Traveling on a budget isn’t easy, especially with a family. Roughly a half-day drive from Minneapolis and Indianapolis, Green Bay has plenty of inexpensive entertainment for a perfect long weekend getaway.
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
At Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, the main goal is to send injured and orphaned animals back into the wild – aiding more than 5,600 in 2018. Yet on the rare occasion that the animals are too badly injured to survive on their own they become guests of the 660 acre wildlife reserve.
Miles of walking trails are peppered with animals both caged and roaming free. A wide variety of Midwest species abound, from red fox to river otter and eagles to kestrel. The admission-free sanctuary is part of the Green Bay park system and located along the bay east of the city.
The indoor Nature Center offers wildlife education through multiple exhibits such as monarch butterflies, bees, and habitats geared to very young visitors.
Families with older children can head directly to the Wildlife Habi-Trek and Woodland Building. Many rehabilitated animals call this spot home, such as an orphaned cougar and an owl with a permanently injured wing. Signs near each animal explain why it was not able to return to the wild. The adjacent Woodland Building – filled with smaller animals like badger, turtles, and flying squirrel – provides education about wildlife habitats.
Where to Stay
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Behind the building a chorus of wolves howl in unison while deer wander through the trees, ears rotating forward and back as the sounds of excited children fill the air. Deer can be hand fed with special food available at the Woodland Building before continuing along the mile-long nature trail.
The area surrounding the Observation Building is a bird haven. Ducks and geese can be fed with food available for purchase, and dozens of different bird species fill enclosures surrounding the feeding pond. Inside, volunteers show first-hand how many species are rehabilitated. Orphaned animals like opossum, raccoons, or wood ducks are fed by dropper several times a day with the hope that these youngest guests will eventually be able to be released.
The woods surrounding the building are a sanctuary for migrating and resident birds, as more than 250 different species have been identified in the park.
Plenty of parking is available near each building but families can get a full nature experience by walking the trails to each area, if weather and energy-levels permit.
The trails are open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Buildings are open longer from mid-April to mid-September.
Bay Beach Amusement Park
Less than a mile from the Sanctuary, the 125-year-old Bay Beach Amusement Park is one of the best deals in the country. The most expensive ride in the park, the roller coaster, costs $1 per turn. Some cost as little as $.25. The park has rides for children of all ages, a highlight being a train that loops along the shore of Bay Beach where seagulls and pelicans bob atop the nearby waves.
Picnic tables and areas to spread a blanket are located throughout the park but bring a windbreaker even in the summer to battle the shoreline breezes. Concessions are sprinkled throughout the park with a sit-down restaurant for those needing a break from the activity.
Some rides have maximum height requirements; others like Scrambler most family members can ride together. Half a dozen “Thrill Rides” have minimum height requirements from 36 to 48 inches and a newly added Ferris wheel is the park’s first wheelchair accessible ride.
The amusement park is open May through September, but only on weekends the first and last month. Hours vary throughout the season.
While a bit pricier, other options in Green Bay have something for the entire family:
Green Bay Botanical Garden
The thirty-three acres of gardens at the Green Bay Botanical Garden may seem boring to kids. But drop-in activities like butterfly feeding, discovery stations, and S.E.E.D. (Search Explore Experience Discover) packets make the visit interesting. Identify birdsong, take a scavenger hunt, and search for flowers while exploring the gardens. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.
National Railroad Museum
All aboard! Step into several types of locomotives on display with fascinating facts about the history of trains at the National Railroad Museum. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7.50 for children, plus $2 for highly recommended train ride around the premises.
Neville Public Museum
Primarily focused on Wisconsin history, there’s still plenty of education for out-of-town visitors to enjoy at the Neville Public Museum. Highlights include ice harvesting, mastodons, and special exhibits, ending the day at Lambeau Field made entirely from Legos. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for children.
Heather Lusk is a freelance writer who loves travel and history. Between dragging her family to exotic locations, she’s attempting to maintain a 120-year-old house in Zionsville, Indiana.