By Lisa Truesdale
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Being in Green Bay on a Packers gameday is a magical adventure that truly needs to be experienced to be understood. Whether you're one of the 81,435 people lucky enough to have a ticket for an upcoming game, or you're in Green Bay for another reason (like desperately seeking a ticket!), here are five ways to extend the "Packers experience" throughout the entire weekend, or even longer. Most of these activities are available during the off-season, too.
1. Explore Lambeau Field
Spend the day inside the stadium and come away an expert on Packers history! Take a Lambeau Field Stadium Tour and listen to experienced guides share engrossing stories about the team, from its unique beginnings almost 100 years ago to the present day. Hear the "crowd" roar as you run through the players' tunnel and onto the track around the field, where you can even sit on the visiting team's bench—just don't touch the sacred grass! Note: Gameday tours are not available.
After your tour, relive a near-century of team history at the Packers Hall of Fame, a brand-new, 15,000-square-foot, two-story wonder complete with interactive exhibits, short films (including highlights of the famous 1967 "Ice Bowl"), player tributes, historical artifacts and a breathtaking display of the team's four Super Bowl trophies.
For lunch or dinner, try 1919 Kitchen & Tap, an exciting new eatery that just opened in July inside the stadium's atrium. It offers dozens of craft brews on tap and classic regional dishes (made with locally sourced ingredients) like Parmesan-Breaded Cheese Curds, Beer Cheese Bisque, Mason Jar Pear Salad, Porter Braised Short Ribs and a classic Bratwurst Sandwich. The restaurant's name honors the year 1919, the team's first competitive season.
2. Jump Aboard the Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tour
This trail focuses on legends Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, and the fully narrated trolley ride includes a stop at City Stadium, the Packers' home field from 1925-56, and also passes Lambeau's boyhood home and office building, the church Lombardi attended, and the former Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot, where fans used to gather en masse to cheer on their team as they arrived home from road trips.
Of the 22 commemorative plaques along the trail, 21 are within a two-mile radius of downtown Green Bay, so much of the tour can also be done on foot or bike. Find a trolley tour schedule and an interactive trail map online.
3. Speaking of the Train Depot …
Since 1998, it's been the home of Titletown Brewing Company, a popular dining spot that offers their own craft beers brewed on site and other regional favorites, plus classic Wisconsin dishes such as brats, poutine, cheese curds, bison chili, flatbreads, pizzas, burgers and fresh fish.
Be sure to check out the building's existing historic features, like the five-story clock tower, the three original fireplaces and the depot's original "ticket office" (where you may even be seated for your meal).
4. Step Back in Time at the Historic Union Hotel
Located in DePere, less than six miles from Lambeau, this "blast from the past" is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ask for fourth-generation owner McKim Boyd, a fountain of historical knowledge who enthusiastically shares stories about the place, many of them related to Packers history. Ask Mr. Boyd about the Packers' equipment manager, Gerald Braisher, who resided at the hotel for more than 40 years; he'll share some fun anecdotes, and if it isn't occupied, he'll even show you Braisher's room, which is awash in Packers-logo carpeting and team memorabilia. Check out the hotel's original art-deco bar, or make reservations for the hotel's nostalgic "supper club," which features hand-cut steaks and fresh fish.
5. Make the Most of Gameday!
If you're going to a game (lucky you!), get there early so you have plenty of time for one or more of these activities that prolong your exciting gameday experience:
The team hosts a huge, free-entry "Tundra Tailgate Zone" party in a big tent in the parking lot—there's live music inside, food and beverages for purchase, and raffle prizes every 15 minutes. Or walk around the stadium, threading your way through some of the other impressive tailgate setups—chances are, you'll be invited by friendly Packers fans to join more than one shindig, especially if you're wearing Packers gear!
Head across the street (corner of Lombardi Ave. and Oneida St.) to "Under the Lights of Lambeau," a lavishly Packers-decorated home that's available for rent year-round. Ask for owner Debbie Jacques—you'll likely find her decked out in her full Packers finery, flipping burgers and brats with her Packers-themed spatula on her Packers-themed grill. If she's not too busy, she'll be happy to show you the place and give you more information about staying there and dreaming sweet football dreams under the Packers-themed bedding. The home sleeps eight to 10 football fans.
Stroll through the Oneida Nations Walk of Legends, a one-mile public-art walkway that weaves through the streets around the stadium. The trail is marked by 24 engraved granite/steel obelisk monuments (each a whopping 14 feet tall) that help tell the story of Packers football. It includes legends like Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke and Brett Favre, but also honors the Oneida Nation, whose members were some of the first players on the team.
Shop for Packers gear in the massive Packers Pro Shop inside the stadium's atrium, featuring 20,000 square feet of absolutely everything Packers-related you can think of, from jerseys, T-shirts, hats, socks and scarves to home and garden décor, jewelry, temporary tattoos, artwork, collectibles and tailgating equipment.
How about Green Bay's treasures beyond Lambeau Field? Here's what the area offers besides football.