Photo By Susan Estelle Kwas

Day trip: Chippewa Falls to Eau Claire

Activities abound in Chippewa County in winter

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7 a.m. To start close to the action, wake up to a beautiful lake view at Chippewa Falls’ Pleasant View Bed and Breakfast, nestled among the pines on the scenic northern shore of Lake Wissota. Your stay includes a wake-up tray and full breakfast, so be sure to get your fill for the busy, bustling day ahead.

8 a.m. After an early, filling breakfast at Pleasant View, it’s less than two miles to Lake Wissota State Park. With woodlands, prairie and a man-made lake, the 1,000-acre park is the perfect place for a brisk morning jaunt through the powder by snowshoe. The park offers about 10 miles of trails for the sport, and snowshoes are available for rental at the park office.

10 a.m. Hear those sleigh bells jinglin’? Before heading back to Chippewa Falls, take a slight detour east to Cabin Ridge Rides in Cadott for a sleigh ride. Here, black Percheron draft horses pull your sleigh deep into 400 acres of natural hardwoods and pine plantations that have been owned by the Gilles family since 1853. A bit chilled? Don’t worry, coffee and hot chocolate are included.

12 p.m. Once back in Chippewa Falls proper, make a stop at Lucy’s Deli on Bridge Street to refuel with lunch. Featuring a seasonal menu, Lucy’s serves up typical deli fare like soups and salads, as well as New York-style deli sandwiches and fresh-baked personal pizzas. And although local wineries here go into hibernation in the winter, Lucy’s offers a variety of local wines to take home with you.

1 p.m. Who doesn’t love shoe shopping? Warm and sated, head down the block to Mason Outlet Store, which offers locally made Mason-brand shoes and other well-known brands at discount prices. In business for more than 100 years, this company got its start handcrafting logging boots for the lumberjacks and river men working in the Chippewa Valley and was recognized early on as one of the finest boot makers in the Northwoods.

2 p.m. If you’re in the area in January, head southwest of Eau Claire to Silver Mine Ski Hill for the North American Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Championships. Ski jumping was brought to the area by Norwegian immigrants, and today Eau Claire is home to one of the oldest clubs in the United States. This prestigious tournament brings some of the best jumpers from the United States, Canada and Europe to rural Wisconsin for two days of competition that culminate in the crowning of the North American champion. After the competitive runs end on Saturday, daredevils show off their longstanding jumps, which organizer Dan Mattoon says “is pretty wild. They really rip it up.” Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the gate; the event includes food, live bands and, depending on the weather, heated tents.

5 p.m. Make the short drive back to Eau Claire, where the first stop is iB Artisan Winery & Distillery, Eau Claire’s only distillery, to warm yourself from the inside out. iB recently released its Audacity Vodka – made from apricots – but it’s only available at the iB Tasting Lounge, which is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. iB also offers a handful of wines, including a mulberry wine and one made from sweet apricots.

8 p.m. Mona Lisa’s is the perfect antidote to a long day plotzing and schussing through the snow. Located in Eau Claire’s popular Water Street District, Mona Lisa’s offers contemporary Italian and Mediterranean food, and the menu changes weekly to accommodate seasonal ingredients. “Mona Lisa’s is always an upbeat environment with great food,” says John Johnson, a former Eau Claire resident. “The menu changes consistently, and their pomegranate mojitos are the best I’ve had. Plus, their prices are very reasonable.”

10 p.m. If you still have some energy left after a long day of exploring the Chippewa Valley, head over to Acoustic Café on South Barstow Avenue, just past the east bank of the Chippewa River. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, local musicians take to the stage, some surely hoping to secure a modicum of success like Eau Claire’s musical native son, Justin Vernon, frontman for the 2012 Grammy Award-winning band Bon Iver.

This article appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Wisconsin Trails and
is a representation of a day’s excursion; always verify hours and locations before heading out.

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