GREEN BAY, Wis. — I wouldn’t call myself a cheesehead. Well, not the kind who wears a foam rubber wedge on her head and proclaims her love for the Packers. But there is something about being in Green Bay, with its storied, gorgeous football field, family-friendly Titletown entertainment park and walls of murals that almost gives you football fever.
But before we go there, let’s talk about actual cheese. It really is everywhere. At one point, my teenage son asked why every restaurant we went to had a charcuterie board and cheese curds. Ah, cheese curds. Those little fried bits of deliciousness with cheese oozing from the center. Turns out, there are many different ways to make a cheese curd beyond what you get at Culver’s. Honestly I found all of them delicious.
Wisconsin is, of course, known for its dairy farms and its cheese. Visit a cheese shop to get a good feeling for its depth and breadth. Scray Cheese, a fourth-generation shop just a few miles from downtown, allows you to watch cheese being made (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday — if you are lucky you may get samples). Or just try one of those charcuterie boards for all the varieties Wisconsin offers.
Things to do
Tour Lambeau Field or the Packers Hall of Fame: Packers fan or not, this is one impressive stadium. Even if you don’t have time for a full tour, see the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame; a self-guided tour will take an hour or two. It’s 15,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, memorabilia (Super Bowl rings, Lombardi trophies) a replica of Vince Lombardi’s office, a tribute to the coldest game ever played and much more. (Prices vary, from $18 for adult hall of fame admission to an ultimate tour for $106 that includes the stadium, hall of fame and a trolley ride full of history and the murals near the stadium, packershofandtours.com)
Titletown: This entertainment district, just across the street from Lambeau, opened in 2017 and still has that new-park feel. With a four-diamond hotel (the Lodge Kohler), a brewery, restaurants, 10-acre park and plaza perfect for gathering before and after games, it also features a huge sledding hill and ice skating in the winter. In summer, people sit on the hill to watch movies. Fun games such as bocce ball, table tennis and shuffleboard line the walk to the back of Titletown, where you will find playgrounds, a football field with turf and even a 50-meter sprint lane with a stop clock overhead. (titletown.com)
Green Bay Botanical Garden: From the gorgeous grand garden that overlooks a concert amphitheater to the intriguing Kaftan Lusthaus, a summerhouse of Scandinavian design, to the oval rose garden to remnants of the orchard on which this botanical garden was built, this stop is a treat for kids (there is a children’s garden) and adults alike. Especially of note is the temporary exhibit “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.” Large sculptures made from ocean refuse are sprinkled throughout the garden. They are like scavenger hunts for kids, and food for thought for everyone. ($12 for adults; gbbg.org)
Bay Beach Amusement Park: Step back in time a bit with this fun throwback amusement park right along the bay. There is no entry or parking fee. The highlight is the Zippin Pippin roller coaster, which zips and dips with views of the bay. It’s more thrilling than Six Flags’ Mine Train and less jerky than the Screamin’ Eagle. The most expensive ride in the park, it costs four 25-cent tickets. It’s one of the oldest existing wood roller coasters in the U.S., getting its start in the 1910s in Memphis, Tennessee, where it is said to have been Elvis’ favorite coaster. It made its way to Green Bay nearly 100 years later. The park contains about 20 rides, including a train, Ferris wheel and a few other thrill rides. But don’t miss the concessions, which include cheese curds, of course. (greenbaywi.gov/445/Bay-Beach)
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary: Just next door to the wild rides and screams of the amusement park sits a quiet wildlife sanctuary, a 600-acre urban refuge with beautiful water features and miles of trails. Known for its waterfowl, the sanctuary is home to the second-largest wildlife rehabilitation program in Wisconsin. If you are lucky, you can spot coyote, deer or turkey from a lookout tower or enclosed trail, but there are also educational center buildings that guarantee looks at animals. (Free; baybeachwildlife.com)
Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo: Commonly called the NEW zoo, which is confusing because it’s not new at all, the zoo in the Green Bay area sits a bit outside of town in Suamico. If you are looking for something to do in the area and want to see some cute animals, particularly some darling Japanese snow macaques or majestic wolves, it’s a nice stop. But, like most zoos, it can’t compete with the St. Louis Zoo. And it costs $11 for adults and $8 for kids. But part of the zoo’s allure, particularly for teens, is the adjacent adventure park. Not open because of COVID on our visit, my kids couldn’t help but stare at the zip lines, ropes course and climbing wall. $32.95 for the complete adventure. (newzoo.org)
Fonferek’s Glen: Just a bit outside Green Bay, sits this geological gem. The main attraction is a 30-foot waterfall that can be viewed from a platform not too far from the parking lot. But trust us when we say to take the hike down to it, across the creek, through the namesake glen, through a forest and back across the creek (we weren’t sure we were doing it right!). The website urges caution on the trails because of steep cliffs, rugged terrain and no marked trails, but it was worth it. (browncountywi.gov)
Where to eat
Taverne in the Sky: There is no greater view in Green Bay for a Packers fan than this upscale restaurant across from Lambeau Field and overlooking Titletown. On the fifth floor of the new Kohler Lodge, operated by the same folks who run the upscale Destination Kohler an hour south, the food in this restaurant may even be better than in any of those award-winning restaurants. From the artichoke lemon fritters with the most delightful caper remoulade ($8) to the shrimp cooked in an open wood-fire kitchen and served with grits and lemon beurre blanc ($32), each course is more amazing than the next. After dinner, grab a drink at the bar or sit on the deck in front of a fire pit. (lodgekohler.com/food-drink/)
Pick a brewery: Green Bay is fairly known for the breweries around town. In Titletown, you’ll find Hinterland, which opens its garage doors to the action on a nice day. On the other side of Lambeau Field, along with a smattering of bars that makes the area feel like a college town, you’ll find Badger State Brewing, with an artificial-turf-clad outdoor area where dogs played on our visit. We especially enjoyed the live entertainment and cheese curds at Narrow Bridge Brewhouse. Hagemeister Park, right along the river in the downtown area, offers a chance to sip a beer outside while you people watch. Stop in at some of the shops in the area, too.
Waverly Beach: Being on the water (it is called Green Bay, after the bay there and all) I was surprised to find very few watersports, and few restaurants along the bay, an arm of Lake Michigan. Seeking out some water, I found Waverly Beach about 30 minutes away from Green Bay on Lake Winnebago. Outdoor tables right along the water’s edge pair with yard games and a menu of burgers and seafood. (waverlybeach.com)
Where to stay
Lodge Kohler (lodgekohler.com) is an excellent choice if your goal is to stay right in the middle of everything. You can catch the game and go out on the town see the sights without ever getting in your car. Prices are reasonable during nongame weekends, but otherwise they can climb quickly.
Though we weren’t there for a Packers game, we were there with six people, so we opted to rent a house through Vrbo.com. Relaxing Rustic Retreat in Appleton, a town about 30 minutes from Lambeau Field, fit our needs perfectly. With three bedrooms upstairs, a bedroom downstairs, and a pool table, dart board and living area, it was great for our teen boys. I always like to recommend renting a house with something your house doesn’t have: This one had a porch swing hanging in the living room in front of a stone fireplace and a ladder leading to an alcove above the kitchen. Even my teens got a kick out of that. I messaged often with Mark Biesack, whose Powerhouse Properties 920 manages more than 30 properties in the area. He was awesome at communicating, accommodating and making sure everything was taken care of.
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