Ready for summer adventures?! We have rounded up 250+ summer things to do outdoors in Northeast Wisconsin including the Fox Valley, Oshkosh, Green Bay, Door County, and beyond!
As the weather heats up our thoughts turn to summer and what summer will be like for us this year. With the current pandemic, many of our usual summertime fun venues have closed or changed the way they operate. But, you can still have fun this summer in Northeast Wisconsin!
In this summer guide, you’ll find places where you can swim, swing, walk, and play in the area that are open! We’ve also got our best frozen treat recommendations so you can find that perfect ice cream cone and custard. You’ll also find free and cheap things to do, plus movies, summer camps, and date nights.
As the situation in our community changes and new summertime fun opportunities open up, we’ll update this list. So don’t forget to bookmark us and check back often!
Editor’s Note: Wisconsin is no longer operating under Safer at Home orders or following the Badger Bounce Back Plan. We recognize that this is going to be a confusing period of time with varying opinions on what people should and shouldn’t be doing. For the last 8 years, Go Valley Kids has been a reliable source of information for our community. We will continue to provide updates on the outdoor spaces and activities that are open under government guidelines. This does not constitute an endorsement or a suggestion that we jump back into a “normal” way of life. Masks are encouraged if you are out in public spaces. During this time we encourage everyone to be informed and choose what they feel is best for their own family.
READ MORE: 60+ Things to Do at Home this Summer!
We try to be prepared for quick changes in plans or opportunities for unscheduled fun or adventure. The real trick is to remember to replenish and replace as you use items!
We keep these in the car:
- Antibacterial Soap
- Face Masks
- Mosquito Bug Spray
- Playground Ball
- First Aid Kit, consider having a tick-removal kit as part of your standard first aid kit.
- A book or magazine for everyone for unexpected waiting.
- Snacks that aren’t affected by heat like granola bars.
- Empty water bottles because at some point, someone will forget.
- A roll of toilet paper and package of baby wipes.
- A set of clothing for each kid and parent. This makes it easy to say yes to impromptu messy or wet activities as well as being prepared for accidents or leaky diapers.
- A stack of empty plastic grocery bags and a few gallon size zip top bags to make it easy to pack out trash from parks or to put wet or dirty clothes inside.
Where to cool off?
With many pools closed this summer including Polock, Mead, and Erb Pool or are open but operating at reduced capacity and with residency restrictions such as Kaukauna and Little Chute, so we are getting creative on finding other local treasures. Find what local pools are open here.
- Cool off at a splash pad – Neenah Splash Pad, Park & Playground at Washington Park
- Head to the beach! – 12+ Beaches in Northeast Wisconsin: including Wisconsin State Parks Point Beach, Hartman Creek, and Kohler-Andre, Door County, and Fremont
- Beach Inflatables – Fondy Aqua Park is open this year
- Go white water rafting or leisure river tubing – Summer River Tubing in Northeast Wisconsin
- Eat ice cream – The Ultimate Ice Cream Lovers Bucket List: 60+ Favorites! Take a road trip to Kelly’s Creamery or discover a unique local twist like Wonders or a classic like Frogg’s in Sherwood
- Explore by kayak or canoe – Where to Rent Kayaks in Northeast Wisconsin – discover the beautiful Chain O’ Lakes
Where to explore in nature?
An amazing thing about living in this area is the variety of destinations for families and incredible natural areas that are largely free or very low cost to enjoy. From trails to hike to rivers float down, there’s always something to do while enjoying the natural resources available to us.
- Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton
- Mosquito Hill in New London
- Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha
- 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna
- Navarino Nature Center in Shiocton
- Ledgeview Nature Center in Chilton
- Brillion Nature Center in Brillion
- Wisconsin Explorers Program – Into the Woods: Discover Nature and Earn FREE Patches through the Wisconsin Explorers Program
- Waterfalls – Where to Find Waterfalls in Wisconsin within 2 Hours from the Fox Valley
- Wisconsin State Parks – 15 Awesome Wisconsin State Parks That Are Less Than Two Hours From Appleton
- Rocks! – Paint rocks. Search for rocks. Fox Valley Rocks – Our Community Rocks! And Rock On! Fox Valley Group Spreads Kindness Through Art
- Treasure Hunting – Geocaching, Hidden Rocks, Letterboxing
- Go fishing – Kids Fishing Guide – Northeast Wisconsin
- Take a drive – 25 Picturesque Scenic Drives to Enjoy From Your Car Window
- Find a lighthouse
- Collect beach glass
- Cave Tour, Maribel Caves & Ledgeview
- Take a history tour and find local historical markers
- Gravity Trails in Door County offers a zip line adventure
- Climb an observation tower
- Experience Road America with an Off-Road Driving Experience
- Explore Washington Island with a UTV from Island Adventure Company
- Race go karts at Badger Sports Park
- Mine for gems and learn about rocks. We are not sure when the Weis Earth Science Museum will open but follow along on their Facebook page for information. Also join Great Lakes Rocks and Minerals Facebook Group.
- Count birds. Download the iBird app and count how many different birds you can see or hear. Madison Audubon is a great resource and includes a FREE Bird Guide for Kids with 27 common birds, described in ways that kids (and adults!) can relate to.
Run or Walk
- Sidewalk Tour of Doty Island: June 22-28, 2020
- Virtual Fun Runs – APRD, more info coming soon
- Walk a boardwalk – Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, 1000 Islands Environmental Center, Kohler-Andre State Park, North Side of Horicon Marsh off Hwy 28, Schmeekle Reserve in Stevens Point and Riggs County Park in Ripon
- Poetry Walk – Find locations
- 18 Fox Valley Nature Trails for Biking, Walking & Hiking
- 5 Oshkosh Area Nature Trails for Biking, Walking & Hiking
- 13 Green Bay Area Nature Trails for Biking, Walking & Hiking (and Waterfalls!)
- 11 Worth the Drive Hiking Trails about One Hour from Appleton
10 Gardens In and Around Northeast Wisconsin including the Scheig Center at Memorial Park in Appleton, Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin in Appleton, Green Bay Botanical Garden in Green Bay, Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh, Sisson’s Peony Gardens in Rosendale, Gottfried Prairie & Arboretum in Fond du Lac, Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan, Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Robert W. Monk Gardens in Wausau and Mitchell Park Horticulture Conservatory (The Domes) in Milwaukee.
- Bird Watch
- Count Butterflies
- Learn about bees and eat some honey
- Pick your own flowers at Ram Acres
- Find the gnomes at Paine Art Center and Gardens
- Walk through Riverview Gardens
Parks & Playgrounds
Heading to the park is a great time to unplug and enjoy nature. Whether you are heading out to check out a new(er) parks, like Pierce Park and Jones Park in Appleton, Hidden Pond in Menasha, Washington Park in Neenah or Menominee Park in Oshkosh, a classic favorite or hidden gem.
- Play! – Our Park Series has features and pictures for many local parks and we will be adding to it all summer
- Find a new slide! – Ultimate slides in the Fox Valley
- Wooden Parks – Pamperin Park in Green Bay and Chilton Morrissey Park & Playground
- Born Learning Trails – these play-based learning activities are typically painted on sidewalks and a series of interactive stations at 12 Fox Cities Parks including Erb, Memorial (Appleton), Pierce, Plamann (Children’s Farm), Fritsch, Fritse, Wittman, Jefferson, Smith, Memorial (Neenan), Doyle and Lion’s (Greenville) Parks
- Roll (or run) down a hill – Head to your favorite sledding hill for a fun picnic spot and great view. See if you can roll or run down! Hills are also fun to run down with a kite
- Run the bases. Find a baseball diamond and get some running in. The inclusive fields like the Memorial Park Miracle League is great for younger kiddos.
- 8 Fun Games to Play on a Swing – Including Superman, Tornado and Tug of War
- Skip rocks – Lutz Park, Jefferson Park and Fritse Park
- Take your favorite backyard games to the park! – Bocce Ball, Lawn Dice, Lawn Jenga, Ladder Golf
- Write activities on a beach ball (or roll a dice) – exercises, scavenger hunt, get to know questions, would you rather
- Go on a Scavenger Hunt – Nature Scavenger Hunt, Color Hunt, Bird Hunt, Math Scavenger Hunt, Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. Parks with scavenger hunts built-in – Kiwanis Park, Wanick Choute Park
- ABC Architecture Scavenger Hunt – Find the letters in nature! Bigger kids can make a collage or spell a word to create a digital art masterpiece
- Playground Bucket List – Monkey bars, fireman’s pole, zipline, teeter-totter… How many of these can you play on this summer?
- Think beyond the playground! Open grassy area can be just as fun for a change of scenery and fun play. Try the classic outdoor games, kick the can, capture the flag, hot potato hide and seek
- School parks are also a great place to play. Many also are fenced in to keep littles from escaping! Many are closed until the end of June. They also often offer great blacktop activities – Four Square, United States map, Tether Ball…
- Many church playgrounds are also open to the community. Christ the Rock has a beautiful natural playground.
- Table Tennis – Purchase balls and paddles on Amazon or used on Facebook Marketplace and keep them in the car.
- Archery – Check out Memorial Park in Appleton or Lions Park in Greenville. Woodfire Lodge in Brillion also has a sporting clay shooting course and 15 target archery course.
- Storytime – Books about playgrounds and parks. Find a local story walk. Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan is opening with reservations this year.
- Skate Parks – Head to skate parks at Telulah Park, Greenville, and Menasha. Check out NEST
- BMX Biking – New Rider Clinics, Racing and Strider Racing for ages 2-5 at Winnebagoland BMX
- Outdoor Hockey – Rollerblading – Patriot Park in Grand Chute. Looking for gear? Check out Play it Again Sports.
- Scooters – Both Erb Park in Appleton and Menominee Park in Oshkosh have nice paths to scoot around. Park your car on the far end and scooter to the playground.
- Soccer – Practice your dribbling and goals on the soccer field
- Play basketball
- Picnic – Pack your own snacks or skip the dining room and order carry out.
- Fly a Kite
- Disc Golfing is a fun activity to get outdoors. A couple reader favorites include Triangle Sports Area, Perkins Park in Green Bay, Plamann Park and Telulah Park.
- Remote Control Cars – HobbyTown is a great resource if you are looking to get started. Here are 12 Tips for Beginners. Check out Clark RC Park in Reedsville
- Golf – Reid Municipal Golf Course or check out Winnegamie’s Junior Golf Program
- Mini Golf – Badger Sports Park, Funset Boulevard, Chubby Seagull, Bridgewood
- Relax in a hammock – While your bigger kids play or read books
- Dig in the sand – make castles or play with trucks. Bury pennies for a scavenger hunt. Sand volleyball courts are a fun spot for littles. Patriot Park in Grand Chute has nice sand
- Watch the clouds and learn about the weather
- Gaga Ball – Find a gaga pit (and youtube the directions). Memorial Park, Lions Park and Erb Park in Appleton have one.
Many of our large favorite zoos have restrictions or modifications this summer. The Milwaukee County Zoo, NEW Zoo and Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison are working through reopening, consider finding a smaller focused zoo, animal rescue or farm to visit!
- Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay
- MToxins Venom Lab, Oshkosh
- Mulberry Lane Farm, Sherwood
- Shalom Wildlife Zoo, West Bend
- Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, Manitowoc
- Pony Playce, Appleton
- Ride a Horse – Horseback Riding
- Doc’s Zoo, Bonduel
- Animal Haven Zoo, Weyauwega
- Lakeside Park, Fond du Lac
- Larson’s Famous Clydesdales in Ripon – see fourteen Famous Clydesdale’s in a 90 minute guided tour and a short Grandstand Show.
- Siberian Outpost in Malone – Contact for a private tour for your family to learn about dog sledding, the history of the Iditarod and the training.
- The Door County Dog Sleds also has an Education and Discovery Center.
- LaClare Farms, Malone
- Alligator Alley, Alligator and reptile farm, Wisconsin Dells
- Timbavati Wildlife Park, Wisconsin Dells
- London Dairy Alpacas, Two Rivers
- Menomonee Park Free Zoo, Oshkosh
- Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue, Rock Springs
- Wilderness Walk Zoo, Hayward
- Play with cats and enjoy lunch or drinks at The Pawffee Shop Cat Cafe, Appleton
- Bear Den Zoo & Petting Farm, Waterford
- Old World Wisconsin, Eagle
- Heritage Hill, Green Bay
- Plunkett Observatory, Belgium
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin
- History Museum at the Castle, Appleton
- Oneida Nation Museum, De Pere
- Hearthstone Historic House Museum, Appleton
- EAA Aviation Museum, Oshkosh
- Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc
- Wade House Historic Site, Greenbush
- Historic Farm Museum, Two Rivers
- Hutchinson Historic House, Waupaca
- National Railroad Museum, Green Bay
- Aztalan Museum, Jefferson
- Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum, Wisconsin Rapids
- Portage WWII History Museum, Portage
- Peshtigo Fire Museum, Peshtigo
- Menominee Logging Camp Museum, Keshena
Arts and Crafts
- Find Murals in Appleton
- Find Murals in Neenah and Menasha
- Find Murals in Little Chute
- Find Murals in Kaukauna
- Find Murals on the CE Underpass in Kimberly
- Find Murals in Green Bay
- Find Murals in New London
- Find Murals in De Pere
- Oshkosh Mini Murals
- The Fire in Appleton
- Fire Escape in Oshkosh
- Find a new hobby or projects at Hobby Town
- Play Green Bay’s Art Around Town BINGO
- Jurustic Park in Marshfield
- Stevens Point Sculpture Park
- Appleton’s Sculpture Valley
- Little Chestnut Studio
- The Art Garage, Green Bay
- The Art Spark, Appleton
- Pinot’s Palette, Appleton
- The Draw, Appleton
- Reserve books from our local libraries with Curbside Pickup
- Appleton Public Library’s Summer Reading Program
- Kaukauna Public Library Summer Reading Program
- Neenah Public Library Summer Reading Program
- Oshkosh Public Library Summer Reading Challenge
- Brown County Library Summer Reading Challenge
- Free little libraries – Clean up your library and drop off some books to an empty Free Little Library.
- Find a storywalk. Visit Memorial Park for a Storybook Garden Walk. A different book will be featured every 2 weeks all summer long.
- Fox Crossing Parks & Recreation Department Story Walk on Friendship Trail
- Find vintage titles and childhood favorites at Half Priced Books
Cultivate Giving & Kindness
Summer provides kids with some extra time to think about others that might not be present during the busy school year. There are many organizations within our community that can use help even from small hands!
- The Appleton Public Library has compiled a list of books to help parents and teachers talk about racial equity with children, young adults, and adults.
- Volunteer, Donate and Support the work of Jake’s Diapers
- Send cards to a Nursing Home
- Bring treats to the police station, fire station or Harbor House
- Make blessing bags for the homeless or less fortunate
- Send a thank you to a local farmer
- Make birthday boxes for low income families
- Join a pen pal program and share words of kindness
- Buy lunch for your neighbor or friend
- Surprise your postal worker with a treat and note in the mailbox
- Pay for someones meal behind you in a drive-thru or restaurant line
- Make and hide kindness rocks
- Clean up your local park
- Support your local small businesses, pop up shops and entrepreneurs
- Organize a school supply drive for your school or make supply backpacks to give
- Help clean pews and garden at local churches
- Spend time with adoptable animals at the local animal shelters
- Help clean an elderly neighbors yard, garden or home
Summer is the perfect time to grab a sweet frozen treat in the Fox Valley!
- Ice Cream – Soft serve, gelato, hand scooped and more – eat your way through this list while supporting our local dairy farmers!
- Donuts – We have so many great options! Simple Simons has a Donut House in the parking lot on Saturday mornings. Happy Bellies Bakeshop has a yummy baked cinnamon donuts. Or enjoy a classic from Manderfields, Mom & Pop’s Bakery or Hill Top Bakery.
- Cheese Curds – Here are other ways to celebrate June Dairy month along with 10 delicious cheese stops!
- Donut Kits, Cookie Kits at Home
- Kids Eat FREE
- FREE School Lunch Programs
- Candy shops – Head to Crazy Sweet in downtown Appleton
- Shaved Ice – Snow Biz in Kimberly, Snowy Cabin in Neenah
- Homemade Popsicles – Stop by Drop Bar Cafe for a homemade popsicle on your bike ride on the CE Trail in Kaukauna or follow Fox Pop on Facebook to find where the popsicle bicycle will pop up next
- Eat Homemade Popcorn – Mike’s Popcorn or Archie’s Famous Popcorn at Downtown Neenah Dairy Queen or the Neenah Dairy Queen Grill & Chill
Spending lots of time outdoors in the summer often includes meal times! We’re not sure what sort of magic is involved but food tastes so much better on a sunny day on the grass or a patio. Pack a picnic and head to a beautiful spot or check out somewhere new that has outdoor service.
- Eat your way through the alphabet with The ABCs of Summer Snackin’: A Bucket List of Local Goodies!
- Outdoor Dining in the Fox Cities
- Outdoor Dining in Green Bay
- Outdoor Dining in Oshkosh
- New Food Truck Mash-Up: Tuesdays through July 28 at WG&R Furniture from 4 – 7 pm. Also follow Fox Valley Food Truck Rally on Facebook for upcoming events.
Northeast Wisconsin is usually full of local parks and businesses offering free and very low-cost summertime entertainment like outdoor movies. Many venues haven’t announced their plans for summer movies. But here’s where you can catch a drive-in movie near the Fox Valley in Kaukauna or Chilton.
- Field of Scenes, Freedom
- Get Reel Chilton Twilight Drive-In Theater, Chilton
- Appleton Drive In Movies
- Greenville Drive In Movies
- Fox Crossing hopes to have movies later in the summer
- Go camping! Family Camping Guide
- Reader Recommended Wisconsin Campgrounds
- Try a new campground treat – Campfire Treats – Smores, Pudgie Pies and more
- Kid Friendly Camping Recipes – 10 Kid Friendly Camping Recipes
- Camp and visit the Plunkett observatory at Harrington Beach State Park
Plan a Day Trip
Here are some of our favorites outside to help you start to plan your day!
- Appleton – Downtown Appleton, Lawrence University, Jones Park, City Park, go karts, mini golf and batting cages at Badger Sports Park, mini golf at Funset Boulevard
- Grand Chute – Bubolz Nature Preserve, Town Center Park
- New London – Murals, Kist Kandies & Ice Cream, Mosquito Hill
- Neenah – Downtown Neenah, Riverside Park, Kimberly Point Lighthouse
- Menasha – Ice Cream at Lemon Loves Lime
- Sherwood – Wanick Choute Park, High Cliff State Park, Ice Cream and Mini Golf at Chubby Seagull
- Brillion – Lion mural, Brillion Nature Center
- Oshkosh – Menominee Park and Zoo, Paine Art Center and Gardens
- Fond du Lac – Lakeside Park
- Kaukauna – 1000 Islands Environmental Center, Dick’s Drive-In
- Green Bay – Murals, Pamperin Park, Heritage Hill, Zesty’s Frozen Custard, Bay Beach, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
- De Pere – Murals, Art, Sunset Point Love Lock Tradition, St. Norbert College, Fox River Trail
- Door County – Thing to do in Door County with Kids
- Waupaca – Hartman Creek State Park, Red Mill
- Stevens Point – Feltz Family Farms and Dairy Store, Stevens Point Sculpture Park, Green Circle, Schmeeckle Reserve, Downtown Murals, Ice Cream at Belt’s
- Wausau – Quarry hike at Rib Mountain State Park, Riverlife Park, JoJo’s Jungle
- Sparta – Sleep in a caboose!, Largest Bike Wheel, Elroy-Sparta state trail
- Wisconsin Dells (beyond the water parks) – Downtown Wisconsin Dells, Downtown Candy Shops, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin Deer Park, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, Duck Tour, Paul Bunyans for Breakfast, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Wizard’s Quest
- Milwaukee – Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Museum, Discovery World
- Madison – Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Henry Vilas Zoo
- Sheboygan – Bookworm Gardens, Kohler-Andre State Park, North Beach and Playground, Lottie Cooper Shipwreck, Acuity Flagpole
- Two Rivers – Point Beach State Park, Washington House
- Weyauwega – Evanswood Outdoor Village shops, Animal Haven Farm and Zoo
- Shawano – Yoder’s Bakery, Shawano Lake, Twig’s Soda Museum
- Manitowoc – USS Cobia, Beernsteen’s, Screamin’ Cronuts, Sputnik Crash site
- Watch the Milk Bottling Process Live at Lamers Dairy, Inc.
- Take a selfie with Bernice the giant fiberglass cow at Cedar Crest Ice Cream Parlor
- See a calf be born at Land O’ Lakes Birthing Barn at Farm Wis. Discovery Center
- Check out vintage farm equipment at the Historic Farm Museum
- Learn how to milk a cow at Mulberry Lane
- Observe the cheese-making process at Marieke Gouda and Scray Cheese
- Attend the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival
- Whip up your own butter or make homemade ice cream
- Learn more about sustainability and ethical farming at the G Farm
Modified Activities for 2020
- Drive-Thru Breakfast on the Farm
- Berry Picking
- Farmers Markets
Indoor Places to Play
These things are normally family favorite things to do during the summer but because of the current situation many have many modifications and some people may choose not to do. Check with business before visiting for modifications due to COVID-19
- Urban Air Adventure Park
- Building for Kids
- History Museum at the Castle
- Paper Discovery Center
- Trout Museum of Art
- Weis Earth Science Museum
- Green Bay Children’s Museum
- Neville Public Museum – Dinosaur exhibit
- EAA Air Venture
- Art & Craft Studios
- Bowling – Kid’s Bowl FREE
- Bumper Cars & Boats
- Children’s Clothing Stores
- Children’s Museums
- Home Depot FREE Kids Workshops
- Ice Skating
- Indoor Play Areas
- Manicures / Pedicures
- Movie Theaters
- Rock Climbing
- Roller Skating
- Swimming Indoors
- Toys, Games & Hobby Stores
Save the Date – Events to Watch
- June 13: Young Rider Camp @ Forward Farm, LLC
- June 17: Pajama Party @ Bear Den Zoo & Petting Farm
- June 27: Burger Train @ East Troy Railroad Museum
- July 11: Krazy Daze, Downtown Manitowoc
- July 15-19: Fond Du Lac County Fair
- July 21: Wild, Wild West Day @ Menomonee Park Zoo, Oshkosh
- July 24: Let’s Go Froggin! @ Bubolz Nature Preserve
- July 19-25: Appleton Children’s Week
- July 29: Fairfolk Festival @ Bookworm Gardens
- August 1: Unicorn Party hosted by Village of Kimberly
- August 7-9: Paw Patrol Paw-Palooza @ The National Railroad Museum
- August 7-8: Burger Fest and Hot Air Balloons, Seymour
- August 15: SnowFest 2020 @ Neshotah Park, Two Rivers
- August 29: Rhythms of the World 2020, Houdini Plaza
- September 5-6: Kites over Lake Michigan, Two Rivers High School
Summer Family Favorites Canceled or Currently Closed for 2020
- Summer Festivals & Fireworks
- Mile of Music – Canceled
- Erb and Mead Pools – Closed
- Pollock Pool – Closed
- Movie Theaters – Opening soon
- Wisconsin State Fair – Canceled
- Water Ski Shows
- Webfooters – Season updates mid June. Delayed with high water and social distancing.
- Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
- Plamann Park Beach & Children’s Farm – Closed
What’s on your Summer Bucket List? We would love to hear what you are up to!