When you drive from the south into Wisconsin, as so many Illinois folks do to experience the incredible vacation destinations in the Badger State, those using Highway 90 are welcomed by the city of Beloit, the gateway to Wisconsin.
And its lucky for you because Beloit is an incredible destination all its own. Named an All-America City by the National Civic League and one of Travel + Leisures Greatest American Main Streets, Beloit is a historic city offering the best of a small-town getaway with big-city attractions, including top-of-the-line culinary experiences, unique cultural attractions, and gorgeous views along the Rock River.
Beloit has been called the most-underrated city in Wisconsin, so plan to do what more than one million other tourists do each yearmake some time to discover the unexpected in Beloit with the help of the following itineraries.
The Family Traveler
On the banks of the Rock River, the Ironworks Hotel has industrial character and rustic charm with everything you need for the whole family (even offering a special room service menu for your dog!). This boutique hotel is within walking distance of many attractions in the area.
In fact, its just a 15-minute walk from one of the crown jewels of Beloit, Riverside Park. The 23-acre park comes alive in the summer, and visitors can rent paddleboats, fishing poles, and tandem bikes to make for a fun day. The kids will love Turtle Island, a playground that features a treehouse, a lookout, a sandpit, and a shipwreck to explore.
If the team is in town, take the family out to the ballgame to see the Beloit Snappers for major league talent at minor league prices. The games even feature fireworks at Saturday games in the summer.
If you need a pick-me-up with all that activity, try the Flying Pig. The caf offers excellent coffee for parents as well as shaved ice, ice cream, gourmet popcorn, cookies, and other sweets for all ages. You can also have a great meal that comes with a family-friendly activity at Double B Farm Country Store & Caf, where they serve farm-to-table breakfast and lunch. Since its a working farm, kids can see goats, ducks, chickens, and pigs up close. If youre looking for dinner, order some mouthwatering burgers and deep-fried cheese curds at Lucys #7 Burger Bar, perfect for a hungry crew (and theres an outstanding beer selection).
The History Buff
If you dig history, youre going to be busy! Beloit has seen nearly 180 years of American history unfold in its city. It served as a way station of the Underground Railroad, was a major player in the Industrial Revolution, and did you know Beloit is where the automotive speedometer was invented?
To start the day, get something sweet from the Old Fashion Bakery, operating since 1932 and offering traditional and fresh-baked goods, from donuts, brownies, and cookies to eclairs, cakes, and more.
Enjoy some of Beloits scenic wild beauty when you kayak down Turtle Creek and view Tiffany Bridge, the states oldest stone arch bridge. Youll also want to see Beckman Mill, an authentically restored, operational, 1868 grist mill, offering weekend tours for just $3 a person. And, of course, take a walk on the historic Main Street and check in with the local experts at the Beloit Historical Society.
Settle in for authentic Wisconsin cuisine and colorful history at The 615 Club, a supper club thats been in Beloit since the 1940s. You could also check out Merrill & Houstons Steak Joint, a fine dining restaurant with abundant photographs of Beloits history.
Theres no better place to call it a night for a history enthusiast than 1810 Emerson Bed and Breakfast. The bed and breakfast is a 1930 Georgian Colonial Revival in downtown Beloit that not only serves breakfast, but also early-evening appetizers, complimentary wine, and an evening dessert.
The Upscale Traveler
If you have a taste for the finer things, Beloit has you covered. Start your stay at Hotel Goodwin, a chic and classic hotel with a mix of history and modern luxury. Each room has unique art, turntables with a record collection, and modern fixtures. Be sure to check out the rooftop for craft cocktails and spectacular views.
Head out into downtown Beloit to check out the incredible variety of shopping with many upscale boutiques and wares made by local artists and artisans. Check out the Gallery ABBA, a downtown gallery that promotes works from Beloit College. Relax at any one of the downtown day spas.
For more culture, the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra will be performing again this season. The Beloit Civic Theatre has been running since 1932 and stages three productions each season at the Elizabeth Reinholz Theatre downtown.
For dinner, look no further than Velvet Buffalo Caf, housed in the Hotel Goodwin, with expertly chosen wine and an upscale, curated menu offering flavors from around the world.
This is just a sampling of the fun to be had in Beloit. Visit travelwisconsin.com for more ideas and inspiration.
Anne Sayers is the acting secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. travelwisconsin.com .