Wisconsinites are great at a lot of things. We have the world’s best cheese curds, you’ll never meet a population so devoted to their quarterback, and, well, we like to drink. La Crosse is no exception to this rule: it is ranked as the #6 drunkest city in America with more bars per capita than any other US city. But with so many bars to choose from, it may be hard to know where to go and when. If you can’t seem to decide, check out this guide for my own personal recommendations for whatever mood you’re in.
For a mellow vibe and music: The Root Note
The Root Note is a hidden gem of La Crosse (although most college students know where it is). Located on 4th street with very little signage, the Root Note is a coffee shop by day and entertainment venue by night. On Thursday-Saturday evenings they usually welcome a local musician to perform, and there is other entertainment throughout the week. The building is small and the drinks are moderately priced, so this is a great place to go for just a few drinks with friends. Or, go during the day for a killer latte.
If you’re feeling fancy: Starlight Lounge
Stepping into the Starlight Lounge feels a bit like stepping back into the 70s: from the lighting, to the uniforms of the servers and bartenders, all the way to the bright orange and blue walls and furniture. The vibe is very vintage and it’s a great place to go if you’re craving some good killer cocktails and a good time! Starlight is located on Pearl Street above Buzzard Billy’s–you’ll climb a short staircase to get there. Be prepared to hem and haw when choosing a martini from their extensive menu, and don’t worry about finding a space at the bar; on most nights they offer table service. Pick a night to pull out your favorite little black dress and enjoy some pretty drinks!
For a full-out party: Twisted Moose/Legends
For most college students in La Crosse, these 2 bars are a night-out staple. Both venues are connected, so you can easily move between them (depending on the type of party you want!), but they do have a few differences. Legends is a nightclub with a huge dance floor, tons of laser lights, and a DJ blasting music all night long. Twisted Moose is also a great place to dance (get up on the stage in the corner if you want to show off those moves) but has less of a club feel, always playing tons of karaoke-worthy throwback music. When you go, expect it to be crowded, loud, and chaotic, but a ton of fun. And don’t forget to get your photo with the shark in the back of Legends!
If you’re on a budget: The Library
You read that right: the slogan for this La Crosse bar is “If Mom calls, tell her I’m at the library!” When you wander into this 3rd Street bar you’ll find that the walls are covered in bookshelves, but that’s about where the similarities to a real library end. The Library is a great place to go on the weekend if you have limited cash: they usually offer tons of great deals and specials, one of the most popular being “$1 Everything.” By everything they really mean everything: any drink you order during this special will only cost you a buck. While they don’t have that particular deal every day, the Library usually always has some great specials to help protect your pocketbook on your night out.
For wine lovers: Java Vino
Located away from the downtown area, this cafe/wine bar is a perfect place to spend time and try some great wine! Java Vino is a coffee shop, restaurant, and bar, and serves a huge variety of wine and other cocktails. Go during the day to have a glass of wine with a great sandwich or pasta dish, or go at night during one of their many events.
To play on a jukebox: The Casino
Don’t be turned off by the “Lousy Service” sign outside of this bar…the Casino is a super fun place to hang out and listen to music. This bar is pretty small, but it usually doesn’t get too full. The jukebox is always playing something new, the bartenders are great, and the atmosphere is retro, yet cool.
To learn about beer and hang out: Pearl Street Brewery
Although the name is a little misleading–PSB isn’t located anywhere near Pearl Street–this brewery/tasting room is a La Crosse staple that everyone should try. They frequently offer brewery tours which are incredibly interesting and an amazing deal: the tour, plus a free pint glass, sticker, voucher for a free beer at a local restaurant, and one fill, is only $8 (!). The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable about the brewing process, and the experience is only enhanced by drinking your local beer as you walk around. Even if you don’t want to go for the full tour, they have a large tasting room with lots of places to sit and chat. You can also go to see live music or play a game of shuffleboard with friends.
So, what mood are you in? La Crosse has a bar for that.
There are lots of other great places to eat and drink not included here. Take a look at the winning 2018 “Best of La Crosse” establishments, and leave a comment if I missed any of your favorites!