Wausau, Wisconsin

Wausau is a city of roughly 40,000 people located near the middle of the state of Wisconsin. The city sits in a shallow valley formed by the Wisconsin river. Agriculture, insurance and paper manufactoring are the three main staples of a pretty vibrant economy. Wausau is also the retail hub of north-central wisconsin with several shopping districts strewn throughout the entire area. The focal point for most travelers into the Wausau area has to be Rib Mountain. Yes, the locals realize it is just a really big hill but at 1949 feet(700 feet above the city) it looms larger than life for most midwesterners.


Wausau is a unique place in that it is one of the larger communities in Wisconsin without a college town atmosphere. Many people are surprised by the amount of things to see and do in this relatively small city. Wausau has a lot going for it. The people have embraced the arts and also the rejuvination of its once shabby downtown area. The city has made tremendous strides as it looks forward to the future as far as its downtown is concerned. 

ARTSBLOCK and the 400 Block

With the 1920's era Grand theater as its main showpiece, artsblock features dozens of different acts who perform every year to sold out shows. Wausau does support the arts. Artsblock sits directly across from the "400 block", a block that was transformed into a public greenspace a few years ago. The block rocks in the Summer with its free outdoor concert series on Wednesday nights. It is also featured in the balloon rally that is held here in July. Also in the summer, chalkfest occurs where for a very small fee, artists of all ages and abilites are able to express their thoughts with chalk and a slab of sidewalk and I must say most of them are very talented. In the winter months, the space is used as an ice skating rink.   


Wausau's downtown area has made an upscale swing in the past few years. Many small shops and cafes line historic 3rd street, take the time to walk it and do some browsing. Within the past year, a new hotel opened in downtown Wausau and it has a look that reminds you of the past. The hotel features rooms and suites which are interconnected to many shops and restaurants which have made their way into downtown including 3 within walking distance of the hotel area.  There is even a place to get a gelato. If you step outside the hotel and walk across to the Wausau Center Mall, you will be greeted with more shopping opportunities. This is a regional shopping center with 3 anchor stores and 66 other retailers. As of August, the mall is undergoing a major renovation but other than that, it is a fine place to shop.

The river holds more chances to exercise and forget your problems. A wonderful trail system runs along the west side of downtown along the river.  Every year, the Wisconsin river becomes a kayaking course for world class kayakers. The course is near the downtown area on River Drive.


About a mile north of Downtown is Athletic Park, home to the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League. Usually these teams are made up of college-bound prospects that just want to get some real experience as they play their way into the minor league system.  Athletic park is one of a few venues that face west so be prepared with sunblock and sunglasses on those hot summer nights. The league plays mainly in June and July. 


Marathon park and UW Marathon County lie just west of the downtown area. Every year, Marathon Park is home to the Wisconsin Valley Fair, a week-long event that runs in the beginning of August.     


Rib Mountain of course features Rib Mountain state park. Over 1200 acres of woods and pretty tough terrain. There are many stops on the trails that afford a great view of the area. When driving up the mountain for that great view, be aware that many people like to walk up the road to the park. There is also Granite Peak ski area. There are many runs to choose from for all ages and abilites. Rib mountain is home to many of Wausau's big box retailers which makes for a nice selection of stores and eateries out on Rib Mountain Dr so take advantage of that.