November 2019 (with a second visit in June 2022)
On the list of places within a few hours’ drive of the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Wisconsin, was one of the few where we hadn’t spent any time. With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us and a big snowstorm making air travel a headache, we decided a holiday getaway was in order. The Charmant had been on our list for awhile — it’s a favorite of some colleagues — but we had never made the trip. We weren’t quite sure what to expect on a holiday weekend when so many people seem to settle in at home, but we’re not that good at settling in, and we figured that even a quiet La Crosse would be more fun that a quiet weekend at home, so we jumped in the car and headed down the Mississippi River.
A genuinely lively scene
We arrived at the Charmant at about 3:30 pm on Thanksgiving day and were pleasantly surprised to walk into a bustling scene — at the registration desk, at the lobby bar, and in the hotel restaurant and coffee shop, both of which were hosting Thanksgiving diners. The Charmant seemed like the place in town to be.
The hotel occupies the site of the very first structure in La Crosse — a trading post — which was eventually replaced by a candy factory. This is the building that now houses the Charmant. The hotel is just adjacent to the Mississippi River, abuts Riverside Park (more about that below), and is within a few blocks of the heart of downtown La Crosse, but the Charmant is a bit of an island among surface parking lots. Like many cities that are now realizing how to properly utilize their waterfronts, La Crosse has a way to go to bring vibrancy to the banks of the river.
The right combination: tasteful and cozy
When we made our booking shortly before Thanksgiving, we had only a few choices for rooms, possibly because the hotel was full or possibly because it just operates at limited capacity during the holiday. We put in a request for an upgrade and got a call the day before Thanksgiving that a river “vue” room had become available; the Charmant staffer promised us a nice view of Christmas lights in the park, which sounded fun.
Like the atmosphere in the hotel’s common areas, our room exceeded expectations. It offered glimpses into the building’s past with an exposed brick wall and timber floors and ceilings, but it was clear that a significant investment was made to convert the factory into a hotel. The room wasn’t overly large, but it worked well and included high-end touches, including quality furnishings and a bathroom with double sinks, an oversized marble-lined shower, and a window. With the exception of robes, which were delivered on request, the room had everything we could need.
One of the things we’ve come to appreciate at a hotel are its details. The Charmant did a nice job with these. From local spirits with a full selection of needed mixers to wooden nickels that could be traded for coffee in the downstairs coffee shop where a wood fire was always burning, the details made the room feel a little indulgent.
Just one disappointment to note: When we returned to our room on the second day of our stay, the housekeeper had been in to make up the room, but the bed was left unmade and our bath mat hadn’t been replaced. This wasn’t a big deal but something that took just a little polish off the visit.
We heard about the holiday lights when we upgraded our room, but we weren’t prepared for the Rotary Lights. This La Crosse tradition, in its 25th year, entices much of the city down to Riverside Park on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving to watch a parade, which is then followed by the opening of the much-loved light light show. The best part of it all: We could watch the whole thing — parade, fireworks (yes, fireworks), and the official lighting of the park — from our warm room with a glass of wine in hand. Happy holidays indeed!
- Charmant Hotel
- Location: State Street at Riverside Park, La Crosse, Wisconsin
- Our stay: 2 nights, November 28 and 28
- Our room: River Vue King
Where we ate, what we did:
- Drinks and dinner (not turkey) at the Charmant
- Coffee at Grounded
- A drive up to Grandad Bluff
- Strolling through downtown La Crosse followed by a walk to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
- Drinks at La Crosse Distilling Co.
- Dinner at Piggy’s (it tastes better than it sounds)
- 25th anniversary of the Rotary Lights
June 2022: Second visit
Our second visit to the Charmant was just as good as the first. We were delighted to see that many of hotel’s small details had survived the pandemic, and unlike many other places, the Charmant seemed to be thriving.
We stayed only a single night but managed cocktails on the rooftop bar, a visit to Riverside Park (where a Juneteenth celebration was underway) and the neighboring International Friendship Gardens, a pop into the architecturally interesting St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral, a delicious dinner at Lovechild, and brunch in the hotel before heading home. For visitors from Minneapolis/St. Paul, the drive down the Mississippi River in June (on either the Minnesota or Wisconsin side) is stunning. On our way home, we took a detour to Whitewater State Park (near St. Charles MN) for a terrific 5-mile hike up and down the limestone bluffs.
One thought on “La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA ~ Charmant”
Sounded like a lot of fun…will have to ck it out sometime! A few more lights than we saw in Littleton but had a jolly time watching the parade. Was really cold! 👍
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