Another NFL Treasure:
Green Bay’s Packer Passion
By: Suzanne Ferrara
We all know that Pittsburgh is, among other things, one of the National Football League’s iconic cities. We love our Steelers, we love our treasured history. However, the true fans of professional football in the Steel City realize there are indeed other American cities worth a visit, (not quite like the love we have for our beloved Steelers) to truly enhance their love and appreciation for the sport. Which leads us to……
It’s a city whose notoriety, at least to most who live outside of the state of Wisconsin, is rooted in the existence of a professional football team. And it’s an absolutely unique situation because the NFL’s Green Bay Packers are actually owned by the city of Green Bay, and evidence of the love affair between city and team can be seen at nearly every corner.
Historic Lambeau Field is THE place to start the conversation, and your trip to Green Bay. Named after Packer founder and coach Curley Lambeau, the field has been home to the Packers since 1957. Tours take you throughout the 81,435 seat stadium, and at every corner there are tributes to football legends like Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Brett Favre. With just one step, you will get an immediate sense of football history.
Lambeau Field, however, is about more than just a Sunday visit. The Packer Hall of Fame is located inside the stadium, and with championship trophies, mementos and video clips, is a first-class tribute to the glory of the Green and Gold, and a visit here will certainly fill all ages with inspiration. The Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, founded in 1966 by a local restaurateur and Packers fan, William L. Brault, is where you will walk into 15-thousand square feet of Packers legends, plus history of other teams, as well travel through interactive displays and fascinating artifacts. You can also hear Packers legends describe historic games from their point-of-view. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit is the replica of Vince Lombardi’s office. Oh, and yes, the 13 world championship trophies are on display, four of which are Lombardi trophies. (Fact: The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame was the first to honor a professional American football team).
That visit will surely fire you up, and it’s fitting that the exit then leads you to the 21,000 square-foot Packer Pro Shop where you’ll find jerseys, t-shirts, unique gifts, and ‘yes’, cheeseheads for all ages. And for a bite to eat with a Lambeau view? Stop for parmesan-breaded cheese curds at the 1919 Kitchen & Tap.
For Packer fans who want that something ‘extra’, the Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tour is a must. For roughly 90 minutes, you’ll travel the heart of the city and visit over 22 sites that were significant in the formation and culture of the team, including City Stadium (the Packers’ home before Lambeau Field) and the birthplace of Curley Lambeau himself.
Want a break from football or maybe something more romantic? Head downtown to the gorgeous and historic Meyer Theatre, which was constructed in 1929. This lavish theater, which drips in both Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture styles, will certainly take your breath away even as you enjoy a fantastic performance. In addition to professional live musicals and plays, the theatre also presents events such as film festivals and unique touring shows. (Fact: The Meyer Theatre was originally the FOX Theatre where stars such as Roy Rogers, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong graced the stage).
Green Bay and the Greater Green Bay area have a plethora of unique and legendary breweries and wineries. In fact there are some connected to the stadium (and a few beyond the shadows of Lambeau), and you can easily spend a few days just brewery-and-winery-hopping. It’s at these outlets that you can both wet your whistle (with some of the best tasting local beers and wines) and indulge in some of the most mouth-watering cuisine and food pairings.
Got a thirst for a craft brew from Wisconsin? The award-winning Badger State Brewing Company is located within the Lambeau Field Stadium District, and guests can enjoy libations like the On Wisconsin! Red Ale in the 100% wind-powered facility. Meanwhile, a railroad depot from the late 1800s became the home of the Titletown Brewing Company in 1996, and today it’s the home of fantastic beers (oh, my, the Johnny ‘Blood’ Red ale!!) and amazing pizzas, fish and the crowd-favorite, pasta carbonara.
The newest addition to the Green Bay’s amazing brewing scene is COPPER STATE Brewing Company, which has the same owners as Appleton’s Copper Rock Coffee (a local favorite of coffee drinkers). The new brewery is housed in the former Hinterland Brewery in downtown Green Bay and offers a wide array of tours of the beloved brewery including a fun Clue-ery Brewery Scavenger Hunt Tour. COPPER STATE serves a variety of delicious craft beers along with gastropub favorites, and, of course, fresh-roasted Copper Rock Coffees. (Tip: Be sure to try their Flight Night special and mini-brew dinner pairings).
There are so many wineries to visit as well, and be sure to add Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery to your list. Parallel 44, which was established more than a decade ago, is about forty miles outside of Green Bay in the city of Kewaunee on the shore of Lake Michigan. All of their wines are produced from their Wisconsin vineyard from “Cool Climate Grapes”. (Fun Fact: The winery sits on the 44-degree earth-circling North Latitude and is known as the location of some of the world’s finest grape-growing and wine-making).
After all the sight- seeing, you will need great lodging! Make a bee-line straight to the LODGE KOHLER, a luxury, four-diamond hotel which offers a stunning indoor pool and spa, plus a restaurant and roof-top bar. This upscale hotel is only 100-yards from the historic Lambeau Field in the heart of Titletown plaza. (Tip: If you can, reserve one of only six Terrace Suites—300-square feet of this one-thousand square foot suite is outdoor space with a fire pit and grill area. Another great choice is to reserve one of the Lambeau Corner Suites, which are located on the second, third, and fourth floors; these are very spacious, with over one-thousand square feet of space. Whatever you do, be sure to request a suite or standard room that faces the stadium). For ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation, a visit at the KOHLER Waters SPA is a must. They offer a plethora of spa services that are both innovating and soothing. (Tip: The state-of-the-art Hydromassage Pool is a ‘must’; experience).
If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket to a Green Bay game (all home games have been sell-outs since 1965), and you want lodging that will get you in the proper mood, I strongly suggest “Under the Lights of Lambeau”, a fully-furnished rental property that sleeps 8-10 fans and is right across the street from the field. It’s intricately decorated with the Packer fan in mind. Another place to keep in mind is the historic Union Hotel in nearby De Pere, known for its beautiful art deco bar area and delicious aged Angus steaks.
Need more great lodging options? The halls of higher learning beckon at St. Norbert College, a top-ranked liberal arts Catholic college located in De Pere, along the beautiful Fox River. Founded in 1898, St. Norbert is consistently rated by the Princeton Review as one of the top colleges in the Midwest. Visitors can stay in one of 46 spacious suites at the college-run Kress Inn. And yes, there’s a Packer connection: the team has stayed at St. Norbert for training camp since 1958.
There’s one other item that exemplifies that passion Green Bay residents have for their team: Although the population of Green Bay is 103,000, the waiting list for season tickets to Packer games…. is 116,000.
Like the passion we have for our Steelers, that, my friends, is another sign of true, football love… of the green and gold variety.