Top 7 Touristy Things to do in Appleton


Appleton natives don’t always think of their clean, humble city in Northeast Wisconsin as a place where tourists come to find things to do. There are plenty of unfamiliar visitors of Appleton between Appleton’s huge events Octoberfest, the Mile of Music, the PAC, and the EAA in Oshkosh which brings tons of tourists through Appleton. Appleton is also a hub for UW Oshkosh and Lawrence University families and students to find things to do during drop off, visits, and holidays. If you are a visitor or a local to Appleton, here are some touristy things to do while you are here.

Visit the History Museum in the Castle

Appleton has some serious pride in the arts and Harry Houdini. Both can be found at the History Museum. There is rotating local history and unique exhibits as well as the Harry Houdini Exhibit. There are often locally driven art exhibits at the museum as well that come and go, keeping things fresh and local.

Museum Exhibit
Exhibit at the Appleton History Museum

Walk Along the Fox River at Lutz Park

I recommend walking along the Fox River at Lutz Park. At Lutz Park you will find a quiet little park with a bridge to the middle of the river. If you visit during the summer, you are likely to find local fishermen trolling the current of the Fox. Another great place to view the river in a more historical manner is the Vulcan Heritage Park. This spot is right next to one of the many dams along the Fox River, and nestled in right next to the Paper Discovery Center where the old paper mills used to run the city of Appleton.

Learn at the Paper Discovery Center

Paper is what Northeast WI’s economy was built on. Now that many of the mills are closed, the Paper Discovery Center is a great place to learn about the area, and its paper making history.

Bring Your Little People to the Building for Kids

The Building for Kids has amazing interactive displays for kids to have fun, learn, and explore. Plus, the museum is right in the heart of Downtown Appleton across the street from the Houdini Plaza and the Trout Museum of Art.

Visit the Hearthstone Historic House

The Hearthstone House

This house was the first to run off of electricity from a centrally located hydro-electric source using the Edison system. In 1882 the system went live, at the time there was only one other plant running off of steam in New York. Check out this little touring spot to learn more about Appleton history.

Shop Your Heart Out at the Fox River Mall

By number of stores, the Fox River Mall in Appleton is the largest mall in WI. If you are touring the area and looking for something to do during the day, look through their traditional and unique stores as you browse through the enclosed marketplace. Make sure to stop and get some food while you are there!

Visit a light show event at Barlow Planetarium

Barlow Planetarium hosts many astronomy and music based shows. Not every place has their own planetarium committed to bringing things to do to their city. Stop by UW Fox Valley Community College and enjoy one of Barlow’s shows such as Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon Lightshow, Beatles and Led Zeppelin themed shows and more!

The Barlow Planetarium at UW Fox Valley

Appleton, WI has a rich history with the Fox River, Native Americans, Paper, and even innovation. At the beginning of the 20th century, Appleton seemed positioned to be a large city. They had a lot of firsts. If you find youself traveling to or through Appleton for business or any large event like the EAA, stop and check out these touristy things to do. If that’s what you are into.