Neillsville is a small town of about 3000 in rural central Wisconsin. It lies on the Black River in farm country, at the southern edge of the Northern Highlands, overlooking the flat bottom-lands that once were Glacial Lake Wisconsin. If you like quaint and quiet, it can be a nice place to spend a weekend.
Logging began on the Black River in the mid-1800s. Neillsville had early sawmills, and other businesses grew up around them. Fortunes were made, big houses and stores were built, and the town grew. As the trees ran out, dairy farming took over in the surrounding country and the businesses in town shifted to serve the farmers.
Fortunately, things were prosperous enough in later years to keep the heart of town alive, but not prosperous enough to fund tearing down and rebuilding, as happened in some other places. So today the old part of Neillsville has almost a Tom-Sawyer feel on a warm summer afternoon.
Neillsville is on highway 10, three hours east of Minneapolis and four hours northwest of Milwaukee.
- The Highground is a veteran's memorial on a ridge two miles west of Neillsville. It has a visitors' center, sculptures, walking trails, beautiful views, and special tributes to Viet Nam vets, Korea vets, and Native Americans. 715-743-4224.
- The 1897 Jail Museum is a castle-like building in Neillsville which housed both the prisoners' cells and a rather elegant residence for the jailer's family. Today it is a museum, displaying items from local history. Open Sundays 1-4 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day, or by appointment. 715-743-6444.
- Reed School is a one-room schoolhouse on the ridge east of Neillsville which has been restored and is operated as a museum by the Wisconsin Historical Society. In 2012 it will be open Saturdays and Sundays 10-4 May 5 to October 28. 608-253-3523.
- Historic Walking Tour. Take a leisurely stroll along Hewett Street, up Fourth, down Fifth, and up Grand, taking in the old houses and storefronts.
- Listeman Arboretum offers walking trails beneath huge trees on the hill above the Black River.
- Wilderness Pursuits, N5773 Resewood Ave (8 miles northwest of Neillsville)), 715-743-4484. Guided trail rides on horseback through the Clark County Forest.
- Drive out into the countryside. Follow highway 10 east along Pleasant Ridge, looking at the big old Italianate farmhouses and enjoying the views. At the second curve, fourteen miles out, you'll pass a cluster of Amish farms, with an unusual barn cleaning system on the west side of the road. Then follow Fremont Road back west back to Neillsville. On a summer day other than Sunday you may see Amish farmers working with horses, and maybe even an old hayloader!
- Neillsville Farmers' Market, (downtown on Hewett Street). Sa 9AM to noon, May to Oct. Buy local produce in season and Amish baking. And admire the horses and buggies parked nearby. edit
- Fannie's Supper Club, W3741 US Hwy 10 (5 miles east of Neillsville), 715-743-2169. 4PM-?. Fannie's has presented fine dining in a casual atmosphere for many years, serving traditional American food and drink seven nights a week, with a great view from the ridge. $5-$20.
- Mid Towne Cafe, 436 Hewett St, 715-743-3078. Tu-Sa 6AM-2PM, Su 6AM-1PM. Old-fashioned diner in a historic building right in the downtown. It's popular with locals, good for breakfast or lunch. $5-$10.
- Wildcat Inn, W8270 County Road B (7 miles west of Neillsville on 10), 715-743-2762. Good restaurant/steakhouse, with mounted animal heads all around. $5-$20.
- Tufts Mansion B&B, 26 Hewett St, 715-743-3346. Did you ever want to sleep in a museum? Here you can. James will give you a tour of the sprawling home which was built in 1879, showing you the parlor, the woodwork, the maid's bedroom, and so forth. Then he might take down the velvet rope on one of the bedrooms and let you spend the night! The place is an odd combination of hotel, casual museum, and music venue. And you may enjoy the pecan praline french toast for breakfast.
- Fannie's, listed above, has motel rooms with a nice view.