Minneapolis-lovers digging Eau Claire?
If you're reading this, there’s a good chance you've already visited Minneapolis and are more than a little familiar with that city’s intoxicating energy.
But what if there was a small-scale version of Minneapolis, a city out there for the folks who want an art-filled, adventurous setting without the 400,000-person headcount?
Welcome to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Check out these seven things Minneapolis is known for that have an Eau Claire counterpart you're bound to love.
If You Like Iconic Musicians,
You'll LOVE Justin Vernon
Minneapolis cherishes the genius that was Prince.
Eau Claire has a musical icon of its own too. Justin Vernon, frontman of the Grammy-award-winning, indie-folk band Bon Iver and Eau Claire-native, has always stayed deeply connected to this hometown through his music and even his daily life. His song "Towers" is a reflection of his time at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is named for one of the dorm halls on campus.
Vernon has also played a lead role in the cultural revival of his hometown. From partnering in the remarkable transformation of a once decrepit downtown motel, now the much-applauded Oxbow Hotel, to creating an event for creative collaboration called Eaux Claires Music and Art Festival, Vernon deserves great credit for remaking this town into a roaring cultural hub.
If You Like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, You'll LOVE the Sculpture Tour of Eau Claire
Since 1988, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has been wowing locals and visitors alike with its beautiful grounds and distinctive art.
In Eau Claire, the sculptures extend to far more than one garden. The city’s “Sculpture Tour” is a free, 24/7 exhibit of sculptures right at sidewalk level sprinkled throughout downtown Eau Claire. Local artists, as well as sculptors from around the world, loan their work to the organization for 11 months at a time. The sculptures feature a wide variety of subjects and materials: bronze ballerinas, steel guitars and a beach rock King of Spades are just some of the quirky works you can enjoy this year.
If You Like Minneapolis' Music in the Parks, You'll LOVE Eau Claire's Sounds Like Summer
Minneapolis hosts their recurring Music in the Parks during the summer months, where locals and visitors can enjoy tunes of all genres at parks across the city.
Eau Claire offers a similarly pleasing community musical experience in the riverside wonder known as Phoenix Park. Sounds Like Summer, a celebration of Eau Claire culture, takes place every Thursday, June through August, in downtown Eau Claire. Local bands, as well as bands from around the Midwest, play to crowds of up to 2,000 people on the banks of the Chippewa River. This event is adored by locals and is quickly finding its way to visitors’ calendars too.
If You Like to Chow Down in Minneapolis, then You'll LOVE Eau Claire's Food Scene
There's no denying the deliciousness of the myriad of restaurants in Minneapolis.
Eau Claire is no stranger to the farm-to-fork craze. Enjoy an ever-changing and always-local menu at The Lakely, or grab a sandwich and some soup from local deli and grocery store Just Local Food Co-op. The Nucleus is the “it” spot for a bountiful breakfast – it’s not unusual to see patrons lining up in wait for the doors to open. Then there’s Mona Lisa’s, where the food, the service, the ambience, well, everything about it is masterpiece-level. Get in on the quaint and creative flavors of Eau Claire too, like local dive bar, Ray's Place, a hidden gem that serves up mouth-watering hot beef sandwiches. Have one of those puppies with a cold beer, and you’ll be in flavor heaven in no time. Bonus points if you can handle the heat of Ray's super spicy mustard.
If You’re into the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, You'll LOVE 52nd Street at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival
Twin Cities Jazz Festival is a free annual celebration of jazz that draws 90,000 to the city’s Lowertown district.
Eau Claire’s downtown district is turned into a recreation of historic 52nd Street New York City during the annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival. Jazz devotees flock to clubs, bars and restaurants for a lively night of live music and swing dancing.
If You Enjoy Random Art, You'll LOVE Eau Claire's "Mona Lisa's"
Walking around Minneapolis is like strolling through a museum. Case in point - the colorful Bob Dylan mural in the city’s downtown, a reminder of the fact that Dylan once owned the Orpheum Theater.
In Eau Claire, there is a deliciously mysterious quality to the vast number of Mona Lisa paintings found on historic buildings throughout the downtown. The real story is these were originally a marketing ploy by Lisa Aspenson, owner of Mona Lisa’s restaurant, when she opened her place in 1994. As Lisa tells it, she found a loophole in city ordinances that just begged for that iconic smile to be plastered around town.
If You Hate Parking in Minneapolis, You'll LOVE Parking in Eau Claire
Nobody likes parking in big cities. In Eau Claire, you'll never have to park more than a block or two away from your destination. The best part? Nearly all the parking is free! With all that extra cash, you could head over to Revival Records and grab some vinyl records or peruse Tangled Up in Hue and get some handmade jewelry as the perfect Eau Claire souvenir.
Eau Claire is proving smaller does not equal lesser, and that’s a math equation visitors really love.