Believe it or not – there are other things to do up in Green Bay besides go to a Packers game.
And there are other reasons to drive down towards Appleton besides shopping at the Fox River Mall.
Our two communities really aren’t that far away. For most of us – a half hour drive north or south on Highway 41 takes us to a new place with new things to do, new food to eat and new people to meet.
So why don’t we take advantage of it more often? Why do we seem stuck in our hometowns?
My wife and I were discussing this the other night after the kids were in bed. The truth is – we are just as guilty as everyone else. It wasn’t until our jobs forced us to expand our horizons that we realized all the stuff we were missing.
Ashley and I call the Green Bay area home – but we’ve both worked in the Fox Cities. I spent time covering local entertainment and nightlife for the newspaper in Appleton, while she worked in marketing at a natural health store. Now we regularly make plans to visit the Fox Valley with the family.
If you’re one of those people who complains when you have to drive from the east side to the west side of town (or vice versa), it’s time to change your attitude and get just a little bit adventurous.
Gas prices may still be out of control – but there are some destinations 30 minutes from where you live that are totally worth the drive. We’ve listed ten of them – five from the Green Bay area and five from the Fox Cities – that you really need to experience for yourself.
Check out Ashley’s infographic for the complete list with highlights, and keep reading below for all the details:
5 Places You Have to Visit in the Green Bay Area
1. Bay Beach Amusement Park
Not every city can say it has its own amusement park.
No, it’s not Six Flags or Cedar Point, but Bay Beach Amusement Park is an incredibly fun way to spend a summer day with your family. And a lot of people who live outside the Green Bay area have never been there!
It’s also extremely affordable. Tickets are just 25-cents each, and most rides are one or two tickets. Pack a picnic lunch and you can easily spend less than $20 at Bay Beach and have an amazing time. You’ll probably even have enough left over to get some cotton candy or snow cones.
The rides at Bay Beach include classics like the carousel, the miniature train ride, bumper cars and a Ferris wheel. There’s also carnival favorites like the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Scrambler and the Scat. Plus, plenty of easy-going rides for little ones.
The biggest attraction at Bay Beach is the Zippin Pippin roller coaster, which opened to the public in 2011. There are plans to add another new thrill ride in the near future.
While you’re in the area – you can also visit the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary – for free. Plus, there are Go-Karts, batting cages, mini golf and more nearby.
This park isn’t just for kids and family’s either. Check out Roxy’s story about making it a Bay Beach Date Night.
2. The Weidner Center
One of the most impressive things about the UW Green Bay campus is the Weidner Center. It’s an absolutely beautiful venue, and while it’s had its share of ups and downs – the Weidner is now bringing Broadway and off-Broadway shows to the Green Bay area again.
This past season there was Shrek: The Musical, Fiddler on the Roof and A Chorus Line. The Weidner also hosts big-time comedians. I went to see Jerry Seinfeld several years ago. Lewis Black was there earlier this year, and comedian Jim Gaffigan will perform on July 27th.
The Green Bay Symphony Orchestra is headquartered and performs at the Weidner. You can also catch performances from the university’s music and theater departments.
Look for the 2013-2014 season details to be released soon.
3. The Fox River Trail
The Fox River State Recreational Trail is 25 miles long. It follows the path where railroad tracks once traversed the east side of the Fox River in Brown County. Ten of the 25 miles of trail are paved, and it travels through both the cities of De Pere and Green Bay.
If you want to hike or bike into the countryside – start near Voyager Park in De Pere and head south. But you can also head straight into downtown Green Bay traveling north.
This trail is great for outdoor exercise. However, it’s also a good place to simply take a leisurely stroll and explore the area. Even dogs are welcome on the trail, as long as you scoop up the poop.
There are plenty of places to stop along the way and have some fun – including Zesty’s Frozen Custard. Pop in for a cocktail at places like Jimmy Seas or the Fox Harbor Pub and Grill, which even has a back patio along the trail with a fire pit.
If you’ve got a boat, there are a bunch of places to launch along the trail and head north to the Bay. The Fox River Trail is also a great place to catch the sunset.
4. The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame
Maybe you get to go inside Lambeau Field to watch a Packers game now and then. But have you ever checked out the Packers Hall of Fame? If you’re a die-hard fan of the Green and Gold – it’s a must.
The room displaying all the dazzling Lombardi trophies alone might be enough of a reason to visit. It seriously takes your breath away being that close to Super Bowl glory.
Unfortunately – the Green Bay Packers’ website dedicated to their HOF doesn’t really do the experience justice. You’ll get to see tons of interesting memorabilia – including a replica of Vince Lombardi’s office. Watch films and videos that let you relive your favorite moments in Packers history. Plus, there are lots of interactive exhibits for kids too.
While you’re there – check out everything else you may have missed when you went to the game because you were worried about the crowds and traffic.
NOTE – The Packers Hall of Fame will temporarily be moved to the Neville Public Museum during Lambeau Field renovations in 2014.
5. Heritage Hill State Historical Park
History comes to life at this unique location right off Highway 172 in Allouez (south of downtown Green Bay).
You’ve probably driven past it countless times, but have you ever spent a day exploring Heritage Hill?
Whether state and local history interests you or not, Heritage Hill is a fun escape into a different world. The so-called living history museum seeks to preserve buildings and artifacts connected to Wisconsin. There are four different areas representing different parts of Northeast Wisconsin’s heritage.
Actors dressed in period clothing are all over the place, and you can interact with them – asking questions about their lives and jobs. There are special events held throughout the year, but it really picks up in the summer.
You’ll find musical performances, U.S. Civil War reenactments and a variety of educational series. One of the park’s most popular events is Laura Ingalls Wilder Days (July 26th & 27th 2013). Stars from the TV series Little House on the Prairie even show up as special guests.
5 Places You Have to Visit in the Appleton Area
1. The Comedy Clubs
The comedy scene in Green Bay is changing for the better – but if you want to see a top-notch comedy show featuring notable standup comics – you have to go to the Fox Cities.
At Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton you’ll get to see some of the hottest up-and-coming comics. These are often the comedians who are shooting their first specials for Comedy Central. In fact, Skyline is a popular place for standups to record comedy albums. That’s because we laugh so loudly around here.
If the headliner isn’t someone you’ve already heard of like Doug Benson, Amy Schumer or TJ Miller – there’s a good chance it’s someone everyone will be talking about soon. You’ll see them at Skyline one weekend – and then performing on one of the late night talk shows a few weeks later. Lewis Black was a frequent headliner at Skyline until he started selling out huge theaters like the Weidner. You’ll see many other familiar faces in the headshots hanging on the walls.
When you make the trip down there, you can also grab dinner at The Stone Cellar. This popular Appleton restaurant brews its own beer and makes a really tasty root beer too.
A quick tip for the guys – make sure you empty your bladder before the show.
You see, the men’s bathroom at Skyline is right next to the stage. So if you have to take a leak during a comic’s performance, you’re almost guaranteed to become the target of some ribbing. I’ve even seen comedians follow guys into the bathroom with the mic to talk to them while they pee. But maybe you like that kind of attention. At least now you know!
2. The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Some of the biggest Broadway shows come to the Fox Cities PAC in Appleton. You can catch extremely popular productions like Wicked and The Lion King, but it also hosts plenty of local arts and entertainment events.
In my personal opinion – the arts and entertainment scene down in the Appleton area trumps the Green Bay scene. Appleton is a little bit artsier and Green Bay is a little more blue-collar. Nothing wrong with that! Just the way it seems to be.
The PAC is located right on College Avenue in downtown Appleton. So you can also explore the restaurants, bars and shops in that area.
The 2013-2014 season at the PAC has some great Broadway shows including Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, Memphis and Flashdance. Check out Upcoming Events at the Fox Cities PAC or explore options for Season Tickets.
In addition to the big Broadway stuff, the PAC also has the Arts Alive Series. This program often features more intimate concerts and unique theatrical performances. Of course, the Fox Cities PAC is also where you’ll often find the Fox Cities Symphony and other events with local connections.
3. Shop and Bar Hop on College Avenue
If you want to spend a day (or an evening) exploring downtown Appleton – you’ll find plenty to eat, drink and do along College Avenue.
If you’re looking to do some shopping, there are thrift stores like Beatnik Betty’s Resale Butik and Bellybeans with clothes for expectant moms and babies.
Globally Sound Fair Trade is a cool place for eco-friendly shoppers. Music lovers will find treasures at Appleton Import Records. Pick out a stogie or have them break out the hookah at Appleton Souvenir and Cigar. Find a unique bottle of wine or tasty micro-brew at Flannagan’s Stop & Shop.
That just begins to name the many stores on College Avenue.
Want to go bar-hopping? There’s a plethora of options and a few funky places you really can’t miss. One of them is Cleo’s Brown Beam, where they make mean cocktails and the Christmas lights stay up all year long. This tavern is a favorite drinking spot for comedian Lewis Black when he comes to town (if you’re keeping track that’s the third time we mentioned Lewis Black in this article).
Deja Vu Martini Lounge is a cool bar that’s slightly swanky yet comfortable and friendly at the same time. It’s the perfect place to take a date. And if you need a change of scene, the Monkey Bar is located right upstairs offering tropical drinks and a more casual setting.
The Leg Lamp Lodge is another bar on College Avenue with some fun atmosphere. It gets its name because the windows are all decorated with glowing female legs in fishnet stocking – ala the classic film A Christmas Story. There are also a bunch of eclectic seating areas with a retro feel. You’ll find this place in the upstairs of The Bar on The Avenue.
You can also find just about any kind of food at the bars and restaurants along College Avenue. Get a slice of pizza at Frank’s Pizza Palace – the oldest pizzeria in Appleton. Have some sushi at Katsu-Ya of Japan. Chow down on some Mexican cuisine at Senor Frogs. Grab a gyro at Josef’s Gyro Kabobs. And of course there are plenty of great places to get a burger – including The Wooden Nickel, which claims to be Appleton’s oldest sports bar.
There’s so much to see on College Avenue, you may even need to stay the night. The Radisson Paper Valley hotel is right in the middle of all the action and is one of the nicest hotels in Northeast Wisconsin. It is where the Packers’ opposing team stays after all.
4. Fox Cities Stadium – Timber Rattlers
This year, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are the defending Midwest League Champions. The team’s home, Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, is a great place to enjoy America’s favorite pastime.
If you’re a baseball fan, you already know that since 2009 the Timber Rattlers have been the Milwaukee Brewers’ Class A affiliate in the minor leagues. In the past, the team was affiliated with the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals.
After the Green Bay Packers – this is the biggest thing in sports that Northeast Wisconsin has going for it. Ticket prices are affordable too. Stadium seating starts at $8 and you can get a spot on the grass near the infield for just $5.
Some pretty big names have played for the Timber Rattlers. They include Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. You never know when the next baseball stars may emerge from the Fox Cities Stadium.
The ballpark is easy to get to with access right off of Highway 41. Going to the game is a fun event for sports fans and families alike. In fact – Ashley highlighted the Timber Rattlers’ in our article on 18 Unique Birthday Party Ideas for Kids.
If you don’t go to watch the Timber Rattlers – the Packers also play at Fox Cities Stadium once every year. But they play softball. Retired wide reciever and Dancing with the Stars Champion, Donald Driver, hosts his celebrity softball game there. It takes place this year on June 16th.
5. High Cliff State Park
Just south of Appleton, near the village of Sherwood, is a great place for outdoor recreation – from hiking, biking and camping to boating, fishing and horseback riding.
High Cliff State Park sits on more than 1100 acres right next to Lake Winnebago. There is beachfront to enjoy and around 26 miles of trails, some of which traverse the steep bluffs and limestone cliffs. The area was once home to a limestone quarry.
Other highlights include the Look Out Tower, which lets you see for more than 30 miles, the Native American effigy mounds, which made the park part of the National Register of Historic Places, and a nature center that’s open during the summer season.
High Cliff is an excellent place to learn about some of the natural history of Northeast Wisconsin. It’s also perfect for family camping or just to escape into nature for a little while.
Learn more about other places to take a hike when you check out Zak’s article on some of his favorite trails in Northeast Wisconsin.
What Are Your Suggestions?
We tried to list the big ones here. But we know there’s much more to explore in Green Bay and the Fox Cities. After all – that’s why we created WhooNEW.
Tell us about the places in your hometown that visitors can’t afford to miss. Leave a comment below!