Eau Claire, Wis., has been owning its role in bringing an indie sensibility to the Midwest for several years now, with music, art, culinary and recreation offerings drawing favorable comparisons to a young Austin or mini Portland. For 2018, this university city situated at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers in the northwest part of the state brings it, with new businesses and events that will appeal to travelers with a similar independent spirit and penchant for the original, artful and playful. For more travel ideas and sample itineraries, log on to the official tourism website, www.VisitEauClaire.com.
Brand New for 2018
Artisan Forge Studios Expansion: Home to nearly 40 artisans, this artists’ guild, led by metalworks master Greg Johnson, recently added 16,000 square foot to its already 20,000 square foot garage-like space, with the addition filling up quickly with artists and businesses including a potter’s studio, a bike remixer who creates art out of old bikes, and a pop-up coffee shop to fuel all that creativity. One of the existing tenants, Eco Urban Timber, is introducing its first urban wood furniture line in 2018, reclaiming beautiful quirky urban wood and giving it new life as furniture. Outdoors, there will be a full courtyard experience for large-scale art installations and community gatherings. Artisan Forge Studios hosts events all year long, including Uptown Art Jams, artisan markets, outdoor muralist creations, and album release parties.
Confluence Arts Center to Open: The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, in collaboration with the entire community, will be opening its Confluence Arts Center in late 2018. This center will include a 1,200‐seat theatre and a flexible 400-seat theatre; visual arts studio and galleries; and labs for sound, lighting, set design, recording arts, and costume design. It will also be the new home for Visit Eau Claire’s interactive visitor center, located on the first floor.
Mash-up of Coffee and Gears at Shift Cyclery: This full-service bicycle repair shop in downtown Eau Claire happily coexists with Soul Brewed Coffee Roasters. Get your necessary intake of caffeine at the craft coffee bar while your bike is tuned up.
Run to Blue Ox Running: Serious runners will appreciate that this specialty retailer in downtown Eau Claire is operated by two UW-Eau Claire alum who met when running cross country and track at the university.
Try Aerial Yoga at Sky Yoga: Yet another downtown business, this one is a yoga studio offering a variety of drop-in classes including aerial yoga, barre, strength and toning, and more. They even have classes for young yogis.
Candlewood Suites Caters to Extended Stay: Scheduled to open in fall 2018 on the city’s far south side, the Candlewood Suites Hotel will have 81 suites well suited for business travelers on extended stay. Guests will have access to 24-hour laundry facilities and a gym.
Pop-Up Shop Style
Tangled Up in Hue: Known for hosting pop-up artist showings, meet the maker events, and classes, this art collective supporting more than 100 artists will have a full event calendar for 2018.
Red’s Mercantile: This women’s lifestyle shop is planning a variety of group workshops for the coming year, like a clay bowl workshop during which participants create their own bowl for keeping jewelry and keepsakes safe, and a “learn how to make bath salts” workshop with attendees leaving with some Zen -inducing salts to take home.
The Local Store: The goods at this shop are either made locally or evoke a sense of place in the Chippewa Valley. Look for an expanded schedule of in-house events including night markets, meet the maker nights, author book readings, and film screenings.
For Those Who Live for Live Music
Chippewa Valley Blues Society: This group is responsible for the wildly popular Tuesday Night Blues concerts, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018. This is the only free concert series in Eau Claire, and the show goes on rain or shine at the bandshell in Owen Park. Crowds of upwards of 2,000 music lovers are not unusual.
Chippewa Valley Music Festivals: This group puts on Rock Fest, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. Along with the live music, festival goers flock to the more than 7,000 campsites for their overnight digs. Set for July 12-14 in nearby Cadott.
The Master Singers: This is also the silver anniversary for this choral ensemble which presents seven performances each season. Over its 25-year history, more than 240 area musicians have performed with this group.
Revival Records: Each year this vinyl shop commissions an artist to create an original poster for sale exclusively on National Record Store Day, which celebrates the culture of indie record stores. In 2018, it’s April 21. Ask the store staff and they’ll even play your favorite album while you shop. The owners plan to add more live music events to the in-store schedule for the coming year as well.
Forage at Banbury Place: Aspiring home chefs and those who aspire to a career in culinary can both find a place at the table at Forage cooking classes. They also have a “Little Hands” class for kids. Check their calendar for meal events too, like pop-up Saturday brunches and food and wine pairing dinners.
430 Water Street: The owners of Mona Lisa’s, representing the finest of fine dining in the area, jumped at the chance to occupy the space next door upon learning it would become available in 2018. Look for a combo food/drinks/shopping experience, with a spring wine fling in April to kick things off.
The Nucleus: This bistro-style eatery is so popular that people line up outside waiting for the door to open for breakfast. In addition to their a.m. and lunch offerings Wednesday through Sunday, The Nucleus is now open for dinner and wine Thursday through Saturday.
The Lakely at The Oxbow Hotel: Look for full new line-up of food and music pairings in the Lakely Limited Series. The culinary team here is also planning Wandering Spirits craft cocktail demos and cooking classes with Chef Nathan Berg.
Cowboy Jack’s: Just opened in June 2017 in neighboring Altoona, this restaurant gained a fast following thanks to its menu of handcrafted burgers and BBQ entrees paired with live music that leans country. In 2018 they’ll be enclosing part of their outdoor patio so patrons can enjoy views to the Eau Claire River in the winter months too.
Wagner’s Lanes: It may sound like a broken record, but this place is popular for its food and music pairings too, with concerts regularly selling out. For 2018 they’re building a new bar and restaurant area. Patrons can burn off the calories playing the lawn game Kubb, bowling, or playing indoor sand volleyball under a bubble.
A Decade for The Livery: Come 2018, the culinary team at The Livery restaurant will be celebrating a decade of serving up modern comfort food. This eatery in downtown Eau Claire’s North Barstow District is housed in a historic building that once served as a livery in the 1880s, later evolving from the horse transportation trade to life as an auto garage at one point as well.
Beer, Wine and Spirits
Brewing Projekt: This craft brewery opened its taproom in April 2015 and within two years outgrew its space at 2000 N. Oxford Ave, so it scoped out larger digs and found just what it was looking for across the street in the much larger 1807 N. Oxford building. The brewery has just settled in to its new space which now includes riverfront seating. In the spring, they’ll set up Kubb lawn games and feature food trucks too. The owners source ingredients locally whenever they can, including maple syrup and honey.
River Bend Vineyard & Winery: Husband and wife owners will be releasing their first ever Pinot Noir in fall 2018. Visitors to this winery in nearby Chippewa Falls can also enjoy live music events and partake of wood-fired pizza. They also have a “grain-to-glass” distillery operation, with 100% Wisconsin-grown vodka, a white whiskey ideal for summer sipping, and a gin derived from grapes.
Infinity Beverages Winery & Distillery: What makes this winery unique is its urban location. The owner sources ingredients from around the country, supporting American growers and suppliers. Look for a new array of “Experimentals,” wines and spirits made in extremely small batches, to be available exclusively in their Tasting Lounge, including a Wisconsin Spirit made from products the state is famous for including cranberries, cherries, dairy, maple syrup, and grain. Most recent releases included an apple malt whiskey and a sassafras chardonnay.
Arts, Culture and Film
Hmong New Year’s Celebration: Immerse yourself in authentic Hmong culture during the 30th annual Hmong New Year’s Celebration Nov. 10-11, 2018. There will music and dance performances, a traditional “pov pob” ball toss competition, crafts, and food.
Downtown Sculpture Tour: This sidewalk sculpture tour in downtown Eau Claire is brand new beginning every May, with some three dozen sculptures revealed at that time. Visitors and residents may cast their vote for their favorite sculpture, with the winning sculpture purchased by the city for permanent display.
Micon Cinema: The Micon’s Downtown Budget Cinema is getting reserved seating following a recent remodeling. This downtown landmark, built in 1946, hosted the first-ever Eau Claire World Film Fest in fall 2017, as well as the first Midwest Weird Fest, an independent film fest that honors the horror genre.
City of Bridges
Downtown Eau Claire: The downtown district group gets credit for the river lights at Phoenix Park that will now recognize major holidays with different light shows for each holiday. In addition, the organization is spearheading re-decking, widening and general beautification of Grand Avenue Footbridge in 2018. Staying with the bridge theme, the new Haymarket Plaza at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers and adjoining pedestrian bridge will open in 2018.
Carson Park Drive Bridge Spruce-up: The bridge leading in to Carson Park from the historic Randall Park neighborhood and crossing Half Moon Lake has been widened and enhanced for the hiker and biker. The newly-christened bridge has multi-use trails along both sides plus bike lanes, and it now connects with the Chippewa River State Trail. This new causeway also includes ADA accessible fishing piers. Once inside the grounds, families with young children will love the all-new playground equipment in Carson Park.
Chippewa River Water Trail: A new trail map of the Chippewa River, with emphasis on downtown kayak, canoe and tubing put-ins and safe navigation along a four-mile urban route, is available online and at the city’s visitor center. The map also points out historical reminders of the area’s lumber era found along the way.
Eau Claire Marathon: During the weekend of May 5-6,2018, runners will take to streets and bridges for the 10thannual Eau Claire Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifying race. There’s also a half and relay, along with a 5K run/walk. All races start and finish in Carson Park.
National Beep Baseball Association World Series: The world series of baseball for the blind and visually impaired comes to Wisconsin for the first time. This competition for ages 15-45 takes place at the Eau Claire Soccer Park, July 31-Aug. 4.
2018 USA Curling College Championship: The season-ender college curling championship will be held in Eau Claire in 2018, with the Eau Claire County Expo Center, home of the Eau Claire Curling Club, the host facility. The competition takes place March 9-11.
Eau Claire Express Baseball: This collegiate summer baseball team, part of the Northwoods League, is looking to spruce up its facility at Carson Park with artificial turf, expanded restroom and concession areas, improved handicap accessibility, and permanent stadium seating. They’re hoping to break ground in 2018 once fundraising wraps up.
First Full Year
Metropolis Resort started “Airobics” classes in its new trampoline park in 2017 and the craze has taken off. They also installed an outdoor motorized zipline that takes riders in reverse for 700 feet before bringing them back down to the starting point.
Ramone’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor opened in summer 2017, with lovers of the frozen treat gobbling up gallons of specialty flavors with names like Superman, Fat Elvis, and a caffeinated Iced Latte-Da. This family-run business is also big on giving back to the community, with a “tip jar” program that has employees choosing the charity they’d like to donate to.
River Prairie Park and Development is located in neighboring Altoona on a bend of the Eau Claire River, and has quickly become a destination for kayakers and canoers eager to take off on a river adventure from the landing there. There’s also an amphitheater where local musicians perform and a pet-friendly trail system. Three event spaces for rent, with the largest able to accommodate 250, feature an indoor/outdoor bar and double-sided fireplace. This mixed-use development also includes shops, a hotel, and restaurants.
The Chippewa Off Road Bike Association – CORBA, for short – test drove, so to speak, a CORBA Kids program in 2017, and it was such a success they’re growing it for 2018. This introduction to mountain biking is both free and fun, with an expanded series of events and rides planned for “kids and their keepers.” The volunteers who run CORBA describes themselves as “advocates to be outside and to make the outside a better place.”
For up-to-date information on these businesses plus a calendar of events, log on to www.VisitEauClaire.com.
About Visit Eau Claire
Visit Eau Claire is the area’s official tourism marketing organization with a role to better the city for all who live, work, study and play here and a mission to bring visitors to the area. With encouragement and support from Visit Eau Claire and benefiting greatly from the independent spirit of those who call the community home, this northern Wisconsin university city is making a name for itself as a creative hub with a hip and homegrown music and arts scene and a robust entrepreneurial culture. This city of bridges sits at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers, a breathtaking backdrop that inspires originality and encourages a love of outdoors at every turn. Midwest indie? Yes, really.
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Visit Eau Claire • 4319 Jeffers Road • Eau Claire, WI 54703
888.523.3866 • 715.831.2345 • email@example.com• www.VisitEauClaire.com