Boating on the Bay

Summer of Festivals

Green Bay and De Pere build events around food, music and art. Here are some of the festivals happening in 2013:

Nicolet Bank’s Dine on the Deck, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, early June to end of August. Music and food.
www.downtowngreenbay.com

BayCare Clinic’s Farmers’ Market On Broadway, 3-8 p.m. Wednesdays, early June through October 16. Food and music.
www.farmersmarketonbroadway.com

Associated Bank’s Fridays on the Fox, 6-9 p.m. June 28-August 10 (concessions open at 5 p.m.). Music.
www.downtowngreenbay.com

Knights on the Fox, 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays, July 9-August 6. Concerts on St. Norbert College’s riverside terrace and park in De Pere.
www.snc.edu/community/communityprograms

Leicht at Night, 6:15-10 p.m. Thursdays, July 11-August 22 (opens at 5:30 p.m.). Concerts on the Fox River.
www.leichtatnite.com

Restaurant Week, July 11-18.
www.gbrestaurantweek.com

Baylake Bank Tall Ship Festival, August 16-18 in Downtown Green Bay. Ships are docked in the Fox River and can be seen by boat. The festival offers ship tours, entertainment and food.
www.tallshipgreenbay.com

Taste on Broadway, 5-11 p.m. August 1.
www.onbroadway.org/taste

Mosaic Arts ArtStreet, 5-11 p.m. August 23; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. August 24; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. August 25. Enjoy visual and performing arts, plus food and activities.
www.mosaicartsinc.org/artstreet

Artcraftic on Broadway, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. September 21. Arts and crafts.
www.onbroadway.org/artcraftic

Tall Ships Challenge

Imagine hearing about long-ago life on the high seas while you help crew on a four-masted ship, or seeing a cannon go off from a boat as it did during the War of 1812. The Tall Ships, those historic and replica brigs, schooners and other high-mast boats that ply the Great Lakes and international seas, are pulling into Green Bay, Wisconsin August 15-18. The Tall Ships will be racing to Wisconsin from Navy Pier in Chicago (August 7-11) as part of the bi-national Tall Ships Challenge of Great Lakes maritime festivals and races.

As of mid-June, nine Tall Ships have confirmed they will be docking at Leicht Park in Green Bay for tours and day sails August 16-18. However, some of the ships will take on passengers as the boats sail to the port from Sturgeon Bay on August 15.

Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau President Brad Toll says the Tall Ship Festival (sponsored by Baylake Bank) draws about 60,000 people. “We’re the only city in Wisconsin to host Tall Ships,” says Toll. “We’re very proud to be that city.”

“Given our long history as a port city going back to 1634 when ships started arriving in our port, it’s very fitting tall ships come into our city. It’s a blast from the past,” he continues. “It’s a great festival and a great opportunity for residents and visitors to tour the ships, interact with the crew and experience what life was like on the seas back in those days. “

Among the ships docking in Green Bay is the Tall Ships America Flagship Niagara, which Oliver Hazard Perry captained to win the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813.

Day sails are being offered aboard the gaff-rigged schooners Appledore IV and Haile & Matthew, the 1925 Hindu schooner and the four-masted Windy. Tickets are $50-$60.

Festival tickets for Leicht Park activities and a tour of docked ships are $12 for general admission and $10 for children 5-12 and seniors 62 and over.

Sturgeon Bay to Green Bay tickets cost $275 apiece. The minimum age required to travel is 5 years old, except aboard the Niagara, which requires passengers to be at least 16 years or older.

For additional information, visit tallshipgreenbay.com — J.J.

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Boating on the Bay

By Jodie Jacobs
Green Bay, Wisconsin is a championship area for football, boating, beer, food, festivals and wildlife wonders.

If you’re an experienced cruising boater, you may already know many of the ports along Lake Michigan. But do you know which port’s county has more than 1,200 linear miles of waterways, a 700-acre wildlife sanctuary that draws several hundred-thousand birdwatchers from across the globe, and an amazing river spot where the fish are so plentiful that attempts to select the “right” lure are made in vain?

How about a port where the big decision is which group of slips to pull into for dinner, because so many good restaurants are either on the water or just a couple blocks inland? You’re forgiven if you didn’t say Brown County and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Unless you winter your boat at the town’s South Bay Marina or in nearby Door County, your northern Lake Michigan cruising experience may have extended no further south than Sister Bay or Sturgeon Bay. 

Given that the city’s reputation bursts onto the national scene each football season as home to the Green Bay Packers and the team’s historic Lambeau Field, it’s arguably easy to overlook this gem as a hot summer boating destination. But tucked into the basin of the Green Bay waters at the Fox River, the city is lined with docks where boaters routinely pull in to enjoy festivals, concerts and food.

In addition, unless you’ve explored the northern reach of the Fox, you might not even know about De Pere, a charming river town of boutiques, yummy cafés, historic hotels and Saint Norbert College on the southern edge of metropolitan Green Bay.


Where to start

You’re cruising south in the waters of Green Bay past “The Door,” then Kewaunee County when, as you near the mouth of the Fox River in the basin, the curving track of the wooden Zippin Pippin roller coaster peeks over shoreline greenery.

Its historic look fits the vintage setting of the Bay Beach Amusement Park. Old-fashioned prices encourage family fun. For one 25-cent ticket, you can do the giant slide. Two of those tickets will get you a ride on the Ferris wheel. 

Owned by the city, the park is an easy mile walk or bike ride east on Bay Beach Road from South Bay Marina. Perfectly situated where the bay meets the eastern shore of the Fox River, the marina welcomes boaters with sparkling clean showers and restrooms, laundry facilities, pool and picnic grounds, and its casual Louie’s Lagoon for snacks and drinks.

“We’re more than a parking lot for boats; we want to build a boating lifestyle,” says harbormaster/manager Lee Johnson. After retiring from the corporate world at age 55, Johnson and his wife, Pam (the cheery voice you hear when you call ahead to reserve a slip), chose harbor life full-time at South Bay, first opened by co-owners Angela Moore and Chester “Chip” McDonald in 2002. 

The marina, with space for 150 boats, recently added 10 floating docks and is dredging an area to add more. Large as it is, and even though Johnson says he’s never turned anyone away, he strongly recommends calling 30 days in advance if travel plans include a stay on holiday weekends or for the local Fourth of July celebration. 

“A lot of boaters come here for the fireworks,” he says.   

Johnson also recommends boaters check Green Bay’s festival schedule to tie in a visit with one of the town’s many food or music events, such as ArtStreet (August 23-25), a combo of performing and visual arts with food vendors flavoring the mix. 

“You can bike there — we have between 15 and 20 bikes, and we’re happy to transport people” he says. “They can call to be picked up.”


Playgrounds of another kind

Before biking or boating along the Fox River — it has a 20-mile Riverwalk — get to know the marina’s two neighboring playgrounds: Bay Beach Amusement Park and Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. The amusement park is a family playground for the young and young-at-heart. The sanctuary is a playground for families of frogs and foxes. The first is a trip back in time. The second is a place to lose track of time.

At the amusement park, relive childhood visits to old-fashioned, small-town attractions where rides like the Ferris wheel are fun, not frighteningly high. Or visit for a nostalgic peek at what these parks looked like years ago. Bay Beach is among the ten oldest, continually operating amusement parks in the United States, first opening in 1892. 

Cross the street from the amusement park to the wildlife sanctuary. The only problem is figuring out how much time to spend on the Wildlife Habi-Trek Trail watching bobcats, cougars, wolves and foxes outside the Woodland Building, owls and turtles inside it, and climbing the Observation Tower to see what other animals make the sanctuary their home.

Save enough time to explore the three-story Nature Center and the colorful traffic at the bird feeders up close and almost personal on the other side of the center’s second-floor windows.

A recent visit coincided with the annual spring warbler migration, but director Mike Reed pointed out that the sanctuary’s 700 acres attracted birds and visitors throughout the year. 

“We have a reputation as a really good place to bird watch,” says Reed. According to the sign-in book, the more than 400,000 visitors a year have come from as close as Illinois and Wisconsin and as far as Japan and Sweden. 

Another good visitor stop is the Observation/Rehabilitation Building for its animal nursery and Raptor Theater. The sanctuary currently is caring for two wolf pups. Be sure to allow time to pick up corn at the building to feed the ducks and photograph the waterfall and lagoons. 

  

Cruisin’ the Fox 

With the marina as your base, boat a few miles down the Fox (the river flows north into the bay) for lunch, for dinner and for fun. 

You’ll have lots of company if you’re downtown between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, when people turn out for Nicolet Bank’s “Dine on the Deck” along the river’s east bank. Tie up at the CityDeck between the first and second bridge. Ten local restaurants do food carts ranging from salad and pizza to fish tacos and hummus sandwiches. Music is folk, jazz, R&B or standards.

This is also the place to be for Fridays on the Fox, from 6-9 p.m. June 28 to August 10. Bands play swing, tributes, R&B and rock and roll. 

“When there’s a venue like the CityDeck and a band like Big Mouth, people know that’s the place to be,” says Jeff Mirkes, Downtown Green Bay and Olde Main Street executive director. 

To restock the galley, boat over on a Wednesday from 3-8 p.m. for the weekly Farmers’ Market. It spreads along Broadway across the river. You can pull in at CityDeck and walk across either bridge or tie up at Leicht Memorial Park on the west bank just north of the first bridge (Dousman Street) where you see Titletown Brewing Company.

Docking at either place is free for transient boaters. With more than 200 vendors, pick up fresh fruit, veggies and homemade baked goods and candies while listening to the music floating down Broadway from bands on the Main and East stages.

Leicht Memorial Park is also the place to dock if you’re in town on a Wednesday and can snag a dinner reservation at Three Three Five. A private club on Broadway that only opens to the public Wednesday night, Three Three Five’s small plate presentations and flavors are comparable to the best and most innovative restaurants in Chicago and other big cities. Chef Christopher Mangless, also known as the Traveling Chef, has prepared dinners for Hollywood celebrities and U.S. presidents.

To eat on a deck overlooking the river, take the boat south of the third bridge (four-lane Mason Street Wisconsin Highway 54) where you can dock outside Jimmy Seas for a casual, Mexican-style lunch or dinner, or next-deck-over at OGAN, a high-end restaurant. Both are popular with local boaters, so call ahead about reservations or best times. If you love old cars, stop at Jimmy Seas’ showroom to see a great classic car collection. 

There are 11 transient docks here that are free for the day, but overnights run 50 cents per foot. They are part of the Harbor Village Yacht Association neighborhood, which includes the private Harbor Village Yacht Club managed by dockmaster Joe Baugnet.

A short walk away, along the water, is Skipper’s Choice Marine Supply. This well-stocked store carries anything boat-related that you may need or have been looking for: Sierra parts that need replacing; a new battery; additional safety equipment; a life jacket for your four-legged crew; or water toys to keep the kids happy. They are the area’s only stocking Traxstech dealer, and you can even get that prop fixed! They are also a full-service shop for maintenance and major repairs on motors, drives and other boat systems.

History, breweries and wineries

After lunch on the way back north, or maybe the next day, pull in at the Leicht docks to walk past centuries of Northern Wisconsin history and taste the most current batches of Green Bay beer.

Across Dousman Street from the park, after you snap photos of sculptures outside Neville Public Museum, go up to the second floor where you duck into an icy-looking, melting glacier. You have entered “On the Edge of the Inland Sea,” a permanent show that winds past Native American and Victorian scenes and lumber and shipbuilding exhibits. You leave with a better grasp of the port and its neighbors. 

Refresh afterwards at Hinterland Brewery & Restaurant or Titletown Brewing Company. Hinterland’s award-winning artisanal beers are carried in fine restaurants and its own dining room serves up gourmet dishes of fresh fish, game, local produce and cheeses. Titletown Brewing Company is housed inside a restored 1899 Chicago & Northwestern Railway depot. Sample beers or root beer and check out the vintage posters and artifacts.

Should you have a taste for a fine glass of wine, a must-stop is Captain’s Walk Winery, housed in a beautifully preserved Victorian home on South Adams Street. Enjoy a unique wine tasting experience sampling their award-winning wines in a laid-back atmosphere. You might even want to ship a case home!

Voyage to De Pere

Follow the eagles, pelicans, falcons and herons south to the settlement started by Jesuit explorer Père Claude-Jean Allouez when he founded the St. Francis Xavier Mission in 1671. The site is the last of the Fox River rapids as the river flows north into Lake Michigan.

Formerly called Rapides Des Pères (Rapids of the Fathers), the town evolved into De Pere on the east bank. Its current configuration on both sides of the river happened in 1890 when West De Pere became part of the town.  

On the way to De Pere, gaze starboard before coming to the Highway 72 bridge and Dutchman’s Creek. You may catch a train tooting along the tracks at the National Railroad Museum. Not currently accessible from the water, its exceptional rolling stock and artifacts are a driving destination. 

South of the bridge look portside to see large, older homes on the east bank. If driving you’d see them on North Broadway before arriving at De Pere’s Voyager Park and downtown.
The park, that slight promontory you spy jutting into the river, is your best base for De Pere. Tie up at the park’s mobile docks put out for the summer or leave the car in the park. Everything is within walking distance.

Grab the fishing rod (fishing licenses are available online at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website) and definitely be ready to snap photos. De Pere’s new scenic, multi-year, multi-million-dollar Riverwalk, Wildlife Viewing Pier, and Fishing Pier opened in May. 

It’s hard to believe the wildlife you see cavorting and fishing in the rapids can ignore all the humans on the Riverwalk and the Viewing and Fishing piers. 

“People often comment that they had no idea there was such a wildlife presence,” says Allyson Watson, executive director of Definitely De Pere, a not-for-profit Main Street Program. “With the addition of the Fishing and Viewing piers, people have the ability to venture further out into the Fox other than by boat.” 

It’s also hard to leave the area to explore the town. But look for the De Pere Locks on the Riverwalk and the historic lock house scheduled to become a coffee house. The building housing Chateau De Pere and its atmospheric Café Chanson were an old mill. You can relax awhile with wine on the café terrace or try to book a room. The rooms have wonderful views of the locks and river. 

Paths from Voyager Park and the Riverwalk lead to town and yummy treats. Alpha Delights owner and baker Mary Pappas pays homage to Greek heritage where it’s impossible to walk in here without an “ooh” and “aah.” Think gorgeous cakes and flakey, light croissants.

Leave room for chocolate and really great coffee. Nearby, Seroogy’s on Wisconsin Street has been turning out addictive chocolate since 1899. Cross the Main Street Bridge to the town’s western side for a homemade cup of coffee at Luna Café, where you can buy fresh roasted beans. You can also walk to St. Norbert College on the west bank.


Worth the drive

Green Bay and De Pere are oriented to waterways, but as football and railroad fans will be sure to remind folks, some places are driving destinations. The National Railroad Museum, Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Botanical Garden are three such places.

At the National Railroad Museum you can be a kid at heart and ride around the grounds in a bi-level 1920s rail car, a Silver Spirit’s fancy lounge and dining car, or an open-air rail car, depending on the weather and what’s currently on the track.

Among the 70 cars and engines in the barns, you’ll find two cars that President Dwight D. Eisenhower used for traveling around Europe when he commanded the Allied Forces there during WWII. Inside the museum, cases are filled with dining-car china from different railroads collected by Jay Christopher.

“I think the biggest thing is that people don’t realize how much is here,” says museum director Jacqueline Frank. After receiving the official nod by Congress as the county’s National Railroad Museum in 1956, the museum was able to attract rolling stock, photos and artifacts. Among the stock are historic cars railroads no longer in need, such as a tank car for hauling pickles. “We are able to acquire really unique items,” Frank says. 

At Lambeau Field in the Green Bay neighborhoods west of the Fox, you’ll find visitors from across the country. No matter which football team or sports team is close to the heart, this place is one of NFL’s great stadiums and is home to a venerable football powerhouse.

Best place to start is on the Robert E. Harlan Plaza, where 14-foot statues of team founder Curly Lambeau and legendary coach Vince Lombardi stand. The Packers’ home for the past 55 years has sparked “wows” since a major 2003 facelift. Go inside to see its awesome atrium and take the tour that allows you to run the ramp out to the “frozen tundra” to recorded sounds of audience applause. The tour is worth the time.

Less than 10 minutes north and west of Lambeau Field, there’s something going on at the 47-acre Green Bay Botanical Garden, no matter the season. The garden hosts summer cookouts and concerts, fall harvests and festivals, and holiday lights. 

And if you don’t have access to a car, don’t worry; Enterprise does rental drop-offs for boaters at the South Bay Marina. Whether boating or driving, Green Bay is a worthwhile vacation destination.

Sure, Lambeau Field is a must stop for sports fans; but there’s so much more to see and do than football in and around Green Bay. And much of it is on or near the water.