It’s proud agricultural community with really deep rooted family farms, they open themselves up….you can stay there…or come for a day trip…

Leanna Bender

Administrative Outreach Specialist, Visit Pepin County

Today we hit the Great River Road for a road trip to Pepin County, birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder and much more. We talked with Leanna Bender, Administrative Outreach Specialist with Visit Pepin County, about all things Pepin. She hits on day trips, vacations, festivals, food, and accommodations for those looking to spend a day or two, or a week in Pepin County.

Special thanks to our Podcast Sponsors!


Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. Today we hit the Great River Road with a road trip to Pepin County, birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder and much more. We talked with Leanna Bender, Administrative Outreach Specialist with Visit Pepin County about all things Pepin. She hits on day trips, vacations, festivals, food and accommodations for those looking to spend a day or two or a week in Pepin County. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:12
I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:13
And this is La Crosse Local.

Leanna Bender 01:16
So I’m Leanna Bender. I am with Pepin County Land Conservation and I am the Administrative Outreach Specialist.

Brent Hanifl 01:23
So for people coming to the area, can you tell us a little bit about Pepin County?

Leanna Bender 01:27
Yeah, so we’re just north of La Crosse. We are the smallest county in Wisconsin. We’re located on the west side of Wisconsin, along Lake Pepin, and the Chippewa River and the Great River Road runs along our southern border.

Brent Hanifl 01:41
You know, I know a lot about Pepin County, at least driving through the Great River Road. Why should people consider this destination? Like you said, it’s kind of a smaller destination? What are the kind of key points for it?

Leanna Bender 01:52
Yeah, so what I like about Pepin county is that it’s far enough away, to get away from the crowds in the big cities, but it’s close enough where it’s just a day trip. So with gas prices going up, it’s kind of nice to just have those, you know, weekend day trips, were a lot like La Crosse, we’ve got the bluffs, we’ve got water. But again, we have fewer crowds.

Brent Hanifl 02:13
That’s something that I actually did a lot of when COVID were out of it, you know, pretty much out of it now. But going into these smaller communities, you really found out about the arts and culture, the small businesses that go up and down the different streets to the shops. I mean, it’s really kind of exciting. And also, you know, for someone who doesn’t like big cities like myself, it’s kind of a nice little day trip they can go up there for.

Leanna Bender 02:35
Yeah absolutely. We still have everything you’re looking for. You can still go shopping, you can still go up and get pie, you can go to a winery, but you’re not going to be running into huge crowds, huge lines. You’re saving money on gas, you’re safer, there’s a lot more outdoor recreation for you. It’s a good choice for a weekend vacation this summer.

Brent Hanifl 02:53
What has been something you know that you found to be most interesting about the area?

Leanna Bender 02:58
It’s definitely a proud agricultural community with really deep rooted family farms. And some of those farms offer they open themselves up and they offer you to stay there or you can come for like a day trip. You know, shop at their little farm. They have cute little farm stands. I think that’s probably what I’ve learned the most is how deep rooted these family farms are. I mean, going back to, you know, they can trace their roots back to Sweden or Norway or Germany. It’s interesting.

Brent Hanifl 03:25
Just kind of peeling through your website here,, you know, some of the things I’m interested in. We have some festivals like Artspire in La Crosse. But these more arts and culture ones, you know, you have some art fairs, you have some art galleries, what’s kind of coming up in the area and late into festivals?

Leanna Bender 03:42
Yeah, so Pepin County, again, is also full of art. So we’ve got our Fresh Art Tour that we have in the spring and the fall. So the next one coming up will be in October, the second weekend of October. And then the difference though, is that instead of walking to each art destination, it’s actually a self drive tour. So you’re driving through the countryside to these little art galleries back in the middle of nowhere and especially in the fall if you’re driving around these back roads in the bluffs with all the trees change in color, and if you’re heading over to these little art galleries, it’s just gorgeous.

Brent Hanifl 04:20
Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely one of the things that I really enjoy about those kind of one on one sort of personal experiences you really get to see where everything’s made you know. Another thing to check it out here, which is my family loves to camp, you know, you have a variety of different places to stay where it looks like you have camping, you have guesthouses, you have motels so it’s pretty much you know, something for everyone there correct?

Leanna Bender 04:41
Yeah, yeah, so we might not have the big hotels you know that La Crosse might have but we’ve got the unique Airbnbs. You can be up on the bluffs, you can be right next to the water. If you want to camp, you can camp in Stockholm right on the water. If you want to camp you know below the bluffs in Pepin. Arkansaw we’ve got camping. Durand has camping. We’ve kind of had a little bit of everything except the big hotels. So if you’re looking for a unique stay, you know, we’re the place for you.

Brent Hanifl 05:07
For those like flying or maybe driving in, you know, a little farther out what’s the best route to get there?

Leanna Bender 05:12
Yeah, so there’s four different highways that run through Pepin County, we’ve got Highway 35, which is the Great River Road. Otherwise, if you want to meet us on Highway 10, or going south on Highway 25, or even Highway 85, you can get us on any of those.

Brent Hanifl 05:27
So what’s coming up in Pepin County? What’s something you think people should you know, if this is the first time here in the area, which one should they go to coming up?

Leanna Bender 05:33
If I were coming up to Pepin County, I would plan for Laura Days. Laura Days is a unique experience. You can actually go and see where Laura was born. You can even dress up like Laura. If your kids are looking for something to do, they can learn how to be a pioneer. It’s just a very unique weekend that you’re not going to find anywhere else.

Brent Hanifl 05:56
So if people want to check out Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, September 10th and 11th, 2022. What’s the best avenue for them to go to for that and, you know, places to stay, food, dining, all that jazz?

Leanna Bender 06:08
Yeah, they can head over to our website, Otherwise, our Facebook and Instagram, Visit Pepin County as well. You can find Laura Days on there, they have a website, and then you can click on that. Otherwise we have any information you might need either in our visitor guide or on our website, too.

Amy Gabay 06:29
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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