Less than a two-hour drive from Chicago or Milwaukee, Beloit, Wisconsin, is the type of destination that’s perfect for a no-stress, no-fuss summer weekend getaway. This fun and endearing small town sits just north of the Illinois border on the banks of the Rock River. And here’s the best part: It features lots of fun things to do whether you’re planning a trip with a group of friends, a romantic escape with your partner or an adventurous outdoor weekend away from the city. We’ve put together a mix-and-match guide on some of the top things to do in Beloit to create the perfect weekend retreat. Check out our top 10 suggestions of things to do, and check out the video below to get a better idea of what summer in Beloit looks and feels like.
1. Explore the great outdoors
If you’re looking for some summer fun outside the city, Beloit has a lot of cool options. Ten minutes from downtown Beloit is Pearl Lake, a resort destination with a crystal-clear lake at its center that’s surrounded by trees and dotted with beaches. The main swimming beach is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day and costs $15. Kids can splash at the kiddie beach while you lounge or compete in a game of water or sand volleyball.
Because of its clear water, Pearl Lake is a hot spot for diving—featuring some cool underwater finds including a sunken school bus, airplane and submarine. Various beaches around Pearl Lake serve as launch points for diving adventures. Cool off with a cocktail at the resort’s restaurant bar while the kids indulge in an ice cream, or refuel with a hamburger, hot dog or snacks. Stay for the Friday Night Fish Fry where there’s often live entertainment.
Lagoon at Riverside Park
Back in town, Beloit’s parks are ideal for a scenic day of both action and leisure. Just north of downtown Beloit is lively Riverside Park, where you can bring a picnic lunch and rent a tandem bike to cycle the 3.5-mile bike path that stretches along the gorgeous riverfront. Rent kayaks, paddleboats and fishing poles near the lagoon area for an up-close Rock River water and wildlife experience. Perfect for the littlest land lubbers is the park’s Turtle Island Playground, which features a treehouse, lookout and shipwreck play areas. Another good park option is Big Hill Park, which sits on the bluffs of the Rock River and has gorgeous hiking trails and breathtaking views from a scenic overlook. The park has horseshoe pits, a disc golf course and sand volleyball courts in the summer.
2. Eat your heart out
There’s no better way to get to know a city than through its food. And though Beloit might be smaller than its neighboring cities, its food and wine scene is impressively diverse—and expanding all the time.
One of Beloit’s most well-known, treat-yourself-because-you’re-on-vacation dining spots is Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar on Grand Avenue, famous for killer burgers and tipsy shakes. Keep it traditional with a Plain Jane burger or try a more eccentric one like the Wisconsinite, stuffed with Wisconsin’s three favorites—beer, brats and cheddar cheese. “We offer a new and creative burger of the month, too, which is always a hit,” says Tamsie Lamoreaux, Lucy’s assistant manager. One month it’s a Mushroom Swiss Meltdown stuffed with Swiss cheese and topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms, bordelaise sauce and more melted Swiss. Another month it’s a Macaroni and Cheese Burger. And one of the best tipsy shakes is the Grasshopper, featuring Crème de Menthe & Crème de Cocoa.
Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar
If you like your burger perfectly cooked with an amazing view on the side, head to The Rock Bar and Grill, situated directly on the banks of the Rock River a mile and a half north of downtown. Choose from numerous tap beers or drink one of the joint’s amazing Bloody Marys as you enjoy one of the best views in the city. Try the restaurant’s Grilled Cheese, its famous signature burger served in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Finally, if your trip is more romantic in nature, try Clara Bo Steak & Seafood, a dining destination that takes you on a nostalgic trip back to the roaring ‘20s. The eatery’s ambience is inspired by the jazz era’s silent film star Clara Bow. Dine on the patio and taste the freshest seafood, delivered daily to the restaurant. Staff will help you perfectly pair your entrée with wine from its cellar, where the Gatsby Wine Bar is located. Or, make a trip to downtown Beloit. The 615 Club, an elegant supper club, serves steaks, seafood, classic cocktails and fine wine. And for a gorgeous view of the Rock River, sip a cocktail and enjoy an upscale surf ‘n’ turf dinner from the Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint’s riverfront deck. The steakhouse has live music on Friday nights.
3. Explore the live music scene
One of the coolest things to do in the summer in Beloit is Fridays in the Park, a Friday lunchtime concert series from May to September. Every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue, you can pay just $7 for a drink and lunch from a local restaurant—made better with a live music concert. Later on Friday evenings in June through August, head to Harry Moore Pavilion in Riverside Park, where local vendors set up shop at 6 p.m. An hour later, settle in at the pavilion to see a band perform as part of the free concert series, Music at Harry’s Place.
Music at Harry’s
In the summer, outdoor concerts make their way on to the weekly Beloit events schedule, but you can enjoy live music indoors at a friendly, relaxed bar scene at Grand Avenue Pub. The pub hosts classic rock on Fridays, country bands and DJ-curated dance tunes on Saturdays, and varied genres on Sundays. Boundaries Bar & Grill also features live music on Sunday afternoon—and line dancing on Thursdays for the fun and fearless.
4. Go wine tasting
An area favorite here in the region is DC Estate Winery, a popular destination for girls’ trips and anniversary celebrations. Taste wine any time during the winery’s open hours, which vary on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The tasting fee is just $5; and you can look out at the estate’s tranquil pond and vineyard while you enjoy a glass from a comfortable, shaded stone patio. Try the DC Meritage, a dry blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It highlights berries, chocolate and coffee notes on the palate with a long tannic finish. Check out the winery’s events schedule, too, which includes fun happenings like murder mystery dinners, painting classes in collaboration with B17 Studio & Gallery, and special holiday events for adults.
5. Explore the local arts and culture scene
Everyone knows about Chicago’s world-renowned art museums, but it’s such a treat when you find an impressive art collection at a small-town museum. At Beloit’s Wright Museum of Art, you’ll find collections that feature American Impressionism, Modernist paintings, 19th-century plaster casts, German Expressionism and Japanese Modern prints. The museum houses rotating exhibitions as well. Another cool place to visit is the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, where you can browse the space’s gallery shows featuring traveling exhibitions and the work of resident and regional artists who rent space there to practice, create, exhibit and sell their art.
Another worthwhile cultural stop in Beloit is the Logan Museum of Anthropology, where you can explore ethnographic and archaeologic artifacts from around the world. And if vintage automobiles and other relics from the past are your thing, consider spending an afternoon at Historic Auto Attractions—where you can check old cars (including one from Elvis Presley and a getaway car used by John Dillinger) other cool memorabilia like presidential artifacts, clothing worn by famous music and movie stars, and one of the most extensive collections of items from John F. Kennedy and Kennedy Family. (Check out the video below for a detailed look at all the amazing vintage finds at Historic Auto Attractions.)
Finally, to give your spirit a lift, head to the Angel Museum (see a video here) with its largest collection of angel figurines, works of art and craftsmanship in the world. Among the artifacts displayed are more than 600 black angel figurines donated by Oprah Winfrey as gifts from her fans. Admire the museum’s pre-renaissance architecture and stained glass windows characteristic of Italian village churches while you’re there.
6. Shop local
Spend your Saturday mornings in May through October at the Downtown Beloit Farmers’ Market. At this colorful and upbeat city gem, you’ll find more than 100 vendors weekly selling local produce, organics, baked goods, honey, jams, bedding plants, meat, cheese, fresh flowers, artisan crafts, scents and skin care. For breakfast, stop by one of the food trucks for a warm doughnut and enjoy live music as you shop.
Enjoy year-round shopping in Grand Avenue’s charming local stores. Stop by Porch, which opened in 2016, to find cute gifts including baby items, candles, bath and body, jewelry, wall decor, unique clocks, garden and more. “It’s our pleasure to add the final touch to our customers’ gifts with our beautiful gift wrap,” says Cindy Giardini, store manager.
Nest Egg is another must-stop, featuring creative gifts ranging from accent furniture and area rugs to clothing and jewelry to wine accessories and coffee. And, if you’re into vintage and antique decor, check out Vintage Bliss to shop 10,000 square feet and more than 40 of the area’s best vintage vendors.
7. Find some adventure
For Beloit adventure, make your first stop Skydive the Rock, which offers a 14,500-foot leap tandem skydiving package or options for—gasp!—a solo skydiving leap. But if soaring sounds more appealing than falling, check out Sylvania Soaring Adventures, taking in views of the Chicago and Milwaukee skylines on a powerless flight in a glider.
8. Bring the family along
Beloit is a fun destination for a girl’s trip or couple’s escape, but there are fun things to do here with family, too. You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but a table at the farm is as fresh as it gets. Just outside town is Double B Farm Country Store and Cafe, known by locals as one of the best-kept secrets around. It’s a country store and restaurant that sits on farm—a fully operational farm where friendly animals greet you when you arrive. Most of the cafe’s menu items are sourced directly from the farm, and items like hormone and antibiotic-free farm-raised beef, pork, chicken and lamb, as well as gourmet brats, baked goods and artisan goat cheese. Dig into generous helpings of home-style country eats at the cafe for breakfast or lunch—like their famous biscuits and gravy—served in a warm, family-run atmosphere.
Plan for a traditional American pastime and attend a Beloit Snappers baseball game. The team is a Class-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, which mainly means you’ll splurge on fun and fantastic baseball, but not on the price of your ticket. Head to Pohlman Field where kids can run the bases after any Sunday game. Or, check out the fun family events and promotions offered throughout the season, like Halfway to Halloween on Thursday, June 1, where fans who show up to the game in costumes receive a 50 percent discount off the price of admission. Snapperitaville on Saturday, June 17, is another popular one. It’s a Hawaiian-themed evening featuring the season’s second fireworks night, beachy music and a post-game auction of the players’ Hawaiian jerseys.
Later each summer, Beloit’s Apple Hut Orchard opens just in time for apple-picking season that goes through October. Shop for apple pies, cider donuts, pumpkin bread, apple cider and other delicious treats at the Apple Hut gift shop, and plan a repeat visit here in the fall for pumpkin picking.
9. Get a dose of local history
The Beloit area has some interesting historic attractions, including Beckman Mill, a grist mill constructed in 1868 that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It was recently restored to its 1920s-era condition, and it’s open for guided tours 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends during the summer. On the first Saturday of each month, you can observe the mill’s corn grinding. Carve out extra time to explore everything the surrounding 52-acre Beckman Mill County Park has to offer—a fish ladder, dam, pond, visitor center and gift shop, and other attractions.
For an immersive nature and educational experience with the kids, pack a picnic lunch and head to Nature at the Confluence, opening June 2017. It’s an urban ecology project that aims to restore and celebrate the prairie land where the Turtle Creek meets the Rock River. The Winnebago tribe inhabited the area around 1830 and, subsequently, French fur traders, European settlers and others made their homes there. Launch your kayak or canoe anytime to spot wildlife and imagine the history and sacrifices of the native peoples and those who followed as you paddle. Or, register for the confluence’s Fur Trader’s River Run, a guided paddle led by specialty outdoor retailer Rocktown Adventures, on select dates.
10. Stop and stay a while
Beloit provides a range of cozy lodging options for your stay. Consider 1810 Emerson House, a Georgian-Colonial-Revival-style bed and breakfast that has two guestrooms and is just a five-minute drive east of downtown shops and restaurants. When you stay, you’ll be served breakfast as well as pre-dinner wine and appetizers and post-dinner desserts. Or, for a beautiful view of the Rock River, stay at Ironworks Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in downtown Beloit. It’s inspired by America’s industrial heritage and houses the amazing Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint, mentioned above.
For easy interstate access, reserve a room at the Hampton by Hilton or Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. Both are just off Interstates 39/90 and three miles northeast of downtown. At both properties, you’ll enjoy free hot breakfast and amenities like a fitness center, indoor pool and business center. Fairfield is pet-friendly, giving you the option to bring your furry sidekick along.
Check out our online travel guide to make the most of your weekend getaway to Beloit, Wisconsin, or get a head start on your itinerary planning with our recommendations for top things to do if you only have 36 hours in Beloit—with family or with friends.