Family Vacation in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Jul 02, 2013 10:36PM
By Julie Henning
Downtown Riverwalk Spray Fountain
Gateway to Door County and Wisconsin's third-largest city, Green Bay offers the convenience of the city without the stress of urban living. Home to the Green Bay Packers football team, Green Bay may be the only city in the world where it's completely acceptable to wear a giant foam cheese slice on your head. Located between the Fox River and Lake Michigan, downtown Green Bay offers dining, culture, and commerce suitable for a wide variety of interests and budgets. If you're heading up to Green Bay, Wisconsin with the kids in tow, here are a few ideas for a vacation in Title Town.
Before you go, make sure and check in with the Greater Green Bay and the Lakeshore Convention and Visitor bureau for the most up-to-date events, festivals, venues, lodging, and other ideas for getting the most out of your trip—and if you don't have one, make sure and pick up a Greater Green Bay Coupon book in person at 1901 South Oneida Street.
National Railroad Museum
One of the oldest railroad museums in the country, the National Railroad Museum exhibits a collection of locomotives and railcars spanning more than a century. Home of the world’s largest steam locomotive, the Union Pacific Big Boy, families visiting the museum with younger kids will enjoy spending time in the Hood Junction Depot building as well as taking a ride on the museum train that circles the museum grounds twice on a 25 minute ride (this costs an additional $2/person and is a seasonal attraction).
If you have the time and energy, make sure and climb the Observation Tower for the best view of the museum complex. The museum also offers special events themed with families in mind and include the Great Easter Bunny Train, Day Out with Thomas, the Great Pumpkin Train, and The Polar Express (check the museum website for the complete list as well as dates, prices, and other details).
Drawing tourist from near and far, Lambeau Field is open year-round for both stadium tours, the Packers Hall of Fame, Curly's Pub, and the Packer's Pro Shop. If one of your primary reasons for visiting Green Bay was to see the stadium, make sure you take the Lambeau Field Stadium Tour, which occur throughout the day and last about 45 minutes (with the exceptions of game days and other special events). The tour takes you through the stadium, from the luxury of a box suite down to the edges of the "frozen tundra".
Below the ground level is the 25,000 square foot Packers Hall of Fame, featuring Green Bay Packer history, player legacy, game video, and even a handful of interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. Our favorites were the bloopers reel and learning the physics behind the Lambeau Leap. If you do arrive at Lambeau Field and think your cell phone is on the fritz, note that the clock facing Lombardi Avenue runs 15 minutes fast in honor of the late-coach Vince Lombardi who encouraged his players to arrive early and arrive prepared. Parents will also want to note the video game arcade adjacent to Curly's Pub (kids receive a game card pre-loaded with $2 when they order from the Children's Menu).
Bay Beach Amusement Park
Entertaining families since 1892, Bay Beach Amusement Park remains a popular and nostalgic summertime entertainment venue in Green Bay. Home of the Zippin Pippin, the 4th oldest wooden roller coaster in the world, admission is free and most rides cost 25 or 50 cents. A municipal park, the grounds are also home to a wildlife sanctuary as well a softball field, picnic shelters, a playground, zero-depth wading pool, and an enclosed food and dance pavilion.
Cooled by breezes off the Bay of Green Bay, Bay Beach Amusement Park is open seasonally May through September, with peak hours in June, July, and August. Amusement park rides range from pony rides to bumper cars, a kiddie train, and the standard range of carnival rides perfect for first dates and cameras with high speed settings.
Located ten miles northwest of downtown, the NEW Zoo* is Green Bay’s regional zoo. Housed within the 1560 acre Brown County Reforestation Camp, visitors to the NEW Zoo will see plants and animals native to Wisconsin, as well as exhibits featuring animals from Australia, Africa, and the North American Plains. Affordable by big city standards, admission to the zoo is $6 for adults and $4 for children and seniors (kids under age two are free and zoo memberships offer discounted admission and other perks).
Walkable by toddler standards, the zoo is organized in looping paths that weave around the different exhibits. For $1 zoo patrons can take a ride in the K.C. Stock Safari Train, or save the $1 and feed Hodari or Zuri in the giraffe encounter. Kids and parents will enjoy the two zoo playgrounds as well as the shaded northern half of the grounds. Ideal for a morning or afternoon outing, leave at least two hours to take everything in. Be prepared to see both male and female peacock roaming the grounds (we saw two displays of full plumage on our trip).
*Short for Northeast Wisconsin, the NEW Zoo is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Children’s Museum of Green Bay
Located between the riverwalk and downtown, The Children’s Museum of Green Bay offers families with younger children a stimulating environment for serious play. With ten interactive galleries, an art room, and two celebration rooms, the museum is popular with local families and tourist all year round. Ideal for younger and older children, the museum is in a state-of-the-art building that's bright, clean, and stimulating (in a good way).
Playing on the nautical theme, the museum features a sailboat, lighthouse and beach as well as the interactive exhibits one would expect at a Children's Museum in a city with over 100,000 residents (right now the museum features a sports-themed temporary exhibit complete with a kid-sized stadium for practicing none other than the Lambeau Leap). Scheduled arts and craft projects are completed in the "Imagination Station" room and make a nice take home souvenir. Admission to the museum is $8 (kids under fifteen months are free) and the museum participates in the Children of Promise program but does not recognize reciprocity with the Association of Children's Museums.
Where to Stay
One option for family lodging in Green Bay is the Ramada Plaza at 2750 Ramada Way. Located near a plethora of restaurants and a short drive to Lambeau Field and the National Railroad Museum, the big draw at the Ramada Plaza is the 15,000 square foot indoor Castaway Bay waterpark featuring a traditional pool, two waterslides, a zero-depth wading pool for toddlers, and a hot tub. An ideal size for travel-weary parents, the waterpark offers a nice diversion from the typical shoe box pool at similar hotel properties across the country. Families with more than two children may want to upgrade to a two-room whirlpool suite complete with living area and refrigerator/microwave (and most importantly room to spread out). Rooms accessing or overlooking the waterpark are also available (Note that while the pool is open during the day, the waterslides only run between the hours of 4PM and 9PM during the week and 9AM to 9PM on the weekends).