20 Things To Do In Appleton, WI

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Serving as the economic, cultural and entertainment hub of Wisconsin’s Fox Cities area, the city of Appleton is a Midwest travel destination where stunning nature seamlessly combines with the city’s historic charm to create one of Wisconsin’s most picturesque cities. The city sits on the northern shores of Lake Winnebago, the go-to recreational waterfront for thousands of Midwesterners come summertime and is just 31 miles (50 km) outside Green Bay, one of the United States’ most iconic sporting cities.

With so much to experience in and around Appleton, it’s a travel destination that’s sure to entertain and delight visitors of all ages and interests, with attractions such as the Trout Museum of Art and the Hearthstone Historic House Museum on hand to keep travellers busy when spending time in downtown Appleton.

Appleton, Wisconsin

Things To Do In Appleton, WI

appleton wisconsin map
Looking for things to do in Appleton Wisconsin? Check out our top 20 list.

1- Tour The Trout Museum of Art

Housed inside a state-of-the-art three-story building in downtown Appleton, the Trout Museum of Art is a major cultural attraction in the east-central region of Wisconsin.

The venue opened in 1972 as the “Appleton Gallery of Art” before undergoing a relocation and renaming process following the donation of the institution’s current building to the museum.

Hosting anywhere between 12 and 18 art exhibitions every year, the Trout Museum of Art is among the top attractions to visit in Appleton and even organises free educational programs for visitors of all ages to partake in.

The Trout Museum of Art is at 111 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911.

2- Spend An Afternoon Along Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago
Spending time around Lake Winnebago is one of the things to do in Appleton WI.

Covering 137,700 acres (55,725 ha), Lake Winnebago is the largest completely inland lake in Wisconsin and has an impressive 88-mile (142 km) shoreline for travellers to enjoy.

The lake has a maximum depth of only about 21 feet (6.4 m) and borders the Wisconsin cities of Oshkosh, Menasha, Neenah, and Appleton.

Used as the setting of Dr. Seuss’s “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” children’s novel, Lake Winnebago is home to virtually every outdoor recreational activity you can think of.

It’s a popular summertime destination in the Midwest.

3- Stop By The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, commonly referred to as the “PAC”, is a world-class live performance venue which has played host to everything from Broadway productions to presidential speeches.

Opened on November 25, 2002, the centre cost about $45 million to build and has two theatre halls and two private lounges, which combine to give the centre a max seating capacity of more than 2,550.

The centre was used to showcase the premieres of Broadway’s “The Lion King” and “Les Misérables” in Wisconsin and was even used by George W. Bush during a 2004 campaign run.

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is at 400 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911.

4- Explore The History Museum at the Castle

On the campus of Lawrence University, the History Museum at the Castle is a cultural landmark owned and operated by the Outagamie County Historical Society (OCHS for short).

The award-winning institution is housed inside a former Masonic Temple dating back to 1923, which was sold to the OCHS in 1985 to be converted into a museum.

Formerly known as “The Houdini Historic Center” and “The Outagamie Museum”, the institution features several interactive exhibits of important moments in regional and national history and hosts a variety of educational programs and workshops for visitors to join.

The History Museum at the Castle is at 330 E College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911.

5- Swing By The Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin

things to do appleton
Enjoying the Butterfly Gardens is one of the lovely things to do in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Home to a collection of more than 200 butterflies, the Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin is among the most-visited outdoor attractions in the Badger State’s east-central region.

The gardens are 5 miles (8 km) north of downtown Appleton and a short distance from Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard, one of Appleton’s largest orchards and a good outdoor attraction to visit in its own right.

Among the gardens’ top sights are its butterfly-shaped hedge maze, its indoor-outdoor exhibits and its butterfly-friendly plants, which visitors can purchase to plant in their backyards back home.

The Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin is at N2550 WI-47, Appleton, WI 54913.

6- Take A Stroll Through The Picturesque Lawrence University Campus

Regarded as the top liberal arts college in Wisconsin, Lawrence University in downtown Appleton is a highly respected educational institution that is home to one of the state’s most picturesque college campuses.

The university’s 84-acre (34 ha) campus sits right on the banks of the Fox River and is split into a north and south section, with the university’s academic buildings situated in the northern part and the athletic facilities in the southern part.

Lawrence University became the second coeducational education institution in the United States when it was founded in 1847.

Its history-packed campus is home to landmarks such as the Hulbert House and Main Hall.

7- Hike The Scenic Fox Trot Trail

The Fox Trot Trail is a two-mile (3.2 km) looped trail that guides travellers on a tour of some of downtown Appleton’s most important landmarks and beautiful riverfront views.

The trail passes by attractions such as the world’s first hydroelectric plant, Houdini Plaza, the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, Lawrence University and the History Museum at the Castle, some of Appleton’s most visited attractions.

There are 16 stopping points along the Fox Trot Trail in total, with a dedicated visitor centre on hand to make the experience that much more interesting and worthwhile.

8- Visit The Hearthstone Historic House Museum

The nationally acclaimed Hearthstone Historic House Museum gained international fame when on September 30, 1882, it became the world’s first home to be illuminated using a central Edison hydroelectric system.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the residence was built by architects Henry VanStrom and William Waters in 1882 and is a classic example of Queen Anne-style design.

Formerly known as the “Henry J. Rogers House”, the Appleton landmark now operates as a museum, which is a remarkable attraction to explore if you’re interested in the history of electricity.

The Hearthstone Historic House Museum is at 625 W Prospect Ave, Appleton, WI 54911.

9- Go Shopping At The Fox River Mall

Situated on a 137-acre (55 ha) plot of land, the Fox River Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the state of Wisconsin.

The mall boasts well over 1.2 million square feet (111,484 m2) of retail space and is the centrepiece of the Grand Chute shopping district, which is appropriately nicknamed the “shopping capital of Wisconsin”.

Anchored by retail giants Target, JCPenny and Macy’s, the mall is home to more than 130 stores for shoppers to stop at, as well as several restaurants, cafes and counter vendors.

The Fox River Mall is at 4301 W Wisconsin Ave, Appleton, WI 54913.

10- Experience The Sights In The College Avenue Historic District

The College Avenue Historic District is a 7-acre (3 ha) block of downtown Appleton that hosts some of the city’s most historic landmarks and storied cultural institutions.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the district is renowned for its eye-catching architectural styles, great restaurants and eclectic shopping scene.

Among the district’s top sights and attractions are the Hearthstone Historic House Museum, the Lawrence University campus, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and the 12-story Zuelke Building.

11- Swing By Appleton Memorial Park

Covering an area of more than 143 acres (58 ha), Appleton Memorial Park is the largest public park in all of Appleton and is home to nine baseball fields and the Appleton Family Ice Center. 

Initially an old quarry site, the park is a popular destination in town for picnicking and comes complete with hiking trails, playgrounds, an amphitheatre and a large swimming pool.

The park was designed by prominent landscape architect Jens Jensen, the same architect behind Lincoln Park in Chicago, and is open to the public year-round no matter the season.

Appleton Memorial Park is at 1620 E Witzke Blvd, Appleton, WI 54911.

12- Catch A Game At Fox Cities Stadium

Built back in 1995, the 5,900 seater Fox Cities Stadium is the official home of Appleton’s Wisconsin Timber Rattlers baseball team, a minor league affiliate of the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers.

The stadium opened in 1995 and has played host to NCAA Division III College World Series championships and live music concerts, and has been renovated several times over the decades to keep the stadium up to modern standards.

Formally known as Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, the stadium is downtown Appleton’s go-to live event space and is always a lively venue to visit whenever a major sporting event or well-known musician rolls into town.

Fox Cities Stadium is at 2400 N Casaloma Dr, Appleton, WI 54913.

13- Relax In The Scenic Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve

Boasting a wide range of diverse biomes and habitats across a 700-acre (283 ha) plot, the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is a year-round outdoor attraction that combines recreation, education and conservation into one place. 

The nature preserve sits firmly within Wisconsin’s Tension Zone, the geographical meeting spot between the Badger State’s Southern and Northern regions.

Among the preserve’s things to do are cross-country skiing during winter months, traversing the preserve’s more than 8 miles (13 km) of hiking trails during summer and spring, or stopping by the preserve’s informative education centre.

The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is at 4815 N Lynndale Dr, Appleton, WI 54913.

14- Stop By The One-Of-A-Kind Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

Perched on the scenic shores of Lake Winnebago about 7 miles (11 km) outside downtown Appleton is the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, a one-of-a-kind visual arts centre in the region.

The museum/art gallery specialises in exhibiting a range of contemporary glassworks ranging from glass sculptures to Germanic drinking vases and antique paperweights.

The centre also has a gift store on site where visitors can pick up unique glass gift items to remember their trip to Appleton.

The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass is at 165 N Park Ave, Neenah, WI 54956.

15- Hike Through Historic High Cliff State Park

Named after the Niagara Escarpment’s tall limestone cliff along Lake Winnebago’s eastern shore, High Cliff State Park is a large outdoor recreational space with several attractions and sights to behold within its borders.

The park was formed back in 1956 and spans an area of well over 1,180 acres (478 ha), giving nature lovers plenty of room to spread out and relax in.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, the state park is as much a historic landmark as it is an outdoor one, renowned for its 12-foot-tall (3.6 m) statue of former Winnebago Chief Red Bird.

High Cliff State Park is along N7630 State Park Rd, Sherwood, WI 54169.

16- Discover The Region’s Papermaking Roots At The Atlas Science Center

The Atlas Science Center is a unique landmark in Appleton that specialises in preserving and exhibiting the region’s rich papermaking roots and how the industry shaped the modern-day Fox Cities area.

Formerly titled the “Paper Discovery Center”, the venue opened its doors to the Fox Cities public in 2005 and was renamed following Atlas Mill’s donation of the centre’s current venue to the science institution.

The centre plays host to the annual Science Summer Series, aimed at engaging young visitors with a variety of STEM-related fields through a range of interactive exhibits and workshops.

The Atlas Science Center is at 425 W Water St, Appleton, WI 54911.

17- Stop By The Downtown Appleton Farm Market

woman shopping at the farmers market
Another of the popular things to do in Appleton wi is to shop at the farmer’s market.

Over 100 local vendors flock to the Downtown Appleton Farm Market every week to sell their farm-fresh produce and foods to the residents and visitors of the Fox Cities area.

First organised in 2015, the market takes place on Saturday mornings between 8 am and 12.30 pm during the summer months and takes place right in the heart of downtown Appleton along College Avenue.

Free to visit and offering a range of speciality dishes and hard-to-find treats for sale, the market is a fantastic place to interact with the local community and enjoy the city’s unique culture.

The Downtown Appleton Farm Market can be found along W College Avenue, Appleton, WI 54911.

18- Go Beer Tasting At The Appleton Beer Factory

paddle of six beers
Tasting local beer is one of the fun things to do in Appleton Wisconsin.

Established in 2013, the Appleton Beer Factory is a one-stop venue in downtown Appleton where beer is both produced and enjoyed in copious amounts.

The factory produces a range of popular beers such as lagers, IPAs, stouts and porters, as well as less well-known beer varieties such as Märzen and lambic.

The Appleton Beer Factory also serves as a destination for live music and boasts a tasty selection of meals to nibble on while you’re trying out the brewery’s wide selection of house-crafted beers.

The Appleton Beer Factory is at 603 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54914.

19- Take The Little Ones To The Building for Kids Children’s Museum

The 30,000-square-foot (2,787 m2) Building for Kids Children’s Museum is a popular tourist destination in downtown Appleton for families travelling with kids, offering a wide range of interactive exhibits for the little ones to learn through play.

Established on November 2, 1992, by locals Rochelle Lamm and Paula Meyer, the museum initially opened its doors as the “Fox Cities Children’s Museum” and has since grown into an award-winning institution that attracts over 120,000 annual visitors.

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum is at 100 W College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911.

20- Plan A Day Trip To Green Bay

Appleton’s central location and proximity to several big Wisconsin cities make it a popular destination for travellers looking to explore the sights and landmarks on offer across the Badger State’s east-central region.

Certainly one of the Midwest’s most iconic cities is Green Bay, a Wisconsin city that’s known for its illustrious pro football team, small-town charm and stunning lakefront views.

Green Bay is just a 31-mile (50 km) journey northeast of downtown Appleton, making it quick and easy to experience Green Bay landmarks such as Lambeau Field, Bay Beach Amusement Park and the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

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Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.