I thought football would dominate the top 10 things to do in Green Bay – Go Packers, Go! But this city of 107,000 in northeastern Wisconsin has plenty of unique points of interest for the whole family, even for people who hate football. Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and have some new adventures? (Sound of fog and cheering crowd voices.)
It is the location of the upcoming season of the popular TV cooking competition, Top Chef. A Top Chef staffer was overheard saying at Green Bay’s Cedar and Sage Grill House, “This is the best stuffed French toast I’ve ever had.”
Traditional and innovative
1. Union Hotel & Super Club
Supper clubs are seeing a revival in Wisconsin. Of the two types—wooden with a log cabin feel and inner-city with linen tablecloths and napkins—the Union Hotel is the latter style. The Union Hotel dates back to 1883 and has been owned and operated by the Maternowski family since 1918.
Today, the fifth generation of Maternowskis host Green Bay coaches and players as well as the general public at their art deco-style bar and supper club.
I started my dinner with a “proper” Old Fashioned (Maker’s Mark bourbon, Angostura bitters, simple syrup), followed by the perfect relish tray with fresh vegetables, ham, liver pate, cheese, and homemade dinner rolls on the side. I chose a fried walleye for the entree. And candy? Schaum tart, a Wisconsin specialty: meringue, ice cream, and berries. Yum!
A former vegetable cannery, The Cannery is an incubator and test kitchen for many of the food hall’s new restaurant concepts, the first of its kind. Restaurant owners receive guidance in the business aspect of restaurant management in preparation for owning and operating their own successful brick-and-mortar locations.
Menu options open to the public include Jamaican, Colombian, and Italian favorites and drinks from Titletown Brewery. I loved the jerk chicken, the chilled coleslaw, and the coconut rice and peas.
Drinks, drinks, and more drinks
Green Bay’s brewery scene is thriving, and each has its own twist.
3. Cycling drinks
Located near the Fox River Trail, Cycling Brews is a taproom with bike decor and serves craft beer in a former church and, before that, a bowling alley (which might explain the spacious game room with cornhole, a bean bag toss game aimed at… To a hole in a shingle.) This fantastic brewery highlights local beers and “spins” through what’s available so there are always new brews to try.
4. Stillmank Beer Company
Purple beer, anyone? At Stillman Brewery Company, I found a rainbow of local brews including Wisco Hard Seltzer, which achieves its unique purple color by being steeped in Thai butterfly berries.
5. Cocoon fermentation
Definition of cocooning as a verb: “Retreating from the stressful conditions of public life into a comfortable private world.” This aptly describes Cocoon Brewing, which features a large patio and play lawn as well as individually themed, cabin-style outdoor seating for relaxing, chatting spinning records, and drinking. It almost felt like I was at summer camp but with IPAs instead of bug juice.
Will Top Chef contestants have to produce a fancy version of Midwestern favorites like fish boils, cheese curds, or hotspots? A modern twist on traditional supper club fare? In the meantime, beat the crowds and enjoy traditional eating, drinking, and adventure in Green Bay.
6. Bay Beach Amusement Park
I did not understand this friendly gesture until later.
With both historic and updated rides, the most notable attraction at Bay Beach Amusement Park is Zippin’ Pippin’, a wooden roller coaster with a heritage that includes Elvis. That’s right, while Elvis may not have ridden here, the Zippin’ Pippin’ is a replica of his favorite roller coaster. You could say that the screams of the riders as the cars hit the peaks and climb the steep hills echo the screams of the King himself.
As one of the oldest (1892) amusement parks in the United States, its prices may also be lower. Admission is free and tickets are only a quarter each. Tours usually cost 2-4 tickets. The tradition is to buy more tickets than you can use and hand them out to people entering the park. When I got out, I happily handed over my extras and got a high five in return.
7. Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
Less than a mile from Bay Beach Amusement Park, I hiked some of the five-and-a-half miles of walking trails at the Bay Beach Wildlife Rehab and Release Sanctuary.
Located on one of the world’s largest natural estuaries, Green Bay serves as a halfway house for migrating birds in the spring and fall. Ducks, geese, swans, cormorants, herons, eagles, cranes, owls, and many other species can be seen on the trails.
At moments, I felt like I was walking inside a birdcage. Exhibits are grouped by habitat, including rescue animals and their backgrounds, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the important work the shelter does. It was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding urban/suburban areas.
8. Go to the skate park
On my skateboard, I imagined I was a sidewalk surfer riding a wave down Northern Boulevard on my way to middle school. But these days, wheels are more than just a way to avoid the school bus.
The Midwest’s largest skate park, GBASO Skatepark (Green Bay Action Sports Organization), is a 22,000-square-foot, all-inclusive “No Skater Left Behind” where people of all ages are welcome on non-motorized wheels to practice and learn tricks: boards, bikes, inline skates, and scooters. Come in and rent a plate and safety equipment.
A day pass is only $15. A beginner’s area with male and female instructors will welcome beginners and more experienced skiers can practice on a large variety of slopes, bars, and bowls. Whether you’ve never been on the board before and are learning the ropes or working on your power slide, GBASO will welcome you into the fold.
9. Green Bay Botanical Gardens
As I walked down the quiet corridors and noticed the explosion of color beside me, I couldn’t help but pause momentarily in awe of the stunningly designed displays.
As the Green Bay Packers celebrate their 104th anniversary, the team’s yellow and green colors are everywhere, from football-shaped popcorn containers to banners hanging on backyard fences. The enthusiasm is palpable in a city that boasts the only non-profit, community-supported, publicly owned team with a record 13 World Series championships including four Lombardi Awards. I was open to learning more than I had gained on the sidelines of my family’s undying loyalty to the NY Jets.
10. Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field, the second largest football stadium in America, is where the action takes place. The stadium is named after legendary team founder Curly Lambeau, a local high school football player who returned to Green Bay after World War I, packed fish and meat at a local plant (Packers, get that?), and coached the Packers until 1949.
Take one of three available stadium tours: Classic (1 hour), Champion (1.5 hours), or Legendary (2 hours). My choice was the Classic, which took me 24 feet below street level near the stadium itself.
I walked through the tunnel, just like the Packers do at every home game, and even left my voiceprint in the tunnel as the tour guide told me: “Go, Packers, go!” I even got advice from the tour guide on how to find tickets to the games. (Hint: Exchange NFL tickets)
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame
After touring the stadium, take a guided tour of the Hall of Fame on the first and second floors of the stadium. Interactive exhibits will show how you live up to the rigors of Packers players past and present, learn the intricacies of weekly training camp, watch videos of famous plays, view media coverage from the team’s beginnings to the present day, and walk through a replica of the famous camp. Coach Vince Lombardi’s office. Even for a soccer newbie, there was a lot to interest me.
Just a minute away from Lambeau Field is Titletown, a 45-acre mixed-use development named to honor the Packers’ 13 titles. Titletown hosts a hotel, a brewery, startups, a football-themed stadium, and free events throughout the year like skating and tobogganing. Winter ice, fitness classes, night markets, and concerts. Although it didn’t turn me into a die-hard fan, I did appreciate the effort to unite the community and tourists under the Packers banner.
Green Bay travel resources
Where to stay
There are many hotel chains in Green Butte, but if you are traveling with a family, the best (if not the most luxurious) place to stay is Tundra Lodge, which has a three-story indoor water park with a lazy river. There is also a large arcade with all the bells and whistles of old-school Skee-Ball.
How to get to Green Bay
- Via Airport: The nearest airport is Austin Straubel International Airport, ten minutes away from Lambeau Field. It serves Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, 2goWienandmore, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Phoenix airports. I flew from LaGuardia NYC to O’Hare, Chicago, and called Austin Straubel.
- Train/Bus: Both Amtrak and Greyhound stop in Green Bay.
- Car: From Chicago, Illinois to Green Bay, Wisconsin, the trip takes about three hours by car. From Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Green Bay, Wisconsin, it takes about two hours by car.