17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (2024)

In the pulse of Fox Cities, nestles Appleton – a town that entices with its charismatic Houdini legacy and vibrant performing arts scene.

I’ve soaked in every inch of its rich cultural fabric, marveling at the city’s unique ability to offer a blend of enriching museums, spirited sports, and grand ancestral homes.

Undeniably, one of Appleton’s crowning glories is its aura of warmth and friendliness – something that turns every first-time visitor into a recurring one.

If you’re considering a visit, prepare to be captivated as I take you on a local’s tour of the best things to do in Appleton.

Be ready to unveil the city’s best-kept secrets and create cherished memories with your family.

Table of Contents

Best Things To Do In Appleton Compared

Discover an enchanting blend of culture and adventure in Appleton, where endless possibilities await.

Immerse in world-class performing arts, roam through scenic gardens and relish local flavors at bustling farmers’ markets.

Editor’s Choice

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (1)

Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin

Home to more than 200 butterflies, this seasonal attraction offers a magical experience.

  • Family-Friendliness: 5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 5/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

#2nd Best Choice

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (2)

College Avenue Historic District

In 1982, this 7 acre district was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Family-Friendliness: 3/5
  • Affordability: 5/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 4/5
  • Educational Value: 4/5

#3rd Best Choice

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (3)

The History Museum at the Castle

Founded in 1985, this former Masonic lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Family-Friendliness: 4/5
  • Affordability: 3/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 3/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

Here are the top 17 things to do in Appleton, WI.

1. Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin (Editor’s Choice)

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (4)

N2550 WI-47
Appleton, WI 54913
(920) 733-2929
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Home to more than 200 butterflies, this seasonal attraction offers a magical experience.

Ratings Criteria

  • Family-Friendliness: 5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 5/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

Pros

  • Spectacular Visual Experience: The Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin offer a stunning and captivating visual experience with an array of colorful butterflies fluttering around, creating a serene and magical atmosphere.
  • Educational and Informative: Visitors can learn about the life cycle and behavior of butterflies, as well as their importance in the ecosystem.

Cons

  • Seasonal Limitation: The Butterfly Gardens’ operation may be limited to specific seasons when butterflies are most active.
  • Weather Dependency: Rainy or cold days might not be ideal for visiting, as butterflies tend to be less active during adverse weather.

Why You Should Go

If you’re looking for extraordinary attractions in Appleton, then you’ll love this butterfly house.

Open every summer, this oasis encompasses 7 acres, and has a variety of other features, besides its winged residents.

What To Do

Admire the numerous native butterfly species residing in this area.

Afterward, spend some time checking out the Butterfly Bridge and Maze, a beehive attraction, and native plants.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Appleton, WI

2. College Avenue Historic District

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (5)

103 E College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
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In 1982, this 7 acre district was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Ratings Criteria

  • Family-Friendliness: 3/5
  • Affordability: 5/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 4/5
  • Educational Value: 4/5

Pros

  • Rich Historical Significance: The College Avenue Historic District offers a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved architecture and historic buildings.
  • Diverse Range of Shops and Restaurants: The district is not just a historical site; it also features a variety of shops, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a lively and enjoyable destination for shopping, dining, and experiencing local culture.

Cons

  • Limited Active Entertainment: While the historic district is great for history enthusiasts and shoppers, those seeking more active or adventure-oriented activities might find it lacking in options.
  • Parking Challenges: Due to its popularity and historical significance, finding convenient parking in the area can be a challenge, especially during peak times or events

Why You Should Go

College Avenue Historic District isn’t just a treat for history buffs.

With tons of eclectic shops, this district is the place to go for chic wardrobe as well as unique gifts and souvenirs.

What To Do

See the Zuelke Building, Bissing Building and Gibson’s Auto Exchange.

Afterward, shop at Blue Moon Emporium and Items of Interest.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: DoubleTree by Hilton Appleton, WI

3. The History Museum at the Castle

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (6)

330 E College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 735-9370
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Founded in 1985, this former Masonic lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ratings Criteria

  • Family-Friendliness: 4/5
  • Affordability: 3/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 3/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

Pros

  • Fascinating Exhibits: The History Museum at the Castle offers intriguing exhibits and displays that highlight the history and heritage of Appleton and the Fox Valley.
  • Interactive Learning Opportunities: The museum incorporates interactive elements and activities, making it an engaging and enriching experience for families and school groups.

Cons

  • Crowded During Peak Times: The museum’s popularity can lead to crowded conditions, especially during weekends and holidays.
  • Limited Scope: While the museum is excellent for local history enthusiasts, those seeking broader historical or art-focused experiences may find it somewhat limited in scope compared to larger museums in bigger cities.

Why You Should Go

No list of the best things to do in Appleton, WI is complete without this award-winning history museum.

In 2018, this treasure trove received the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Moreover, it’s filled with exquisite and interesting exhibits.

What To Do

See exhibits that focus on key figures and history of the Fox Valley and Appleton.

You’ll also adore the Harry Houdini exhibit and its captivating interactive magic tricks.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Appleton-Fox River Mall Area

4. Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

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400 W College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 730-3760
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Since 2002, this performing arts haven in downtown Appleton has been hosting numerous broadway blockbusters.

Why You Should Go

Searching for memorable things to do in Appleton tonight?

Do yourself a favor, and put the PAC on your list of places to visit in Appleton.

From trendy music gigs to classic broadway musicals, the PAC tantalizes spectators with an outstanding array of events and cultural performances.

What’s more, the center hosts educational programs, theatrical presentations, and lectures.

What To Do

Catch the PAC’s featured events, like the Vienna Boys Choir, Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth, Cats, and Mean Girls.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Cambria Hotel Appleton

5. Fox River Mall

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4301 W Wisconsin Ave
Appleton, WI
(920) 739-0754
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At over 1 million square feet, this enclosed shopping center is the largest mall in Wisconsin.

Why You Should Go

They don’t call Fox River Mall the “shopping capital of Wisconsin” for nothing.

With more than 140 stores, this shopping center is sure to give you some retail therapy indoors.

Additionally, the mall has a mishmash of food choices and entertaining attractions.

What To Do

Go on a shopping spree, hitting stores like JCPenney, Ulta beauty, Macy’s and Talbots.

After getting your shopping fix, make your way to the Northwoods Cafe and enjoy a hearty meal.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Wingate by Wyndham Appleton

6. Trout Museum of Art

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (9)

111 W College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 733-4089
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Established as Appleton Gallery of Art in 1960, this downtown spot is filled with majestic masterpieces.

Why You Should Go

Fine art enthusiasts will find their bliss at this museum.

With a permanent collection of more than 150 pieces, this museum is perfect for those who enjoy fine art.

There’s also a shop here where you can purchase authentic art and prints from local Appleton artists.

What To Do

Browse through the museum’s permanent collection of exhibits.

You may also partake in any of their seasonal events and temporary thematic displays of different kinds of art.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: AmericInn by Wyndham New London

7. Lawrence University Campus

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (10)

711 E John St
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 832-7000
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Inaugurated in 1847, this liberal arts college boasts an 84-acre campus that’s ripe for exploration.

Why You Should Go

A visit to Lawrence University is easily one of the best free things to do in Appleton.

For everyone’s favorite price of zero dollars, you can wander around the campus, and appreciate its gorgeous buildings.

What To Do

Attend any of the gratis arts and music events that take place at the campus.

Then, explore the campus, and snap photos of its eye-catching architecture.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center

8. Fox Trot Trail

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (11)

100 N Appleton St
Appleton, WI 54911
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Stretching for 2.2 miles, this urban trail will lead you to some of the most important landmarks in Appleton.

Why You Should Go

The Fox Trot Trail lets you enjoy a self-guided tour of some of the most fascinating landmarks and attractions in Appleton.

The trail has 16 stops, allowing you to learn about places, like the childhood home of Houdini.

What To Do

Just follow the pawprints of the blue fox on the city’s sidewalks to experience this trail.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: DoubleTree by Hilton Appleton, WI

9. Downtown Appleton Farm Market

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (12)

333 W College Ave #100
Appleton, WI 54912
(920) 954-9112
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The Appleton Farm Market is held outside on Saturday mornings between mid-June and October.

Then, it moves indoors to the City Center Plaza between November and January.

Why You Should Go

Everyone will have a swell time at this farmer’s market.

With a relaxed ambiance and colorful stalls of fresh goodies, this market is filled with tantalizing sights, flavors, and aromas.

What To Do

Stock up on snacks before starting an exciting day of sightseeing in Appleton.

Likewise, you’ll find an assortment of goodies here, including souvenirs, jewelry, and handcrafted items.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Cambria Hotel Appleton

Also See:
Best Things to Do in Green Bay
What to Do in Milwaukee

10. Appleton Beer Factory

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603 W College Ave
Appleton, WI 54914
(920) 364-9931
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Sitting in Downtown Appletown, this brewery is well-known for its historic building and delightful brews.

Why You Should Go

Appleton Beer Factory puts first-rate brews in your glass while entertaining you with its fun and friendly ambiance.

Even better, the brewery has some delightful dishes to appease your palate.

What To Do

Take in the relaxing vibe and watch the experts as they craft their brews into perfection.

Then, sample some of their mouth-watering treats, including margherita flatbread and French Onion Soup.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley

11. High Cliff State Park

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N7630 State Park Rd
Sherwood, WI 54169
(920) 989-1106
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Spanning 1,187 acres, this state park is the only recreation area owned by the state on Lake Winnebago.

Why You Should Go

High Cliff State Park is a wonderland for nature lovers and adventurers.

Whether you’re visiting it in summer or winter, you’ll enjoy a mishmash of fantastic activities in this state-owned park.

And, did we mention that it looks stunning?

What To Do

The park has several trails where you can go horseback riding, hiking and biking in summer.

For winter visitors, you’ll have opportunities to go cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

You can also hunt, picnic, fish, boat or swim in this state park.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center

Related: Best Restaurants in Appleton

12. CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel and Spa

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300 W College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 749-0303
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With its convenient downtown location, this boutique hotel easily gives access to the top Appletown attractions.

Why You Should Go

CopperLeaf is a convenient base for anyone planning to do sightseeing in Appleton.

From this boutique hotel, you’ll be within a short stroll to the Performing Arts Center and Paper Discovery Center.

Not to mention, the hotel provides a slew of convenient and fabulous amenities.

What To Do

Chill like a boss at the on-site Spa BenMarNicos.

You’ll also love its in-room Starbucks coffee, indoor whirlpool, and adjacent restaurant, RYE Restaurant.

13. Hearthstone Historic House Museum

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625 W Prospect Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 730-8204
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In 1974, this historic home near the Fox River was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Why You Should Go

The Hearthstone Historic House Museum is the pride and joy of Appleton.

Built in 1882, it’s the first ever residence on earth to be illuminated by Edison’s electric light bulbs.

Today, it houses a striking museum with Victorian touches and gorgeous stained-glass windows.

Of course, it also houses a slew of exhibits, including the original Edison switches and light fixtures from 1882.

With its elegant interiors and captivating exhibits, it’s truly one of the top things to see in Appleton when it’s raining or cold.

What To Do

Spend a few hours touring the museum, and uncover the interesting history of this beautiful residence.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Quality Inn Appleton

Related: Things to Do in Wisconsin

Also See:
Things to Do in MadisonThings to Do in Door County, WI

14. Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (17)

4815 N Lynndale Dr
Appleton, WI 54913
(920) 731-6041
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With an educational center and 8.5 miles of trails, this nature preserve is a pleasant spot to visit this weekend.

Why You Should Go

Gordon Bubolz features some of the best fun things to do in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Not only does it offer educational programs, but it also has scores of educational programs.

What To Do

Jog, hike or walk through the preserve’s trail system, and see a variety of fauna and flora.

You may also join some of the preserve’s family-friendly programs, including Geocaching and Cross Country Skiing.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley

15. Atlas Science Center

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (18)

425 W Water St
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 380-7491
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First opened in February 2005, Atlas Science Center is a museum and workshop center focused on paper making in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Why You Should Go

Unlike your usual sightseeing spots, the Atlas Science Center lights up little minds and sparks curious hearts.

It’s a playground for the brain, bursting with interactive exhibits, innovative explorations, and compelling fun.

Compared to a day at the beach or a trip to a museum, the science center is a dynamic, fully immersive experience, engaging all your senses.

Here’s the thing: when we stir up our kids’ intellect, we nurture future innovators.

And isn’t that something to feel passionate about?

Embrace the exploration.

What To Do

Engage your family’s inquisitive minds with the Atlas Science Center’s riveting displays, which cover a range of scientific wonders, making learning an unforgettable adventure.

Allow yourself to be captivated as you marvel at the breathtaking and immersive IMAX films that bring the grandeur of science to life.

Dive into the world of discovery by going hands-on with the center’s interactive experiments, designed to spark curiosity and inspire a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Comfort Suites Oshkosh

16. Appleton Memorial Park

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (19)

1620 E Witzke Blvd
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 832-5905
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With a range of facilities, this 143-acre park overflows with exciting and cheap stuff to do.

Why You Should Go

Appleton Memorial Park is perfect for anyone looking for romantic things to do in Appleton for couples.

With its laid-back feel and verdant grounds, the park is ideal for a romantic stroll or picnic.

What To Do

The park isn’t just for lovers.

Perfect for families, this park has activities and facilities for everyone, including a playground.

In summer, the park offers fishing and archery activities.

Winter, meanwhile, provides opportunities for sledding and ice skating for park visitors.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Green Bay, WI

Also See:
Things to Do in La Crosse, WI
Port Washington Activities

17. Building For Kids

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (20)

100 W College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
(920) 734-3226
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Nestled in City Center Plaza, this nonprofit museum has hands-on displays for kiddos age 7 and below.

Why You Should Go

A pit stop to this play-based museum is, hands down, one of the top things to do in Appleton with kids.

Through its educational interactive exhibits, this museum encourages children to learn in a safe and creative environment.

What To Do

Let the youngsters experience its entertaining attractions, like the castle-themed miniature golf and10-foot heart play structure.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center

Activity Guide

Comparing Attractions: Which One Is Right For You?

From a local’s perspective, Appleton is a treasure trove of fascinating attractions.

You can’t help but marvel at the ethereal beauty of the Butterfly Gardens.

While strolling through the gardens, I remember being mesmerized by the vibrant colors of the butterflies, their gentle fluttering leaving a profound impression on me.

Comparatively, the College Avenue Historic District boasts a different charm.

The architectural gems whisper tales of Appleton’s past, and I often found myself lost in awe of their silent storytelling.

The History Museum at the Castle, on the other hand, is like an intriguing book.

The wealth of artifacts, from Houdini’s personal effects to a vivid snapshot of our local history, never fails to leave me spellbound.

It’s a literal walk through history – every visit, I find myself discovering something new.

Each place is unique, so it really depends on what sparks your interest.

Remember, the best part of exploring is that there’s no right or wrong.

It’s about savoring each moment and creating memories.

How I Picked The Activities

My selection of these attractions comes from personal experience and extensive research.

I’ve relished these activities firsthand and dove into every nugget of detail about them.

Conversations with fellow locals and seasoned travelers have added more color and depth.

Being a resident of this magnificent state, I believe I’ve struck the right balance of what locals love and what visitors cherish in Appleton.

Our Rating Method

I rate these attractions based on the following criteria:

  • Family-Friendliness: I use this criterion to assess the family-friendly appeal of every activity. Is it suitable for families with kids? Is it safe, engaging, and fun for children? I ask myself these questions in order to rate family-friendliness.
  • Affordability: This is used to evaluate the attraction’s affordability. Will visitors get a lot of bang for their buck? Is it free or cheaper compared to the other options? Does it offer discounted rates, special promotions, or free entry? I consider these factors when rating affordability.
  • Accessibility: This evaluates the activity’s accessibility. Is it easily accessible by public transportation? Are there plenty of parking spaces available? Is it wheelchair accessible? I ask myself these questions when assessing the attraction’s accessibility.
  • Fun Factor: I use this to evaluate how enjoyable the attraction is for visitors. Will it create positive and memorable experiences? Is it engaging, fun, and exciting? I use these questions to evaluate this criterion.
  • Educational Value: This assesses the educational benefits of the activity. Does it provide learning opportunities to kids? Will it teach visitors lessons in science and history? I ask myself these important questions when rating educational value.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Learn About The City’s History And Heritage?

The History Museum at the Castle provides fascinating insights into the region’s past, from its paper industry roots to notable historical figures like Harry Houdini.

What Are The Popular Hiking Spots Near Appleton?

High Cliff State Park is a favorite hiking destination, offering scenic trails, limestone cliffs, and stunning views of Lake Winnebago.

Where Can I Experience Local Arts And Crafts In Appleton?

The Trout Museum of Art features contemporary and regional art exhibitions, along with educational programs and workshops.

How Can I Enjoy The Outdoors In Appleton?

Visiting the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve provides opportunities for picnicking, sports, and leisurely strolls in beautiful green surroundings.

Conclusion

Having explored every corner of my Wisconsin homeland, I’ve experienced first-hand the best things to do in Appleton.

Each locale, from the historic College Avenue District to The History Museum at the Castle, is a unique gem.

Yet, the tranquil Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin, with its vibrant kaleidoscope of butterflies, stands as my top choice.

As each place has its charm, the true adventure in Appleton is creating unforgettable memories with loved ones.

I encourage you to embark on this enriching journey through Appleton’s vibrant tapestry.

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (21)

Editor’s Choice

Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin

Home to more than 200 butterflies, this seasonal attraction offers a magical experience.

  • Family-Friendliness: 5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 5/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (22)

17 Best Things to Do in Appleton, WI (for 2024) (2024)

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