River Flows the Forefront of La Crosse Festivities

Gertrude Salzer Gordon Children's Museum of La Crosse
Gertrude Salzer Gordon Children's Museum of La Crosse

La Crosse residents know how to have a good time: Just add water. The presence of the mighty Mississippi River gets the good times going. Just about anyone knows the best way to see the river is cruising down it – and La Crosse has taken care of that.

The La Crosse Queen, a paddlewheeler, is a romanticized experience reminiscent of Mark Twain’s era. The replica of a 19th-century riverboat is one of just a few of its kind in the nation. On Sundays, sightseers can enjoy a champagne brunch, while the night owls have the late-night moonlight cruise with drinks, dancing and hors d’oeuvres. Passengers under the stars can be found on the deck of the yacht Island Girl.

Specialty trips are the name of the game, with wine and beer tastings, themed rides and even a karaoke cruise for brave souls looking to belt out a few tunes on the river, while Julia Belle Swain is another riverboat docking in La Crosse.

But for folks who prefer to get their kicks on solid ground, a plethora of festivals dot La Crosse’s calendar.

The annual Riverfest is a highly anticipated event each Fourth of July weekend, featuring activities such as races, a parade, craft fair and live music, all to benefit dozens of nonprofit organizations.

At the end of summer, the Great River Jazz Fest features some amazing music over the course of three days at La Crosse Center, on the banks of the river. The 10,000-seat center features grand halls, a ballroom, an arena and a convention center. Sporting events, concerts and ice shows are held in the 100,000-square-foot complex.

If your tastes run more caviar and champagne than hot dogs and beer, you can always take in an evening at the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, which has a history spanning more than a century.

The La Crosse Little Theatre has only been around for 46 years, but it’s had the time to the community and beyond, garnering regional, national and international recognition for its performances. Galleries, an arts center and a children’s museum round out the cultural scene in La Crosse.

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