Girls weekend in Wausau, Wis.

Frog on Third Street in Wausau

This cute frog is outside a Wausau yoga studio.

I can’t say I would have pegged Wausau, Wis., as an ideal girls weekend getaway destination before having one there. But it has all the essentials — shopping, spa, food and drinks — and has them in spades.

I picked the city simply because it was the closest to equidistant I could get for my two college roommates and I without hanging out in a cow pasture. I found plenty to do while planning and we didn’t do half of it. Halfway through Saturday we were already talking about “when we come back.”

Shopping

We spent several hours in the River District, checking out the four blocks of shops north of the mall along Third Street. The mall itself is entirely skippable except that it has  Cherry Pickers, which our little group has loved since it had a (now closed) location in La Crosse.

Clothing consignment shops: In addition to Cherry Pickers, we browsed  Studio 7 Consignment, which had a bit more of a vintage flair, and Standing Ovations, which looked like an expensive boutique until we checked the price tags. There are a few others in town but not that you can walk to from downtown.

Antique/collectible shops: There are a half dozen antique stores downtown and we only made it to one, Again and Again. It’s more on the resale/collectibles end of the scale than the antiques end. That doesn’t mean it’s junk. I found three glasses from a set my mom collects. They normally go for $8-$15 and I got them for $4.

Gift shops: We found some nice gifts for the little people (and the big ones) we left back home at Janke Book Store, which bills itself as Wisconsin’s oldest book store. My favorite stop,  Evolutions in Design, is not like any store I’ve ever seen. It’s an experience not to be missed. It’s part floral shop, part gift shop, very eclectic and full of unique items.

evolutions in design

Two areas of the Evolutions in Design shop – one inside and one in a greenhouse-like space in the middle of the building.

Spa

I highly recommend  Dayspring Health Spa. It is a very well-appointed, calming, luxurious space with a menu of service to match any group size and budget. The three of us had a “ Pampered Party” and chose three mini-treatments each. I was interested in the English Tea that is normally a part of this party but it requires six participants. We had to chose our treatments when we made reservations a couple of weeks prior. That means you can’t pick whatever treatment you feel you need at the time of service, but if you’ve forgotten what you ordered, like we did, it can be a nice little surprise!

Dayspring Health Spa

Dayspring Health Spa has a room to relax in before and after treatments, with comfortable furniture, reading material, water and tea.

Food and drinks

Bloody Mary at Townies Grill

The Bloody Mary at Townies Grill.

We ate at only two restaurants because of the short duration of our trip and an evening spent at the Wisconsin Valley Fair (which has free grandstand shows!) and it was tough to narrow our River District lunch options down to one. Milwaukee Burger Company is a new regional chain. It has pretty standard burger bar fare but it was good and near our hotel, 1.5 miles west of downtown. Townies Grill on Third Street has superb upscale bar (or gastropub) food like lobster mac and cheese. I had a great fried egg burger, sweet potato fries and a Dark & Stormy. One friend had the special – a ribeye burger – and the other had a salad to go with her meal-sized Bloody Mary. We didn’t get to any but Wausau also has  three microbreweries and there’s an experimental winery not far away.

More options

If the standard eating, shopping and pampering isn’t enough for you, these are some options that intrigued us:

  • Checking out art exhibits at Center for the Visual Arts or Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
  • Visiting Yawkey historical house
  • Making pottery at Clay Corner Studio
  • Seeing a show at the Grand Theater
  • Kayaking on the Wisconsin River and many other outdoor activities