It’s football, of course, that lures people to the northern Wisconsin city of Green Bay, where the community owns its NFL team, the Packers. The team celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, and folks get so excited about the sport they volunteer to shovel out the stadium on snowy game days.
For sure, this is a football town.
But summer visitors shouldn’t leave Green Bay without seeing Flash, the bat dog. Flash has to be the cutest thing baseball has going on right now. Part of the brand new Green Bay Booyah, a summer team of collegiate players, Flash retrieves the bats of every Booyah player who makes it on base. It’s the ultimate game of fetch for this pooch, and he wags his tail the whole time.
This working pup is just one example of the kid-friendly fun that can be found in Green Bay. For cross-country road trippers, 50-state-bucket-list visitors and others who find themselves in the Upper Midwest, there is plenty here to keep kids busy and happy. Here are a few suggestions.
Let’s talk Lambeau
Lambeau Field, the Packers’ stadium, is a massive and updated complex with lots to explore inside, including an array of exhibits and team artifacts as part of its Hall of Fame. At the “Size Me Up” exhibit, kids can step into the footprints of former Packer defensive linemen Gilbert Brown and Julius Peppers and compare their hand span and wing span to those of a typical NFL player.
They also can see the evolution of the sport’s equipment, from the first soft leather helmets to today’s protective gear. And there are loads of old photos and interviews and other 20th-century treasures for young and old historians. For example, there is a whole exhibit on the Ice Bowl — the Packers’ 1967 NFL Championship victory over the Dallas Cowboys, where the temperature at kickoff was a numbing 13 degrees below zero.
Visitors can even take their photos next to statues of fans exhaling lifelike frost. The stadium tour is worthwhile — the best part for kids is entering the arena itself. Tour goers walk in on the same ramp as the Packers to an audio of fans cheering, which replicates the player experience on game day. There is a combo package that offers tickets for both the Hall of Fame and stadium tours. Prices are $27 for adults and $17 for kids, with free admission for children under 5.
True fans will appreciate the 21,500-square-foot pro shop that sells everything from Packers toothbrushes to home decor. Parents will appreciate the community connection of the team and its feel-good history.
Booyah is a dining tradition in Green Bay — it’s a tomato-based vegetable soup with chicken — and also the name of its baseball team. The world’s largest silver booyah kettle sits at the stadium entrance and shoots out steam at the start of each game. Hula hoop contests, a manual scoreboard and a chicken for a mascot are some of the corny, and yet classically minor league, moments that await fans.
The stadium has only six rows of seats, so all plays are truly close. The season runs from June to August, and tickets start at $8 with free admission for kids under 5. One recent promotion was a princess party, which treated participants to a parade, a tea party and a free tiara for $12 a ticket.
The Zippin Pippin roller coaster at Bay Beach Amusement Park is an up-and-down, one-minute wonder of a ride and a wooden coaster that was Elvis Presley’s favorite Memphis amusement. The city of Green Bay bought it for Bay Beach in 2010 and spent more than $3 million to remodel the coaster before it opened in 2011. Bay Beach is known for its affordability — ride tickets are just 25 cents, and this popular ride takes only four tickets, costing $1.
The roller coaster’s massive wooden structure is a sight to behold, and park goers will have time to check it out as they wait for their turn. But on a recent sunny Saturday, most seemed to agree the adrenaline rush of this ride was worth the time spent in line.
Downtown Green Bay also is home to The Automobile Gallery, a museum of classic cars that have great back stories. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids.
And wild animals
Next to the amusement park, the fee-free Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is more than 600 acres of refuge and home to wolves, predatory birds and other rescue animals. There are hiking and skiing trails along with plenty of spots for animal viewing.
The NEW Zoo & Adventure Park is a small zoo compared with The Maryland Zoo, but offers some fun animal adventures regardless. For $25 a person, which includes zoo admission, visitors can go behind-the-scenes and learn about the life and habitat of Tutti, a 40-year-old Aldabra tortoise, who loves to have her neck scratched. For less money ($1), kids can feed Zuri and Hodari, two leaf-loving giraffes who will lick the snacks right out of your hands. Zoo admission is $6 for kids and $9 for adults.
The downtown Saturday Farmers Market has been going on for 102 years. Its emphasis is the locally grown — try to resist the stunning bouquets of colorful flowers for sale — but there are plenty of snacking options from corn-on-a-stick to spring rolls and bubble tea to cheese Danishes. SilverWear by Misty is a great stall for souvenirs — the well-priced jewelry is made from recycled spoons and forks. Likewise for Queen Bee soaps, whose wares fit easily into travel bags and smell terrific.
Finally, check out the Green Bay Botanical Garden, which has a “wetting zoo” of topiaries that children can water and includes a butterfly house, a summer concert series and a children’s garden with a slide, maze and tree house. Kids are $5 and adults $10.