Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is a “living history” park devoted to preserving buildings and artifacts from historic Northeast Wisconsin and educating about the people that played a significant role in developing the Green Bay area. It is one of the awesome 15 state parks within two hours from Appleton.
With a family of history-obsessed kids (and adults), I’m surprised we haven’t made a trip up to Heritage Hill State Park before recently. This 56-acre open-air museum offers both preserved and recreated buildings from historic Northeast Wisconsin, event space, and an accessible, educational playground. We can’t wait for an opportunity to go back when the buildings are reopened, but the walk and playground are reason enough to visit for a few hours or a full day.
Due to the park’s wooded areas, don’t be surprised if you come across some white-tailed deer grazing along the tree lines. We saw three does as soon as we entered the park. The deer seemed comfortable with people — even as our kids shouted excitedly — but be sure to give wildlife a wide berth while sharing their habitat.
The Perfect Family Outing
This state park has so many valuable features that make it a perfect destination for families of just about any age range and physical ability. With an ample supply of picnic tables and open, well-maintained grassy areas, visitors can easily break up their trip with a picnic break before continuing to explore. Historic buildings offer informational placards outside but don’t miss the chance to peer in the windows to get a feel for the depth of historic details and artifacts included with each freestanding building. You can easily find yourself transported back to a real 1897 blacksmith shop or 1872 Belgian farmhouse with a bit of imagination.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there are no guides on the property, and buildings are closed. The park offers a detailed map of the grounds you can download or print from their website. The map will help make sure you don’t miss the essential details about the different buildings and their significance as you move through the park. It’s also helpful to avoid almost missing the La Baye Area towards the back of the park that isn’t readily visible from the rest of the park.
Things to know before you go:
- Leashed dogs are allowed on the grounds but not in historic buildings. Remember to bring bags to clean up after your pet
- The exhibits are spread out across 56 acres – wear walking shoes
- The only bathrooms currently open are by the Officer’s Quarters (about midway through the park and near the playground)
- Most of the grounds are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, though certain buildings ask that strollers remain outside
Some of our Family’s Favorite Spaces
Fort Dahlin Playground
The Fort Dahlin Playground, located just down the hill from the entrance, immediately captivated my kids (ages 8-11). I could not convince them that we should explore the park trails first. On the bright side, the playground is located near the Officer’s Quarters (and bathrooms!).
We were all pleasantly surprised that this isn’t a regular old playground, but one chock full of engaging educational activities and fully accessible for the differently-abled:
- The playground houses a working Morse Code transmitter with an alphabet chart so visitors can send messages to someone on the other side of the playground (also outfitted with a Morse Code transmitter).
- You’ll also find several interactive boards that are sure to capture the attention of kids and adults alike, including:
- matching Wisconsin critters with their paw prints
- farming in Wisconsin
- “The World of Cheese”
- “Simple Machines”
When I finally pulled our kids away from the playground, they immediately asked when we could return!
We came around to the Belgian farm last and were surprised to find a chicken wandering near the Officer’s Quarters. The chicken was more than happy to let us follow her back to the farm, where we came around the corner of the house and found a large flock of free-ranging hens. (We did take our dog along, who hardly noticed the chickens, but it’s worth noting if your dog has a high prey drive to keep an eye out for chickens around corners). The chickens are obviously comfortable around the chaos of children (and dogs) and perfectly happy to let you walk near them for pictures.
Of all the buildings on the grounds, the farm was our favorite. The kids were enamored with the antiquated machinery (and the chickens, of course). We all enjoyed peering through the windows to get an idea of the pre-1900 kitchen, spending some time talking about what some of the items were compared to everyday modern household items they’re familiar with.
We look forward to coming back to see the building interiors when the DNR allows their reopening.
The trek around the Heritage Hill trails is a leisurely 1.5-mile loop. The main trail is paved, though some of the side trails leading to individual buildings are gravel. The gravel paths are smooth and level enough that they don’t present an issue for wheelchairs or strollers.
Aside from the somewhat steep hill from the parking lot to the park, the terrain has a slight incline where it isn’t completely flat and is overall a very easy walk. I made the mistake of telling my kids how long the loop was, but when we got to walking, no one complained.
Other Things to Do While Visiting a Wisconsin State Park
Things to Know
- Heritage Hill State Park, 2640 S Webster Ave, Green Bay, WI 54301
- Hours: Currently open for walking Tuesday – Sunday, 8 am to 3 pm (last admittance at 2:30 pm)
- Admission fees are currently waived but there is a suggested donation of $5 per person, with a cash box located at the gate by the parking lot.
- Ample, free, off-street parking (located by the main entrance to the park on Webster Ave)
Heritage Hill State Park follows recommendations made by the CDC and WI DHS guidelines, as well as DNR regulations. Until further notice, all buildings are closed to the public. The park further encourages visitors to maintain social distancing and wear a face covering when inside buildings. There is a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer located on the Fort Dahlin Playground.
Heritage Hill State Park is run in partnership with the nonprofit organization Heritage Hill Foundation. As a nonprofit, they have been feeling the sting of COVID-19 financially. The $5 suggested donation helps to keep the foundation running.