Below are some of my suggestions for activities, attractions and opportunities in the area.
Appleton offers many attractions besides just going to a movie or eating out, and I list some of these below. A good overview of movies in the area is provided at Fandango for Appleton zip codes like 54915. Here is theater-specific information:
- Fox Cities Trails
There are several beautiful trails in the Fox Cities area ideal for biking or walking. A favorite of mine is the trail along the south side of the Fox River between Telulah Park and Law Street near the Oneida Flats region. So scenic! We are also thrilled to have a new walkway that crosses beautiful Lake Butte des Morts, the new Fox Cities Trestle Friendship Trail that opened Aug. 27, 2005, connecting Menasha to the Town of Menasha on the other side of the lake. The Menasha side of the trail starts at the west end of Broad Street, crossing the lake along what used to be a railroad trestle bridge that lands in the Town of Menasha at Fritse Park, and then continues westward on existing trails. I have some photos of the new Trestle Trail on a page of 2005 photos from the Fox Cities. See also HandsOvertheFox.com about the opening of the bridge. Additional information about the Trestle Trail is provided by FOCOL.org (archived).
- The Building for Kids - Fox Cities Children's Museum
30,000 sq. feet of family fun. 2-story tree with five tree forts, water play area, art and science studio, kids town, airplane, fire truck and much more! Formerly known as the Fox Cities Children's Museum, as of June 30, 2006, it's "The Building for Kids." The facility has been revamped, and now provides two stories of excitement, ideal for children from 0 to 12 years. This is the premier interactive children's museum in the state and perhaps in the entire Midwest. It has 27,000 square feet of hands-on exploration and discovery, with fun for children and adults. Dominating the structure is a two-story banyan tree with five forts, each offering fun activities for kids. There is also a water play area, where kids can wear raincoats to play with interactive water tables (my grandkids really love this section!). There is a Da Vinci studio where kids can learn about science from excellent teachers and participate in cool demonstrations, view fossils, paint, etc. There is a ball drop area with crazy pneumatic and mechanical devices, a kid town, a jet plane and control tower, a golf simulator, a fire truck (a long-time favorite attraction of the museum), a magnetic crane for picking up metal balls, and a variety of other activities.
The museum is a tribute to the concern and dedication of private citizens who pulled together to design, create, and fund the project. Through their efforts in the early 1990s, the Appleton downtown area was revitalized. Today downtown Appleton is a vibrant place, with the Building for Kids as one of its key attractions. Take a look!
The Building for Kids - Fox Cities Children's Museum, 100 College Avenue, Appleton, WI 54911. The Build for Kids is now entered through doors on College Avenue and Appleton Street (the main entrance used to be inside the former Avenue Mall building). Phone: 734-3226, Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday: noon-5 p.m. (Note: it's not open Mondays.) Admission is $7.50 for children age 1 and up, as well as adults, and $5 for seniors. Infants (under 1 year) are free. A family membership is $120 a year. Well worth it.
- The Paper Discovery Center
Bringing the world of paper to life, the Paper Discovery Center is an exciting place to learn about the history of paper, how it is made, and what the paper industry is all about. This beautiful center is in the old Atlas Mill of Appleton, and also houses the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame. The facility offers tours with interactive exhibits and many displays. It's popular for students and tourists, but more locals should go check it out. It represents a vital part of the Valley's heritage. Open Monday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed Sundays.
- Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
One of the biggest events recently for Appleton has been the construction of a large performing arts center in the heart of the city. Many great performances will be coming our way. Investing in this center was a controversial decision. Were we too ambitious to take on such a project? Can we draw large enough audiences to keep the center alive? Absolutely! The Center is alive and thriving. (A couple of photos from inside are available on my page of more photos from Appleton 2004.)
- The Fox River Mall
A surprisingly large mall that serves as a popular place for people to shop and just hang out. The food court is outstanding, and a wide variety of restaurants are nearby. But beware: during Christmas shopping season, the traffic overwhelms the roads to the mall. Get your shopping done early or during less popular hours, or you'll sit in traffic far longer than most of us Appletonians can tolerate.
- Appleton Parks (at AppletonParkandRec.org)
Compared to other parts of the country, Appleton has a high number of high quality parks. See the map of Appleton parks. These parks are well kept and offer many facilities, including public swimming, baseball and soccer fields, picnic areas, river front beauty, well appointed playgrounds, nature trails, etc. My favorite parks include: City Park (8 acres that throb with the beauty of mature trees), Memorial Park (138 acres, including a small lake for canoeing and the Arboretum and Gardens described below), Pierce Park (38 acres, marvelous trees, ideal picnic spots, a beautiful view of the river, and lots of activities), Telulah Park (one of my favorites for a walk or bike ride, with 27 acres, featuring an old steam locomotive for young children to admire, beautiful trails and good fishing down on the river - said to be a place where Harry Houdini's family used to frequent, back when there was mineral springs and racecourse there) and Mead Park (fine swimming pool, a good playground, 8.5 acres). You can see photos of nearly all of our parks on a remarkably helpful Website, Jim Froeming's Trivia Asylum Presents Appleton's Parks and Places for parks and places in and around Appleton -- what a kind service!
Just north of Appleton is Plamann Park, a 257-acre marvel that began with 147 acres donated to Outagamie County by Robert Plamann. This park includes a swimming lake, several good playgrounds, a great Frisbee golf course (27 holes), picnic shelters, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, delightful nature trails and an 18-station fitness trail. Lots of wooded land invites hiking. In winter there is cross-country skiing, snowmobile trails, a sledding hill, an ice rink, and a heated shelter. There is also a children's farm that enables kids to see what farm life is like in Wisconsin. For info, call (920) 832-4790 (general), 832-4900 (lake), or 779-6433 (nature center). (Source: Points of Interest in the Telecom USA 1994/95 phone book, page 33.)
Appleton is a fabulous place for tennis, a favorite sport of mine. There are numerous public tennis courts here, far more than most communities have, in my opinion, making it relatively easy to find an open court in the summer. During those few brief days of winter, we also have some great indoor tennis opportunities. Consider, for example, the Fox Cities Racquet Club, 4592 W Converters Drive, Appleton, (920) 739-0221, where I've enjoyed a variety of activities.
- The Hearthstone House
Tour a home on the National Register of Historic Place. Built in 1882, the beautifully restored home was the first in the world to have electric lights powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station using the Edison system. It used Thomas Edison's lighting system, with fixtures that have been preserved and can be seen today in the home. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday, with a small admission fee. It's a beautiful place and well worth visiting. A lot of people also enjoy volunteering there as tour guides and assistants. And there are occasional open houses and socials there. Great place! 625 West Prospect Ave. For more info, call 920-730-8204. Also see the Appleton Blog post on the Hearthstone House for a photo.
- Memorial Park Arboretum and Gardens: Scheig Center
Appleton used to provide a separate website with lots of information about their huge Memorial Park, but now there's very little online. The Scheig Center at the park has a little info, linked above. The huge Memorial Park can be reached by taking the Ballard Road exit south from Highway 41 -- you'll see a park entrance on the right in a few blocks before you get to Northland Avenue. Big, beautiful, with a variety of events taking place from time to time. They have a learning center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin architect group. Admission is free. There are beautiful gardens featuring native species and areas for walking. The entire site is about 30 acres. The building is available for a fee for weddings and other activities.
The lovely Arboretum and Gardens includes beautiful murals by Shelley Grund in -- of all places -- the men's restroom and women's restroom. Don't miss these! (Well, maybe you should just pick one to view.)
- High Cliff State Park
Sunset on Lake Winnebago from High Cliff Park, taken by J.L. on May 31, 2004.
Just a few minutes out of Appleton, this state park is at the north end of Lake Winnebago. It offers a marina, a public beach, a huge play area with playground equipment and plenty of room for picnicking, Frisbee, or simple relaxation. Above the beach is the cliffs area with more recreational opportunities such as rock climbing, camping, nature trails, and a walking tour of ancient Indian burial mounds from the Copper Culture civilization. I love the diversity of plants and trees. One of my highlights of last summer was gathering a few handfuls of wild grapes and wild crab apples that provided tart and tasty jelly. (Maybe I have a dull life, but it seemed exciting at the time, perhaps because it's so hard to get jelly to turn out well.)
- The Barlow Planetarium
This new planetarium at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley is a world-class facility with a 50-foot dome, giant full-color special effects and five channel surround sound, sharing the wonders of the universe with Northeast Wisconsin since 1998. Explore the starry nighttime sky, visit the planets, travel to galaxies and beyond in Wisconsin's first major planetarium. Family shows for the young and young-at-heart; feature shows for a more in-depth astronomy experience. Experience rich presentations about our universe with beautiful graphics and 3-D effects. The planetarium features an Evans and Sutherland Digistar II star projector, a true state-of-the-art system. There are also interactive keypads at each seat to enable audience participation in performances. Seats 98 people, with four extra spaces available for wheelchairs. Great for parties and corporate events, also. Cost depends on the event. Fun place! Give it a try. For information, call (920) 832-2848. 1478 Midway Road, Menasha (close to the south border of Appleton).
- Weis Earth Science Museum
Where science rocks! Explore the geology of our planet and our state. Make an earthquake, walk through a lead mine, detonate a quarry blast, touch a dinosaur bone, and much, much more! A wonderful museum including many beautiful specimens of minerals and rocks from Wisconsin and other places. Low admission - $2 for adults. Hours: Wednesday, Thursday 12-4 pm; Friday 12-7 pm; Saturday 10 am-5 pm; Sunday 1-5 pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday and all campus holidays. 1478 Midway Road, Menasha. Call (920) 832-2925 for general info or (920) 832-2868 to scheduling a group tour. Right next to the Barlow Planetarium at UW Fox Valley.
- The Appleton Public Library (www.apl.org)
Such a library! It puts my previous local library in Atlanta to shame. A tremendous selection of books, magazines, newspapers, audio and video tapes, compact disks, etc. The staff is friendly and competent. My favorite features include excellent foreign language materials, several cases of science fiction, and a whole floor of children's materials. Why go anywhere else for fun?
- Bergstrom-Mahler Museum
Be inspired at Wisconsin's Glass Museum on Lake Winnebago. The museum preserves four glass collections: a world-renowned paperweight collection, a Germanic drinking vessel collection, Victorian glass baskets, and contemporary glass sculpture. See temporary exhibitions in a variety of media throughout the year.
- Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Baseball
Enjoy fine minor league baseball with the Timber Rattlers in the new Fox Valley Stadium. I recommend the comfortable seats in the grass fields rather than the slightly more expensive bleachers. Office Address: 2400 North Casaloma Dr., Grand Chute, WI 54915. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 464, Appleton, WI 54912. Telephone: (920) 733-4152. FAX: (920) 733-8032.
- The YMCA
A great organization providing many activities for families and individuals. Lots of young people enjoy hanging out at the Y. Enjoy swimming and many other sports as well as numerous special activities. There are several facilities in the Valley, with one in downtown Appleton, another just west of Appleton, and another in nearby Neenah. (I helped perform in a recent magic night in Neenah - lots of fun with some great kids.)
- The History Museum at the Castle
Perform magic for your friends and family and escape from jail like Houdini! Explore history through hands-on activities at The History Museum where children of all ages are welcome. Hosted by the Outagamie Historical Society, the History Museum at the Castle features the "A.K.A. Houdini" exhibit and other material on Houdini), plus a host of other community events such as lectures, workshops, magic shows, etc. I especially enjoyed the display of numerous handcuffs that were collected by Houdini. In addition to the outstanding Harry Houdini collection, another permanent exhibit is "Tools of Change: The Work, Workers, and Tools of the Lower Fox River Valley, 1840-1950."
The museum is located in a beautiful old stone building at 330 East College Avenue, Appleton, WI 54911. Phone (920) 735-9370. Closed Mondays during the school season, open Mondays during the summer. (I saw local magician Bruce Hetzler perform there once - nice job! I really enjoy magic.)
- Skyline Comedy Cafe
The Skyline Comedy Cafe in the Between the Locks complex at 1004 S Olde Oneida Street is a popular place that draws many talented comedians from around the country. Phone (920) 734-5653.
- Music in Appleton
There are many musical groups and recitals in the area. Lawrence University features numerous free faculty recitals and student performances. Musical groups at Lawrence include the Opera Theatre, the Concert Choir, the Pride of the Valley Chorus, and the Jazz Singers, with performances for all held in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Call 920-832-6749 (box office) or 832-6586 (Lawrence Communications Office) for information. Appleton is enriched by the Fox Valley Symphony and several very high quality performances during the year (call 729-5000). The New Voices Choir, formerly the White Heron Chorale (www.newvoiceschoir.org/) offers semi-professional mixed-voice chorale with selections ranging from classical to contemporary. The Appleton MacDowell Male Chorus (www.macdowellmalechorus.org) puts on several local concerts plus nationwide performances. Awesome! In addition, the Appleton Boychoir (www.appletonboychoir.com/) puts on some marvelous performance (call 920-739-1689 for information). Other groups include the Foxvalleyaires Barbershop Chorus (757-6153) and the Geriatric Jazz Group (734-5043).
- The Trout Museum of Art (formerly the Appleton Art Center)
The Trout Museum of Art's mission is to excite the community about the visual arts. The activities which allow The Trout Museum of Art to fulfill this valuable mission include: exhibitions, educational programming and special events such as the annual Art at the Park artist exhibitor festival (see my Art at the Park photos), lectures, workshops, family fun days, and a biennial exhibit for local artists. This is a beautiful art gallery and a place to stay connected with the arts community. Founded in 1960 as the Appleton Art Center, the Trout Museum now has an expanded location (25,000 square feet) at 111 W. College Avenue, right in the heart of downtown Appleton. Call (920) 733-4089 to learn about exhibitions and events. Sometimes they offer live music or other events. I found the staff to be very friendly and knowledgeable. This is an ideal place for a cheap data or a great place to visit by yourself. In general, the arts are very strong in Appleton.
- Appleton Family History Center
Interested in genealogy or family history? Explore the extensive records and huge CD genealogy database for free at the Appleton Family History Center at 425 W. Park Ridge, Appleton. You'll get free training and assistance - and might even run into your Webmaster there on some Wednesdays. The Family History Library is made available by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS" for short) and is physically located in their Appleton church building, but it is available to and used by people of all faiths. For more information, contact [email protected] or call (920) 733-5358 (you may need to try a couple of different days to find a time when people are staffing the library). The mailing address is Fox Valley Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 1592, Appleton, WI 54913-1592. (For genealogy on the Web, try FamilySearch.org.)
- Golf - Numerous Courses!
I'm not a golfer, but Appleton has got to be golf paradise. There must be nearly a dozen courses within a 30 minute drive of downtown Appleton. With so much grass in the area, it's no wonder that Appleton hosts the global headquarters of National Lawn Care Now! A couple of courses to consider:
(1) Chaska Golf Club. 920-757-5757. Beautiful course with 18 holes, right next to Appleton. Even I enjoyed golfing there! Has excellent practice facilities and a snack bar.
(2) Reid Municipal Golf Course. 920-832-5926. A prominent golf course in the middle of Appleton (south side) with 18 holes of golf and a fine pro shop. (3) Butte des Morts Country Club - a beautiful course with a stately, elegant club house (wonderful place for a meal or meeting) with 36,000 square feet. Founded in 1924, the Country Club also offers a variety of family programs and has a swimming pool.
For one weekend each fall (the one with the last Saturday in September), Appleton is the site of a spectacular Octoberfest celebration. About one mile of College Avenue in downtown Appleton is lined with booths, exhibits, games, and entertainment. Over 100,000 people from all over the state show up for fun, food, and festivity. See my page of Octoberfest photos from 2004. For many groups, Octoberfest is a major fund raising opportunity. (Next time, drop by and watch my son and me making delicious Tiger Paws, a scone-like treat and a veritable Octoberfest tradition that has helped dozens of youth in my church go to Scout Camp and Girls Camp.) Octoberfest - it's a mile of fun! For more information, see Octoberfest Online.
- Movie Theaters
The Appleton area has a variety of movie theaters. One of the most popular is Regal Theaters on College Avenue in Kimberly, just a few blocks east of Highway 441, on the south side of the street. There are also cinemas in the Fox River Mall (west of Highway 41 and north of College Avenue) and in the Valley Fair Mall (Highway 47 and Calumet Street, on the south side of town). The Valley Fair Mall cinema generally has the lowest prices. Hollywood Cinema is on Westhill Boulevard, north of College Avenue near Woodman's market, just east of Highway 41.
- Gordon Bubolz Nature Center
Enjoy walking or jogging on our rustic woodland and meadow trails, or spot a wide variety of wildlife in the cedar swamp, pond, meadow or forest habitats of our 776-acre preserve. Visit the earth sheltered Nature Awareness Center to see educational exhibits. There is an eight-mile trail system. Guided hikes, workshops, and speakers are offered at various times. Call 920-731-6041 for information. It's at 4815 North Lynndale Drive, Appleton (County Highway A). Beautiful, serene, and a great place for photos.
- Mosquito Hill Nature Center - Owned and operated by Outagamie County, Mosquito Hill Nature Center features an 11,000 square foot interpretive building; 430 acres of preserve with more than 5 miles of hiking trails, a 12-acre prairie planting and 300 acres of Wolf River bottomland hardwoods. This is a spectacular nature preserve in Outagamie County near US Highway 45 and State Highway 54, not far from New London. Wonderful trails and ponds in the area make for beautiful views of nature. Climb to the tip of the hill for a spectacular view of a hilly part of Wisconsin.
- 1000 Islands Environmental Center
Located on 350 acres of conservancy zone along the Fox River, 1000 Islands is home to numerous wildlife species including bald eagles. There are 7.2 miles of trails and a unique nature center that houses live animals, interactive displays and animal mounts from all over the world. Link is a secure shortcut to www.1000islandsenvironmentalcenter.org.
- Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
Some would call this a mosquito-infested swamp to be avoided, but I really enjoy the trails through this forested wetland area. The plant life to be seen in the summer is spectacular, in my opinion. This living museum has 76 acres, 3 miles of stroller-friendly trails, plus a 4,000 square-foot Nature Center with a "Living Waters" exhibit with local fish, salamanders, frogs, and other creatures. And the mounted creatures on display are worth the visit on their own - especially the majestic lake sturgeon. The Reserve is also a great place for a corporate meeting or workshop. A real gem. (I've been involved in some Eagle Scout projects there - fun!) I also understand 9,000 kids came there with school groups in 2005. Located on Highway 114 between Oneida Street and Highway 47, next to Lake Winnebago and Brighton Beach Road. Generous hours, but check the website or call ahead: (920) 720-9349. Website: www.heckrodtwetland.com (via secure shortcut).
Soccer is big in Appleton. We've got some large, well maintained fields and well organized groups. The Appleton Soccer Club is a great organization offering loads of soccer fun for Appleton youth. They can be reached at (920)-730-2456, or write P.O. Box 1444, Appleton, WI 54913.
The Appleton area offers numerous opportunities for roller skating, skate boarding, and ice skating. There are several free outdoor skate board parks with ramps, jumps, and other hazards. One that I've seen used a lot is at Telulah Park. For more serious skate boarding, Area 51 is the place to go. They also offer in-line skates and BMX bikes. Area 51's large indoor area on the east end of the Valley Fair Mall (Calumet Street and Memorial Drive/Highway 47) offers serious terrain for the gravitationally unimpaired. Call 954-8412. Cost is $8 (as of Feb. 20, 2004), and a helmet and a waiver will be required. Catch some major air!
For roller skating, there are many good choices for in-line skating or traditional roller skating.
Indoor ice skating is popular at the Tri-County Ice Arena in the Town of Menasha, 700 E. Shady Lane, 731-9731, and also in the Appleton Family Ice Center in Memorial Park (1717 E. Witzke Blvd., Appleton), 830-7679.
The Appleton area has an enthusiastic group of ballooners, Fox Valley Ballooning. Join a flight crew and explore Wisconsin from above. Their float was a real hit at the 2004 Christmas Parade.
- Dance Studios
Appleton has several dance studios, some of which can be great social venues as well. My wife and I had a wonderful time taking dance instruction for about six months at the former Adagio Dance Studios. Great instructors for private lessons in a fun ballroom, with lots of socials for members. For kids and teenagers, Gym Kids offers popular dance programs (big groups of kids doing choreographed performances on stage - call 969-1080).
- Green Bay Botanical Garden
Though it's not in Appleton, this favorite place of mine is a short drive to the north. Many beautiful gardens are offered featuring herbs, flowers, trees, and other themes, with beautifully landscaped grounds, walking trails, a fun playground, and interesting structures. I especially enjoyed their Renaissance Herb Faire (Sept. 21-22, 2002), where many Renaissance buffs were present demonstrating jousting and other aspects of Renaissance culture. It's at 2600 Larsen Road in Green Bay. Call (920) 490-9457 for directions and event information.
- Bay Beach Amusement Park (Green Bay)
One the most economical amusement park you'll ever find, unless there are some completely free ones somewhere. Inexpensive but fun rides for kids and some for adults as well in a beautiful area next to the lake. Spend the day there! Website: greenbaywi.gov/baybeach/.
- Funset Boulevard
A fun place for kids and even adults, with lots of arcade games and a few small rides and a form of laser tag. A popular choice for birthday parties and fund raisers. Next to Hollywood Cinema (513 N. Westhill Blvd.), the actual address is 3916 W. College - but you need to get on Westhill Blvd. to go there. 920-993-0909.
- Badger Sports Park
A huge entertainment center out by the spacious USA soccer fields are on the northwest corner of town. Lots of action for team building events, birthday parties, and old-fashioned new-fangled fun. I'm happy to report that they've got laser tag! They also have go-carts, mini-bowling, lots of games and batting cages. Badger Sports Park is at 3600 E Evergreen Drive, Appleton, WI 54913. Phone: (920) 830-6900
Winter is long in Appleton, so those in the know recommend taking up some activities that can only be done in winter to make you look forward to the experience. Here are some suggestions: