On this three-day itinerary exploring western Wisconsin, travel groups visit historic sites along the Great River Road. The river towns are some of the state’s oldest communities and have a rich history. Take in the beauty of the scenic riverside bluffs, tap into the area’s mining heritage and gain appreciation of the pioneering Norwegians who settled here.


Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien

Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien

Enjoy These Wisconsin Attractions and More:

  • Villa Louis
  • Prairie du Chien
  • Fort Crawford Museum
  • Dickeyville Grotto & Shrines
  • 1845 Bevans Lead-Zinc Mine
  • Great River Road
  • and plenty more Wisconsin attractions


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Dickeyville Grotto & Shrines. (Randy Mink Photo)

Dickeyville Grotto & Shrines. (Randy Mink Photo)


Day 1. Wisconsin’s Mineral Point, Platteville and Dickeyville

Start your adventure in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with a visit to beautiful towns amidst the bluffs along the mighty Mississippi and inland. Tucked away in a valley in historic Mineral Point, Pendarvis celebrates the groundbreaking community of some of the first Wisconsin “Badgers.” As you approach this charming neighborhood, first settled by the Cornish, the 19th century will instantly come alive through the limestone buildings and cozy nooks.

Head into Platteville, where your underground adventure awaits! Tour the 1845 Bevans Lead-Zinc Mine, ride in a 1931 mine train (weather permitting) and discover the history of the Upper Mississippi Valley mining district. The museum traces the development of culture in southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area starting with mineral mining, rural life and the establishment of community. Galleries display fascinating and nostalgic models, dioramas, artifacts and photographs interpreting stories and music of home, school, farm and civic life in the Platteville region. You won’t be able to miss the world’s largest “M,” an iconic symbol of the mining tradition and the history of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Stop at Dickeyville Grotto & Shrines, the works of Father Mathias Wernerus, who constructed the grotto (1924-1930) out of materials and found objects from all over the world.

Fort Crawford Museum, Prairie du Chien

Fort Crawford Museum, Prairie du Chien

Day 2. Things to Do in Prairie du Chien, WI

Enjoy the beautiful drive west towards the Great River Road to Prairie du Chien, the second oldest city in Wisconsin. Fort Crawford stood guard over Prairie du Chien from 1816 until 1856.  Now, the Fort Crawford Museum displays the history of the fort, the city and the many lives that crossed here including Zachary Taylor, the fort commander between 1829 and 1837 and later 12th president of the United States. Jefferson Davis, who became president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was stationed at Fort Crawford as a lieutenant. Sauk leader Black Hawk surrendered at Fort Crawford after the Black Hawk War of 1832 and endured a brief imprisonment in Prairie du Chien. Finally, fort surgeon William Beaumont conducted several groundbreaking medical experiments during his time in Prairie du Chien. 

Engaging interpreters will take you on a journey through time as you tour Villa Louis, the Dousman family’s stunning Italianate-style mansion, one of the most authentically furnished Victorian houses in America. Built in 1871, the home boasted the innovative modern conveniences of indoor plumbing and steam heat, making it comfortable as well as stylish. Today the mansion has been meticulously restored to its 1890s appearance, standing as a showcase of Victorian architecture and design along the Mississippi River. On the grounds is Wisconsin’s only War of 1812 battlefield.

Continue north up the Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway, to La Crosse. Along the way, enjoy the beauty of the bluffs and the abundance of wildlife including bald eagles, and view towboats and barges passing through locks and dams. Get a photo with the tallest six-pack of beer in the country before your scenic sightseeing cruise on the La Crosse Queen, a modern-day replica of the grand paddlewheelers that plied the river in the early 1900s.

Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center

Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center

Day 3. La Crosse, Wisconsin Destinations

Explore the history of the region’s Norwegian settlers at Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center. The site consists of a two-story house, summer kitchen, spring house, corn crib, granary, outhouse, chicken coop, machine shed, tobacco shed, stable, barn and blacksmith’s shop. The buildings are arranged in the traditional Norwegian shape called a “tun” and filled with artifacts donated by local families.

A visit to La Crosse isn’t complete without a stop at Grandad’s Bluff, a 600-foot-high bluff overlooking the city and Mississippi River Valley, with views of three states—Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Just a short 10-minute drive up a winding bluff road are legendary sights bursting with summer greenery or vibrant fall colors.

Mississippi Valley has some truly amazing destinations and activities for travel groups in Wisconsin, so be sure to Download the Circle Wisconsin for FREE and Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel for more travel ideas/information


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