Green Bay, Wisconsin
It’s more than just a football town.
Story by Chris Chamberlain
It’s a shame that the only time most people think about Green Bay, Wisconsin is during pro football season, when the weather can be pretty problematic for all but the most avid “Packer Backers.” While it’s certainly worthwhile to visit this charming Midwestern city to watch a football game and experience the crazed devotion of the NFL team’s fans, Green Bay is a lovely destination with a temperate climate during summer months when people in most of the rest of the country are melting in cars or huddling next to an A/C vent. Here’s a plan for a busy long weekend visit to the city nicknamed Titletown, USA.
“Titletown” is also the name of a vibrant entertainment district that has sprung up around the Packers’ home of Lambeau Field. This area is home to a fabulous hotel right across the street from the main gates of the stadium. Lodge Kohler is owned by the same company that manufactures luxury bathroom and kitchen faucets and fixtures, so it’s no surprise that the bathrooms in this property are pretty darned plush and filled with some of the best plumbing gadgets around. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a suboptimal hotel shower, you’ll probably ask the front desk for a bathroom fixtures brochure before you leave. In addition to the modern and comfortable accommodations, Lodge Kohler also boasts a relaxing spa featuring various massage options, hydrotherapy, and body treatments. The Leaps & Bounds lobby café is a great place to enjoy a quick breakfast of cup of coffee on the terrace, and the impressive Taverne in the Sky serves a classic gastropub menu with sweeping views of Lambeau just a hundred yards away.
A short stroll across the street leads to the entrance of Lambeau Field where fans can experience a behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic home of the Packers, the site of home games since 1957. Different levels of tours offer excursions ranging from one to two hours that feature the chance to visit luxury boxes, locker rooms, and even walk through the players’ tunnel to the side of the field. A visit to the Packers Hall of Fame is a must for fans of football history, no matter your favorite team. The multi-level museum is filled with Packer memorabilia from years past and interactive exhibits memorializing great games. Stop by the massive Pro Shop to browse for some team swag. If you can think of it, they’ve probably slapped a Packers logo on it. Finally, pay a visit to the 1919 Kitchen & Tap located inside the main concourse of the stadium for a beer and a bite.
The rest of the Titletown District is worth a visit, especially the dramatic Ariens Hill, a grassy slope that visitors can walk up in the summer for a sweeping view of the entire complex that turns into a snow tubing hill during the winter months. The entire area is extremely family-friendly with a plaza filled with kids’ games, books and magazines for a quiet read, an art cart full of supplies for whenever the creative inspiration strikes, and a game court for horseshoes, shuffleboard, bocce, ping pong and other activities. A large football-inspired playing field is designed to encourage active kids as part of the NFL’s Play 60 initiative.
For adults looking for a little exertion, (OK, very little) Green Bay is a golf mecca during the months when it’s warm enough to play. A notable nearby course is Thornberry Creek at Oneida, with two public courses: the 18-hole Legends Championship Course and the nine-hole Iroquois Course. If you’re a car nut, you can’t miss the Automobile Gallery, a converted car lot that is now home to an amazing collection of dozens of beautiful vintage autos ranging from a 1963 ‘Vette to a 1981 DeLorean straight out of “Back to the Future.” For even bigger examples of American steel, make a visit to the National Railroad Museum to experience its incredible array of rolling stock including massive locomotives and historic Pullman sleeper cars. You can also take a two-lap tour around the grounds on special touring cars pulled by a vintage engine.
There are great eating and drinking choices near the Lambeau Field area and also just a short drive away. Titletown Brewing Company is fairly large for a craft brewery, but its location right across the street from the stadium ensures big crowds on game days. In addition to a regular roster of approachable American and European beers, its attractive taproom in a converted railroad depot offers rotating offerings of special seasonal brews that are a little more exotic. The food menu features hearty fare like poutine and pretzels that pair perfectly with beer plus larger plates to make a full meal of it. Taco Tuesdays and Friday Fish Fry nights are excellent times to drop by.
Wisconsinites love their beers cold, cocktails sweet, and food plentiful. You can find all of those in abundance at Kroll’s West, located in the shadow of Lambeau. The walls of this delightfully unpretentious eatery are covered with autographed photos of past celebrity guests, including plenty of famous Packers. The appropriately dark bar area is usually filled with regulars enjoying Brandy Alexanders and Old Fashioneds, so it’s a great place to soak up some local color.
For another prototypical Wisconsin dining experience, check out the Rivers Bend, a classic supper club vibe with steaks, chops and seafood served with a view of Duck Creek. Enjoy an inexpensive but strong cocktail before a meal from the classic chophouse and seafood menu and you might find yourself rooting for the Packers next season.
Of course, this being Wisconsin, you know there have to be some great breweries in the region, and Green Bay doesn’t disappoint. It’s also nice that there is a wide variety of brewery sizes and beer styles represented, so you can choose your own adventure. In addition to the large-scale Titletown mentioned above, there are a few more options that are worth your attention:
Badger State Brewing is a partnership between three friends (two of which happen to be cousins) who came together to brew beer and serve Wisconsin-made beers in a 24-tap beer garden. This trio of brewers definitely knows what it’s doing, and offers more than a dozen recipes in cans all over the area plus even more on draft in the taproom. Try one of the sour beers for an exotic treat.
Noble Roots Brewing is another family affair with everyone pitching in to serve up tastings and pints in a cozy suburban taproom, brewing the beer on a small system and even designing logos for labels and the décor of the brewery. This place may be tiny, but it’s mighty, and the Falish family has done a great job scaling their home brewing hobby into a going commercial concern. If you find a new favorite, take some home in a 64 oz. growler bottle.
Finally, there’s Stillmank Brewing Company, possibly the craftiest of Green Bay brewers. Head brewer Brad Stillmank was an early player in the craft beer business, working at a brewery in Colorado in the early 2000s and earning a brewing certificate in California long before the most recent craft beer boom. His years of experience have given him time to hone in his recipes to perfection, allowing him to create stylistically-appropriate beers when he wants and radically wacky brews when he’s in a mood. Stillmank is best known for his award-winning Wisco Disco ESB, an extra strong bitter brewed with a touch of milk sugar to create a luscious mouthfeel and a variety of malts and hops to contribute a complexity of flavors. It really is a special beer!
You don’t have to wait for the football season to kick off to enjoy a trip to Green Bay. Several airlines fly into the easy-to-navigate airport or it’s just a short drive from Milwaukee or Chicago, so make plans soon to eat and drink your way through Packer Town!
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