Beloit is more than a border town between Chicago and Madison. Wisconsin’s oldest college is in Beloit, as is USA HQ eBates (a Rakuten Company), along with fantastic food. Famous Beloit connections include Danica Patrick, the inspiration for Indiana Jones, and USA’s richest female entrepreneur (really!).
Fun Things to Do in Beloit Wisconsin on a Rock County Vacation
Instead of just cruising by Beloit on your next road trip on I-90, stop for a great meal or stay a few days to enjoy these fun Beloit Wisconsin restaurants, attractions, and activities.
Where to Stay in Beloit WI
I usually do not begin articles with places to stay but the Beloit WI lodging scene is central to the town’s story. The Ironworks Hotel is about six years old and is an affordable relaxed luxury boutique hotel. The design and theme are inspired by the 1850s Beloit Iron Works industrial foundry. The benefactor is Diane Hendricks, co-founder of ABC Supply (with her husband Ken Hendricks). Hendricks Commercial Properties is located in Beloit and is lovingly investing in and rebuilding many USA communities. Diane Hendricks is now the richest self-made woman in the USA and was born in nearby Janesville.
>>> Please also see Fun Things to Do in Janesville Wisconsin.
Ironworks Hotel Beloit—there is another Ironworks Hotel in Indianapolis—is a block from historic downtown Beloit, located on the Rock River. All rooms have elegant wood walls and countertops, plush robes, and rainfall showers.
Each suite has a fireplace and comfortable sitting area. Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint—on the ground level of Ironworks Hotel—pays homage to the founders of Beloit Iron Works (Orson Merrill and George Houston).
Hendricks Commercial Properties recently opened Hotel Goodwin across the street from Ironworks Hotel.
Beloit College is the oldest college in Wisconsin and was founded before Wisconsin was a state. The World Affairs Center received a donation from the Andrew Carnegie foundation—the only college to receive a library grant. The campus grounds has over two dozen effigy mounds. You can see these campus spots and much more on a student-led tour.
The exciting Powerhouse Project is converting the nearby coal plant (vacant since 2008) into a new student center. Scheduled to open in Fall 2019, The Powerhouse student center features efficient cooling and heating from Rock River running through the building.
The performing arts theater is based on the Guthrie theater in Minneapolis and hosts affordable performances for the public and allows anyone on campus to participate. The Jazz Ensemble incorporates local musicians into their performances. Oscar Mayer Hall houses the movie theater. The nephew of Oscar Mayer was a Beloit College student and spearheaded the donation.
The Logan Museum of Anthropology occupies two buildings on the Beloit College campus. Memorial Hall was built after the Civil War and the adjoining building was constructed in the 1970s. The public Logan Museum side is in the Memorial building and the centerpiece exhibit is the Cube, a visible storage. Advantages: minimizes handling, puts more on display, removes buffer between patrons/visitors and the artifacts.
Frank Logan established the museum in 1894 with 3,000 objects. The collection now has over 350,000 objects from 600 cultural groups, including a great collection of South American, Mexican, and US Native pottery and baskets. Frank Logan supported Roy Chapman Andrews—he was the inspiration for the Indiana Jones character—venture to Gobi and thus acquired many artifacts.
The Wright Museum of Art was a 1929 city driven project but has been operated by Beloit College since then. Wright’s heritage collection are plaster casts from the 1893 Chicago World Fair and the entire collection totals over 6,000 pieces—including Picasso and Rembrandt sketches. The building takes after Fogg Museum at Harvard University and is the only art museum within 50 miles.
Summer Concert Series Along the Rock River
For over 20 years, Friends of RiverFront has presented and hosted live music, dances, and movies at Harry’s Place and the big lawn at Riverside Park. Typically, they present 10 concerts on Friday evenings from mid June through August, a half dozen organized dance lessons, and a blockbuster film screening toward the end of summer.
Not sure if they sing Don’t Stop Beloitin’ after each performance but they totally should!
Across the Rock River from the Ironworks Hotel (use the convenient pedestrian footbridge between them), the Beloit Ironworks Campus is 25 acres and over 1 million square feet of converted office space. The Hendricks group (also owners of the Ironworks Hotel) renovated the former manufacturing and foundry buildings, which is now home to several businesses, including eBates and a modern and popular YMCA facility.
I loved walking around the Ironworks Campus, checking out the cool public art displays and features, and then walking across the Grand Avenue bridge, through downtown Beloit, and back to Ironworks Hotel on the Riverside Corridor trail.
Beloit Farmers’ Market
The downtown Beloit Farmers’ Market operates from the first Saturday in May until the last Saturday in October, between 8am and 1pm, rain or shine. Over 85 vendors weekly selling local organic produce, baked goods, honey, jams and jellies, fish, meat, eggs and cheese, fresh flowers, artisan crafts, and products.
Even on a rainy Labor Day weekend Saturday, the Beloit Farmers’ Market was still popular.
Kayaking in Beloit and Southern Wisconsin
For a fun adventure on the Rock River and other water areas in and around Beloit, join a kayaking tour with the local Paddle Adventure Club.
>>> See also Fun places to kayak in US.
Wonderful Beloit Wisconsin Restaurants
I loved the variety of high quality Beloit restaurants to choose from. Beloit has a fantastic farm to table scene, indicative of their popular farmer’s market and surrounding, well, farmland areas.
Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar
Burgers, burgers, and more burgers. You could order something besides a burger at Lucy’s but why would you. Seriously consider ordering their BOM (Burger of the Month), whatever it is, before moving on to explore the menu. Accompany that burger with an adult shake or other libation from the cool bar.
Bushel & Peck’s
Downtown Beloit’s Bushel & Peck’s Local Market started as an organic farm in 2002. The market opened six years later and is a popular place to shop, eat, dine, and drink. I loved putting beet ketchup on their delicious home fries.
Clara Bo & Gatsby
McCool Travel NOTE: Clara Bo closed in September 2019. Please support your favorite local restaurants so that they stay in business!
For a wonderful steak or delectable seafood dish, dine at Clara Bo and Gatsby Wine Bar in Beloit.
A couple of days before dining at 615 Club, we attended a bartending session at Lark Restaurant in nearby Janesville. There we learned the history of the Wisconsin Old Fashioned (and how to make one) and I continued my research at Beloit restaurants. Order the filet at 615 Club and you will thank me later.
Bagels & More
The morning muffins in the lobby of Ironworks Hotel are from Bagels & More but I also skipped over there for a luscious breakfast one morning. Cannot beat starting the day with a delicious omelette and bacon!
Velvet Buffalo Cafe
Located in Hotel Goodwin, Velvet Buffalo Cafe is one of the newest additions to the Beloit foodie scene. Visit the wine bar and try their stone oven pizzas and small food plates.
Located across the street from Lucy’s is another new addition to downtown Beloit. Truk’t serves street tacos, tequila, and whiskey—um, yes, please! “At truk’t, we like to keep things properly unproper.”
DC Estate Winery
Originally opened in 2014 with the name Dry Creek but a California winery already claimed it so they changed to DC. Dry Creek, the creek, runs through the property, but they currently use grapes from southern Illinois. DC will start stomping their own grapes in 2019.