Beloit’s Riverfront Snappy After Makeover

mjs-beloit-steelworker-muralAnyone who hasn’t been to Beloit in the past decade or so should be pleasantly surprised by the makeover this city’s downtown has undergone, thanks mainly to the largess of the late billionaire Ken Hendricks and his family.

A statue of Hendricks, who died in 2007, may soon be placed in one of the parks that line the Rock River as it flows through Beloit, past a former steel mill that now sports large, colorful murals highlighting Beloit’s industrial history.

The city also is home to the Beloit Snappers (a spiffy name for a baseball team), a liberal arts college with a connection to the movie character Indiana Jones, several museums, a riverside art scene and what boosters say is the largest farmers market in the state after Madison’s.

Things to do

Want to see the private collection of Oprah’s black angels? You’ll find them and thousands more from around the globe at Beloit’s Angel Museum, 656 Pleasant St. See www.angelmuseum.org.

The Riverside Park along the Rock River downtown features a 3.5-mile walking/biking path, the Wood Family Fishing Bridge, the Harry C. Moore Pavilion (fondly known as Harry’s Place), Rotary River Center, paddle boats in the lagoon, fishing, tennis courts and picnic shelters. See www.friendsofriverfront.com.

The farmer’s market runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday in downtown Beloit and features fresh produce, organics, fish, meat, eggs, herbs and flowers. See www.downtownbeloit.com.

Beloit’s natural and human history is displayed in its public art, which ranges from turtles to sculpture to a 100-foot mural of steelworkers. Ten pieces in and around Beloit’s City Center create a backdrop for the community. See www.visitbeloit.com.

The Hendricks Center for the Arts, at Grand Ave. and Pleasant St., offers community performances of theater and dance in a historic building donated to Beloit College by the Hendricks Family, www.beloit.edu.

The Beckman Mill, 11600 S. County Road H, is a great place for a picnic. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of Wisconsin’s few restored, working gristmills. The 50-acre Rock County Park also features a nature path, rebuilt dam, blacksmith shop display, fish ladder, wildflower garden and fishing pond. See www.beckmanmill.org. Next to the mill is the Welty Environmental Center, known for its nature programs, www.weltycenter.org.

Founded in 1846, Beloit College, 700 College St., sits on a wooded hill above the Rock River and has 20 effigy mounds sculpted by Late Woodland American Indians, www.beloit.edu. Visitors can view artifacts from around the world at the Logan Museum of Anthropology on the campus, www.beloit.edu/logan.

The school’s “Indiana Jones” connection? Roy Chapman Andrews is the Beloit native who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He went to college here in the 1920s and, so the story goes, was the model for the Indy character. See www.roychapmanandrewssociety.org.

Down in Riverside Park, kids can play in Turtle Island Playground. The park is designed around the adventures of Andrews and youngsters can dig for fossils, climb on dinosaur bones and splash in the freshwater creek. See www.friendsofriverfront.com.

The Beloit area offers more than 30 miles of navigable waterways offering scenic boating, kayaking and canoeing opportunities. Turtle Creek meanders right through Beloit, offering nature lovers an opportunity to see the quieter side of the city. Rentals and launches are available at the John Rose Canoe and Kayak Launch next to the Chester Square Parking Lot, 534 4th St.

A Grateful Dead tour bus and the bullet-riddled 1932 Studebaker used by John Dillinger to hold up an Indiana bank are two of the many highlights of Historic Auto Attractions, 13825 Metric Drive, Roscoe, Ill., www.historicautoattractions.com.

If you can tear yourself away from the Brewers’ run at the National League pennant, you might want to take in a Beloit Snappers game at minor-league prices. The Snappers are a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Fireworks and family events are offered throughout the season, which ends Sept. 5. See beloit.snappers.milb.com.

For golfers, the Krueger Haskell Course offers 6,103 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. The course rating is 69.2 and it has a slope rating of 121 on blue grass. This scenic city golf course offers 18 holes of newly renovated landscape and a clubhouse. www.kruegerhaskellgolf.com

The Beloit Horseshoe Club, 640 W Ravine Drive, brings some of the world’s best ringer-tossers to Beloit each May for Team World Championships. The club also hosts a number of events every week on its 13 outdoor courts and six sets of indoor pitching pits. The Wisconsin Horseshoe Pitcher’s Hall of Fame is here.

For culture, try the Wright Art Museum on the Beloit College campus, which offers both beautiful architecture as well as the fine art exhibits, www.beloit.edu/wright. Or the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, 520 E. Grand Ave., an art gallery and a co-op of artists’ studios in the old Bell Telephone building, www.beloitfineartsincubator.com.

The Gallery ABBA is operated by Beloit College “student owners.” It features professional, semiprofessional and amateur artists with the college network of students, www.beloit.edu/abba.

The Beloit Civic Theatre is a community-based group that has been in operation for more than 70 years. See www.beloitcivictheatre.org.

Lodging

The Beloit Inn, 500 Pleasant St., is a luxury boutique hotel with fireplaces, whirlpools and plush robes, www.beloitinn.com.

The Copperstone Inn, 6702 Yale Bridge Road, Rockton, Ill, is a B&B on 130 acres of a private estate that includes a bird and butterfly sanctuary, acres of wooded walking trails, two ponds, a 5,000-tree organic apple orchard and organic perennial and vegetable gardens. See www.copperstoneinn.com.

Dining

Beloit abounds in supper clubs. Try the 615 Club, 615 Broad St.; Benedetti’s Supper Club, 3232 Riverside Drive; The Butterfly Club, County Highway X, www.butterflyclub.us or the Liberty Inn, 1901 Liberty Ave.

The Café Belwah, 500 Pleasant St., is in the Beloit Inn and has a riverfront patio, cafebelwah.com.

Denali’s Food & Spirits, 443 East Grand, offers fine dining in a casual setting with seafood, pasta, steaks, sandwiches and vegetarian options.

Little Bistro, 315 State St., serves lunch and dinner, featuring house-made panini, burgers, salads, soups and pasta entrées.

Nikki’s Café, 604 Pleasant St., has a riverfront patio and serves a light breakfast and lunch all day with fresh-baked goods.

On the calendar

Learn to tango on Monday evenings at Harry’s Place in Riverside Park.

Listen to music Fridays at noon through Labor Day in downtown Beloit’s First National Bank Plaza. On Friday evenings, dance under the stars at Harry’s Place when the air fills with rumbas, blues and even an Irish tune or two. All events are free and family-friendly. See www.downtownbeloit.com.

Aug. 26. Music and More, Movie on the Big Lawn, Riverside Park, www.friendsofriverfront.com.

Sept. 9-11. Heritage Days, www.visitbeloit.com.

Sept. 9-10. Folk ‘n’ Blues, Beloit College, www.beloit.edu.

Sept. 9-11. Festival on the Rock, www.festivalontherock.com.

Sept.16-18. Auto Enthusiast Weekend in Beloit, www.beloitautorama.com.

Getting there

Beloit is about 75 miles southwest of Milwaukee via I-43.

More info

See the Beloit Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitbeloit.com for additional information on lodging, dining, events and attractions. Or call (608) 365-4838.

Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer.

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