Wisconsinites certainly know how to make the most out of their summer.
But all-too-often, the summer sneaks by and before you know what happened, it’s Labor Day and you feel like you didn’t have half as much fun as you’d hoped.
We’ve mentioned before that a nice thing about living in Northeast Wisconsin is how close we are to one of the premier vacation spots in the nation – Door County. You don’t even have to be on vacation to enjoy what the Door Peninsula has to offer.
All the festivities, fresh air, special shops and restaurants are just a short drive away – especially if you stop in Sturgeon Bay.
This charming little city on Lake Michigan is the perfect place for a day trip. No packing luggage. No asking the boss for time off. No need to find someone to feed your goldfish. Just hop in the car and go.
Make the most of your summer this year! Take a look at what’s waiting for you in Sturgeon Bay…
1. Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair
Saturday May 24th – Sunday May 25th 2014
The Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair makes a perfect family-day adventure or a nice outing for two.
Almost 100 artists from the Midwest will have their work on display in Sunset Park – along the scenic waterfront. You’ll find original sculptures, paintings, jewelry, ceramics, fiber art, photography and more cool stuff for sale.
Maybe you’ll find that one-of-a-kind painting you’ve been looking for or a unique sculpture to help decorate your yard. Anything you get at the Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair will make a great conversation piece!
While you’re there, a walk through the eye-popping 3D sculpture garden is a must!
You’ll get to listen to live music and grab a bite to eat. There will also be plenty of children’s art activities. Your little artists will love the strolling violinist, concertina and clowns!
2. Live Outdoor Music in Sturgeon Bay
There are a few summer events in Sturgeon Bay that will please all sorts of music lovers! Two popular ones are Jazz on Jefferson Street and Harmony by the Bay. Here’s a bit about each event.
Jazz on Jefferson Street
Saturday July 12th, 2014
Jazz on Jefferson Street is a long-time Sturgeon Bay tradition. It’s a full day of family entertainment with things that will excite both you and your kids.
There will be live jazz performances including one from Kevin Van Ess and The Talk of The Town.
Van Ess – also known as Jazzman – was voted Best Jazz Clarinet Player in Wisconsin and has made appearances on 60 Minutes, the NFL Fox Pre-Game Show and ESPN Sports. You can hear a clip of him below playing Basin Street Blues. He sounds amazing!
The fest will also have good food and all sorts of great carnival-style activities for the kids. Games, face painting, balloons and a petting zoo!
You’ll also get an old-world shopping experience along Jefferson Street with unique things you won’t find in typical stores. Original clothes, games, home decor boutiques, coffee shops – among others. Plus, many of these stores have great specials during Jazz Fest.
Harmony by the Bay
June 18th – August 27th, 2014
Harmony by the Bay is Sturgeon Bay’s summer concert series in Martin Park on Wednesday nights from 7-9 PM. It’s a pretty a diverse line-up of musicians this summer, featuring everything from traditional blues and American rock, to reggae and symphonic music.
The July 2nd concert should be a great one! The group Semi Twang from Milwaukee will perform their blend of alternative county and America roots rock. On August 20th, Frank from Let Me Be Frank Productions, will give a hilarious tribute review of artists from the 60s. The last performance of the summer is by a Fox Valley band called Unity. Their unique sound combines rock, roots, blues and reggae.
Check out the full schedule of concerts to pick what fits your taste. But don’t be afraid to try something different – it’s free!
3. Maritime Week 2014: A Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard
Maritime Week: A Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard, will be an extra special celebration this year.
That’s because in January, Sturgeon Bay was officially proclaimed “a coast guard city” by congress. This means the city has done an excellent job supporting and honoring military and coast guard personnel in the area.
Sturgeon Bay is the 16th official Coast Guard community in the entire nation as well as the first and only in Wisconsin.
An official proclamation ceremony was recently held on the waterfront in Sawyer Park.
During Maritime Week, from July 31st to August 10th, dozens of events will be happening all around Sturgeon Bay. There will be huge sidewalk sales, sailboat, dinghy and wooden boat races, fireworks, a Peninsula Symphonic concert, a golf outing and more.
Get all the details so you can plan a day trip or two.
4. Sturgeon Bay West Fest
Saturday August 9th, 2014
The wild wild west comes to life at this family event on Madison Avenue and Oak Street Saturday, August 9th.
Don’t forget to wear your cowboy boots and cowgirl hats and be prepared to take a ride on the mechanical bull!
West Fest is an old-fashioned western-themed party for all ages. There will be a petting zoo, a bounce house and carnival games galore. Plus, live music by local bands will fill the streets. You can check out the craft show, shopping specials, and enter to win a new boat or a cash prize in the Gold Rush Giveaway.
At Sturgeon Bay’s down home West Fest, the carnival food is always a favorite. Especially the chili cook-off! Join the contest if you dare. Folks can also chow down on hot tamales, corn on the cob, crepes and the ever-popular kettle corn. You’ll get to wash it all down with a beer, of course.
5. Sturgeon Bay Farmer’s Market
Saturdays, June 7th – October 25th
Fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies that are in harmony with the season are the best! If you like hanging out at your own city’s local farmer’s market, you will love exploring Sturgeon Bay’s festive Saturday morning market from 8:30-noon.
Some people say it’s the best farmer’s market in the area. Plus, it’s a great way to get a taste of Sturgeon Bay’s community life and foods from local kitchens.
I can’t wait to get some sweet corn!
You’ll find all sorts of locally grown foods – including those tart and sweet Door County cherries! Perhaps you’ll even get to try a DC cherry filled crepe fresh off the griddle. YUM. Plus, you can sample locally-made brats and other meats, fresh fish, cheeses, homemade breads, honey, maple syrup and jams.
This market always has a variety of handmade Door County style crafts too. You might find furniture made out of vintage red barn wood, handmade clothing and jewelry, local photography, an original birdhouse or some creative yard art.
It’s also the perfect place to look for beautiful plants to spruce up your garden. You can find annuals, perennials and flowers from Sturgeon Bay area greenhouses and landscapers.
- You can find this market at Market Square, 421 Michigan St., downtown Sturgeon Bay.
6. Sturgeon Bay Parks & Beaches
There are more than 50 public beaches along the Door County Peninsula – so there’s no reason to wish you lived close to the ocean when you already live near Lake Michigan!
Sunset Park is 41 acres of fun and definitely worth a day trip with the whole family. Pack a lunch and get comfy on the large sandy beach. Even if you have little ones who are just learning how to swim, the shoreline makes a safe, shallow area for them to play.
You can break up the day with some fishing or a half mile walk on the nature trail. There are two playground areas for the kids too.
Sunset Park is also great for fitness buffs! There’s an exercise course a little more than a mile long with 11 circuit training stations. Plus, tennis and basketball courts and a 9-hole Frisbee golf course too.
Many Sturgeon Bay events also happen at Sunset Park – including the Fine Art Fair. It’s the perfect spot to see some fantastic fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Make sure you stick around to see the sunset. There’s a reason why the park got its name!
On the opposite side of Sturgeon Bay is where you will find Otumba Park. It’s small, quiet and secluded with a beautiful white sand beach surrounded by rolling sand dunes. On the beach, you’ll get an awesome view of the adjoining shoreline. Plus, there’s a gorgeous waterfront walkway leading to Sawyer Park at the foot of the Oregon-Maple Street bridge.
There are also public grills so you can cook up some dinner when you get hungry, or maybe even check out one of the many nearby local restaurants!
Visit SturgeonBay.net to find out about other parks and beaches in the area.
7. Hiking and Biking in Sturgeon Bay
There are a few nice trails in Sturgeon Bay and the surrounding area that all offer a little something different. Two popular state trails are the Ahnapee and Potawatomi. Here’s a little bit about each one.
Ahnapee State Trail
Back in the 1890s, the Ahnapee State Trail was a short line railroad called the A&W. It traveled from Casco Junction through Algoma and all the way to Sturgeon Bay carrying dairy goods, cherry crop and lumber – until the 1970s.
You’ll still see remains of dated concrete bridges, historic warehouses and manufacturing buildings as you travel on the Ahnapee Trail through Door, Brown and Kewaunee counties.
Besides experiencing a little piece of history, this trail gives you 46 miles of scenic Wisconsin countryside – with open farmland and old red barns. You’ll also pass through many different forest types with great views of the Kewaunee River, a small apple orchard, deep quiet woods, high grasses and a swamp area filled with cattails.
If you are a biker, it would be fun to make a whole day out of traveling this trail. I’ve been told it is worth getting a sore butt!
You could even start off with breakfast in Algoma. Then head north until you finally arrive in downtown Sturgeon Bay for dinner along the waterfront.
Potawatomi State Park
Door County is home to five state parks. Potawatomi State Park, in Sturgeon Bay, is one of our family’s favorites.
It’s 1,200 acres of natural beauty – perfect for hiking and biking – especially while you’re camping! There are four trails to choose from ranging from a short half mile to 3.6 miles.
These trails are rugged and woodsy, and eventually climb to a high point of 120 feet above Sturgeon Bay. You’ll also find off-road bike trails.
Our family has gone camping at Potawatomi a couple of times. There’s a nice beach area and a 75-foot high observation tower with an amazing view of the bay!
Now if you’ve read through this list and more than a few things caught your eye, you might be thinking “How can I possibly do it all in one day?”
Well, maybe you can’t. Maybe you should consider spending a weekend or a few days during the week. Check out the hotels & resorts located in Sturgeon Bay and extend your stay to more than a day!
- Visit Sturgeonbay.net to find more Sturgeon Bay events, restaurants and lodging info
- Keep in touch when you Like Sturgeon Bay on Facebook
If you’d rather talk to a live person about any Sturgeon Bay events, you can visit the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center at 36 S. Third Avenue. Also call 920-743-6246 or 1-800-301-6695.
Have you spent some time in Sturgeon Bay? Tell us about your favorite experiences. Leave a comment below!