I recently discovered a jewel on the Illinois-Wisconsin state line that’s worth putting on your Midwest travel map — Beloit, Wisconsin. Whether you’re looking for a weekend trip from Chicago or a stop on a Wisconsin road trip, Beloit has lots of fun things to do. The nearest airport is Madison, which is an easy 45-minute drive from Beloit.
I packed most of these things to do in Beloit into a three-day visit, although I didn’t complete the beer and coffee trails. I was hosted by Visit Beloit to help tell their story.
Pro tip: If you’re a fan of quirky roadside attractions, Beloit is home to the world’s largest can of chili. There’s a Hormel plant in Beloit and the towering can of chili is on their campus. Unless you know someone, it is next to impossible to get inside the plant to take a close look but it can be seen from a distance and the highway.
1. A Sky Carps Baseball Game
If you visit Beloit during baseball season, make sure you catch a Beloit Sky Carps (formerly the Beloit Snappers) game. The ball club, which is a High-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, has a brand-new ballpark named the ABC Supply Stadium.
Sky carp is a slang term for a goose that stays put and doesn’t migrate, which is significant to the team and community. The team was on the chopping block in 2019, and one of the major factors in whether Beloit’s baseball team would continue to be MLB-affiliated was the quality of their stadium. New ownership stepped in and made the new ballpark happen. The Sky Carp represents the city of Beloit, a vibrant town that no one, including the baseball team, wants to leave. It’s a heartwarming story and a good reason to take in a game while in town, even if you’re not a huge baseball fan.
The ballpark is one of the most kid-friendly I’ve ever seen with playground equipment and educational (but still fun) graphics painted on the grounds. There are also plans to install a children’s sensory garden onsite, which I’m pretty sure is a baseball first.
Games end with a bang, whether or not the Sky Carps win. Stick around for post-game fireworks in the summer on select evenings. The fireworks show can also be seen from the rooftop patio bar at Hotel Goodwin but get there early if you want to snag a good seat.
Planning a trip to Beloit in 2023? Click here for the 2023 Sky Carps schedule.
2. Saturday Farmers Market
I joked to my husband about wishing I’d driven to Wisconsin instead of flying because I’d found more delicious cheese than I could bring back in a suitcase. After visiting the Beloit Farmers Market on a clear, sunny, Saturday morning, I double-wished for a car or at least extra room in my bags for some of this delicious produce.
If you love checking out a good farmers market, you’ll want to put this one on your list. Beloit’s Saturday Farmers Market is the second largest in the state, with the largest being the Dane County Farmers Market up the road in Madison. The Beloit Farmers Market is managed by the Downtown Beloit Association and they vet the vendors and ensure the produce is locally grown.
The open-air farmers market happens from May through October. There was a little bit of everything here but the emphasis was on fresh production and fantastic deals on fresh flowers. Other items included cheese (because of course), meat, baked goods, and a small selection of handmade gift-type items like soaps and bath products. The market moves indoors from November through April and is smaller and more focused on prepared foods and hand-crafted items versus fresh foods.
Many downtown stores along the main street are open during the farmers market so you can also use this outing as a time to window shop or check out what the local small businesses are up to. I caught the farmers market on my way out of town and the joyful community atmosphere made me wish I was staying just a little bit longer.
3. The Cafe Craft Beer Trail
If you enjoy sampling local craft beer as part of travel, you’ll want to get your Beloit & Beyond Craft Beer Trail passport before you roll into town, or soon after arrival. You can pick up a passport at any of the participating locations on the beer trail at Visit Beloit’s office or download it online. Purchase a beer at each location and ask the bartender to stamp your passport.
If you have a couple of days — and a safe way to get around while you’re sampling beers — you can complete the beer trail in a single visit. There are currently six locations on the trail. The passport has instructions for redeeming your prize, which is a T-shirt. This is a fun example of the phrase “Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.”
4. Beloit And Beyond Café Trail
Maybe beer isn’t your thing. Or maybe it is but coffee is also your thing. There’s also a Beloit & Beyond Café Trail that operates much the same way that the beer trail does, except the prize for completion is a coffee mug instead of a tee shirt. Fitting. Pick up a passport at any of the participating cafés, at Visit Beloit’s office, or download it online.
Just like with the beer trail, you’ll order a coffee or a crafted beverage and get a stamp on your passport. Instructions for claiming your prize are included on the passport.
Note that The Beloit Cafe Trail must be completed by December 31, 2022, for a guaranteed mug. There will be a 2023 Café Trail but the locations and prizes may change slightly.
5. Trukt Tacos
Surprise! There’s more than cheese curds in Beloit, although you can find good cheese curds here, too. The tacos at Trukt are worth planning your schedule around. This open-air restaurant in downtown Beloit has other things on its menu (like salads, rice bowls, and guacamole) but they are known for their creative selection of tacos.
Even though I wasn’t super hungry when I ate at Trukt, I wanted one of everything. I asked the server for her recommendations and went with her suggestions of chicken tinga and Korean barbecue. I added on the charred brussels sprouts taco because I wanted a plant-based option. All three were clear winners for me and I would love to go back and try some of the other tacos.
Trukt also has a cocktail menu heavy on whiskey and tequila but there’s a full bar where you can order anything you want. I chose a Moon Man IPA from Wisconsin-based New Glarus brewery and thought it was a great pairing for my tacos and people-watching. If you want to make an evening out of it, Trukt has live music on select nights. Check their website for the schedule.
6. Beloit Art Center
When you’re exploring downtown Beloit, don’t miss a stop at the Beloit Art Center. The Beloit Art Center includes show galleries, a gift shop, and various classes. Their website is regularly updated with information on current and future exhibits.
Fun fact: I was a long way from home (I live in San Antonio) when I visited Beloit and guess where one of the featured artists was from? San Antonio! It is truly a small world.
For anyone who loves art as well as a good freebie, check out First Friday at the Beloit Art Center. Stop by between 5 pm to 7:00 pm on the first Friday of each month for free refreshments (food, wine, beer, and soda) and check out what’s new in each of their two galleries.
Wisconsin is surprisingly (at least it was a surprise to me) focused on the arts. My recent trips to Milwaukee and Door County introduced me to several galleries and art exhibits. Beloit, while a small town, has a robust focus on the arts and it is evident that a lot of thought goes into what happens at the Beloit Art Center.
7. 40+ public parks
One of my first observations after driving through Beloit on the first day of my visit was “For a small city, this place has a lot of parks.” If you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs or somewhere your kids or grandkids can run and play, you’ve got no shortage of options for parks in Beloit.
Although I didn’t get to all the parks in Beloit, I can recommend Riverside Park as a great place to watch the sunset over the Rock River. Big Hill Park is a fun place to feel like you’re away from it all, even though you’re very near the city center. Big Hill Park also has fantastic river views.
See a complete list of city parks here.
8. Museums in Beloit
The peaceful, well-manicured grounds of Beloit College are worth checking out on their own. The campus is also home to two museums, the Logan Museum of Anthropology and the Wright Museum of Art.
Logan Museum of Anthropology
The Logan Museum of Anthropology contains over 300,000 artifacts from around the world. See Native American baskets as well as pre-Columbian and prehistoric Native American ceramics.
The Wright Museum is known for its architecture and fine art. The museum’s permanent collection contains more than a dozen exhibits and you’ll also find traveling exhibits from student artists and national touring shows. The galleries are filled year-round. You can also take a virtual tour of the Wright Museum.
Where To Stay In Beloit
I stayed at the 1810 Emerson House Bed and Breakfast and had a great stay. This property has two suites and both have their own, dedicated bathroom although the bathroom for the Thibault Suite, where I stayed, was in a hallway versus an en suite. 1810 Emerson House is located about a mile from downtown Beloit and it’s a safe, easy walk. The neighborhood is also pleasant to walk in. You can check out the Frank Lloyd Wright-style homes and wander around the campus of nearby Beloit College.
The house was decorated in an incredibly charming colonial style and is the perfect blend of historic decor that meets modern comfort. The bedding and linens were all very luxurious, the Wi-Fi was fast and the air conditioning (I visited in August) was perfect. Other amenities included a Keurig and bottled water in the upstairs hallway and a daily sweet treat left in my room. The three-course gourmet breakfast was absolutely out of this world and easily stands out in my lifetime top 10 breakfasts.
I immensely enjoyed my stay. The house is beautiful and the owners were gracious. I might not have liked it as much if there had been other guests in the upstairs area. I love the charm of bed and breakfasts but the closer proximity to other guests (old houses, thinner walls, possibly having to share a bathroom) usually makes me lean toward hotels or guesthouses where there’s more space and privacy.
The Ironworks Hotel and the Hotel Goodwin are popular, locally owned locations in downtown Beloit. They both have onsite restaurants, so even if you’re not staying at one of these properties, they’re fun to explore. I had dinner at the Velvet Buffalo, which is a modern Italian place on the ground floor of the Hotel Goodwin. The menu was very chic and light. I recommend the artichoke fritti and socca truffle fries. This is on the appetizer menu but it was a meal for me.