by sympathy for the jailbreak animals that ravaged (or just skulked around) Chippewa Falls, is Irvine Park, with its waterways and zoo enclosures. – Eric Rasmussen

1st Place: Eau Claire Dog Park
2nd Place: Music in the park
3rd Place: Lowes Creek Park (tied)
3rd Place: Carson Park (tied)

Eau Claire’s Dog Park is once again the best place for you and your beloved doggie companions to run, play, and make friends in the Chippewa Valley. But don’t get cocky, Eau Claire. You might have some competition. Chippewa Falls just approved the development of a dog park and Menomonie is in the process of doing so. For those pets put at ease around hundreds of people and talented local musicians, music in the park is always a good bet, whether at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park or the Blues in Owen Park series. If Sparky is not so good around lots of people, venture out to Lowes Creek Park where 250 acres of scenic beauty, trails, and plenty of small furry mammals to chase down are waiting for you and your pet. Take a trot with your pet, splash in Half Moon Lake, or get a good old game of fetch going at Carson Park, 134 acres of pet bliss. – Heidi Kraemer  

1st Place: Chaos Gaming Center
2nd Place: Nelson Cheese Factory
3rd Place: Pad Thai

As gaming becomes an ever more popular avenue of entertainment, it seems only natural that Eau Claire’s best kept secret would be the Chaos Gaming Center. Taking the hobby out of the house and into the community allows gamers a chance to meet new friends, play their favorite games socially, and turn something commonly mistaken for a loner’s pastime into relaxed, enjoyable, community event. Moving to food, Nelson Cheese Factory sits in a little building on a hill, but pumps out some of the tastiest local sandwiches and cheese curds you can find. While you’re there pick up an “Eat Cheese or Die” pin, just to represent. Pad Thai on Barstow has quietly been one of the most satisfying and unique places to eat in the valley, with a patronage and reputation that grows on a daily basis. – Aryn Widule

Up-and-Comer: Eau Claire river trails

1st Place: Phoenix Park Trailhead
2nd Place: Racy’s
3rd Place: The Red Room

After you get done noshing and tipping back those specialty drinks, ruminate on the experience in comfort and cleanliness.  Despite the hike from the pavilion, the Phoenix Park Trailhead is what a restroom should be – clean, spacious, virtually odor free, and wrapped in a Northwoodsy exterior. Racy D’lene’s is a dreamy powder room retreat. The subdued lighting and deep brick-red walls provide an enveloping calm under the cover of loud music and the white noise of industrial appliances. As a bonus, those in the know will pull out the notebook in the women’s room to check the latest entries and add their own thoughts. The Red Room has some distinctive accents like a lion’s head door handle, stall dividers made of doors turned on their sides, and the ever essential blackboard in the men’s room above the urinal. – Betty Rae Matthews

Really?: The new $300,000 toilet we’re not building at the farmers market

1st Place: All-purpose arena
2nd Place: A jail that isn’t downtown
3rd Place: Permanent farmers market in Chippewa Falls

The Chippewa Valley sure is a great place to live, right? That is, it’s a great place to live UNLESS you judge cities by the availability of a space that could host both a Maroon 5 concert AND a monster truck rally. While most locals continue to put up with this community knowing that the WWE will never, ever produce a show here, many of you still have dreams of a big venue that could host any number of American Idol traveling shows and big deal conventions. Right behind the arena, in second place, is a jail that is NOT located downtown. Perhaps a floating jail that uses hot air technology to stay aloft would please everyone. Our third place winner is the most likely to actually happen, and soon – Chippewa Falls is looking at a proposal for its riverfront that features a farmers market facility. Also receiving mention in this category – a giant statue of L.E. Phillips, hopefully straddling Barstow, and a Roller Derby Rink. – Eric Rasmussen

1st Place: At home, in bed
2nd Place: The drive-in
3rd Place: Big Falls
For some reason Chippewa Vallians like to draw the curtains when they choose to tangle tongues. Given that you shut your doors, at home in bed is certainly a decent option if you are avoiding prying eyes. It probably is more comfortable and unconfined for more free movement and experimentation. Or you can get busy in the privacy of your car, in the dark, at the drive-in. If someone parks too close, there is incentive to steam the windows up even faster. Or if you prefer nature, Big Falls offers plenty of lush foliage to hide away in, plus a nice view of the stars. Just don’t get too frisky – you could fall in. – Heidi Kraemer

Really?: For the third year in a row, Markquart Lube-N-Wash placed in the top five.

1st Place: Third Ward
2nd Place: Downtown’s afternoon event
3rd Place: East Hill

Eau Claries Third Ward by far has the most king-sized candy bars and the fewest Dum-Dum pops, cliché black and orange wax paper candies, or potentially tampered apples. Princesses, scarecrows, and monsters alike can anticipate the best haul here, whereas mom and dad bargain for the biggest dentist bill from trick-or-treaters in that area. In second place is the increasingly popular downtown afternoon event, where every year from 3 to 5pm children ghost and goblins can parade in and out of local businesses, collecting candy as they go. Completing the top three is the East Hill, where like the Third Ward, houses are in close proximity, making it easier to cover more ground faster. – Bailey Berg

1st Place: Golf Road and Highway 93
2nd Place: Brackett Ave and Hastings Way
3rd Place: Clairemont Ave and Stein Blvd

Whoever is supposed to be studying traffic patterns in Eau Claire needs to put down the sandwich, turn of The Sims and get cracking. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been late for work because of poorly timed traffic lights, I’d have enough money to pay for the wasted gas. Of all the traffic intersections that get Chippewa Vallians blood pumping, Golf Road and Highway 93 takes the cake. Is there really a good reason why the left turn signal only lasts for about three-fourths of a second?  Brackett Avenue and Hastings Way follows as the second most aggravating intersection, perhaps because it’s frequented by monstrous amounts of vehicles. In a close third, Clairemont Avenue and Stein Boulevard has been known to make drivers pull out their hair and utter a long line of words not permissible in public. – Bailey Berg

Really?: Nearly 40 voters said, “All the roads cars are on.”

1st Place: Phoenix Park
2nd Place: Farmers market
3rd Place: Leinenkugel’s Brewery
The incredible popularity of Phoenix Park makes we wonder if Eau Claire should be paid tons of money for designing parks in other cities. It’s only a few years old, yet if you ask someone to list things that define Eau Claire, it’s in the top three. It’s the place where we love to show off to guests how awesome and progressive our city is, and likewise where they hold the downtown farmers market and numerous summer concerts and festivals. One of the few things outsiders will recognize about the Chippewa Valley (besides Menards) is Leinenkugel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, which is a fantastic little tour worth centering a day trip around. – Trevor Kupfer

Up-and-Comer: The increasing popularity of wine tours stands to help eighth place finisher Autumn Harvest Winery in Chippewa Falls.

1st Place: Irvine Park Zoo
2nd Place: Eau Claire Children’s Museum
3rd Place: LE Phillips Memorial Library
With its scenic trails, hungry ducks, and miles of bike routes, Irvine Park is no doubt a fantastic spot to take the fam. But the thing that really makes the Chippewa Falls park stand out is the zoo, where they house animals like cougars, bobcats, buffalo, elk, deer, and monkeys. It’s nearly impossible to best a zoo for the best place to take kids, but the Eau Claire Children’s Museum came close, for regularly hosting creative activities and programming in its five main exhibits of interactive learning. Following the museum is the L.E. Philips Memorial Public Library, which only stands to get better with its renovation of the children’s area. – Bailey Berg

1st Place: Chippewa Valley Museum
2nd Place: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp
3rd Place: Cook-Rutledge Museum
The Chippewa Valley Museum wins for the third year in a row. Visit Sunnyview School, the ice cream parlor, Kate Aitkens’ awesome dollhouse, and remember, when attending the old-fashion Fourth of July, CAKEWALK! Nestled next door to the museum in Carson Park is Paul Bunyan’s Logging Camp, which resembles an 1890s logging camp (you know, cook shanty and all). Rumor has it (as of this moment) if you kiss the Babe the Blue Ox statue, it’s like kissing the Blarney Stone. Finally, be sure to tour the Cook-Rutledge Mansion, which looks like a grownup dollhouse. What a gorgeous entryway! Can I live there? – Rob Reid