Prairie du Chien Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do in Prairie du Chien, a charming town in Southern Wisconsin River Valley. From cultural attractions to outdoor adventures, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to plan your trip.

Introduction to Prairie du Chien

Nestled in the heart of the Southern Wisconsin River Valley, Prairie du Chien is a small but charming town that offers visitors a delightful mix of outdoor activities, historical sites, and cultural attractions. Established as a fur trading post in the late 17th century, this picturesque town has a rich history that’s reflected in its architecture, museums, and festivals. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or foodie, Prairie du Chien has something for everyone.

List of Places to Visit in Prairie du Chien

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

One of the main draws of Prairie du Chien is its rich cultural heritage and historical significance. Visitors can explore a variety of museums and historical sites that offer a glimpse into the town’s past. Some of the must-visit attractions include:

  • Fort Crawford Museum: This museum houses a collection of artifacts and memorabilia that tell the story of the town’s military history. Visitors can explore the fort’s ruins, view exhibits on medicine and military life, and learn about the famous Black Hawk War.

  • Villa Louis: This National Historic Landmark is a beautifully preserved Victorian mansion that was once the home of the Dousman family, one of the most influential families in the town’s history. Visitors can take a guided tour of the mansion and explore the surrounding gardens and grounds.

  • Prairie du Chien Museum at the Depot: Housed in an old railway depot, this museum focuses on the town’s social and cultural history. Visitors can view exhibits on local industries, transportation, and the Mississippi River.

Natural Attractions of Prairie du Chien: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Prairie du Chien is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a variety of activities that allow visitors to explore the town’s natural beauty. From hiking and biking to fishing and boating, there’s plenty to do in this scenic town. Some of the top outdoor attractions include:

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument: Located just outside of town, this national monument is home to more than 200 prehistoric Native American mounds. Visitors can take guided tours, hike the park’s trails, and explore the exhibits in the visitor center.

  • Mississippi River: As the town is located on the banks of this mighty river, visitors can take a riverboat cruise, go fishing, rent a kayak, or just relax at the riverfront parks.

  • Wyalusing State Park: Just a short drive from Prairie du Chien, this state park offers visitors stunning views of the Mississippi River Valley. Visitors can hike the park’s trails, go camping, or picnic by the river.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Prairie du Chien

Prairie du Chien has several trails and routes that are perfect for hiking and biking enthusiasts. Some popular trails include:

  • Great River State Trail: A 24-mile trail that runs from Onalaska to La Crosse, the Great River State Trail offers beautiful views of the Mississippi River and several historic sites.

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument Trail: This trail is a moderate 2.5-mile loop that takes visitors through the park’s ancient mounds and scenic overlooks.

  • Douglas Trail: This 6.5-mile trail is located in Wyalusing State Park and offers stunning views of the Mississippi River from the top of the bluffs.

Best Things to Do in Prairie du Chien: Activities and Tours

In addition to the cultural and outdoor attractions, Prairie du Chien also offers a variety of activities and tours for visitors. Some of the best things to do in this charming town include:

  • Prairie du Chien Walking Tour: This self-guided tour takes visitors through the town’s historic downtown district and includes stops at several notable landmarks and buildings.

  • Prairie du Chien Farmers Market: Open on Saturdays from May to October, this farmers market offers a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, and crafts from local vendors.

  • Prairie Fun Floats: Visitors can rent tubes or kayaks and float down the Mississippi River for a serene and scenic adventure.

Week-Long Itinerary for Prairie du Chien

For those looking to spend a full week in Prairie du Chien, here’s a suggested itinerary:

  • Day 1: Explore the downtown district and visit Fort Crawford Museum.
  • Day 2: Take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River and visit Villa Louis.
  • Day 3: Hike the trails at Effigy Mounds National Monument and enjoy a picnic.
  • Day 4: Rent a kayak and explore the riverfront, or go fishing on the Mississippi.
  • Day 5: Visit the Prairie du Chien Museum at the Depot and take a self-guided walking tour of downtown.
  • Day 6: Enjoy a day trip to the Wyalusing State Park for hiking and picnicking.
  • Day 7: Shop at the Prairie du Chien Farmers Market and take a relaxing float down the river with Prairie Fun Floats.

Food and Drink Scene of Prairie du Chien

Prairie du Chien also has a delightful food and drink scene that showcases the town’s local flavors and ingredients. Some must-try dishes and beverages include:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Booyah: A hearty stew made with chicken, beef, and vegetables that’s a Wisconsin classic.

  • Cheese Curds: Deep-fried cheese curds that are a popular snack in the Midwest.

  • Fish Fry: A Friday night tradition in Wisconsin, this classic meal features battered and deep-fried fish with coleslaw and potatoes.

Local Beverages

  • New Glarus Brewing Company Beer: This local brewery offers a variety of craft beers that are popular throughout Wisconsin.

  • Spotted Cow Beer: A signature beer from New Glarus Brewing Company that has a cult following among locals.

  • Brandy Old Fashioned: A classic Wisconsin cocktail made with brandy, bitters, soda, and a splash of fruit juice.

Where to Stay in Prairie du Chien: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

There are plenty of lodging options in Prairie du Chien, ranging from budget-friendly motels to charming bed and breakfasts. Some of the top picks include:

  • Hotel Julien Dubuque: Located across the river in Dubuque, Iowa, this historic hotel offers luxurious rooms and stunning views of the Mississippi River.

  • Super 8 by Wyndham Prairie du Chien: A budget-friendly hotel located just minutes from downtown and the riverfront.

  • Cobblestone Inn & Suites: This hotel offers modern and spacious rooms, an indoor pool, and a fitness center.

What to Buy in Prairie du Chien: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

If you’re looking for unique souvenirs and local products to bring home, Prairie du Chien has several options to choose from. Some popular picks include:

  • Handmade Crafts: The Prairie du Chien Farmers Market and local shops offer a variety of handmade crafts and artworks.

  • Local Wines: Eagles Landing Winery and Vineyard in nearby Marquette, Iowa offers a variety of award-winning wines made from locally grown grapes.

  • Cheese: Wisconsin is known for its cheese, and Prairie du Chien has several local shops and cheese factories where you can purchase a variety of delicious cheeses.

Local Culture and Customs of Prairie du Chien

Wisconsin is known for its friendly and welcoming culture, and Prairie du Chien is no exception. Visitors should note that the town is strongly influenced by its French and Native American heritage, which is reflected in the local cuisine and traditions. Respect for nature and the environment is also an important aspect of the local culture, so visitors should take care to follow trail and park regulations and minimize their impact on the environment.

Best Time to Visit Prairie du Chien

Prairie du Chien is a great destination year-round, although the best time to visit depends on your interests and preferences. The summer months are the busiest and offer the most outdoor activities and festivals, while the fall months are ideal for leaf-peeping and cooler temperatures. Winter is a great time for indoor activities and cozy winter getaways.

Do’s and Don’ts of Prairie du Chien


  • Do visit the local historical sites and museums to learn about the town’s rich history and culture.
  • Do try the local food and drinks, including cheese curds, fish fries, and local craft beers.
  • Do explore the town’s scenic outdoor attractions, including the Mississippi River and Effigy Mounds National Monument.


  • Don’t litter or damage the environment when hiking or exploring the parks.
  • Don’t ignore local customs and traditions, including respect for Native American heritage and the importance of sustainable living.
  • Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes and clothing for exploring the town’s outdoor attractions.

Safety and Health

Safety in Prairie du Chien

Prairie du Chien is a relatively safe town with a low crime rate. Visitors should still take common sense precautions, such as locking car doors and securing valuables, particularly in high-traffic areas such as the riverfront.

Health in Prairie du Chien

There are several medical facilities in Prairie du Chien, including a hospital, clinics, and pharmacies. Visitors should also take care to protect themselves from ticks when exploring the town’s outdoor areas.

Getting to Prairie du Chien: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Prairie du Chien

The closest airports to Prairie du Chien are La Crosse Regional Airport (LSE) in La Crosse, Wisconsin (60 miles away) and Dubuque Regional Airport (DBQ) in Dubuque, Iowa (30 miles away).

Bus Stations Near Prairie du Chien

The nearest bus stations to Prairie du Chien are in Dubuque, Iowa and La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Other Options

Visitors can also drive or bike to Prairie du Chien using major highways such as US Route 18 or US Route 61.

How to Get Around in Prairie du Chien

Prairie du Chien is a small town that’s easy to navigate on foot or by bike. Rental cars and taxis are also available for those who prefer to travel by car.

Where to Go Next from Prairie du Chien: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

If you’re looking for more to do in the area, there are several nearby destinations and excursions that are worth exploring. Some options include:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Located on the shores of Lake Superior, this national park is known for its stunning sea caves and lighthouses.

  • Madison: The capital city of Wisconsin, Madison is a vibrant college town with a thriving food and drink scene.

  • Driftless Area: This region of Wisconsin is known for its rugged terrain, winding roads, and scenic beauty.


Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or food, Prairie du Chien has something to offer every visitor. From hiking and biking trails to historic museums and cultural festivals, this charming town is a hidden gem in the Midwest that’s well worth exploring.