A Weekend Getaway to Oshkosh, the Fox Cities and Green Bay
Come for the air show then stay for the shopping, scenic vistas and summertime fun . . . and maybe even check out the training camp and stadium of the Bears archrivals
With summer is on the horizon, many of us start itching to get away. If you’re looking for a quick weekend trip, head due north into Wisconsin. A three-hour drive will take you to Oshkosh, on the western shore of Lake Winnebago. A little further up the road will lead you through the Fox Cities of Neenah, Menasha, Appleton and Kaukauna to Green Bay, the home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
Oshkosh, by Gosh
Legend has it the streets of Oshkosh were once paved with one-inch thick pine. It’s fitting, given what an important part the timber and logging industries played in founding the city and in facilitating construction across the country. Lumber barons, entrepreneurs and merchants were some of the first residents to build homes and settle in the Oshkosh area. Many of those historic homes and buildings are preserved to this day.
Quite likely you’re familiar with one of the biggest organized events in Oshkosh — the EAA Airventure, run by the Experimental Aircraft Association. The world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts, attracting 500,000 people from 80 countries, this week long festival takes place July 23 – 29 this year and has a little something for everyone.
For seven days from sunrise to well past sunset, the skies over Oshkosh are filled with dazzling displays of aerobatics. Nearly 10,000 aircraft will fly into the area, including 3,000 show planes. Daily air shows feature everything from the latest innovations in aviation to historical aircraft and vintage and warbird showcases. There are night time shows on Wednesday and Saturday, too. Rare British aircraft, American Barnstormers and the B-29 Doc will all make appearances.
Back down to earth, there are informative programs and hands-on workshops, diverse aircraft spanning all eras of flight, concerts to keep you rockin’ into the night, and much, much more. You can experience various airplanes up close when you stroll through the “aircraft neighborhoods” on-ground display. Add to that a Runway 5K, a veteran’s parade and the chance to welcome home the Old Glory Honor Flight.
Coming to Oshkosh at a different time of year? The EAA Museum is open daily and features an aviation adventure speaker series, virtual cockpit tours and aircraft on display, including a Spirit
of St. Louis replica and a 1938 Bugatti Model 100 Racer.
If you want an experience that’s a little more grounded, take a tour of the Paine Art Center and Gardens. This historic Tudor Revival-style country estate is surrounded by more than 500 trees and 20 gardens, which are designed as intimate, outdoor rooms showcasing native perennials, wildflowers and shrubs, as well as changing annuals and bulbs throughout the season. The estate itself is a confluence of over three centuries of English styles blended with the natural beauty and resources of Wisconsin.
If you’ve got the kids in tow, you will want to check out the Family Discovery Gallery, which highlights hands-on activities for all ages about art, architecture and gardens. This summer’s special exhibit will display over 60 treasured pieces from renowned glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.
To get your legs moving a little more, head over to the Menominee Park Zoo and Little Oshkosh Playground. This 109-acre park, which stretches along the shore of Lake Winnebago, just about has it all — a zoo with upwards of 50 animals, a miniature train, amusement rides, a merry-go-round, plus access to Wisconsin’s largest lake within state borders. Go for a swim or rent a paddleboat and, if fishing is your thing, make sure to bring along a rod, as Lake Winnebago is known for walleye, muskie, bass and pike, to name just a few. Come back in winter if ice-fishing for sturgeon is your preference.
Locally owned shops in downtown Oshkosh offer a nice selection of unique finds. AtomicKatz is the place for funky and vintage styles — from the 1920s to the 1980s — whether you’re looking for clothing, jewelry, furniture or accessories. Crescent Moon Antiques & Salvage is the perfect place if you dig vintage building materials or have a home project you’re looking to finish off with something special.
When you’re ready to whet your whistle and grab a few snacks, make sure you stop at one of Oshkosh’s hole-in-the-wall bars. At Roy’s, you can order a Bloody Mary with a corndog or a twice-baked potato. Who doesn’t love a pint-sized brunch? At Pete’s Garage, you’ll get to experience made-from-scratch Old Fashioneds (a Wisconsin must) and get the quarter-pound Gas Cap burger for $2.50. When was the last time you paid so little for something so good?
Fox Cities: Following the River North
The Fox Cities are made up of the 19 communities along the Fox River as it flows from Lake Winnebago northward into Green Bay. And, they’re just a short drive north from Oshkosh.
It’s paper that really boosted the economy in this area of the state. All the riveting questions you can ask about the paper industry will be answered at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, including the step-by-step process from tree to paper.
After paper, glass. The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah offers free admission, a gift shop filled with beautiful glassware and displays of glass in all its various forms.
Opened in 1959 to house the largest and most representative collection of glass paperweights in the world, it has expanded to include antique Germanic drinking vessels, Victorian art glass and contemporary studio glass. The museum makes for an intriguing afternoon out for those who love art and enjoy color.
The area around the Fox Cities is a great place to hike, with many trails skirting around the shores of Lake Winnebago. At a vast 1,187 acres, High Cliff State Park features limestone cliffs sacred to Native Americans, effigy mounds, a lime kiln and quarry, a campground, plus 16 miles of trails.
Late June will see the opening of the new Loop the Lake Trail, a 5K loop which connects Neenah and Menasha and crosses the Fox River twice, as well as the Little Lake Butte des Morts. Discover Fritse and Arrowhead parks, as well as covered bridges offering observation decks. The Parks Commission plans to add temporary art along the trail.
Are you curious to see a real windmill in action? Head over to Little Chute and discover an authentic, fully-functioning 1850s windmill from the Netherlands. At over 100-feet tall, the structure was designed and built in the Netherlands, disassembled, shipped to Little Chute and re-assembled where it stands today. Inside, you’ll find a small museum on Dutch settlement in the region, as well as a historical archive and genealogy workspace.
The Fox Cities area prides itself on having “Wisconsin’s Best Shopping.” Indeed, the Fox River Mall in Grand Chute, with 140 stores, is a prime destination for any serious shopper and perfect for a weekend spree. From fashion outlets like Forever 21, Chico’s, Hollister Co. and Sephora to home decor retailer Pottery Barn and sporting goods store Scheels All Sports, there’s something for everyone. Specialty stores like Amaze & Grace, a vintage goods and arts market, won’t disappoint those looking for one-of-a-kind finds.
Don’t limit yourself to the mall, though, as downtown shopping offers its own brand of fun. Red Door Mercantile in downtown Neenah, for example, is an urban emporium — a modern day general store bursting with gifts, home décor items, primitive antiques and unusual finds. While you’re there, don’t miss Elements Unleashed, where you can find high-end fashions as well as vintage, western wear and steampunk selections.
Similarly, downtown Appleton has an eclectic collection of boutiques and galleries, including Urban Revolutions, a showroom of gifts and home furnishings and accessories lovingly restored or crafted from architectural salvage. Grand Chute is home to the 20,000-sq-ft Fox River Antique Mall.
Each Saturday from June through October, the downtown Appleton Farm Market sets up on College Avenue, featuring more than 150 vendors selling fresh produce and flowers, exotic meats and cheeses, breads and baked goods, specialty foods and handcrafted items. Live music keeps you singing while you shop. When the weather turns colder, the market moves inside the City Center Plaza. Neenah also has a Saturday morning farmers market during summer.
For something completely different, make your way to The Shinery Moonshine Company in Appleton, where you can try samples of nearly 50 different moonshines, plus moonshine-infused products. Moonshine Pickles, anyone?
You’re in dairyland, so why not visit a fifth-generation owned dairy, where you can treat yourself to some homemade, rBGH-free soft serve right on the farm? At Lamers Dairy, also in Appleton, you can see milk being bottled, in glass nonetheless, and peruse the general store for milk cheese, and other Wisconsin products. The award-winning chocolate milk is something special!
Before you head north to Green Bay, there’s a little bit of football you won’t want to miss in Appleton. In late June, as the Packers prepare to celebrate the team’s 100th anniversary, a traveling exhibit that tells the story of American pro football will open at the History Museum at the Castle. “Gridiron Glory” showcases rare footballs, Super Bowl trophies and memorabilia belonging to the Canton, Ohio-based Football Hall of Fame.” There will be a “Hometown Tribute” area that focuses on the Packers. A centerpiece is Don Hutson’s jersey.
Green Bay: More than a Ball Game
We know you’re audibly groaning, Bears fans, but you can have fun in Green Bay and maybe even admire the huge amount of hometown pride that the locals show to their hometown team.
In August, the Green Bay Packers open up their training camp to the public, which is many people’s only chance to get a seat at Lambeau Field. Plus, the players ride their bikes into practice, which is a site to behold.
Dedicated Packer fans and visitors alike can take a self-guided walking tour with either the Oneida Nations Walk of Legends or The Packers Heritage Trail. Head into the atrium at Lambeau Field to visit the Packers Hall of Fame.
Just across the road from Lambeau Field is the newly developed Titletown Park. Open year-round, the space is an enlarged version of the ultimate backyard — relaxing green spaces, a book and art carts, and a playground with play areas for different ages and designed around a NFL Play 60 theme. You can toss a pigskin on the regulation football field, or get your backyard-game on with shuffleboard, horseshoes or bocce. Come back in winter, and you’ll see the park transformed into an ice skating rink and tubing hill.
In the Titletown area, you’re within steps of several good dining options including 46 Below, a bistro serving quick bites and comfort food; Hinterland, a restaurant and brewery that is a 20-year fixture with a multitude of menu options; and Taverne in the Sky, which offers panoramic views of Lambeau.
Also in Titletown, just across the street from Lambeau Field, is Lodge Kohler, Green Bay’s first luxury hotel, opened a little less than a year ago. Fans of the American Club will find many of the same special touches here, including personalized guest service, full amenities, Kohler bathrooms and the opportunity to visit the elegant Kohler Waters Spa.
Another relaxing spot worth a visit is the Green Bay Botanical Garden, which features 47 acres of display gardens and natural areas designed to capture the beauty of Northeast Wisconsin’s four distinct seasons.
A Western Springs native, Candice Wagener is a longtime resident of Madison who enjoys writing about her love for Wisconsin dining, entertainment and travel.Edit Module