Janesville, Wisconsin, may be a small town, but it offers an abundance of outdoor adventures and exciting things to do for visitors to enjoy. Janesville is a small-town American success story.
When Big Auto pulled out, they looked for a new identity and found it with a vibrant art scene and culinary surprises. This “New Janesville,” paired with its rich history and well-preserved nature, creates something for everybody who likes to explore the outdoors and find a hidden gem or two. Come along with us as we show you the fun things to do in Janesville and how to have a memorable getaway to Wisconsin’s great outside.
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail offers the perfect opportunity to explore the state’s breathtaking scenery. Grab your bike or hiking boots and hit the trails, immersing yourself in the beauty of the glacial landscapes and lush forests.
The literature says this 1,200-mile-long trail roughly follows the location of the terminal moraine from the last Ice Age, which is to say it’s the farthest extent of the glaciers. You’ll find unique geology along the region, like kettle lakes left behind from the retreating ice. The City of Janesville’s extensive paved trail system links their many parks together to create an urban greenbelt along this section of the Ice Age Trail, which, even in midsummer, was still rich with wildflowers.
Pro-Tip – Didn’t bring a bike? No worries! Velocity Multi-Sport has 2 locations in Janesville and a wide variety of bike rentals including hybrids and e-bikes!
If you’re up for a challenge, The Devil’s Staircase Trail is a must-visit destination. As the name suggests, this trail boasts steep inclines and rocky terrain, rewarding hikers with stunning panoramic views at the top.
The Devil’s Staircase Trail travels along and up the side of the bluffs by the Rock River in Riverside Park. In the spring, native wildflowers blanket the area; in the fall, you’re greeted by a wave of amber color as the leaves change color.
Take to the waters and experience the tranquility of paddling along the Yahara River with Drift Away Paddle Co. You’ll love spotting local wildlife and soaking in the serenity of the river as you drift downstream.
Drift Away supports several local locations, including Gibbs Lake and Lake Koshkonong, but their primary route is a 6-mile section on the lower Yahara River. The rental includes the shuttle, and you can expect to find a mostly wooded bank along much of the run.
For water sports enthusiasts, Lake Koshkonong is the place to be. Rent a jet ski or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) to have a thrilling time on the water while admiring the lake’s scenic beauty.
Lake Koshkonong is a naturally occurring body of water, but the dams have increased the water level. Even still, it’s very shallow, with an average depth of only 6′, but there are four boat landings around the lake and two beaches.
Pack a delicious picnic and head to Murwin Park or any of Janesville’s other well-maintained parks. These green havens offer the perfect setting for relaxation and quality time with family and friends.
Janesville takes pride in its extensive park system, providing locals and visitors with ample recreational opportunities. With 64 improved parks spread across 2,609 acres, there’s always a new spot to explore.
Witness the jaw-dropping performances of the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Team, 21-time U.S. National Champion. Prepare to be amazed by their daring stunts and incredible skills on the water. Weather permitting, they perform every Sunday and Wednesday from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If you appreciate arts and culture, visiting the Janesville Performing Arts Center is a must. Catch a live performance, be it a play, concert, or dance show, and immerse yourself in the local arts scene.
I had a chance to see Tempest while I was in Janesville at the Rock County Historical Society. It was a fun way to spend a summer evening and an excellent excuse for a picnic or at least a bottle of wine.
Explore Janesville’s history, architecture, and hidden gems with Roaming Rich of Roam Around Tours. This guided tour offers a unique and informative way to experience the town’s charm.
Roaming Rich offers walking tours of Janesville’s historic downtown and neighborhoods. With over 20 years of tour experience, Rich offers a perfectly paced introduction to the history and heritage of Janesville and Rock County.
Janesville takes pride in its vibrant art scene, and you can discover captivating public art installations throughout the town. Take a leisurely stroll and appreciate the creativity on display. Downtown Janesville is home to over 20 incredible murals, many created during the annual Art Infusion event.
Savor the flavors of Janesville by visiting the Saturday Farmers Market. Sample locally grown produce, artisanal treats, and unique handcrafted goods from friendly vendors every Saturday from May through October in Janesville’s beautiful Town Square. This is a Wisconsin producer-only retail market with live music and children’s activities most weeks.
For a serene escape, visit the Rotary Botanic Gardens, where you can stroll through meticulously designed landscapes, lush gardens, and tranquil ponds. This 20-acre garden packs the plant punch with surprises around every corner. It’s been called the most romantic spot in Rock County, the best place for a wedding, and one of America’s top 20 public gardens.
Step back in time and explore the rich history of Janesville at the Milton House Museum. Milton House Museum is the last certified Underground Railroad Station in Wisconsin that’s open for tours. It offers fascinating insights into the town’s past and the Underground Railroad. Each tour lasts approximately 1 hour in length and is fully guided.
Indulge in the local flavors by embarking on a wine-tasting tour at Northleaf Winery, Fermenting Cellars Winery, or Timber Hill Winery. Savor a variety of wines amidst charming settings. Wisconsin is part of the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, America’s largest Viticultural Area, which includes southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois.
When it’s time to rest after a day of excitement, Janesville has you covered with comfortable accommodations. Our favorites are the Cobblestone Hotel and Suites, the Midwest’s fastest-growing hotel chain, and the Hampton brand standards by Hilton.
Breakfast in Janesville is so much more than instant coffee and pop-tarts to start your day. It’s a celebration of yum, from the first taste of delicious scones to the last drop of coffee. Here are some of my favorite places for breakfast in Janesville
Some people say lunch is the most important meal of the day. It’s hard to argue that logic with the lunch lineup in Janesville.
Dinner is the perfect way to end your day, especially with a well-paired wine and housemade dessert. While that’s generally true, Janesville punches above its weight class with a strong farm-to-table scene, traditional favorites, and surprising foreign flavors.
Janesville may be a hidden gem, but it offers a plethora of fun activities and breathtaking experiences for all to enjoy. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural delights, or a relaxing getaway, Janesville has it all. So, pack your bags and head to Wisconsin’s Great Outside for a getaway you’ll cherish forever.
Disclosure: A big thank you to the Janesville CVB for hosting me and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more Janesville travel inspiration, check out their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
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