Resting on the banks of the Mississippi River, La Crosse has a population of roughly 50,000 residents. The Wisconsin city is often referred to as "God's country" because of its towering bluffs, its scenic beauty and its location on the majestic river. The residents of La Crosse are well aware that they live in a historic place; of the 110 buildings in the downtown district, 96 were built between 1866 and 1940, making it one of the oldest commercial districts in Wisconsin.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
La Crosse comprises several distinct neighborhoods, including:
- Historic Downtown La Crosse includes more than 100 shops and eateries, as well as some of the city's historic landmarks. The Pump House is downtown's regional arts center, located in the historic La Crosse water pumping station. The Hixon House, an 1859 Victorian house, and Chateau La Crosse (the Mons Anderson House), an 1854 Victorian Gothic house, are also located downtown.
- Goosetown is the district of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus. It is one of the oldest working class neighborhoods in La Crosse and earned its name from the number of residents that owned geese and kept them in their backyards. The Greek Revival House and the Jacobus House (a side-gabled brick vernacular bungalow) represent two of the historic architectural styles in this neighborhood.
- Muddy Flats is primarily an industrial area.
Interstate 90 runs across Minnesota and enters Wisconsin through La Crosse. From there, the roadway travels across the northern part of the city and eventually works its way down to Madison. Other busy roadways in the city include U.S. Highways 14 and 61 and Wisconsin State Highways 16, 33, and 35.
For public transportation, the La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility provides eight fixed routes and two flexible routes; most routes offer bus service every day of the week.
La Crosse Municipal Airport is four miles northwest of the city in the French Island district, serving the La Crosse area as well as southeastern Minnesota. Two major airlines offer several flights daily.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Health care is the primary industry in La Crosse. Major health care centers include:
- Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center is located on South Street. It features a 24-hour trauma and emergency center with an adult walk-in clinic. The medical center has one of the nation's largest multi-specialty group medical practices, and regularly earns recognition as one of the top U.S. hospitals for cardiovascular care.
- Franciscan Skemp Healthcare is part of the Mayo Health System and is located on West Avenue South. It offers a number of medical specialties on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Specializing in family care, the hospital has numerous satellite facilities throughout the region.
Other top employers include Kwik Trip convenience stores, which are headquartered in the city, and American Standard Technology.
In the northwestern part of the city on State Highway 16 is Valley View Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in the region. Historic Downtown La Crosse, which is just a few blocks from Riverside Park, has other shopping opportunities with unique shops, museums, and award-winning restaurants.
Among the many attractions La Crosse offers residents and visitors are:
- La Crosse Center: Located in the heart of downtown, the convention center was originally constructed in 1980. In 2000, the center underwent an expansion that doubled the facility's size. From well-known singing artists to musicals, sporting events to conventions, the center hosts a range of events for everyone to enjoy.
- La Crosse Trolley: With the trip beginning downtown, the trolleys give visitors a chance to view various neighborhoods and landmarks scattered throughout city. Narrated by a local tour guide, the trip takes travelers through some of La Crosse's historic districts, pointing out some of its more distinctive attractions.
- Riverside Park: Originally called Levee Park, this park in the downtown area plays host to Riverfest and is a docking station for two riverboats. Additionally, the park has trails, open spaces, and numerous sites where visitors can just stop and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River.
Throughout the year, La Crosse capitalizes on its natural beauty, French heritage, and river setting to host numerous events including:
- Mardi Gras: This January event features a costume ball and a family festival at various locations throughout downtown.
- La Crosse Riverfest: Held over the Fourth of July weekend, the festival features several stages providing all sorts of entertainment events, while also serving food through the participation of area restaurants. It was originally established in 1983 to provide family-flavored entertainment for everyone to enjoy. The funds raised from the festival benefit local community groups.
- Great River Jazz Fest: Spanning a long weekend in August, this festival features world-class jazz artists and onsite food and beverages. It is held annually at the La Crosse Center on Harborview Plaza.
- Oktoberfest: First held in 1961, this nine-day festival bubbled over from the last week of September through the beginning of October. In recent years, it has come to be regarded as one of the finest Oktoberfests in the country, because of its nighttime parade, pageantry, royalty, world-famous German entertainment and, of course, its brew and bratwurst.
Twenty-one elementary, middle and high schools comprise the School District of La Crosse. The city is also home to three regional colleges and universities:
- University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is a public university. Over the years, the school has received numerous accolades from U.S. News and World Report as one of the best Midwestern public universities for graduate and post-graduate degrees. The university offers a wide range of undergraduate programs, as well as numerous master's and doctoral programs. Its athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division III in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
- Viterbo University is a Roman Catholic liberal arts institution in the Fransciscan tradition.
- Western Technical College is a community college that maintains its main campus in La Crosse.
The La Crosse Tribune is the area's local daily newspaper.