Remember the beloved weekend getaway where you’d pack the family into the car and head off to escape from everyday life? Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely becoming available, travelers are once again dreaming of new horizons.
Wisconsin’s scenic Fox Cities area awaits with something for each member of the family.
“You can fit a little of everything in a weekend and the quality of the experience is top-notch,” says Maddie Uhlenbrauck, marketing communications manager at the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We have big-city amenities with a small-town feel, so you can escape the hustle and bustle of Chicago but still have plenty to do and see.”
An easy drive from Chicago (about three hours) or Milwaukee (about two hours), the Fox Cities area abounds with beautiful scenery and charming downtowns. Appleton is the largest of the 19 communities perched along the shores of Lake Winnebago and the Fox River. With such an abundance of water and forests, outdoor recreation is a top draw.
Here are some ideas for a Fox Cities visit:
- Sailing, motorboating, canoeing and kayaking are popular on the shallow waters of Lake Winnebago, and the maximum depth is a mere 21 feet. Boat launches, put-ins and boater-friendly eateries abound, and fishing for walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, perch and bluegill is a popular thing to do with young kids.
- The unique Fox River lock system is comprised of 17 hand-operated locks that date to the 1850s. You can paddle among its dams, locks and canals as the river drops some 164 feet over a 40-mile stretch. There’s a science lesson in there somewhere!
- Rather let someone else do the work? Hop aboard the River Tyme Too in Appleton, a well-loved riverboat operated by Fox River Tours that offers public cruises and private charters.
- Hikers and bikers enjoy the Fox Cities Paper Trail, a 50-mile circle route connecting 20 parks throughout the region. The Loop the Lake is a 5mile trail including a reformulated railroad trestle and pedestrian bridges, while the lighted Fox Cities Trestle Trail pedestrian bridge is Wisconsin’s longest at 1,600 feet, complete with fishing platforms.
- High Cliff State Park is an interesting spot with Siouan effigy mounds, the High Cliff General Store, a 12-foot-high statue of Winnebago Indian Chief Red Bird, and historical displays about the former lime industry that occupied the site. Horseback riding trails are open
- Landlubbers have lots to do in and around Appleton, the area’s cultural heart, which has been rated one of the country’s 10 kid-friendliest cities. The distinctive downtown offers lots of dining and shopping options, and there’s a smattering of interesting museums undergoing a phased reopening plan in the wake of the pandemic. The History Museum at the Castle, housed in an ornate former Masonic Temple, pays homage to famed resident Harry Houdini with hands-on activities that reenact some of his most famous tricks. The Building for Kids Children’s Museum brims over with cool attractions like a 10-foot heart (children can slide down the ventricles and arteries), a doll hospital and a kids-sized convenience store.
- The 70thAppleton Flag Day Parade is set for Saturday, June 12 and this year’s theme, “Home of the Brave,” honors hometown heroes of the pandemic.
- In Neenah, attractions include the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, a glorious spot that boasts nearly 5,000 vintage paperweights, three centuries’ worth of painted Germanic glass and colorful contemporary pieces. Admission is free, which nicely frees up funds for the gorgeous gift shop. Neenah’s charming historical downtown has a variety of specialty shops and restaurants.
- Finally, the boys of summer are back at the Fox Cities Stadium, where the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league affiliate team, kick off their season on May 4 with great baseball and all sorts of family-friendly promotions. Play ball!
Plan your trip, including lodging at more than 3,500 rooms, at the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.