By Kristine Hansen | Photo ©Travel Wisconsin
Don’t tell football fans — and especially those in Wisconsin — but Green Bay is not just about the Packers. This city of 107,000 people is packed with art, culture, dining, quirky spots and unique attractions.
One way to see the city while also getting some exercise in is to rent an e-bike. These are available through Bird, a bike-share program. Or are you itching to get out into nature? Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico is a 20-minute drive north of downtown and spans 1,500 acres. Hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing attract people here throughout the year, but especially in fall for leaf peeping.
Downtown Green Bay is a destination alone. The 160-room Hotel Northland debuted its $44 million renovation in 2019, although this isn’t the first time it’s been a hotel. It first opened in 1924. With this most recent renovation, the Art Deco décor was carefully preserved, right on down to the mail slots behind the reception desk. A clock on the desk is set to “Lombardi Time” as a nod to the late Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s suggestion that players and coaching staff always arrive 15 minutes early. Walnut Room’s bar serves classic cocktails — including Wisconsin Old fashioneds — and wine lovers won’t be disappointed by the lengthy list of selections, from Napa Cabs to California Chardonnays, and Oregon Pinot Noirs, too. On the locally sourced food menu are delicacies that range from stuffed brioche French toast for breakfast to roasted elk loin or walleye encrusted with lemon and walnuts for dinner.
Another great spot to eat in downtown Green Bay is The Creamery, open for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Coffee and espresso drinks are brewed with beans from local roaster Terra Verde Organic Coffee, or if you want a little more heat and spice, there’s a Bloody Mary or house-made chai. The food here is hearty and unique, from fried chicken on top of a fluffy waffle, served with blueberry-serrano jam, to breakfast tacos (scrambled egg, chorizo and all the fixings, served in blue-corn tortillas).
Art viewing is also in abundance in downtown Green Bay. The Art Garage hosts rotating exhibitions as well as art and creative workshops, a gift shop and art markets. Or head out on a self-guided mural walk in the Broadway District, near downtown. Many of the murals were created in 2021 and 2022, transforming drab exterior walls into vibrant canvases.
When the Titletown District, a 45-acre, mixed-use development literally across the street from Lambeau Field, opened during the summer of 2017, the goal was to fold in entertainment for all ages. It’s not necessarily for football fans, either — although a regulation-size football field, complete with goal posts, provides many photo opportunities. With three restaurants — Hinterland Brewing Company’s taproom, and Lodge Kohler’s Taverne in the Sky and Leaps and Bounds Café — these are year-round spots to grab a bite or cocktail. There are also plenty of outdoor activities during the winter here, from ice skating to sledding, and in summer a weekly night market and outdoor concert series takes place. Live music fills Leaps and Bounds Café’s intimate setting on Tuesday evenings while Taverne in the Sky’s lunch and dinner service, along with Sunday brunch, are designed to impress, while honoring Wisconsin foods, such as a smoked-cheese flight and Maple Leaf Farms duck brined in citrus and apple cider.
Lodge Kohler is a definite must for anyone who wishes to be pampered, including at Kohler Waters Spa, which provides access to an indoor pool plus a sauna, cold-plunge pool and steam room with any service. The luxury fixtures company’s Vichy shower is used in quite a few treatments. Each of the 144 guest rooms emulates the same high level of quality and design found at its sibling property, The American Club, in Kohler. Of course, there are custom, top-of-the-line Kohler baths as well and the shower itself is a luxurious experience.
For groups traveling together who want to revel in “their team” there’s no better place than R&D House Divided, a bar welcoming both Packers and Bears fans. (Yes, there is such a thing!) Even if it isn’t game time, this is a popular spot for locals to order a beer, cheese curds, lunch specials or Friday fish fry. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to bar time.
Fun for All Ages
While there is the Children’s Museum of Green Bay, a fantastic hands-on museum (including a vet clinic, farmer’s market and ‘50s diner where children can role play) that opened in its current building in 2019, Green Bay also features a lot of all-ages activities to entertain the entire family. One of those is the National Railroad Museum, which ranks among the country’s top railroading museums. It dates back to 1956, although it has grown tremendously since to span 33 acres on Cooke Memorial Park in Ashwaubenon. There’s a mix of preserved locomotives and changing exhibits, like the current one, “Rail Ties: Railroad Stories That Link Our Community,” running through Dec. 31, where items from the museum’s collection as well as those on loan are accompanied by stories about the people who have owned and used them.
Another unique indoor museum is the Automobile Gallery and Event Center, where 80 restored classic cars are on display at a former Cadillac dealership. The museum only debuted in 2016 and is open daily. Located downtown, Neville Public Museum is a natural-history museum laser focused on northeast Wisconsin’s and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s artifacts, artwork, archeology and more.
If it’s a nice day, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary’s 535 acres offer lots of space to roam and explore. This is Wisconsin’s second-largest wildlife-rehabilitation program, providing the care to heal injured or orphaned animals. On a visit you can meet these animals; fish for bass, bluegill or trout in the lagoon; or take a hike while also birdwatching (the sanctuary’s bird checklist is the perfect guide). After a fresh snowfall, the trails turn into cross-country ski trails.
And although it’s much smaller in size than Chicago Botanic Garden, Green Bay Botanical Garden is well worth a visit. It opened in 1997 on a former orchard and features 14 distinct garden areas across 47 acres. And just because it’s after the first frost doesn’t mean the garden shuts down. WPS Garden of Lights — from late November through late December — casts a stunning glow on the gardens after dark, thanks to 325,000 colorful lights.