A Perfect Day in La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin cityscapePerched on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, La Crosse boasts dramatic bluffs and valleys and holds all the charm of a historic river town. Brent Smith ’78 is one of La Crosse’s biggest fans, something that would have surprised his younger self. When he took a job in La Crosse straight after law school, he never imagined he would stay for long. Now, nearly 40 years later, it is safe to say La Crosse is home. Here, he shares a guide to the perfect fall day in La Crosse.

Start the day out at Fayze’s, a local favorite for breakfast, and indulge in their signature Banana Rama French Toast. Or, on the weekends, walk to one of the two farmers’ markets to grab pastries and fresh produce. Now fortified, head to Grandad Bluff for stunning panoramic views of the area, which are especially striking with fall colors. On a clear day, three states— Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa—are visible from the bluff.

For a hearty lunch, stop at Digger’s Sting and get the prime rib sandwich. From there, head to Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau for a wine tasting or to Shefelbine Orchards for apple picking and a pumpkin patch. Time your visit to La Crosse right, and you’ll be lucky enough to experience one of the area’s many festivals. A favorite is Oktoberfest, a four-day celebration of German heritage.

Enjoy a glass of wine and wind down on the deck of The Waterfront Restaurant, overlooking the river, where the historic paddle boats are easy to spot. Enjoy a stroll along the riverfront, heading toward Riverside Park, for beautiful views of the area. Heading back toward downtown, dinner options are just blocks away. The Charmant Hotel offers rooftop views, while the Dublin Square Irish Pub features favorite Irish staples.

Interview by Karen Koethe