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July 25, 2013

13

Beautiful Wausau, Wisconsin – Skiing, Arts & History

by Todd Sturm
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

Wausau is the regional hub of central and north central Wisconsin. In addition to its fantastic canoeing and kayaking areas, this charming city has many other recreational activities to offer, from museums and historic sites, excellent river walks and bike paths, to lush island parks and nature reserves – and of course down-hill skiing and snowboarding in the winter!

One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Wausau and its parks is to take a walk or bike ride along the River Edge Parkway trail. This inviting trail winds along the majestic Wisconsin River and partly along the edge of downtown Wausau, taking visitors on a beautiful nature course leading to incredibly lush island parks such as Oak Island, Fern Island and Barker-Stewart Island.

Beautiful landscaped gardens, wild plants and flowers as well as birds and other wildlife can be enjoyed on the islands and all along this magnificent trail. With plans to extend the river walk on both sides of the river, the city also hopes to add playgrounds and other public facilities in order to make this natural water front setting even more enjoyable and accessible.

Rib Mountain’s Granite Peak Ski Area

With winter comes skiing and snowboarding and Wausau’s Granite Peak Ski Area at Rib Mountain State Park offers some of the finest slopes in the region. Opened in 1937 this was one of the first ski areas in the U.S. and is today the third tallest in the Midwest.

Having recently undergone a major expansion Granite Peak has added seven new lifts and can now boast seventy-four runs, making this one of the most popular ski destinations around.

Improvements also extended to Granite Peak’s historic 1939 stone chalet. Having been completely renovated the chalet has maintained its charm and classic historic elements and with its two imposing stone fireplaces at each end, this is the perfect place to warm up, unwind and enjoy a hot beverage.

Rib Mountain Ski Fields - Image courtesy of Granite Peak Ski Area

Rib Mountain Ski Fields – Image courtesy of Granite Peak Ski Area

Granite Peak Ski Area Night Skiing - Rib Mountain State Park - Image courtesy of Granite Peak

Granite Peak Ski Area Night Skiing – Rib Mountain State Park – Image courtesy of Granite Peak

400 Block and Downtown

Downtown Wausau’s vibrant city square – The 400 Block – plays host to outdoor concerts, art fairs and festivals throughout the summer and autumn and is a city space where residents can be found enjoying a picnic and glass of wine.

In winter this popular square becomes an ice skating rink, made all the more inviting during the Christmas season when the city is adorned with festive holiday decorations making for a bright and cheerful winter wonderland.

Wausau 400 Block Fountains - Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

Wausau 400 Block Fountains – Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Grand Theatre

On the eastern edge of the 400 Block, just beyond its playful fountains, stands the iconic and elegant Grand Theatre. Built in the mid 1920’s this historic theatre is now a premier stage venue.

Completely restored in the late 1980’s it is today part of the art’s block – a block long complex of modern venues used to promote the performing arts. The Grand Theatre offers state-of-the-art entertainment capabilities in a majestic setting, playing host to concerts, plays and big-name celebrity shows.

Historic Grand Theatre Wausau - Image courtesy of Grand Theatre

Historic Grand Theatre Wausau – Image courtesy of Grand Theatre


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Third Street & Shopping

From the 400 Block take a stroll down charming Third Street, a thoroughfare lined with historic buildings, many of which now contain lovely shops and cafes.

One of the most significant of these buildings is Washington Square. Built in 1902, this iconic structure is today a trendy retail space filled with boutique shops, a coffee house, a restaurant and more. The building’s retail history actually began in 1911 with the opening of Wausau’s first department store, thus cementing Third Street as the main retail district of the city.

Adjacent to Washington Square sits The Wausau Centre Mall. This inviting and modern shopping destination boasts three department stores and contains over 50 clothing, speciality retailers and eateries all under one roof.

Downtown Wausau River District - Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

Downtown Wausau River District – Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

Wausau Third Street River District - Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

Wausau Third Street River District – Image courtesy of Wausau Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Arts & Historic East Hill

Internationally known for its annual Birds In Art exhibit the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is located in the stately East Hill neighbourhood of Wausau. East Hill and the neighbouring Andrew Warren Historic District include over 60 historic homes and buildings, including the museum itself.

Housed in what was originally a 1931 Tudor style estate, this impressive museum is blessed with an extensive permanent collection and hosts many stimulating temporary exhibits throughout the year.

Outside, the museums four acre grounds feature inviting bricked walkways leading visitors through the formal English garden and graceful sculpture garden. Peaceful seating areas and a shaded arbour make for a relaxing, cultural retreat.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum Wausau - Image courtesy of Woodson Art Museum

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum Wausau – Image courtesy of Woodson Art Museum

Wausau Gromme Gallery - Image courtesy of Woodson Art Museum

Wausau Gromme Gallery – Image courtesy of Woodson Art Museum

No matter what time of year you visit, Wausau has many interesting sights to see and fun and exciting activities to enjoy. From historical sites and the performing arts to shopping and outdoor recreation, Wausau has it all.

The region’s main commercial airport – Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) is located just 12 miles south of Wausau and is served by American, Delta and United. The main highways leading into the city are U.S. I-39 from the south and state Highway 29 from the east and west.

About the author: Currently living in Brisbane, Australia, Todd Sturm is a travel writer and frequent contributor to Morethanroute66.com. As a twenty year veteran of the airline industry in both the U.S.A. and Australia, Todd is an avid traveller whose favourite destinations include historic sites, national parks as well as points of interest on and around the Great Lakes. From ships, planes, trains and automobiles, Todd is also a transportation enthusiast who particularly enjoys writing about the airline industry and commercial aviation.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 9 2013

    Great article on an awesome city.

    Reply
  2. Nov 19 2013

    It is a rather bland and boring region if you aren’t a skier.

    Reply
    • Nov 19 2013

      Fred, I strongly disagree. Wausau area has both types of skiing, curling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skating, am I missing some outdoor fun?

      Reply
      • Nov 20 2013

        TONS of hiking opportunities too! Parks and trails including Dells of the Eau Claire County Park, Rib Mountain State Park and segments of the Ice Age Trail offer up close access to ancient geological formations and a variety of hiking terrain.

        Reply
  3. Nov 19 2013

    Sorry you missed the new Wausau Curling Center on your visit! It is world-class!

    Reply
    • Nov 19 2013

      Us too! There was so many wonderful things to write about but it’s on the list for next visit for sure 🙂

      Reply
  4. Marlene Rochon
    Nov 19 2013

    Nine mile recreation area not mentioned: cross country skiing, hiking, bicycle trails, snowmobile trails, etc.

    Reply
    • Nov 19 2013

      Thanks Marlene, we haven’t been to that area yet but it’s on the list for our next visit 🙂

      Reply

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