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With so many unexpected adventures right here in Wisconsin, this series helps you discover great places to visit throughout the state.

Plan a trip to Eau Claire to see tons of public art

A piece of public art in Eau Claire, part of their free sculpture tour.
Visit Eau Claire
A piece of public art in Eau Claire, part of their free sculpture tour.

If you've had your fill of the beach this summer but want to do one last summer getaway, there's an art oasis in Wisconsin you could check out.

Eau Claire has a sculpture tour with more than 150 pieces of public art and it’s free! There are also murals and studios to check out there.

You can see wide variety of art and sculptures on the tour, according to Benny Anderson, the executive director of Visit Eau Claire. One of his favorites is a giant sculpture of a shark.

"We've got everything from chainsaw sculptures there, to scrap metal to the really expensive fine art pieces, to even a couple that were made from recycled tires," Anderson says.

The sculpture tour stretches through downtown Eau Claire into several city parks and along the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers.

"There's about 150 plus sculptures on the continuous tour itself. But another probably 40 or 50 sculptures in different park installments throughout the area, so it's a nice walking tour, a lot of them follow our bike trails [or] you can drive good chunks of them," Anderson explains.

Amanda Weibel, the communications officer for Travel Wisconsin says biking or E-biking is a great way to take it all in.

"There is so much happening in Eau Claire, and one of the best ways to experience it all is on their phenomenal trail network. That's a way that you can experience many of the sculptures, but if you want to get around a little quicker, you can head over to the local store and you can actually rent some E-bikes or electric scooters so that you can see more of the trail. It's a really convenient option and you can make more stops," Weibel says.

The sculpture tour isn't the only public art you can find in Eau Claire. There are also dozens of murals throughout the community as well, thanks to a project called ColorBlock.

"We give emerging artists a wall that we work with a building to procure and then we provide their materials. We pay them and we provide even some educational services," Anderson explains.

He says in the last two years they've added 40 murals in addition to the ones already painted around town.

If you want to learn about the history of the Eau Claire area, the Chippewa Valley Museum is a good stop, according to Weibel.

"[The museum] does such a great job of telling Eau Claire's story in a really engaging and authentic way. You can learn about the people who have lived in the Chippewa Valley from the original Ojibwe inhabitants and their connection to the land, to European settlers and early immigrants," Weibel says.

After taking in the art and history of the area, if you're looking for places to eat, Weibel suggests signing up for the Eau Claire Brew Pass.

"These are mobile passports where you can earn prizes for visiting the different businesses, serving up fantastic brews and curds throughout the city," Weibel explains.

She also suggests visiting The Reboot Social. She says they have a playful menu and lots of entertainment including classic arcade games, pinball machines and duck pin bowling. Weibel also suggests checking out the Valley Burger Company.

There's also a place to stay in the area that matches Eau Claire's artistic vibe called the Oxbow Hotel.

The Oxbow Hotel in Downtown Eau Claire extends art into your stay.
Eau Claire- Summer- 08/2019
The Oxbow Hotel in Downtown Eau Claire extends art into your stay.

"It's a boutique hotel that has locally produced artwork that lines the common areas. You'll also hear fantastic local musicians playing in the courtyard. I was astounded by how deep their commitment to local extends in the design of the rooms as well. They actually have handcrafted wood furniture that was made from trees that once grew in Eau Claire — so many connections to the area," Weibel says. "Each room is also equipped with a record player so you can check out the vinyl collection in the lobby and set the soundtrack for your Eau Claire."

Becky is WUWM's executive producer of Lake Effect.
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