*Hosted visit sponsored by Visit Eau Claire. All ideas and opinions expressed are that of the writer, Antonia Grant. Find additional disclosure information at the bottom of this article.*
Families seeking a Midwestern town filled with charm, outdoor adventures, and a vibrant art and music scene will adore visiting Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Nestled on the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers, Eau Claire is just 90 minutes from Minneapolis, and under 5 hours from Chicago. Certainly, Eau Claire offers one of the best Wisconsin getaways for families. Whether you are looking for a weekend away or a week-long vacation, Eau Claire has everything you need to have fun and make memories with your kids. From scenic hiking in the north woods to top-notch theatrical performances, families will quickly fill their Eau Claire itinerary. Keep reading to discover the 15+ Best Things to Do in Eau Claire with Kids, as well as where to eat and where to stay!
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Eau Claire with Kids
As one of the best cities in Wisconsin to visit with kids, Eau Claire offers a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures for families. Whether you are seeking an animal encounter, a little retail therapy, or a thrilling game of minigolf, you’ll find what you’re looking for when you visit Eau Claire with kids! Keep reading to discover some of the best outdoor things to do in Eau Claire for families!
Enjoy the Eau Claire Sculpture Tour
One of the first things to do in Eau Claire with kids is the Eau Claire Sculpture Tour. As the largest sculpture tour in the nation, families will discover over 70 unique sculptures by local, national, and international artists. Challenge kids to choose their favorite – we bet they can’t select just one! From giant bees and adorable pigs to interactive music sculptures, people of all ages will delight in meandering the downtown area in search of these incredible treasures. Each sculpture even has an attached QR code that can be scanned for additional information about the installation (as well as a map of the sculpture tour). Since the sculptures are scattered across the downtown area, this is a great way to get your bearings and start your trip.
Stroll Through Phoenix Park
Next on our list of the best things to do in Eau Claire for families is Phoenix Park. Located in the heart of downtown along the rivers, this is also one of the best free things to do in Eau Claire with kids. Here, families will discover plenty of green space to spread out, as well as great views of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. In fact, you will find a few Instagramable bridges here too! Phoenix Park is a great place to pack a picnic and enjoy good weather.
Then, outdoorsy families will appreciate that both the Chippewa River State Trail and the Old Abe State Trail go through this park, meaning you can hike right from downtown! Families wanting to get on the water can also bring tubes or kayaks to float down the rivers for a bit. Finally, Phoenix Park is also the site of the large summer Farmer’s Market and other events. Be sure to check the calendar for events during your visit!
Play at the Huge Playground in Carson Park
When your kids are ready to run around and play, add Carson Park to your itinerary. One of the best free things to do in Eau Claire, Carson Park is filled with nature, activities, and history! Start by visiting Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (perfect for a photo op!). Afterward, head down the hill to play at the huge playground. Here, kids can run, slide, swing, and jump, while parents rest on a nearby bench. Afterward, take a ride on the Chippewa Valley Railroad train. Embarking on a half-mile journey along scenic Half Moon Lake, this summer activity is perfect for families seeking fun things to do in Eau Claire.
Families with older children will find amazing things to do here too! Start by geocaching, where you can challenge clever kids to find the cache. Alternatively, activities like fishing, hiking, and horseshoes are all available in Carson Park. Plus, the Chippewa Valley Museum and The Wisconsin Logging Museum are located here too (read more about these great museums later in the article!). Finally, did you know Hank Aaron spent part of his early career in Eau Claire? Baseball fans can seek out the statue outlining this part of his career located in Carson Park!
Splash and Play in River Prairie Park
Families with younger children may appreciate a smaller park experience by heading to River Prairie Park. Located just three miles from downtown, this area is a must when you visit Eau Claire with kids. Here, littles will adore playing on the natural playground with wooden structures to explore and a slide. Remember to bring swimming suits because there is an exciting splash stream waiting for them too! Kids can wade in the water or watch toys float downstream. There are even places you can cross the river on stepping stones. Once they are done splashing, they can search for hidden trolls in the garden, as well as larger ones hidden in plain sight along the river.
If you’re in need of a larger adventure, River Prairie Park connects with 70+ miles of biking and hiking trails in the area too. After playing, enjoy a picnic or eat at a nearby restaurant, like Za51 or 44 North. From little adventures to big days out, River Prairie Park is one of the best Eau Claire things to do with kids!
Learn Something New at the Beaver Creek Reserve
Looking for more things to do near Eau Claire with kids? Head to Beaver Creek Reserve! While technically located in neighboring Fall Creek, Beaver Creek Reserve is only about 20 minutes from the city. This outdoor educational center offers year-round activities and things to do for families, including an interactive Nature Center, observatory, 9 miles of groomed trails, and seasonal activities. In fact, they even have live animals in their Discovery Room and two Nature Nook outdoor play spaces for kids!
In the summer, hikers can discover a variety of trails through diverse terrains, like river bottom forests, wetlands, and savannah areas. Then, winter visitors can go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Finally, be sure to check the events calendar before visiting. If you’re interested, Beaver Creek also offers seasonal rentals, like cross-country skis and snowshoes in the winter, and kayaks, GPS units, and telescopes in the summer. Don’t miss the Storybook Hiking Trail, a year-round trail that families can self-explore on any visit! Finally, if you’re lucky, you may be able to join a seasonal phenology hike or bird walk, led by a Naturalist.
The Chippewa Valley is an outdoor paradise, making hiking one of the best things to do in Eau Claire for families! Firstly, Big Falls County Park offers hiking trails, as well as some swimming opportunities, and a stunning waterfall. It’s also a popular place to launch tubes and canoes. Then, check out the Chippewa River State Trail, which is popular for hiking, biking, and other seasonal activities. The full trail is about 30 miles, starting in Phoenix Park and following the river. Take in the views and turn around when you’re ready to head back.
Those with older kids and teens should head to Mt. Simon Park, where you can reach the highest peak in Eau Claire. While the trail up is very steep, those willing to make the climb will be rewarded with great views! Finally, Boyd Neighborhood Park is another great option for families looking for outdoor things to do in Eau Claire. The pedestrian bridge has fun city recreational trails on both sides of the river. Families will also find a playground and picnic areas here for summer fun, and an ice skating rink in the winter.
Embark on an Outdoor Adventure
There is more to outdoor adventure in Eau Claire than just hiking! Adventure families can find a wide array of amazing activities, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and more! When you visit Eau Claire with kids, be sure to add a few of these to your itinerary!
Firstly, golfers can head to Wild Ridge & Mill Run Golf Course, where you have access to both a links-style course and an 18-hole course in a quiet park-like setting. Then, those hoping to explore the area on horseback can book a guided trail ride with Wilderness Pursuit Horseback. From 2-hour trail rides to overnight excursions, kids will adore exploring wooded trails near Eau Claire. Looking for more recommendations for fun things to do in Eau Claire for families? It’s time to get on the water! There are a variety of places to kayak, canoe, SUP, and go fishing in the area too, including Half Moon Lake, the Chippewa River, the Eau Claire River, and more.
Visiting in the winter? You’ll still have plenty of outdoor adventures ahead of you, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice skating.
Play at a Local Apple Orchard, Farm, or Winery
If you’re wondering what to do in Eau Claire with kids during the summer and fall months, be sure to add an apple orchard or farm visit to your list. Ferguson’s Orchards is one of the best options in the area. Here, families can pick apples, meander corn mazes, pet farm animals, and stock up on seasonal eats like caramel apples! Or, head to Justorian Alpacas in nearby Osseo, where kids will delight in meeting the alpacas (be sure to call ahead to schedule your visit).
If wineries are more your style, there are a few family-friendly ones to choose from! Start with Vino Cappuccino, where you can munch on yummy foods like woodfire pizza and enjoy live music in a laid-back environment. Alternatively, River Bend Vineyard & Winery is a favorite amongst locals. Spend the afternoon enjoying your new-found favorite local wine on the charming outdoor patio (they have specialty sodas available for kids!). Certainly, a visit to one of these farms or vineyards ranks among the best things to do in Eau Claire with kids!
Discover Thrilling Activities at Action City
Certainly, one of the best indoor and outdoor Eau Claire things to do for families is Action City! Packed with thrilling activities, kids won’t know where to start. Outside, families can play a round of mini-golf, race around the outdoor go-kart track, or take an exciting ride down the zipline. Inside, there are even more activities, as well as several options for food (including a Dairy Queen!). Kids will delight in racing from the indoor go-kart track and laser tag to bumper carts. Plus, there is mini bowling, an arcade, dodgeball trampolines, an indoor playground, and much more!
Best Indoor Things to Do in Eau Claire with Kids
If you encounter rainy days or are just looking for a little indoor fun, here are some of the best indoor activities in Eau Claire for families! From theatrical performances to museums, your family will certainly enjoy spending time in Eau Claire together. Keep reading to learn where to find some of the best indoor things to do in Eau Claire for families.
Learn Together at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire
Families traveling with young children should leave time to play at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire. As one of the best Eau Claire things to do for families with kids up to about 8 years old, you can find several interactive exhibits right downtown. This inclusive space is perfect for families needing a vibrant, indoor place to play during their visit to Eau Claire with their kids. While they are currently in a temporary space, their new location is slated to open in January 2023. Additionally, the new space will have exhibits for all ages! Until it opens, families can enjoy the temporary intimate one-room, one-level space featuring play areas designed like cars and rocket ships (through November 2022). Plus, there are areas to build and color where kids can let their imaginations run wild!
Enjoy a Family-Friendly Performance at the Pablo Center at the Confluence
Next, no visit to Eau Claire is complete without a visit to the Pablo Center at the Confluence for families who love art, music, and theater! Not only do they have theatrical performances throughout the year, but they also offer galleries and exhibitions. Three year-round galleries are free and open to the public. These galleries feature regional and national artists with various media styles. Then, if you’re searching for unique things to do in Eau Claire with kids, be sure to check the performance schedule. From musicians to stage theater, there is always something happening on one of the two stages. Finally, the Pablo Center will also be the home to the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival.
Discover Local History at the Chippewa Valley Museum
Families interested in learning about local history can add the Chippewa Valley Museum to their itinerary. Located in Carson Park, this museum is one of the best Eau Claire things to do for families due to its location and collections. Interactive exhibits help kids and adults alike learn about topics from local farm life to the Hmong experience in Eau Claire.
Additionally, you can explore three nearby historic buildings cared for and curated by the Chippewa Valley Museum. Sunnyview School is a wonderful example of what a one-room schoolhouse looked like in the 19th and early 20th centuries, while the Lars and Grethe Anderson House is perhaps the only remaining example of buildings using kamnov (or Scandinavian notch) corner joints in the country. Finally, there is even an on-site ice cream parlor to end your visit with a sweet treat!
Channel Your Inner Lumber Jack at the Wisconsin Logging Museum
For a fun twist on learning about local history, head to the Wisconsin Logging Museum. Located in Carson Park, families will be greeted by large statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Families in need of ideas for educational and fun things to do in Eau Claire with kids should check out this museum. You will be able to learn about loggers and their lives throughout the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp, an authentic 1890s logging camp reproduction inside the museum. Not to mention, how the logging industry impacted this part of Wisconsin. While you can take a self-guided approach to the museum, they also offer guided tours accommodating all ages (email ahead of your visit for more information).
Note: The Wisconsin Logging Museum is open seasonally. Check the website for the most up-to-date hours before your upcoming visit to Eau Claire with kids.
Go Shopping Downtown
Those wondering what to do in Eau Claire should add shopping to their list! This charming town is filled with cute shops and boutiques offering a variety of things from trendy jewelry to vintage records, as well as a large shopping mall. Downtown, start with Tangled Up in Hue, where you can purchase unique gifts, art, and more. Then, Revival Records will be a hit for music lovers searching for everything from vinyl records to CDs. Stunning jewelry, from stackable rings to pendants, can be found at Hello Adorn. Those seeking Wisconsin gems of all kinds should head to The Local Store at Volume One. Here, you can find everything from local specialty foods and gifts to prints made by local artists and Wisconsin-themed clothes. Certainly, shopping is one of the best Eau Claire things to do for families in need of a little retail therapy.
Seasonal Events in Eau Claire Your Family Will Love
If you’re looking for more things to do in Eau Claire with kids, make sure you check the events and festivals calendar when planning your visit. Eau Claire hosts a wide variety of family-friendly events throughout the year. They may even inspire your next visit! Spring visitors can attend the Eau Claire Jazz Festival in April. Then, summer visitors should consider booking a trip to Eau Claire during the U.S. National Kubb Championships held in July or the US Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship held in August. In fact, throughout the summer you will find live music and other fun activities hosted across the city. But that’s not all! Eau Claire is also home to several great holiday events throughout the year, including Halloween, Christmas, and the 4th of July.
Where to Eat in Eau Claire with Kids
Now that you know what to do in Eau Claire with kids, it is time to find out where to eat! Foodie families have endless opportunities here. For breakfast, start your day at The Nucleus, where kids can dine on delicious menu items like crepes and omelets. Those in need of a caffeine pick-me-up have no shortage of coffee shop options too! For lunch, grab a sandwich downtown a the Acoustic Cafe or at Eau Claire Cheese & Deli.
If you’re in the mood for cajun-inspired eats like catfish and jambalaya, Stella Blues is a must for dinner (they have a kids’ menu). For American fare, outdoor dining, and an on-site arcade, families love 44 North. For pizza, grab dinner at Za51. If you’re looking for the best burger in town, add Valley Burger Company to your must-eat list. Finally, 3rd & Vine is a great option for craft beer and charcuterie-style dining.
When you visit Eau Claire with kids, you can’t leave without indulging in some of the best locally-made ice creams around! Both located in the downtown area, Olson’s Ice Cream and Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor offer a variety of flavors that everyone will love.
Where to Stay in Eau Claire with Kids
If you’re wondering where to stay in Eau Claire for families, we’ve got you covered! Firstly, Staybridge Suites Eau Claire – Altoona, an IHG Hotel is a great option for families with kids of all ages. Not only will you be able to book a large, suite-style room in the River Prairie Park neighborhood, but families can utilize the on-site pool, fire pit and courtyard (with grills!), and fitness center. Plus, you will receive a complimentary breakfast. Want to learn more – read this comprehensive review of the property.
Then, the Metropolis Resort & Conference Center offers standard hotel guest rooms, suites, and family bunk rooms. Here, you will have immediate access to Action City and Choas Water Park. Finally, its location is ideal for those on a family road trip, as it is nestled along Hwy 94.
Families looking for trendy accommodations with a downtown location can consider The Oxbow Hotel or The Lismore Hotel Eau Claire – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. Other options in Eau Claire for families to consider include Hampton Inn Eau Claire or Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Eau Claire Chippewa Falls. Regardless of which option you choose, once you’re done exploring all the best things to do in Eau Claire with kids, you’ll sleep soundly knowing you are making a lifetime of memories with your kids!
We hope this article helped you plan your next visit to Eau Claire, Wisconsin with kids! With so much to do outdoors and inside, we know your family will have a blast making memories in this lovely Midwestern town. From outdoor adventures to learning local history, Eau Claire is a great city to explore with kids. Have fun discovering all the fun things to do in Eau Claire with kids during your upcoming visit!
* Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of Antonia Grant.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are that of its author, Antonia Grant.
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