The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Staycation in the Fox Cities

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Are you looking to plan a little staycation in Wisconsin this spring or summer? Do you need a getaway that has a thriving downtown, outdoor exploration, state parks, and more? We’ve got great news for you! Wisconsin is home to many great places to get out and explore during the spring and summer months, but one place you’ll definitely want to plan your staycation around is the Fox Cities. From outdoor adventures to seeing art and culture for yourself to having a gourmet meal, you can find a little something for everyone in the Fox Cities area. Let’s hop into how you can plan your staycation in the Fox Cities!

Fun For the Entire Family

Photo Credit: High Cliff State Park // Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureauf

In the Fox Cities, outdoor recreation is plentiful and spread throughout the area for those of all ages. One place you can’t look past is High Cliff State Park. This state-owned recreational area is right along the shores of Lake Winnebago which is Wisconsin’s largest inland lake! High Cliff gets its name from the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment and if you didn’t know… It runs all the way to Niagara Falls. At the park, you can expect to travel along easy-to-moderate hiking trails that offer exceptional views of the lake, making for a perfect spring day! Learn more about all of the fun you can have at High Cliff State Park here.

Another hot-spot location in the Fox Cities for fun to have on your Wisconsin staycation is at The Plaza at Gateway Park in Neenah. This brand new community space is right downtown and has an ice rink (with rentals!), outdoor fire pits, a quintessential coffee shop, and they even host events like concerts and fitness classes in the summer months. 

If you’re looking for more outdoor fun, you can also check out the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve. This 91-acre urban nature reserve is tucked right inside Menasha and boasts nearly 4,000 feet of elevated boardwalks making for a beautiful way to explore and enjoy the wetland habitat. One thing we can’t forget to mention is that during the winter months you should definitely head out and snowshoe through the reserve! If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can get rentals on-site but they ask that you do call ahead to reserve them. Learn more about rentals here at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve here

One last bit of fun is more for the kiddos at the Building for Kids Children’s Museum in downtown Appleton. This 30,000+ square foot interactive exhibit space is the perfect playground all throughout the years! There is a real fire truck, grocery store, doll hospital, semi-truck depot, and even a space for crawling for the toddlers. Learn more about the Building for Kids Children’s Museum here!

Experience the Arts & Culture

Photo Credit: Museum at the Castle // Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau

If you’re a history junky, the Fox Cities has a large collection of places to visit whether you’re looking to visit a museum or if you’re wanting to go to a performing arts center! First up, you’ll want to plan your visit to the History Museum at the Castle. There you can feel the past come alive through stories, photographs, and artifacts! There are plenty of kid-friendly and interactive exhibits throughout making for the perfect stop on your Fox Cities staycation at any time during the year.

If you’re wanting to get out to an event during your staycation, you’ll need to check out the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. The performing arts center is a great place to immerse yourself in live performances including Broadway and cultural performances! Check out their events schedule here and plan your staycation around your favorite performance in the Fox Cities. 

A unique way to experience the historic part of the Fox Cities is at the Little Chute Windmill. This authentic, 100-foot-tall, the windmill is still fully functioning from an 1850s design! You can take a tour for yourself between April 1 to October 31 and experience this piece of history hidden right in Little Chute, Wisconsin. Learn more about how you add this experience to your staycation bucket list here.

One last way to take in the arts and culture of the Fox Cities is at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. There, you can see stunning and extravagant glass ranging from antique paperweights all the way to contemporary glass sculptures! The museum hosts events throughout the year and is free for all ages. Get all the insider information on the museum here. 

Go On A Shopping Spree

Photo Credit: Appleton, Wisconsin // Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau

You can’t go wrong with a shopping spree when you’re on your staycation in the Fox Cities. We can’t talk about shopping in the area without mentioning the Fox River Mall. The mall hosts all of your favorites with more than 140 retailers and restaurants making for an easy shopping experience in the area. 

If you’re wanting to do more local shopping, downtown Appleton is home to over 60 unique shops and 50-plus restaurants! Downtown offers a close walking distance with beautiful charm and convenience. A few stores you can find right downtown are Hoot & Company (a fabulous boutique), The Fire (an art studio), and The Statement Piece (a furniture and home decor store)! Learn more about the other downtown shopping experiences you can have in Appleton here.

And if you’re shopping for a Wisconsin favorite, dairy, then you must make a stop at Lamers Dairy in Appleton! This dairy farm is local, family-owned, and has been around since 1913! At Lamers Dairy you can grab award-winning milk, find your favorite Wisconsin cheeses, sausage, wine, and even get a soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream cone. While visiting, you have to be sure to check out the 30-foot viewing window to get an insider’s look of the dairy farm. 

Grab a Delicious Bite to Eat

Photo Credit: Mark’s East Side // Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau

While on a staycation in the Fox Cities, you have to grab a bite to eat at one of the wonderful restaurants in the area. What better way to start talking about foodie hotspots than with one of the Fox Cities’ most popular supper clubs, Mark’s East Side! This family-friendly supper club is known for its exceptional Old Fashioneds, delicious fish fries, and authentic German fare! 

Another foodie hot spot is the Apollon in Appleton. The Apollon has been family-owned and operated since 1994 and serves up some of the best Greek food in all of Wisconsin! The chef and former owner, Stravros Kodis, was actually born and raised in Greece and he started the restaurant to be a staple in the Fox Cities. His legacy now lives on through the food served up at the Apollon! 

One last location you should add to your list to visit during your time in the area is the SAP Brunch, Brown Bag & Bakery. With a seasonal menu, you can always expect to find something new at SAP. They also are known for their scratch and made-to-order dishes that are sourced from their ‘backyard’ when possible! SAP works hard to support locals and use Wisconsin-made and grown products in their dishes. 

Well, how does a trip to the Fox Cities sound to you now? We are already planning our trip around the delicious bites to eat, fun recreation opportunities, shopping experiences, and the amazing history throughout the area! What are you looking forward to doing most on your upcoming staycation? Let us know in the comments below!

Need some more inspiration when planning your getaway to the Fox Cities? Check out these episodes on The Cabin Podcast!:

About The Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau: The Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrates and promotes the Fox Cities as a welcoming, safe, and engaging destination for people from all walks of life. We work directly with individuals, families, groups, meeting planners, business leaders, and sports tournament directors to answer questions, make suggestions, optimize plans, and welcome visitors. Our 8-person staff includes professionals in visitor services, sports marketing, group sales, marketing, and communications. We welcome the opportunity to help you discover the Fox Cities.


Kortnee Hass: Social Media Coordinator for Discover Mediaworks. A Wisconsin ‘now & forever’ transplant with a soft spot for squeaky cheese curds, craft breweries, and all things Wisconsin tourism.

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