20 Aug Fun Things to do in Janesville, Wisconsin
Your first question might be, where is Janesville, Wisconsin? This growing midwest town of over 64,000 residents, Janesville is the largest city in Rock County, Wisconsin. It is less than 2-hour drive from Chicago, IL. Many of us have driven through it on our way to more popular destinations like Milwaukee, Madison, or en route to Minnesota. I know I’ve stopped their for gas a few times.
When I was invited to come to tour the town with a group of Travel Writers, I was curious to see what the town had to offer. Growing up in a big city like Chicago, I didn’t think there was anything fun to do in smaller towns. But I was wrong.
Here is a list of some fun things to do in Janesville, Wisconsin.
We also visited two smaller towns, Milton and Edgerton, visit a building that was once part of the underground railroad, adventure, and enjoyed good food. We spent two nights at the lovely Hampton Inn hotel, that is right off of the I-90 exit in Janesville. Hampton Inn hotels are one of my go-to places to stay while traveling
Hamption Inn Janesville
2400 Fulton St, Janesville, WI 53546
Rotary Botanical Gardens
Our first stop on our tour is The Rotary Botanical Gardens. This hidden treasure was once an abandoned sand and gravel quarry. In 1988, the City of Janesville leased the property to the Janesville Rotary Foundation at no charge for 99 years. The gardens were 100% sand and gravel, and 800 truckloads of topsoil were hauled in. The gardens transformed into a magical place during the holiday season, with over one million lights and themed animations.
1455 Palmer Dr Janesville – WI, 53545
Walking Tour with Roam Around Tours
The tour began on the Heritage Bridge under the Resilience sculpture in Janesville Town Square. Our guide (Insert name), owner of Roam Around Tours. Although we had a full itinerary, our guide recommended other fun things to do in Janesville, Wisconsin, that we could explore on a return visit.
Our first dinner was at the Lark Restaurant that creates seasonally inspired food and drinks. I started the evening off with a cocktail, a Every Last drop made with blood orange gin. There were several delicious options to choose from, because many of the dishes may not be available depending on the time of year, I ordered the Prix Fixe menu. There is only one, but it comes with an Fried Green Tomatoes as the appetizer, Chicken and Kale Lasagne for entree and a blueberry cobbler for dessert.
Music at the Mary
The Music at the Mary is a summerlong concert series organized by the city of Janesville. The last concert for the summer will be held on September 3, 2022. The Lark restaurant where we ate dinner is across the street. We were able to enjoy the music and eat because we sat outside.
Velocity Downtown Adventures & Rentals
The weather was perfect for riding our bikes. This is my first time riding an electric bicycle, and I was a little nervous that I would lose control and crash. When we arrived at Velocity Multi-Sport & Cycling, the husband and wife team fitted each of us with a bike and helmet. We practiced in the Velocity parking lot before starting our tour. After a few minutes, I felt comfortable, and by the end, I was using the turbo button and cruising through the neighborhood. Ok, I wasn’t going far, but I was having fun. So we drove through downtown Janesville and on the part of the Ice Age Trail.
If you are looking for bike tours in other cities read my blog post Must do Bike, Segway, & Walking City Tours from around the world..
After bike riding, we had lunch at the Bodacious Shops in historic downtown Janesville. Bodacious Shops is a store collection that includes The Bodacious Brew, The Bodacious Olive Oil, and So Chopped. All cold items, such as salads, are sold at So chopped. Hot food, sandwiches, grain bowls, and tea are sold at The Bodacious Brew. The olive oil is used at both stores to create many unique dishes. I had the Grain Bowl and iced tea, the perfect combo after the bike ride.
Now it’s time for dessert. The Sugar Exchange is next door to The Bodacious Brew. You have your choice of ice cream, classic homemade treats, and candy. It was a hard decision to make not to go overboard. I chose a Giant Peanut Butter Cup to take home. Each of us ordered something different and I was able to try the ice cream nachos and the Smores Charcutire board. We all left with a sugar high.
Milton House Museum National Landmark
The Milton House Museum is located in Milton, Wisconsin, once a busy Stagecoach Inn and the last certified location on the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin. Joseph Goodrich owned the Milton House. This unique tour takes you underground to a tunnel from the main Inn to a smaller house where it is believed that once enslaved blacks were kept until it was safe to continue their journey into Canada. Tours are available Tuesday thru Sunday for $12.
Northleaf Winery in Milton is in a lime mortar building built in 1844 by John Alexander as a wheat warehouse. It was converted into The Nordlof’s, started restoration in 2007, and opened the wine bar in 2009, keeping the hand-hewn beams. I never know what wine goes with what, so we all got sample our choice with various chocolates. I enjoyed them all but my favorite was the Bluberry Cabernet that was paired with Hazelnut Coffee Chocolate.
Fredericks Supper Club
Our final dinner on our tour was in Milton, Wisconsin, at the Fredericks Supper Club. If you are like me and have never been to a supper club, I was expecting live dancing. According to Wikipedia, a supper club is traditional dining where people go to socialize. The biggest difference you notice from current restaurants is the bar and dining tables are closer together. Which makes sense if it was designed for everyone to mingle with each other. Most of the menu includes steak and pork, but there are a few fish options. I ordered the blackened salmon with mashed potatoes with cheese. We devoured the last order of cheese curds available for the night. You can not come to Wisconsin and not have something with cheese on it.
The Fulton Store
Before our final activity, we stopped for breakfast at The Fulton Store restaurant in Edgerton. The store is famous for its Sunday morning biscuits and gravy. A batch was made special for our group. I did not try the biscuits because I do not eat meat. But I was able to try their homemade blueberry cinnamon roll.
Kayaking on Gibbs Lake State Park with Driftaway Paddle Company
The last activity before heading home is kayaking with Drifaway Paddle Company. This is the third time I was signed up to go kayaking this summer. It was canceled the first time because of the forecast rain and thunderstorms. The second time was on the Mississippi River in Minnesota. I think my nerves got me sick, and I canceled. Driftaway Paddle Co and everyone in the group assured me they wouldn’t let me drown. So I see why people enjoy kayaking. Even though I didn’t paddle too far from land, it was the perfect first kayaking experience.
If you are looking for a weekend away from the windy city of Chicago, Janesville, Wisconsin, makes a perfect spot for families, friends, and solo travelers. Save this post, Fun Things to do in Janesville Wisconsin for later.