Posts Tagged: Boxed (In)

Driftless Day Trips: Great River Road of Wisconsin

WIGRR Photo Jay Olson
(Above photo by Jay Olson-Goude. Below photos by Inspire(d) Media.)

Isn’t fall in the Driftless Region the best? The colors are lovely, and there are tons of perfect days ahead for a fun little road trip adventure. We suggest checking out The Great River Road of Wisconsin! The entire WIGRR (wigrr.com) covers 250 miles and 33 river towns. We just hit the Driftless Region section, including the towns of: Alma, Nelson,  Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City.

Getting to Alma, WI:
88 miles from Decorah
60 miles from La Crosse
54 miles from Rochester
119 miles from McGregor

For over 250 miles of Wisconsin’s “West Coast” a ribbon or road flows next to the train tracks right along the Mighty Mississippi. The Great River Road is one of the Midwest’s most scenic road trips – it was even voted prettiest drive in the nation by the Huffington Post last year! Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the Great River Road in its entirety spans from Minnesota to Louisiana. Wisconsin’s section winds through 33 towns and countless sights, and this edition of Boxed (IN) takes on just the popular 30-mile stretch from Alma to Maiden Rock – just north of Trempealeau and the La Crosse area. Home to Lake Pepin – a popular 26-mile-long sailing area of the Mississippi River – this little slice of river is known for kitschy little stops, artist studios, galleries, and shops, and down-home charm.

AlmaStairsAlma itself is an adorable little river town tucked in and on 12 Mile Bluff – there are even 10 staircases (with over 750 steps total!) that connect the two main streets throughout the town! Lock and Dam #4 – including a great viewing platform – is also located here, and the lodging and dining options are fun and often unique since over 200 structures in the tiny town are on the National Register of Historic Places.

As you wind up the river through Nelson, Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City take time to seek out the many treasures and destinations tucked along the way. The terrain is beautiful – and the locals friendly. Follow our notes carefully, and call ahead if you are making the drive (or boat!) as many of the best spots we found are seasonal and only open certain days of the week. (Like A to Z’s Pizza on the farm!). That said, there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a day or two – and plenty of relaxing to be had just watching all that is the mighty Mississippi go by.

EVENTS THIS FALL

Flyway Film Festival
October 21-25, 2015
Pepin and Stockholm
www.flywayfilmfestival.org

Great River Road Wine Trail Holiday Harvest Wine & Food Festival
November 14-15, 2015. 10am-5pm
www.greatriverroadwinetrail.org/events

LANDMARKS

Lock & Dam #4, Alma, WI – Built in 1935, this structure is an attraction in its own right and the southern border of  “Lake” Pepin. Watch barges and river traffic lock through from the viewing platform or from local establishments, while trains ramble by right underneath the pedestrian bridge.viewfromlookout

Lake Pepin is a 26-mile-long section of the widest, naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River that stretches from Bay City on the north end to Alma and Lock & Dam #4 in the south. It is extremely popular for sailing, boating, and fishing, as well as bird and wildlife watching.

Great Alma Fishing Float
35 Great River Road, Alma
www.almafishingfloat.com
Park and walk to the dock where a shuttle boat will pick you up and deliver you to the float! For over 25 years this has been a local favorite – Float Café open 7am-3pm, and bunk lodging is even available on the float. Minnesota or Wisconsin Fishing license is required.

Buena Vista Park, Overlook, and Trail – Alma
Just above Lock & Dam #4 in Alma (500 ft. above to be more exact), is one of the best views of the Mississippi River valley anywhere. Better Homes & Gardens called it “…one of the river valley’s finest natural balconies.” The view just down the road at Danzinger Winery isn’t too bad either!

Mossy Hollow Trails – Alma
In 1997 Dairyland Power Cooperative transferred 102 acres just south of Alma to the City. This property extends 12 miles up the bluff and provides hiking/walking trails along with some great views.

EAT & DRINK

ALMA:

The Good View Bakery
105 South Main Street, Alma
https://www.facebook.com/goodviewbakery
Step through the screen door and be transported to the bakery you remember from childhood. Donuts, scones, rolls, breads, cookies, and all very reasonably priced! Grab a cup of coffee and a delicious caramel roll and plan your day one of the vintage counter stools.KiehlsOutside

Pier 4 Café and Smokehouse
600 Main Street, Alma
www.pier4cafe.com
Best BBQ by a Dam Site!
(Closed Tuesdays) open Wednesday through Monday 6 am to 1 pm
Great breakfasts and lunch including lots of house made BBQ goodness. The German potato pancakes are a local favorite, as is the house made “Tangys” sauce! Views from the café are of Lock & Dam #4, and the back patio is a great place to take in all the river traffic.

NELSON:

The Original Nelson Cheese Factory
S237 State Road 35 South, Nelson
www.nelsoncheese.com
Although cheese is no longer actually made at this facility, the selection of fine cheese, wine, prepared foods, and sweets is stunning. So is the interior of the facility – stop by to pick up supplies for a picnic or grab sandwiches and sit on the patio.NelsonCreameryOut

PEPIN:

Villa Bellezza
1420 3rd St., Pepin
www.villabellezza.com
Inspired by the beauty of the Pepin area and several classic Italian influences, Villa Bellezza was opened to the public by the Dahlen family in 2012. The first grape vines at Villa Bellezza were planted a decade previous, and their wines are pushing the typical boundaries and quality of Midwestern viticulture. The Cotes du Pepin is a highlight, as are the event facilities.Winery

Harbor View Café
314 First Street, Pepin
www.harborviewpepin.com
Closed Monday – Wednesday
This much-celebrated local café has a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. As comfy a spot as you’ll find, with fantastic people, great daily specials, and amazing deserts. No reservations, but the Adirondack chairs out front have a spectacular view and there’s New Glarus on tap if you have to wait!

STOCKHOLM:

Stockholm Pie Company
www.thestockholmpiecompany.com
The Stockholm Pie Company sits unassumingly in a tiny corner space (next door to the beautiful Abode Gallery and below Wide Spot Performing Arts Center.) The pie is the real deal and you won’t be sorry with the selection, which rotates daily. In fact, plan ahead to grab breakfast or lunch and take an extra slice along for your trip to A to Z later in the day (see below)! YES – Pie isn’t just for breakfast anymore!

PizzaFarmScene

A to Z Produce and Bakery
N2945 Anker Lane, Stockholm
www.atozproduceandbakery.com
Pizza nights are TUESDAYS ONLY 4:30 – 8 pm (March-October)
So here’s the idea: Vegetable and CSA farmers A to Z build a brick oven (actually two) and make pizza one night a week on their farm. People come from all around, bring blankets and supplies, and make a night of it! What happens? Wild success – and long lines of pizza lovers! We can’t stress a few things enough though – really. Go early, write down directions (phones/GPS sketchy), bring games or good friends (or make friends with your neighbors), extra snacks, pie from the Stockholm Pie Company, and beverages (but the state of WI “does not allow carry in alcoholic beverages”…  beer and wine for sale on site). Some people even set up tables and chairs, but you decide just how far you want to take it.

They appreciate checks and cash (bring extra – there’s often bread for sale as well –  it’s worth it!) but also now accept credit cards. The results of all this? Stunning pizza in a lovely rural setting that makes for an incredible evening. Plan to go here if you’re in town on a Tuesday evening – you will not be disappointed (unless you don’t take our tips from above!). Serving through October – bundle up and enjoy!

PizzaFarmSlicePizza

Maiden Rock Apples / Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery
W12266 King Lane, Stockholm
www.maidenrockapples.com
Since 2000 Herdie Baisden and Carol Wiersma have been growing apples on their 80-acre farm. From Honeycrisp to Pomme Gris, the varieties are wide and interesting – and you can pick right from the fields in the fall. But the real draw may be the cider – both still and sparkling – Maiden Rock is doing some amazing work with their apples. Give yourself some time for a tasting, and savor the local bounty!

MAIDEN ROCK:

Maiden Rock Creamery/McNays Wine and Coffee Bar
W3487 State Road 35,
maidenrockcreamery.com
This remodeled, once-upon-a-time creamery now features two incredible lofts (available by the night) and a Coffee/Wine Bar.

Smiling Pelican Bake Shop
W3556 Hwy. 35, Maiden Rock
www.facebook.com/Smiling-Pelican-Bakeshop
Weekends ONLY.
This little bakery is one of the best you’ll find. Yep, that was a period. House made Panna Cotta, amazing pies, cakes, cookies, breads – and only on the weekends, April through December.

BAY CITY:

Ice Cream: Flat Pennies in Bay City
www.flatpennies.com
10:30 am – 9 pm
Drive in and grab a quick coffee – or perhaps a dog and an ice cream cone! This Bay City favorite is a roadside oasis from yesteryear. Chat with the friendly owner – he might talk you into trying a Ramblin’ Rudy or the Flat Cow!

IceCreamSandwich

Chef Shack
www.chefshack.org
Weekends only
Award-winning Minneapolis Food-Truckers opened this amazing little spot in 2012. It’s only open Friday-Saturday nights and Sundays for Brunch, but worth every second it takes to make your way there. Creative, delicious, ever-changing cuisine and wine/beer, plus a brick oven in the back yard. It’s pretty much the restaurant you’ve always wanted to stumble upon…

SNOOZE
It is worth noting that the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River is heavily traveled by freight trains – both day and night. Any lodging anywhere near the river will give you both grand vistas of river life, as well as of the working trains. Some folks love the steady, majestic, rumble and horns of a freight train – while others may find it hard to block out. That said, pack an extra pair of earplugs and your sense of adventure – this is river life.

Blue Door Inn, Alma
331 South Main Street, Alma
www.bluedoorinnalma.com
This 150-year-old renovated stone building features tastefully modern suites in historic spaces. The Inn can accommodate single rooms for a night, or combined suites for larger groups. The upper deck has fun views of Main Street and the Mississippi, while the garden level is a lovely escape full of well-tended flowers. The kind innkeeper, Kathy, even leaves Bakery treats for breakfast outside your door, along with juice and fruit to accompany your in-room Keurig!

Hotel de Ville, Alma
305 North Main Street, Alma
612-423-3653
sites.google.com/site/hoteldevillealma/
Do check out this unique European-influenced getaway with Italianate secret garden and Mississippi River views. With three buildings and a gypsy wagon making up the property, it’s shy of words to say the de Ville is wonderfully unique. The on-site café and ice cream shop is just the beginning of wonderment that leads to the secret gardens out back.

Maiden Rock Inn
N531 County Road S, Maiden Rock
www.maidenrockinn.com
Gary and Jennifer Peterson started renovating this century old schoolhouse in 1995 and have never stopped. The attention to detail in woodwork, renovation, and hospitality is hard to match. With over 16,000 square feet of skillfully and artistically renovated spaces, including four guest suites with impeccable 12-foot vintage tin ceilings, an outdoor grotto, rooftop deck (Accessed by spiral staircase! And there’s a hot tub up there!), and the original gymnasium, this is a show stopper of an Inn.

Driftless Day Trips: Cedar Rapids

NewBoToStreet

By Benji Nichols
Photos by Inspire(d)
www.cedar-rapids.com 

Driving through Cedar Rapids on I-380, you might catch a peek at Mays Island, and the Veterans Memorial Building stretching up from the Cedar River. You’ll also likely catch a grainy whiff of Quaker Oats (one of four original Quaker Oats plants!), and see the sleek glass upper windows of the newly renovated Doubletree Hotel at the US Cellular Center (formerly Five Seasons Center). What you won’t see driving, however, is the size of Cedar Rapids’ huge collective heart – worn proudly on its sleeve. Luckily you don’t have to detour far to see just how deep Cedar Rapids’ roots run – or Grant Wood’s studio!

The second largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids (named so because of the large Red Cedars that once lined the river banks more than a century ago) is home to more than just industry. Art, culture, food, and local business have defined – and are redefining – Eastern Iowa. With a rich history in grain and meat processing, and the influx of Czech and Slovak immigrants that helped power those industries, Cedar Rapids has balanced between major industrial center and fringe art magnet for decades. And then there are the tales of the 2008 flood. More than 1,100 city blocks were under feet of water, with some neighborhoods completely devastated. In fact, there are still reminders everywhere – like the desolation of the “Time Check” neighborhood just across from downtown, or the “High Water Mark” sign eight feet up on the wall behind the bar at Little Bohemia on 3rd Street SE, an establishment so steeped in local bliss that you won’t believe it was flooded by anything but rowdy Czech beer drinkers. In fact, by the grace of the ghosts of thousands of Czech-beer-drinkers-passed, the giant front windows of Little Bohemia even survived the flood – a metaphor that could represent well the idea that although much history was washed away, the local culture still stands tall.

Just up the street you’ll find the freshly opened NewBo Market – a local food lovers dream, with over 25 permanent vendors, as well as outdoor market vendors, teaching space, and much more – a sign of not just recovery, but respectful re-visioning of what Cedar Rapids can look like. And across the street – Legion Arts, based in the CSPS building, has been presenting and showcasing world-class art and music since 1991.

1NewBoOutside3Umbrellas 4BookShop

Through various means, the dynamic non-profit was able to purchase and refurbish the CSPS building (a home for over a century to neighborhood fraternal and community groups). It continues to host incredible visual, musical, and movement performances in incomparably unique spaces. The CSPS building frontage also now houses the fantastic Brewed Café and equally stunning NewBo Books.

If you want to know what really makes Cedar Rapids a unique place though, you have to look to the people – past and present. Ask almost anyone in the shops and establishments of Cedar Rapids and they’ll tell you about a place that not only they are proud of, but a place that continues to reinvent itself while hanging on to its slightly faded and rinsed history. Eateries are popping up downtown, local museums like the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library are drawing crowds from afar, while favorites like Sakora’s bakery, the Red Frog, Blue Toad, and the Village Meat Market in the Czech Village continue to draw faces new and old. In many ways, strolling around downtown Cedar Rapids, one feels like a new leaf is just turning over in a city that still maintains much of Eastern Iowa’s modern past. So go Czech it out  (oh yes we did…) – here’s a few of our favorites to get you started!

3SykoraBakery_Outside

LANDMARKS

Legion Arts / CSPS
1103 3rd St SE
www.legionarts.org
Since 1991 Legion Arts has been presenting world-class music, art work, and presentations in the CSPS building and beyond. Their contributions to the creative fabric of Eastern Iowa continue to be immense. Having fully refurbished the CSPS building after the 2008 floods, this incredibly active non-profit organization continues to anchor and attract creative arts to Cedar Rapids. It’s worth a visit in itself, but even if you just have a minute, peek in to see the beautiful refurbished digs!

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
1400 Inspiration Place SW
www.ncsml.org
In the heart of the Czech Village, this museum celebrates the deep historic and cultural ties of Czech and Slovak immigrants to Cedar Rapids. With exhibitions ranging from traditional immigrant home details to modern traveling exhibits, the museum is a great destination. The large library and oral history collection make this a true and important treasure to Cedar Rapids.

Brucemore Mansion and Estate
2160 Linden Dr SE
www.brucemore.org
This National Historic Trust Site sits on a 26-acre estate in the middle of Cedar Rapids. From 1884 to 1981 three different families lived in the mansion (and also three different Lions – no kidding – but you’ll have to visit to get that piece of history!) Beautiful gardens and grounds host countless events throughout the year including Bluesmore, Brucemorchestra, Garden & Art Shows, and much more. The tour alone is worth the stop!

1CzechSlovakMuseum

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
410 3rd Ave SE
www.crma.org
The CRMA features, amongst many other things, the world’s largest Grant Wood collection! And while that collection is always rotating, upcoming traveling exhibits are always worth the trip too!

Grant Wood Studio
810 Turners Alley SE
www.crma.org/content/grant_wood/grant_wood_studio.aspx
This is Grant Wood’s cute-as-a-button studio where, among many other things, Wood painted American Gothic. Used from 1924-35, this property is part of the CRMA (above) and open seasonally on weekends 12 to 4 pm April to December. Studio entry is free!

2Paramount

Paramount Theatre
123 3rd Ave SE
www.paramounttheatrecr.com
Reopened in 2012 following extensive renovations, this 1700-seat “Crown Jewel” is home to Orchestra Iowa as well as a busy schedule of Broadway shows, ballet, comedy, and music tours.

African American Museum of Iowa
55 12th Ave. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
www.blackiowa.org
319-862-2101
10-4 Mon-Sat.

Theatre Cedar Rapids
102 3rd St SE
www.theatrecr.org
Having performed over 80 seasons, TCR is a much-loved local theatre company. Their building and theatre are worth the peek alone, not to mention their performances!

U.S. Cellular Center
370 1st Ave E
www.uscellularcenter.com
Following a massive multi-year renovation, the US Cellular Center (formerly Five Seasons Center) reopened May 31, 2013. Home to concerts and entertainment, along with indoor pro football team the Cedar Rapids Titans, this space will once again be a major event destination in Eastern Iowa.

EAT/DRINK

4NewBoInside11BatasFoodCobbleAmuseBaconCandyInPig

NewBo City Market
1100 3rd Street SE
newbocitymarket.com
With over 25 permanent vendors, seasonal market vendors, an educational culinary kitchen, and even growlers of local beer (!), this indoor/outdoor market in the heart of the NewBo district offers an incredibly vibrant eating and shopping environment. Plan on spending some time looking around as well as eating.

Bata’s
1006 3rd St SE
www.batasrestaurant.com
Father and son Tony and Nick Bata sling some pretty fun and tasty food – and beverages – in their fresh clean space on 3rd St. SE. “Local…global…indigenous” is one way their fare is self described – a better way is perhaps to reinforce that the blueberry muenster burger with caramelized sweet potato strips is pretty much the stuff of gooey delightful dreams. Go hungry and shoot for the exotic – that goes for the beverages too including small craft beers ever-rotating on tap!

Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary
219 2nd St SE
www.cobblehillrestaurant.com
Iowa natives Andy and Carrie Schumacher went round trip from living in NYC to returning to Iowa seeking the good life (ed. Hey – this sounds familiar!). They’ve recently hung out a very fine new shingle in downtown Cedar Rapids with their stunning new restaurant. Handcrafted local foods – and cocktails – along with a unique and vibrant interior put this spot on the map. Worth the drive from wherever you are reading this…

Village Meat Market & Café
92 16th Ave SW
www.villagemeatmarketcafe.com
The motto is “If it’s legal, we smoke it!” and Lou Thompson isn’t messing around, smoked or otherwise: Jaternice, Rope sausage, Butcher Loaf, Czech dogs, Head & Liver Cheese, Souse, Old Fashioned Loaf, Olive Loaf, and that’s just the meat case. The café is an amazing combination of Cajun and southern favorites like shrimp boil specials or pan friend chicken (thanks to a 20+ year field trip cooking on the Gulf Coast) as well as Czech favorites like goulash and dumplings, or schnitzel. There are also tenderloins, and beignets, and bacon candy, and bottles of beer, and well – you should really just go see it for yourself. Nothing fancy here, just serious down home cooking and meat market.

2beerflights5Brewed10CzechBeer

Parlor City
1125 3rd St SE
www.parlorcitypub.com
56 beers on tap. 56 really good beers on tap. Just go, and start a tab, and don’t bother looking at how much you’re spending. We suggest doing a flight or two if you really want to taste your way around the taps – and still walk out. From small Iowa favorites like Toppling Goliath and Confluence Brewing, to hardcore west coast outfits like Green Flash, and those crazy bastards at Ommegang – there’s a lot of really precious, delicious amazing beer to taste here. Oh yeah – they also serve pub grub, and have a delightlful outdoor patio, complete with bike repair station. Apparently they also serve breakfast on the weekends, but remember – “Beer has food value, but food has no beer value.” We’ll also offer the obligatory reminder at this point that you should always drink responsibly. Now go drool over the beer list, don’t worry, its covered in plastic for a reason.

Brewhemia
brewhemia.com
Housed in the front of the CSPS building, Brewhemia is the coffee shop that you always hope you’ll find when searching for that perfect coffee shop. Sleek, spacious interior, chalkboards, minimalist display – and killer coffee. They also have delightful quiche, quick sandwiches, treats, and dinner served on the weekends! And if you’ve had plenty of coffee for the day, they serve a nicely selected list of wines and craft beers.

Little Bohemia Tavern
1317 3rd Street SE
Little Bo Facebook
‘Little Bo’s’ – as it is affectionately called – is exactly the kind of place you want to wander into in the middle of the afternoon and not leave – maybe until much after dark. Despite having been completely inundated by the flood of 2008, this bar feels like it hasn’t changed in 50 years. Actually more like 78 years, and that’s a good thing. Pork Tenderloins the size of tall tales, homemade Czech goulash, a few beers on tap, and the kind of folks who are happy to strike up a conversation with you, and introduce you to their friends, who might even buy you a beer – you get the idea. Prost!

2LIttleBoOutside

Al’s Blue Toad
86 16th Avenue SW
In the heart of Czech Village, serving authentic Czech fare along with American favorites. Bring your appetite, as the portions are impressive! And if there’s apple strudel, save room!

TREASURE

2FirstClassFinds

Mad Modern
227 14th Ave SW
www.facebook.com/MadModern
This resale shop specializes in all things mid-century modern and beyond. Their sign letter collection alone is worth checking out, and inventory changes often. Just across the street from Little Bo’s!

Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity Restore
350 6th Ave SE
www.cvhabitat.org/cvhfh/restore
Probably the best Habitat Restore we’ve ever seen. You never know what you might find, but be prepared to find it! You can also feel good shopping from a great organization!

Cellar Door Antiques
2900 1st Ave NE
thecellardoor.net
Facilitating consignment and tag sales since 1983, this is a serious treasure hunt.

Farmers Daughters Market
495 Miller Rd, Hiawatha
www.fdmarket.com
Jennifer Goodlove presents an eclectic mix of farm fresh produce, specialty food items, antiques and gifts. A fresh soup, sandwich, panini, quiche, and dessert menu is also available on site.

SNOOZE

1KirkwoodHotel

The Hotel at Kirkwood Center
7725 Kirkwood Boulevard SW
www.thehotelatkirkwood.com
One of only two Iowa Hotels to have the AAA Four Diamond rating, this property is especially unique as it acts as the teaching hotel for Kirkwood’s hospitality management program. Don’t let that fool you though, the rooms are sleek, stylish, and extremely comfortable – and the details are perfect (they even emboss the toilet paper triangle!). Just three miles from the Eastern Iowa Airport, the hotel also offers free shuttle service to the airport, and also houses a state-of-the-art conference and event center. The Class Act Restaurant – a gourmet establishment served by Kirkwood’s groundbreaking Culinary Arts program – is on-site and worthwhile. Watch for special dinner event offerings and feel free to splurge on room service – you won’t be disappointed!

DoubleTree by Hilton
350 First Avenue NE
www.doubletree.com
Opening in early June, this property, once known as the ‘Five Seasons Center’ has had a multi-million dollar facelift and joined the DoubleTree by Hilton family of hotels. Brand new rooms and views of the city extend from both the guest rooms as well as the top floor ‘350 First’ restaurant. Attached to the US Cellular Center, this facility can accommodate the largest of events with over 28,000 square feet of indoor space.

OUTSIDE:
There’s plenty to do outside in the Cedar Valley as well. Check out a few of these local favorites while visiting!

LAMBA
Linn Area Mtn Bike Association
lambaonline.org
LAMBA is the regional organization responsible for developing and maintaining area mountain bike trails – located in Beverly Park as well as Squaw Creek Park and others.

Cedar Rapids Kernels Baseball
950 Rockford Road SW
www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t492
Now a class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins! Get out to a game this summer!

Wickiup Hill Learning Center
10260 Morris Hills Road, Toddville, Iowa
www.facebook.com/wickiuphill
Fantastic outdoor learning center with unique new features for kids of all ages!

Indian Creek Nature Center
6665 Otis Road SE
www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org
With over 200 acres and four miles of trails, this Nature Center offers tons of family friendly programming near the city!

Prairiewoods
www.prairiewoods.org
Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center is a retreat and conference center focused on ecology and spirituality (or ecospirituality) located in Hiawatha just outside of Cedar Rapids. It features 70 acres of quiet nature walking trails, an outdoor labyrinth, and a lending library with an extensive collection of environment and meditation materials.

IF YOU MUST WORK

Vault Coworking
crvault.com
“Vault is a community of founders, innovators, entrepreneurs, starters and creatives. In short, we’re big idea people, and we’re building the bright future of Iowa together Join the community and get connected to inspiring people, new opportunities, resources for your projects, and if you’re looking for a place to work too, we have an awesome brand new shared office.”

Driftless Day Trip: Viroqua, Wisconsin

ViroquaDowntown

By Inspire(d)

Viroqua, Wisconsin, is just one of those places – the kind you hear about and so want to visit, but getting there seems impossible – literally. We’re pretty sure it’s uphill both ways. But once you do get there, and you take in the views of valleys and bluffs, you wonder: “What took me so long?” And then, “I might never leave.”

That seems to be the case for a lot of people who call Viroqua home. Folks came for a variety of reasons – like those who settled there in the mid-1800s, it might simply be the beauty of the region pulled them in. Or more recently, the surge of organic farming – not to mention the headquarters of organic biz-moguls Organic Valley nestled one town over in La Farge. Maybe it was the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School that drew one family to town, and the great food co-op recruited another.

Whatever brought these people together, they’re working hard – together – to make their little town of 5,000 special, sustainable, and a fun place to be.

Which, in turn, makes it a fun place to visit! We made our way on a sunny weekend to check out this little community big on cooperatives. The historic downtown is easily traveled on-foot and is filled with quirky stores, handmade shops, cafes, and boutiques. And behind every counter is a person recommending the place next door or just down the street. Calling these people friendly would be an understatement.

We’ve laid out just a few of our favorite spots to help you find your way – whether it’s packing out into the 8,000+ acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve, or hunkering down for a quiet romantic weekend, enjoy all the bounty of the Driftless Region!

Get Outside:

Kickapoo Valley Reserve. S3661 St H 131. La Farge, WI . 608-625-2960. kvr.state.wi.us
The “KVR” (as they say…) is one of the most impressive expanses of land in the entire Driftless Area. 8,500 acres between La Farge and Ontario, Wisconsin (just a few miles from Viroqua) cradle the Kickapoo River, offering up unlimited recreational opportunities. Originally pegged for a controversial damn dam project in the early 1960s, the project failed to ever be completed, leaving this treasure to eventually become a public reserve.

Snowflake Ski Club. Westby, WI. snowflakeskiclub.com
Giant ski jump in a town of 2000 (just up the road from Viroqua)? Awesome. Make sure to mark your calendars for the 92nd (yes, you read that right!!) Annual Snowflake Ski Jumping Tournament January 30 and 31. Fun!

BlueDogCycles

Bluedog Cycles & Brewdog. 201 South Main Street. 608-637-6993. bluedogcycles.com| Pete and Alycann Taylor have been holding things down at this unique bike shop since 2005. Not only do they offer great products and service, but they are great resources on getting outdoors near Viroqua. Stop in, tell them we sent you – and check it out before you get outside!

 

Check It Out:

Viroqua Public Market. 215 South Main Street. www.viroquapublicmarket.com | The Viroqua Public Market is the center of many good things downtown. First, the market serves as an outlet for hundreds of vendors from across the region. The same building also houses Bramble Books and the Viva Gallery, as well as the occasional indoor farmers market. The building also houses the Rooted Spoon (more below).

PublicMarket

 

Temple Theatre. 220 S. Main Street. 608-6637-8190 | www.temple-theatre.com Refurbishment was finished in 2002 on this anchor of downtown Viroqua. With nine murals, a full rehab of the 1922 Temple Theatre’s Wurlitzer organ, and the grand marquis, it’s a grand venue for events and performances.

TempleTheatre

The Ark. 401 E. Jefferson Street. 608-637-7824. artarkviroqua.org | Viroqua’s community and regional arts center – offering classes, space, movement, and a home for the arts in the midst of the Driftless Region.

Viroqua Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., May – October – Location: Western Technical College Parking Lot | Rockin’ farmers market – amazing variety of local and Driftless Region products.

Driftless Folk School. www.driftlessfolkschool.org | Ever wanted to learn more about practical, sustainable, lifelong skills? Do you like to work with your hands, create objects, or learn traditional crafts? Check out all of the classes at the school – from ‘Clay in a day’ and ‘Design your own small building,’ to ‘Fruit tree grafting’ – the possibilities are great, and ever changing. Check out the schedule online.

Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center. (Coon Valley) 608.452.3424. www.norskedalen.org | Norskedalen or “Norwegian Valley” is a 400-acre site dedicated to preserving and interpreting “the natural environment and cultural heritage of the region”. Open daily for visiting, in addition to special events, a guest cabin, historical displays, and much more.

Eat / Drink:

Driftless Café. 118 W Court St. www.driftlesscafe.com | “Seasonal menus – Locally Sourced – Written in Chalk” Seriously good local food. Really, these guys aren’t messing around. We mean it. Go now. Get a Wisco Pop with dinner, and don’t skip dessert.

DriftlessCafe2
DriftlessCafe1

Rooted Spoon. 219 S. Main St. www.rootedspoon.com | Adjacent to The Viroqua Public Market, these fine folks host “219 Drinkery” every Friday, often with different themes, and an amazing brunch every Sunday. They also offer incredible monthly dinners and special events, but are not open for regular daily service. Plan ahead to hit one of their events – great space, good people, fun menus.

RootedSpoon

Tangled Hickory Wine Bar. 120 S. Main St. www.tangledhickory.com | Downtown wine bar with changing seasonal entrees, a wide and affordable wine list, and nice ambiance. Happy Hour specials on wine and appetizers everyday from 4-6pm.

Viroqua Coop. 609 N. Main St. viroquafood.coop | Cooperative awesomeness! Beyond the normal co-op grocery and bulk findings, offerings include a great deli/hot bar, coffee and bakery counter, fun gifts, and a fantastically selected beer cooler. You can even get Kickapoo Coffee or a WiscoPop!  Early or late-ish, this is a great stop for supplies!

WiscoPop! www.wiscopopsoda.com | If you didn’t already know it (perhaps you read the story here?), we love WiscoPop! Three Viroqua business partners making incredible craft brewed soda from nothing but great ingredients. Their product is currently available only on tap or by special order mini-kegs (bottling coming soon!). You can find them in Viroqua at the Coop, Driftless Café, and across the region.

Kickapoo Coffee Cafe. 302 S. Main. www.kickapoocoffee.com | Since 2005, Kickapoo has been sourcing and roasting incredible coffee beans from around the globe. We drink it here at Inspire(d) HQ every day! Co-owners TJ Semanchin and Caleb Nicholes don’t cut corners when it comes to finding the best coffee beans possible and coaxing out their incredible flavors. The Kickapoo Coffee Cafe in Viroqua is an amazing meeting spot in Viroqua, with exceptional beverages and offerings. Kickapoo Coffee also offers monthly tours and coffee cupping / tastings at their production facility– it’s a wildly educational (and caffeinating) experience! (Check website for details.)

Kickapoo2
Kickapoo

Stay:

Heritage Inn. 220 & 217 East Jefferson Street. 608-637-3306. herinn.com  Beautifully restored historic Inn with private baths, cable, AC, etc. Just a block off of Downtown Viroqua, leaving you easily on foot for in-town adventures!

Natures Nook Retreat. S4878 Cty. Rd. S. 608-637-3928. www.naturenooksretreat.com | Rural Kickapoo Valley cabin rentals meant for relaxing – there’s the Little Barn, Cabin-in-a-barn, and Kinship Place gathering space. The west fork of the Kickapoo River runs through the 95-acre property, including access to brown trout, kayaking, and hiking trails.

Kickapoo Valley Reserve. 608-625-2960. kvr.state.wi.us | If you really want to get out there and enjoy the woods, this is your place to throw down a tent and watch the stars. 25 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis with minimal fees. Remember to pack necessities as the KVR is a little ways away from civilization – which is all the more of a reason to visit!

PLAN AHEAD:
Driftless Wisconsin Portal. driftlesswisconsin.com
This portal is a fantastic guide to all things in the Viroqua area. Take a look and plan your own adventure!

Community Powered Radio – WDRT 91.9FM. Also listen online: wdrt.org
Viroqua’s community powered radio station. You’ll hear an eclectic mix of music, shows, and events broadcast from their downtown studio!