Besides getting people together to do business, meetings in Wisconsin’s Fox Cities provide opportunities to explore historic homes, dine on the lakefront, relax at the spa and enjoy buzzing nightlife.
Twenty different communities make up the Fox Cities area, intermingling with the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. With easy access to attractions, visitors can spend time meeting, shopping, dining and exploring the cultural scene rather than commuting. Downtown Appleton in particular is very walkable for groups, making it easy to travel from meetings to hotels and the attractions on College Avenue.
A mix of boutique and antique stores, many locally owned, sell everything from clothing to photography equipment, artisan foods and art. The Fox River Mall is home to more than 180 stores. Other specialty shops include Beatnik Betty’s Resale Butik, which offers upcycled and locally crafted items; Harp Gallery, named “Wisconsin’s Best Antique Store” by Wisconsin Trails magazine; and Red and White, Inc., a wine-tasting venue with a selection of more than 1,500 wines.
The fun continues at night, when visitors can pick from a variety of entertainment options. The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center hosts the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and a Broadway series. The Skyline Comedy Cafe features live stand-up comics.
The Appleton Beer Factory has a selection of beers and a seasonal menu crafted from locally sourced ingredients. The De Ja Vu Martini Lounge and Monkey Bar hosts live jazz on Wednesday and Saturday evenings and serves more than 70 kinds of martinis. Pinot’s Palette is an interactive venue where guests paint while mingling and drinking their beverages of choice.
If you would rather relax, head to a spa for some pampering or visit a museum, of which there is an eclectic mix. The History Museum at the Castle illustrates some of the magic tricks of Harry Houdini, an Appleton local. The Paper Discovery Center shows how paper is made. The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass is located in a historic mansion on Lake Winnebago. Inside the former home of the original collector is an array of paperweights, but the house itself is just as unusual.
“It’s just beautiful, the craftsmanship of the home and also the beautiful glass artwork,” said Mary Hirvela, communications manager at the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.
There are many other historic homes to visit, including the Charles A. Grignon Mansion, built in the 19th century by descendants of French-Canadian fur traders; Doty Cabin, home of Wisconsin’s second governor, James Doty; and the Hearthstone Historic House Museum.
A particular feature of Fox Cities is the river- and lake-front dining. Special places include Fratello’s Waterfront Restaurant, on the site of the historic 1909 Vulcan Hydroelectric plant with floor-to-ceiling views of the Fox River; Pullmans, also on the Fox River, with an outdoor patio that can accommodate up to 150 guests; and Waverly Beach on Lake Winnebago, which offers live music and entertainment, a tiki bar and banquet space.
Spotlight on Fox Cities
Primary meeting facilities: Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center
Other meeting properties: CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel and Spa, AmericInn of Appleton and Holiday Inn Neenah Riverwalk
Largest meeting space: Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center (40,000 square feet of meeting space)
Total hotel rooms: 2,800