TO ANSWER THE QUESTION “What makes Green Bay green?” go back about 400 years to when French fur traders first explored the area. They found the lower part of the bay was often coated with bright green algae, a fragrant slick that gave rise to the name La Baie des Puants or “the bay of stinking waters.” The English were kinder, settling on the less malodorous and more forthright moniker of Green Bay.
Today, things are markedly different. Green Bay and the adjacent Door Peninsula presents some of the most scenic waterfront on the Great Lakes, along with history, dining and shopping districts. While Green Bay is preoccupied with the Packers of NFL fame, this shipping port offers visitors more than football-related attractions, although Lambeau Field Stadium and Packers Hall of Fame are not to be missed.
Just south of downtown, National Railroad Museum features a vast collection of railroad objects, photographs, manuscripts and rotating exhibits. Trains on display include the Union Pacific #4017 “Big Boy,” weighing in at 1.1 million pounds, the Pennsylvania Railroad #4890, an art deco-styled electric locomotive, and other notable rolling stock.
The 47-acre Green Bay Botanical Garden is a must-see, particularly the Kaftan Lusthaus (a Scandinavian-style summer house), the Schierl Wellhouse and Garden of annuals and herbs, and the Vanderperren English Cottage Garden.
Just northeast of downtown lies the 80-mile-long Door Peninsula and Door County, one of Wisconsin’s most visited tourist destinations, featuring acres of cherry and apple orchards, limestone outcroppings, and dunes. The peninsula got its name from the dangerous passage that lies between its northern tip and Washington Island, an area littered with 18th- and 19th-century shipwrecks. The French colorfully dubbed it Porte des Morts, which translates to “Death’s Door” in English.
Fortunately, today’s boaters don’t have to navigate Death’s Door, thanks to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, which connects Sturgeon Bay on the west side of the Door Peninsula with Lake Michigan to the east. Several famous lighthouses mark the canal and channel such as Sturgeon Bay Canal Lighthouse and Sherwood Point Lighthouse.
WHERE TO DOCK
South Bay Marina & Marine Center
With convenient access to downtown Green Bay, South Bay Marina offers floating concrete docks for boats up to 70 feet, as well as full amenities such as a shuffleboard court, putting green, playground, fire pits, bicycle rentals and Louie’s Lagoon, a poolside bar and restaurant.
Hi Seas Marina, Oconto
This full-service marina is located in Oconto on Green Bay’s western shore within easy boating to Door County. It offers protected dockage to 60 feet, fuel, pump out, restrooms and showers, and a ship store.
WHERE TO DINE
Angelina Authentic Italian Restaurant
A block east of the Fox River and a short walk from downtown hotels, this quaint restaurant makes you feel like you’re in Italy. Dine in the lush patio garden, the main dining room or the upstairs secluded dining area and enjoy an expansive and authentic Italian menu.
Three Three Five
American Way magazine writes, “If sauté pans were electric guitars and tasting menus were set lists, chef Christopher Mangless would be the ultimate rock star.” This airy space offers an eclectic menu. On select Wednesdays the restaurant celebrates Open Market, a “multi-course, gastronomic spectacular in which the talented chef and his team prepare innovative, experimental dishes featuring locally-sourced ingredients.”
An upper Midwest institution, Green Bay-area supper clubs, such as Kropp’s (920-865-7331), and Wally’s Spot (920-468-7924), serve a traditional meat-and-potatoes menu that includes prime rib, steak, chicken and the Friday night fish fry. The preferred dinner drink is an Old Fashioned, made the old-fashioned way.