Love football? We know a day trip for. Don't love football? These cities still rule.

By LINDSEY ANDERSONANN CHRISTENSONCHRIS DROSNERKARISA LANGLO and ADAM ROGAN with contributions by JANE BURNSALLISON GEYERELIZABETH JOHNSON and MATTHEW MARTINEZ.

Here in Wisconsin, we’re used to football being the center of many fall weekends. (OK, maybe every fall weekend.) And there may be no better place to go deep for a day of football than Titletown itself – even on the 350-some days when there’s not a game there. And just to the southeast lies a pristine stretch of Lake Michigan dotted with attractions that’s worth a jaunt north on its own merits.


It’s a Packapalooza

Forget game day in Green Bay. Think any day. Since Lambeau Field’s renovation in 2000, the Packers have steadily built up reasons to visit the city and the stadium area year-round.

The Packers Hall of Fame is in the stadium’s atrium, but the center of everyday activity is the Titletown District west of Lambeau Field. The park bustles with kids climbing a gonzo playground and running timed 40-yard dashes. Older competitors can get in on the action with lawn games: bocce, cornhole, table tennis, foosball, even horseshoes. And a full-size football field (bring a ball!) offers a chance to try a field goal or see just how hard it is to complete a 15- yard back-shoulder pass. In winter, visitors can fly down the 46-foot sledding hill and skate on an ice rink set up in the plaza.

The Packers have plenty of history all around Green Bay, and the Packers Heritage Trail takes visitors from a plaza of statues downtown on self-guided tours to spots like former playing fields and Vince Lombardi’s (modest) house.

To maximize exposure to actual Packers, though, late summer’s training camp is the best time to visit – if only to see the tradition of gargantuan linemen riding local kids’ little bikes or score easy, cheap tickets to a preseason game.


Save the Dates

Many Packers practices from July 25-Aug. 19 are open to the public. Family Night (Aug. 2) is always a camp highlight, and this year the team celebrates its 100th birthday on Aug. 11.


Embrace the Lake

Milwaukeeans know a thing or two about Lake Michigan. It defines our city.

But somehow our Great Lake feels even greater when it’s experienced from a small town. The lake just seems to consume, to absorb everything else, when there’s less human activity to balance its immense natural majesty. Exhibit A here is Manitowoc and its twin town, Two Rivers.

Photo by Chris Drosner, Milwaukee Magazine

Start with a visit to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) and dive into the town’s prolific shipbuilding past. A tour of the museum’s signature piece, World War II-era submarine USS Cobia, brings the stuffy, confined duty of its crew to life.

Hugging the lake along the 7 miles between the downtowns of Manitowoc and Two Rivers is the Mariner’s Trail, with scenic overlooks and the flower-filled lawns of the West of the Lake Gardens making for good stops along the way.

The area also boasts some of the state’s best beaches. Neshotah Beach, in a municipal park on the north end of Two Rivers, offers a snack bar, shaded pavilion and volleyball nets in the sugary white sand. Point Beach State Forest includes a 6-mile expanse of mostly undeveloped beach, with a campground, lighthouse, nature center and hiking trails nearby.

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Where to Eat

KROLL’S WEST: It’s a good burger, with ketchup, onions and pickles, but it’s the pat of butter – a topping here for decades before Culver’s brought the “butter burger” concept nationwide – that seals the delicious deal. The quiet hero is the toasted hard roll that holds all that juiciness together. 1990 S. Ridge Rd.

 

Kroll’s West. Photo by Chris Drosner, Milwaukee Magazine

HINTERLAND: The dining and beer garden anchor of the Titletown District, Hinterland offers high-end contemporary American fare. As the weather cools down, the sleek-meets-Northwoods space warms up, with two big wood fireplaces adding to the hygge. 1001 Lombardi Ave.
COURTHOUSE PUB: Housebrewed beer and a menu filled with legal puns (appetizers are “opening statements”) are on the docket at this joint right across from the actual courthouse where some of the legal action in “Making a Murderer” took place. 1001 S. Eighth St., Manitowoc


It’s Good!

We asked Carthage College placekicker David Collins for some keys if you’re trying to knock one through the uprights at the field in the Titletown District. His tips: Keep your head down, follow through with your body and take deep breaths to block out distractions like your heckling friend. Collins centers his kicks on the big knuckle of his big toe and says positivity is vital. “Always have faith in the kick,” Collins says.


More to Explore

THE AUTOMOBILE GALLERY: The concept at this downtown attraction is a gearhead’s dream elevated with the trappings of a fine-art museum. (The gallery’s theme is “The Automobile Is the Art.”). The collection of classic autos – from 1912 Maxwell to baby blue 1960 Corvette to a Back to the Future-vintage DeLorean – is stunning, even for people who just use cars to get around. 400 S. Adams St., Green Bay
HAMILTON WOOD TYPE & PRINTING MUSEUM: Two Rivers was a wood type manufacturing center for more than a century, and the craft lives today at this modest museum that’s a must for anyone interested in art, design or woodworking. It’s a working museum, so you may encounter visiting artists making prints from the museum’s more than 1,000 type sets, or volunteers creating new ones. 1816 10th St., Two Rivers

 

Photo courtesy of Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum

FARM WISCONSIN DISCOVERY CENTER: For just over a year, Farm Wisconsin has taught kids about agriculture with interactive displays, simulators and tours to the nearby 2,700-cow Grotegut Dairy Farm. The hushed, solemn birthing barn is the highlight. Even if you don’t see a calf emerge – there’s usually about one a day – you really feel the moment as cows in labor pace, pant and wait for their new babies. 7001 Gass Lake Rd., Manitowoc
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