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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

The Fox Cities steal the show

All photos courtesy Fox Cities CVB

Where are the Fox Cities?

The Fox Cities are 18 communities strung along the Fox River and Lake Winnebago in east-central Wisconsin. About a quarter million people live there, with the largest concentration, 77,000, in Appleton. The Fox Cities are about 30 minutes south of Green Bay, 90 minutes north of Milwaukee and 90 minutes northeast of Madison.

How do we get there?
In addition to airports in Milwaukee and Green Bay, the region is served by the Outagamie County Regional Airport, two miles from Appleton, with more than 25 flights daily. U.S. highways 10 and 41 both provide driving access.

What kinds of meetings best suit the Fox Cities?
The area can handle groups as large as 2,000. Religious organizations enjoy the small-town atmosphere and appreciate that the area is consistently rated one of the safest in the United States. Sports groups like the facilities and the ease with which they can travel throughout the area. Traffic jams are rare.

Tell me about your main meeting venues.
The Fox Cities have about 3,100 guest rooms among their 30 hotels and motels, the largest of which is the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Appleton with 390 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Also in Appleton is the 228-room Holiday Inn with 5,000 square feet of meeting space and the Hilton Garden Inn Appleton/Kimberly with 125 rooms and 9,820 square feet of meeting space.

In Neenah, two hotels dominate the meeting market, the 107-room Holiday Inn Neenah Riverwalk with 12,000 square feet of meeting space and the Best Western Bridgewood Resort Hotel and Conference Center with 95 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

Did you know?
• Harry Houdini lived in Appleton as a child.

• Lawrence University in Appleton was the country’s first coeducational college.

• Actor Willem Dafoe began his acting career in Appleton as a youngster.

• Appleton had the first electric trolley system in the country.

• The Fox Cities CVB received the Meetings Partner Award in 2009 from the Wisconsin Chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

• The NFL honored the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel as a Most Valuable Property among hotels that regularly host its teams. Teams that play the Green Bay Packers stay at the Radisson Paper Valley.

What’s new?
• A new 18-hole mini-golf course at Bridgewood Resort adds another team-building option.

• The Radisson Paper Valley Hotel has upgraded its meeting space and guest rooms, adding new beds, carpet and flat-screen televisions. The Holiday Inn of Appleton has redone its guest rooms and lobby.

Tell me about some off beat spots for off-site events.
• From its theater to its roomy lobby, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center offers star-worthy venues.

• Its cheery red barns and end-of-the-road location make Homestead Meadows Farm a natural for barbecues, barn dances and hay rides, but it also does its share of business retreats.

• It’s easy to unwind at Funset Boulevard with a game of laser tag, a round of mini-golf or a spin in the bumper cars, or at Badger Sports Park, where groups can race go-karts, take a swing at the batting cages or play arcade games.

Tell me about some sites worth seeing.

• See the world’s largest collection of glass paperweights at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, a museum rooted in a young child’s fascination with a glass paperweight that her grandmother owned.

• William Waters, an area architect, designed the striking Victorian home called Hearthstone, the first private home in the world to be powered by its own hydroelectric plant using the Edison system. The 1882 light switches and electroliers in the home still work.

Sharpen your sleight of hand in the A.K.A. Houdini exhibit at the Museum at the Castle. This local history museum, housed in a former Masonic temple that looks like a medieval castle, teaches old and young some of Harry Houdini’s tricks through hands-on activities. The museum also books after-hours events.

For a true taste of the Fox Cities …
Vince Lombardi’s family has loaned personal letters, photographs and other memorabilia of the Green Bay Packers coach to Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse, making this Appleton site part dining establishment, part museum. Be sure to ask to see the “before” photos of Plum Hill in Kaukauna.

You won’t recognize the place, which has won awards for its remodeling. The food is notable as well. Experience an authentic and tasty Wisconsin fish fry at Mark’s East Side in Appleton. For Pacific Rim fare, try Cy’s Asian Bistro in Neenah; for Mediterranean treats like pastitisio and flaming rack of lamb, book the side dining room for groups of 20 at Apollon in Appleton.

Tell me about some extra-special CVB services.
After a group’s scavenger hunt, the Fox Cities CVB staff grabbed the disposable cameras, raced them to the processor and had photos from the hunt ready for the meeting planner the next morning.

When a local chef was late to do cooking demonstration for a religious retreat, CVB staffer Tami Hoff stepped in and did a presentation about things to see and do in the area until the chef arrived.