Minnesotans Are Loving Eau Claire for Weekend Getaways

Mike Paulus, photos by Janae Breunig |

More and more, Eau Claire is listed and profiled by publications in Minnesota as a great place for a weekend getaway or a day trip. Just last month, Minnesota Public Radio featured a number of local eateries and bars in a segment on destination dining. And now Eau Claire has a two-page spread in the April issue of Minnesota Monthly, which covers arts, food, style, living, and travel in and around our neighboring state. The whole issue is devoted to weekend vacations.

The spread is part of a feature story on three small cities that are high on stuff to do and see, yet low on travel time. It’s co-written by the magazine’s editor-in-chief Rachel Hutton, and also features Minnesota burgs Northfield and Mankato. They say these places “offer scenic beauty, vibrant culture, and some surprising new spots to shop, eat, drink, and spend the night.”

They, of course, talk about places like The Joynt and people like Justin Vernon and things like the Eaux Claires festival and UW-Eau Claire’s jazz program. But they also dig deeper into the downtown area, highlighting some great spots for interested travelers. Some takeaways ...

On The Lismore ... “The building, now clad in anodized metal and glass, includes an artisanal coffee shop, a farm-to-table restaurant serving bone marrow and bison, and the city’s only rooftop bar. (It’s called Dive because it replaced the former hotel’s swimming pool—an actual dive bar would never flame its Old Fashioneds’ orange peels.)”

On Red’s ... “The most contemporary shop in town is the spare, boho Red’s Mercantile, which sells chic removable wallpaper, Faribault blankets, sage bundles for smudging, beeswax candles, minimalist jewelry, and more.”

On Good & Sturdy ... “For vintage-lovers, Good & Sturdy offers a nicely curated collection of well-preserved jeans, leather jackets, t-shirts, and other clothing."

On The Lakely & The Oxbow Hotel ... “serves gourmet dishes rooted in the Midwest, including a fantastic “hot dish” of braised duck and native-harvested wild rice. The craft cocktails are also first-rate—I loved the Sugarbush Sour with bourbon, lemon, and maple syrup—spendier than the Joynt, but a steal compared to their Twin Cities equivalent. The overall atmosphere is classy yet relaxed, and the dress code ranges from sequins to UW-Badger fleece.” 

On the Antique Emporium ... “The largest retailer is the decades-old, three-level Antique Emporium, stuffed with furniture, dishes, books, lithographs, frames, and the most impressive taxidermy collection I’ve ever seen (don’t leave until you’ve spotted the two-headed calf).”

They also spend some words on the future of downtown, mentioning the forthcoming Confluence Project and Haymarket Plaza. Summing up the profile, they add this:

“In many small cities, economic growth tends to mean generic chain stores and a bland aesthetic. But, here, there’s local music playing on the outdoor sound system, local art at the galleries, such as the lovely new 200 Main ... The city is on its way to proving that it can both evolve and preserve its uniqueness.” Minnesota Monthly

On top of all that, the issue’s Editor’s Note from Hutton is all about what she calls “quickcations,” or short trips to towns you don’t normally consider as destination spots – complete with a photo of a bedroom at The Oxbow Hotel.