Quick: Name the perfect getaway just outside Chicago and Milwaukee that features an interesting mix of outdoor adventure, awesome food and beaches in the summertime? If Beloit, Wisconsin, wasn’t on your short list of answers, it should be. Beloit is a fun and charming town on the banks of the Rock River, just north of the Illinois border in Wisconsin. During the summer, Beloit comes to life—bursting with water adventures, live music concerts, and tons of local culture. See for yourself in this video.
And here’s an added benefit of a trip to Beloit: The itinerary can be tweaked whether you’re packing up the kids and taking a family vacation, or if you’re looking for a fun friends’ weekend or couple’s escape. So to help, we’ve done the work for you, and created two separate weekend itinerary guides—one for a nature-packed family escape, and the other for a relaxing yet adventurous group or couple’s trip—that begin late Friday morning and go through Sunday afternoon. After all, two summer trips are better than one.
Visit Beloit: Family, Fun and Nature Itinerary
Late Morning: Visit Nature at the Confluence.
For an immersive nature and educational experience with the kids, start your Beloit visit with a trip to Nature at the Confluence, opening June 2017. It’s an urban ecology project that aims to restore and celebrate the prairie land where the Turtle Creek meets the Rock River. There’s a lot to explore here, but the best way to do so is probably by canoe or kayak—traveling along the Rock River National Water Trail. The confluence sits right at the center of the trail where you can spot wildlife and imagine the history and sacrifices of the native peoples who founded the area. This summer, Nature at the Confluence will host both a Fur Traders River Run, which is a three-hour guided paddle in June led by Rocktown Adventures that traces the fur-trading route along the Rock River, as well as the South Beloit Centennial Celebration Paddle in late August.
Afternoon: Swim at Pearl Lake.
About 10 minutes from Nature at the Confluence is Pearl Lake, the perfect place to spend a fun and lazy afternoon near Beloit. Pearl Lake is a resort destination that’s popular for camping, but an afternoon visit means swimming, beaches and lakeside lunch. Pearl Lake is beautifully clear, surrounded by towering trees. The main swimming beach is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day and costs $15. Kids can splash at the kiddie beach while you lounge or compete in a game of water or sand volleyball.
Because of its clear water, Pearl Lake is a hot spot for diving, too—featuring some cool underwater finds including a sunken school bus, airplane and submarine. Various beaches around Pearl Lake serve as launch points for diving adventures. Cool off with a cocktail at the resort’s restaurant bar while the kids indulge in an ice cream, or refuel with a hamburger or hot dog for lunch or dinner. Stay for the Friday Night Fish Fry where there’s often live entertainment.
Evening: Indulge at Northwoods Premium Confections.
After dinner, head north to downtown Beloit for dessert at Northwoods Premium Confections. At this local favorite, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious ice cream, homemade chocolates, retro candies and gourmet popcorn. You’ll find the owners to be as pleasing as the sweets. This old-time candy shop is also a stop along the Rock River National Chocolate Trail.
Morning: Have breakfast at Double B Farm Cafe.
You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but a table at the farm is as fresh as it gets. Just outside town, this country store and cafe is located on an operational farm—which means most menu items are sourced on-site. Dig into generous helpings of home-style country eats at the cafe for breakfast or lunch—like their famous biscuits and gravy—served in a warm, family-run atmosphere. The cafe has a reputation of being the best-kept secret around.
Afternoon: Float under the Tiffany Stone Arch Bridge.
Next up: a leisurely day in rural Rock County paddling under the oldest five-arch stone bridge in Wisconsin. The Tiffany Stone Arch Bridge was built over Turtle Creek in 1869 for the Union Pacific Railroad, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. “If you aren’t planning to bring a kayak, consider purchasing an inner tube—it’s a popular method of leisure travel along Turtle Creek,” advises Wisconsin Master Naturalist Therese Oldenburg. You can also explore the scenic parklands surrounding the bridge by foot.
Evening: Go to a Beloit Snappers baseball game.
The Snappers are a Class-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, giving you the opportunity to see major league talent at minor league prices. Head to Pohlman Field for a summertime night game, where the weather is cooler and the price of dinner (hot dogs or ballpark nachos, for example) is a home run.
Morning: Take a stroll through Riverside Park.
On your last day in Beloit, visit lively Riverside Park, where the kids can play at Turtle Island Playground. It features a treehouse, lookout and shipwreck, all perfect for your little land lubbers. Pack a picnic brunch and rent a tandem bike to cycle the 3.5-mile bike path that stretches along the gorgeous riverfront. Kayaks, paddleboats and fishing poles are also available to rent near the lagoon area for an up-close Rock River water and wildlife experience.
Afternoon: Tour Beckman Mill.
Make one last stop at a notable Beloit attraction before leaving for home. Beckman Mill, a grist mill constructed in 1868, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and recently restored to its 1920s-era condition. Guided tours are offered from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and generally last 45 minutes. Carve out extra time to explore everything the surrounding 52-acre county park—and let the kids pick out a take-home souvenir from the gift shop.
Visit Beloit: Music, Friends and Food Itinerary
Late Morning: Enjoy Fridays in the Park.
Warm sun, live tunes and local eats: it’s the perfect combo for lunching with friends. Any Friday in May through September, check out Downtown Beloit Association’s “Fridays in the Park” that begins at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue. For just $7, you get lunch and a drink, but the live music concert that lasts about two hours is absolutely free.
Early Evening: Attend Music at Harry’s Place.
On Fridays in May through August, local vendors set up shop at 6 p.m. at Harry Moore Pavilion in Riverside Park. Arrive early to meander around the park before you grab a bite. Admire the gorgeous landscaping and native prairie plants surrounding the Rock River’s shoreline as you stroll, or rent a bike or kayak from the lagoon area to explore the summer scene. At 7 p.m., settle in at the pavilion to see a band perform as part of another free concert series in Beloit.
Late Night: Have dinner at Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint.
For a night or late-night dinner, grab a table on Merrill and Houston’s riverfront deck. The restaurant features excellent wine and steak selections. Many of the house specialties or seafood items are palate-pleasers, too. And just in case you hadn’t had enough live music for the day, get here before 10 p.m. for more live, local music.
Morning: Browse the Downtown Beloit Farmers’ Market.
Spend your Saturday morning at the Downtown Beloit Farmers’ Market. At this colorful and upbeat city gem, you’ll find more than 100 vendors weekly selling local produce, organics, baked goods, honey, jams, bedding plants, meat, cheese, fresh flowers, artisan crafts, scents and skin care. For breakfast, stop by one of the food trucks for a warm doughnut and enjoy live music as you shop.
Afternoon: Eat, shop, repeat.
Start your afternoon with a killer burger at Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar on Grand Avenue, known locally for cool burger concepts (and tipsy shakes, if this is a weekend for indulging). Keep your burger traditional with choices like the Cheddar, Bacon, BBQ, or try something new and eccentric like the “Sweet and Sassy Lucy” stuffed with curry and ginger-infused cheese. There’s even a Wisconsinite, stuffed with Wisconsin’s three favorites—beer, brats and cheddar cheese. Cool off with a local craft beer.
If you’re craving a lighter lunch, try Zen Sushi. For an awesome value, order the sushi lunch special, or choose from a variety of menu items ranging from rice and noodle dishes to sushi bar entrées.
After lunch, spend some more time on Grand Avenue shopping in historic downtown Beloit. Stop by Porch, which recently opened in 2016, to browse an eclectic selection of gifts including baby items, candles, bath and body, jewelry, wall decor, unique clocks, garden, and more. Nest Egg is another must-stop, featuring creative gifts ranging from accent furniture and area rugs to clothing and jewelry to wine accessories and coffee. And, if you’re into vintage and antique decor, check out Vintage Bliss to shop 10,000 square feet and more than 40 of the area’s best vintage vendors.
Evening: Have dinner at Clara Bo Steak & Seafood and Gatsby Wine Bar.
This fine dining spot is sure to become one of your favorite destinations. It’s just a 10-minute drive west from downtown—and 90 years back in time. The eatery’s ambience is inspired by the jazz era’s silent film star Clara Bow—a household name during the Roaring 20s. Dine on the patio and taste the freshest seafood, delivered daily to the restaurant. Staff will help you perfectly pair your entree with wine from its cellar, where the Gatsby Wine Bar is located.
Morning: Take a leap at Skydive the Rock.
End your getaway with wind in your face and a thrilling aerial view of the Rock River. Skydive the Rock offers a 14,500-foot leap tandem skydiving package or options for solo jumps. Drive to the Beloit Airport to start your adventure, and head into the work week with a giant dose of adrenaline.
Afternoon: Watch a race at Blackhawk Farms.
If you love an adrenaline rush but prefer keeping your feet on the ground, head to Blackhawk Farms, a 1.95-mile, seven-turn private circuit racetrack located in South Beloit. The venue holds a wide variety of sports car racing, ranging from historic automobiles to the latest in automotive race car technology, and has hosted the likes of drivers Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti and Paul Newman. Check the schedule in advance of a weekend visit to see what’s coming up at the track.
These aren’t the only things you can do on a family or weekend getaway with friends in Beloit, but it’s a fun start. For a comprehensive list of things to do and places to stay in Beloit, Wisconsin, check out our online travel guide. And check out our mix-and-match guide of the top 10 things to do in the summer in the area.