Best Things to do in Appleton, Wisconsin

best things to do in appleton

Nestled in the heart of the Fox River Valley, Appleton is a vibrant city with a rich history. Founded in 1857, Appleton was once a thriving lumber town.

Today, the city is home to a variety of businesses and cultural attractions. Visitors can explore the historic downtown district, stroll through the beautiful Riverside Park, or visit one of the many museums and theaters. Whether you are looking for an exciting night out or a relaxing weekend getaway, this charming city has a ton to offer.

To help you find the best things to do in Appleton, we’ve broke this guide into a few different lists so that if you’re looking for something specific, you can click directly to that section:

Best Museums in Appleton

hearthstone historic house museum

1) Hearthstone Historic House Museum

Hearthstone historic house museum Is a large Richardsonian-style mansion located in Appleton, Wisconsin. This house was the first private residence to have to be lit by hydroelectric power.

The home is furnished with period furniture and features original architectural details such as stained glass windows, fireplaces, and oak woodwork. The museum offers guided tours, educational programs, and special events throughout the year.

Visitors can learn about the history of the home and the Rodgers family, as well as take a peek into life in late 19th century America. Hearthstone is a must-see for anybody interested in history or architecture, and provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.

building for kids

2) Building for Kids

The Fox Valley is home to many great museums, but one that is sure to be a hit with kids is the Building for Kids Children’s Museum. This museum features hands-on exhibits that teach kids about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Some of the popular exhibits include a life-sized chess set, a water table with pumps and pipes, and a giant Mousetrap game. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also offers programs and classes for kids of all ages.

These classes range from art and music to cooking and robotics. With so much to see and do, the Building for Kids Children’s Museum is sure to provide hours of fun for kids of all ages.

trout museum of art

3) Trout Museum of Art

The Trout Museum of Art located on Houdini plaza in the middle of Appleton offers any art lover a great experience. The 150+ work collection is a product of the Appleton Artists Guild, who, since the 1960s, wanted to provide opportunities for artists in the Fox Valley.

The current museum was completed in 2002 in its amazing central location in the middle of downtown Appleton. Whether You are looking for an interesting afternoon or a full day of amazing art, the Trout Museum is the place to be!

history museum at the castle

4) The History Museum at the Castle

The History Museum at the castle is located in Appleton, Wisconsin. The museum is set in a 19th-century castle that was once home to a local family.

Today, the museum houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the castle and its residents. The museum also hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year. Visitors can explore the grounds of the castle, tour the museum’s exhibits, and participate in educational programs. The History Museum at the castle is open to the public year-round.

5) The Paper Discovery Center

The Paper Discovery Center is a fun and interactive museum in Appleton, Wisconsin that teaches visitors about the history and science of papermaking.

The center is home to a working paper mill, where visitors can see firsthand how paper is made from tree bark and other materials. The mill is powered by a waterwheel, and visitors can watch as the paper is formed, pressed, and dried. In addition to the mill, the Paper Discovery Center houses a variety of exhibits that teach about the different types of paper, their uses, and how they are recycled.

Visitors can also make their own paper using traditional methods, such as hand-painting or using a mold and deckle. The Paper Discovery Center is a great place to learn about the fascinating paper-making process, and to see how this important material is made.

Best Things to do in Appleton

fox city performing arts center
The Fox Cities Performing Art Center” by Dale Basler is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

1) Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is a 2,100-seat venue located in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. The center opened in 2002 and is home to the Appleton Symphony Orchestra, the Fox Valley Concert Band, and the Fox Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

The center also hosts a variety of other events throughout the year, including Broadway shows, dance performances, and music concerts. In addition to the main performance hall, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center also features a smaller black box theater, which is often used for experimental or contemporary productions.

The center is a major cultural destination in the Fox Valley region and has helped to revitalize downtown Appleton.

lawrence athletics
St Lawrence University Football Stadium” by jimmywayne is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

2) Watch a Lawrence University Athletics Sports Match

Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin is home to a variety of sports teams, including basketball, cross country, and swimming. The university’s athletes compete at the Division III level and are members of the Midwest Conference.

The school’s basketball teams play their home games in the Alexander Gymnasium, while the cross country and track teams compete at the Banta Bowl. Lawrence also has a strong tradition of success in swimming, with the men’s team winning thirteen Midwest Conference championships and the women’s team winning twelve.

3) Lawrence University Conservatory of Music Shows

Appleton is home to Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, which offers a wide variety of musical performances throughout the year. The conservatory puts on multiple shows each month, featuring both student and professional musicians.

These concerts are open to the public and provide a great opportunity to experience a wide range of musical styles. Additionally, the conservatory offers a variety of educational programs, including lessons and workshops for both students and adults. Whether you’re a music lover or simply looking for a new experience, Lawrence University Conservatory shows are well worth seeing!

Downtown Appleton Wisconsin” by @CarShowShooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

4) Fox River Mall

The Fox River Mall in Appleton is one of the largest malls in the state. It is anchored by Macy’s, JCPenney, and Sears, and features over 170 stores and restaurants.

The mall also has a large food court, an AMC movie theater, and a few entertainment options for kids. In addition to its retail offerings, the Fox River Mall is also home to several businesses and service providers, including a post office and a bank. The mall is open seven days a week, and free parking is available for guests.

With its convenient location and wide variety of shopping and dining options, the Fox River Mall is a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike.

butterfly garden
Butterfly Garden of Wisconsin (Appleton, Wisconsin)” by @CarShowShooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

5) Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin

The Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin is a must-see for anyone who loves butterflies. This one-of-a-kind attraction features over 200 species of butterflies from all over the world.

Visitors can stroll through the gardens and see the butterflies up close as they flutter among the flowers. The Gardens also offer educational programs that teach visitors about butterfly ecology and conservation.

In addition, the Gardens host special events throughout the year, making them the perfect destination for a family outing or a day trip with friends. Whether you’re a butterfly enthusiast or simply looking for a unique place to visit, the Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin are sure to provide a memorable experience.

appleton farmer’s market” by h-bomb is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

6) Appleton Farmers Market

Appleton farmers market is the perfect place to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The market is open from mid-May through October, and features a wide variety of vendors selling everything from apples to zucchini.

In addition to produce, the market also offers flowers, baked goods, honey, and maple syrup. Visitors can also find handmade arts and crafts, as well as live music and entertainment. The market is a great place to support local farmers and businesses, and to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or a fun place to spend a Saturday morning, the Appleton farmers market is sure to please.

Main Hall, Lawrence University” by *rboed* is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

7) Wander the Lawrence University Campus

Lawrence University is a small liberal arts school in Appleton, Wisconsin. The campus is situated on the banks of the Fox River, and features a variety of beautiful buildings and grounds.

The main administration building, Main Hall, is a historic landmark that dates back to 1857. Today, it houses the offices of the president and other administrators, as well as classrooms and meeting spaces. The campus also includes several academic buildings, including facilities for the sciences, humanities, and fine arts.

In addition to its academic offerings, Lawrence University is also home to a number of performance spaces, including the Lawrence Memorial Chapel and the Warch Campus Center Theater. Outside of its classroom and performance spaces, the campus features a number of green areas, including an indoor botanical garden and an outdoor amphitheater. Lawrence University is a beautiful and vibrant community that offers something for everyone.

Best Outdoor Activities near Appleton

high cliff state park
High Cliff State Park path” by random letters is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

1) High Cliff State Park

High Cliff State Park is a 1,268-acre Wisconsin state park located along the shores of Lake Winnebago. The park includes a 100-foot limestone cliff that provides a stunning view of the lake and its surroundings.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, and fishing in the park. There is also a nature center and an observation tower that offer opportunities to learn about the natural history of the area. High Cliff State Park is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the local environment.

Bubolz Nature Preserve
Bubolz Nature Preserve 6-18-08” by Fox Cities Blog is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

2) Bubolz Nature Preserve

Bubolz nature preserve is a beautiful place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The nature preserve offers over 7 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. There is also an abundance of wildlife to observe, including deer, foxes, and mice.

The preserve is open year-round, and there are many events and programs offered throughout the year. In the winter, the preserve offers cross-country skiing lessons and candlelight hikes. In the spring, there are wildflower walks and birdhouse building workshops. And in the summer, there are stargazing nights and canoe trips. No matter what time of year it is, Bubolz nature preserve is a great place to connect with nature.

3) Plamann Park

Plamann Park is a beautiful, popular park located in Appleton, Wisconsin. The park offers a variety of activities and amenities for visitors, including a playground, picnic areas, a fishing pond, hiking trails, and a disc golf course.

Plamann Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, squirrels, and birds. In the spring and summer, the park is filled with colorful flowers, and in the fall, the leaves on the trees change to beautiful shades of red and orange. Plamann Park is an enjoyable place to visit all year round.

4) Picnic in Riverside Park

There’s nothing quite like a summer picnic. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and the company is good. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch, look no further than Riverside Park, located on the banks of the Fox River.

The park offers beautiful scenery, plenty of green space, and picnic tables galore, making it a great place to pack a picnic or just spend some time relaxing.

Special Events in Appleton

mile of music

1) Mile of Music

The Mile of Music is an annual festival that takes place in Appleton, Wisconsin. The event was founded in 2013 by music educator and performer Cory Chisel and features over 800 live performances by more than 200 artists.

The Mile of Music is held over four days in August and features a variety of genres, including folk, rock, blues, and jazz. In addition to live music, the festival also offers food and drink vendors, crafts booths, and kids’ activities. The Mile of Music is a non-profit event that is entirely volunteer-operated. All of the proceeds from the event go to support local music education programs.

2) Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is a fall festival held annually in Appleton, Wisconsin. The festival celebrates the German heritage of the Fox River Valley with food, music, and beer.

Oktoberfest is held the first weekend in October and features a parade, carnival rides, and games. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees can purchase food and drink from vendors throughout the festival grounds.

There is also a stage with live entertainment, including traditional German music. Oktoberfest is a family-friendly event that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Best Bars in Appleton

1) Player 2 Arcade Bar

This bar, locally known as P2, is nothing but fun. Not only is it a great place to grab a drink with friends, but you can also find games like the original pac man and Mario Kart there. So grab a beer and some tokens, and enjoy one of the best bars in Appleton.

2) Wooden Nickle

The wooden nickel is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall bar. The wooden building is perfect for any football Sunday or just a night out. With amazing prices and free popcorn, what else is there to want!

3) Leg Lamp

Leg lamp is located above a popular sports Bar on the western part of downtown. This unique bar is only open on the weekends but is the spot for anyone wanting to dance and sing along to classic songs from the early 2000s.

4) Mill Creek

Right next to a by-the-slice pizza place and across from the Fox City Performing Arts Center, you will find Mill Creek. Perfect for pool, dancing, and drinks, Mill creek is a great place to spend some time on a Friday night.

5) D2

D2 is one of the largest bars in Appleton. With at least two DJs on weekends any guest can choose the music they like best. If dancing isn’t on the bill for the night, then D2 offers a great outdoor patio that has fire pits and plenty of space for corn hole.

Best Restaurants in Appleton

1) Stone Arch/Stone Cellar

This location is just across the river from downtown Appleton, and shouldn’t be ignored. This amazing restaurant is the main location for the Stone Arch Brewrey. When dining, you will be seated German style cellar with plenty of options ranging from pizza to Wienerschnitzel. If you visit, the fried cheese curds are a must-try!

2) Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant

This place is perfect for a fancy night out in Appleton. With one of the best views of the Fox river, Fratellos is one of the best Italian restaurants in town.

3) Milwaukee Burger Company

Located next to the Fox Valley Mall, MBC is a perfect place to get a large portion of some of the best burgers that Wisconsin has to offer. For the more adventurous guests, you can take on the burger eating challenge to get a spot of honor on the wall.

4) Home Burger Bar

Located in the middle of downtown Appleton, Home Burger Bar is a great place for lunch or dinner. One of the most unique items on their menu is the Luther Burger, which replaces the normal burger bun with a halved glazed donut.

5) Antojitos

Located on college avenue near the Lawrence university campus, Antojitos is the perfect place to get afternoon Margaritas. Go on Monday nights to get half off on any size margs!

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