Visitors learn about the life of what may be Appleton's most famous citizen, Harry Houdini, by taking the Houdini Walking Tour of the city, and observing the collection of his many magic feats. From mid-May through mid-September tours are available to the grand log home of James Doty, Wisconsin's second territorial governor. In nearby Kaukauna, guides dressed in circa-1830s garb escort visitors through the Greek revival mansion of prominent fur trader
The major performing arts facilities in Appleton are the new Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, which has Broadway shows, concerts by the Fox Valley Symphony and national acts, and other events in its 2,100 seat theater; the 1883 Grand Opera House, which presents more than 200 events annually; the Performing Arts at Lawrence University, which offers an artists series, a jazz series and a variety of concerts; and the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, which schedules more than 130 classical performances each year.
The semi-professional Little Sandwich Theatre in the Mall presents live dinner theater productions of musicals, dramas, and children's plays at the Avenue Mall. Community theater for the Fox Valley is provided by the Attic Theatre, which produces four summer shows and a holiday production. The Children's Ballet Theatre provides training for young dancers and performs for schools, clubs, festivals, and conventions.
The Fox Valley Symphony has a more than 30-year history, and presents five subscription concerts each year, plus a holiday concert and two concert chamber series. Appleton's citizens enjoy music making and some of the more prominent musical groups include the Appleton MacDowell Male Chorus, the Chaminade Women's Chorus, the Fox Cities Handbells, the Green Apple Folk Music Society, and the White Heron Chorale.
The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum displays the world's foremost collection of glass paperweights and an exhibit of Germanic glass dating back to the 1500s, as well as a variety of traveling exhibits. The Outagamie Museum/(Harry) Houdini Historical Center features Houdini memorabilia, including a fascinating handcuff display, and magic shows in the summer. The museum also has paper-making exhibits, and exhibits on subjects of local interest. Works of fine art and student exhibits are on display at the architecturally whimsical Wriston Art Center on the Lawrence University Campus, with its glass walls and turrets, fanciful curves, and recessed amphitheater.
The Fox Cities Children's Museum provides youngsters with 27,000 square feet of opportunities for hands-on exploration. The museum features a giant human heart kids can climb onto and slide out of, and interactive displays on electricity, wildlife, rocks, bubbles, fire trucks, other cultures, music and machines, as well as the Science Spectrum, a trip through the world of science.
The city also has some impressive public artworks, including the Appleton Aurora, a unique 10 by 60 foot sculpture atop the Appleton Center, and the Fox River Oracle, a massive sculpture at the north end of Appleton's Skyline Bridge.
Arts and Culture Information: Fox Valley Arts Alliance; telephone (920)734-4860
Spring events include the Nature's Image Spring Fair at the 1,000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna; the Antiques Showcase & Sale in April; the Memorial Garden Festival, which takes place at Memorial Park Arboretum & Gardens in May; and the grand finale of the month of May, the Memorial Day Parade downtown. June brings the Flag Day Parade in downtown Appleton, and the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute. Independence Day is saluted at the Civic Celebration held at Memorial Park; also in July is the annual Paperfest in Kimberly. The Fox Cities Marathon is held in September. The enjoyment of German food and culture, including a variety of beer, is the focus of Oktoberfest, one of the highlights each year in Appleton and held in September. The Harvest Song Fall Festival at Bubolz Nature Preserve, the Crop Walk, and the Romp in the Swamp are the city's highlights for October. Christmas is celebrated with Holiday Candlelight Tours followed by January's Victorian Christmas.
The Timber Rattlers, the Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, play baseball in the 3,400-seat Fox Cities Stadium. World class runners congregate in the area each October to trek over seven bridges through seven cities, part of the 26.2-mile route of the Fox Cities Marathon. The thrills and spills of stock-car racing can be enjoyed at nearby Kaukauna's Wisconsin International Raceway. Sports enthusiasts have easy access to the excitement of the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Milwaukee Brewers; the University of Wisconsin Badgers compete collegiately in the Big Ten conference in Madison, just a 90 minute drive away.
The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve offers 762 acres of wildlife habitat. Hikers and skiers enjoy eight miles of trails along a trout pond and through a white cedar forest. The 1,140 acres of Highcliffs State Park rest on limestone cliffs overlooking Lake Winnebago. The park offers swimming, camping, marina facilities, and an adjacent golf course. The city of Appleton's Parks and Recreation System consists of 600 acres and 26 parks, plus an ice arena. Appleton's Talulah and Memorial parks feature bike paths, and Lutz Park has a boat landing. Golfers enjoy the Chaska and Reid public golf courses, and the city has five parks with lighted tennis courts. The USA Youth Sports Complex has 12 soccer fields and 7 baseball diamonds. The Appleton Rugby Club holds a spring and a fall season of games, and the Appleton Soccer Club offers both adult and youth leagues. Erb and Meade Parks have public swimming pools and Plamann Park offers snowmobile trails and access to the state trail system.
Appleton's Fox River Mall, with 165 retail shops, is one of the largest in Wisconsin. The mall is anchored by large department stores such as Marshall Fields, JC Penney, Sears, and Target, as well as Scheels All Sports. Other major malls include the Avenue Mall, featuring specialty shops and Herberger's Department Store; the Valley Fair Mall, and the Jansport Outlet. Lamers Dairy in Appleton has tours of its milk-bottling plant as well as a country gift store. Simons Specialty Cheese in Little Chute has 100 varieties of cheese and Wisconsin-themed gifts. The Country Squire Christmas Shoppe in Neenah is locally famous for ornaments and Christmas decorations from around the world. The Frame Workshop in Appleton is an award-winning frame shop and art gallery that also has hand-blown glass ornaments from Germany. Vande Walle's Candy Shop offers self-tours of candy-making and pastry-making. The Abracadabra Magic Shop, owned by a local magician, offers magic trick materials and books. More than 60,000 titles, a coffee bar, and a fine selection of gifts is available at Conkey's Book Store, a 100-year old landmark that was recently expanded.
The city offers a variety of restaurants featuring the cuisines of Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, China, and France, as well as casual American fare or upscale continental dining. For fine dining try Peggy's Café on College Avenue downtown, The Seasons on Nicolet, or George's Steak House, a family-owned institution for more than 50 years. Mark's East Side and Old Bavarian celebrate the area's strong German influences.
Visitor Information: Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, 110 Fox River Drive, Appleton, WI 54915-9108; telephone (920)734-3358; fax (920)734-1080