Uncovering Wisconsin's Hidden Gems: Green Bay

Photo by PC John Oates Photography

The city of Green Bay usually brings one thing to mind: Green Bay Packers. The Packers are still the only publicly owned team in the National Football League. With over a century of history, their team has made Green Bay known throughout the world. However, Green Bay is a phenomenal place to visit regardless of your football loyalties. This winter, consider putting the city by the bay on your list for winter fun and holiday wonderment.

The Green Bay Botanical Garden is a stunning place to visit during every season. This winter, visitors can check out the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Garden of Lights, encompassed by more than 300,000 twinkling lights. Create special holiday memories with a spectacular array of nature-inspired light displays, featuring an enchanted icicle forest, glistening flowers, a dazzling 60-foot walk-through caterpillar, and so much more.

The Neville Public Museum, a cultural institution showcasing history, art, and science, is a gem in Brown County. This year, the animated figures that once adorned the H.C. Prange’s department store windows in downtown Green Bay are featured in a holiday exhibit. Don’t miss Bruce the Spruce, the lovable talking Christmas tree who once chatted with holiday shoppers at Prange’s.

Photograph provided by Travel Wisconsin

Another hit with visitors of all ages is the National Railroad Museum, full of interactive and creative installations on the history of the American rails. For the holiday season, kids can take the Polar Express Train Ride to the North Pole, featuring a live rendition of the Hot Chocolate Dance followed by a dramatic reading of the original Polar Express book. At the end of the train ride, Santa personally greets each child. At the museum, you can also view more than 40 trees, decorated by local businesses and nonprofit organizations, at the Festival of Trees.

I know I’m not alone when I say I’m so thankful that live theatre is back this year, and there are plenty of options in Green Bay this season. A Frank’s Christmas is a musical comedy tradition in northeast Wisconsin, and it will be playing downtown at the Meyer Theatre. You can also take in a dinner and a show at Daddy D Productions, where they play the traditional favorites with a dash of contemporary flare. You can also see Mannheim Steamroller perform Christmas classics at the Weidner Center.

Photograph provided by Green Bay Packers

Do you have some holiday shopping to do? There’re quite a few shopping districts you’ll want to check out. Broadway Street in downtown Green Bay and both sides of the bridge in downtown De Pere have boutique shopping mixed with a great selection of coffee shops when you need to stop and take a break. If you’re looking for a retail mecca, try Military Avenue, just north of Lambeau Field. It’s the perfect place to get something unique or something delicious!

Speaking of delicious, this winter will see the return of a new trend in eating out, the igloo dining experience. At Hagemeister Park, you can enjoy a gourmet burger in a heated igloo, complete with pillows, blankets, candles, music, and board games. At Lodge Kohler, you can share drinks and an appetizer while watching the snow fall in one of the restaurant’s domes. If craft beer is your scene, enjoy a local brew and delicious American staples inside an igloo at Hinterland Brewery.

Photograph provided by Travel Wisconsin

There are more ways to take in the natural beauty of winter. L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, Brown County Reforestation Camp, and Neshota Park have miles of trails to explore in the wintertime by foot, snowshoe, ski, or bike. You’ll feel like you took a step off the beaten path on these wooded trails. Check out the Wisconsin Snow Report at travelwisconsin.com/snowreport for trail and snow conditions before you explore.

Green Bay has more to offer than being home to an incredible football franchise, but that doesn’t mean you should skip a visit to Titletown and Lambeau Field any time of year. Titletown features a full-size football field, a unique playground, and plenty of outdoor games. In the winter, they have an ice-skating rink and tubing lanes down Ariens Hill. Check out the Winter Jubilee Light Show, a dazzling blend of holiday-themed lights and music featuring animation, lasers, and fireworks.

The Packers may have put Green Bay on the map for a lot of people, but this modest city has some of the same attractions as its larger counterparts while still offering odes to small-town charm. You certainly don’t need to be a football fan to enjoy everything Green Bay has to offer.

For more festive trip ideas, be sure to visit travelwisconsin.com for inspiration.

Anne Sayers is the secretary-designee at Wisconsin Department of Tourism.