For this experience, I was in the mood to try somewhere more low-key, relaxing, and straight up comfort food. Where better to go than a local cafe in close to my college housing in Oshkosh, WI? This cafe is called Pilora’s cafe and it’s located right on Main Street, just outside of Downtown Oshkosh.
What attracted me to this cafe initially was the exterior. I had always passed by the restaurant on Main Street, but never seemed to have the time to stop in. I knew I had to feature it for the Camille’s Choice series. The restaurant is cute, quaint, and even has a little outdoor patio which was perfect for a 75 degree summer’s afternoon! Once you enter the cafe, you’re overwhelmed with smells of fresh brewed coffee and the smell of syrup – yes, even at three in the afternoon. There is a little coffee bar behind the main register that instantly caught my eye as well. Around the restaurant are tables and booths with different pieces of art and many kinds of plants. The sun is able to come in through their huge windows and keep you warm while you eat, too. All around, Pilora’s atmosphere is perfect if you’re looking for that Sunday morning, coffee and pancakes kind of meal.
For my meal, I decided to go with something the server said they were well-known for – their Pilora’s french toast. This is the thickest, richest, and sweetest french toast. It was so good and their homemade syrup was truly the “icing on the cake.” Along with the french toast I got some nitro cold brew coffee (which I am a HUGE fan of), and it was creamy and so fresh.
I enjoyed the company of my roommate, Lace, on this journey and it was a nice place for us to sit and share a meal and some warm conversations. Lace and I have both agreed we would love to go back sometime soon and check out some of their other unique menu items as well, and so should you!
Trying to find Pilora’s and try it out for yourself? Here’s some information that might help you out!
Simplified directions: Right on the end of Scott Street, where it turns into Main Street
Address: 910 N Main St, Oshkosh, WI 54901
Located by: Cinders Charcoal Grill, Doctor Benzie’s Pizza, Family Dollar
Hartman Creek is the most versatile state park I have been too within an hour of Appleton! During the two hours I spent there exploring and watching all the different activities going on there I was truly in shock with how much potential this park has to so many people. So, the whole point of writing this is to give you the insight you need to get out there and experience this truly awe-inspiring place! I had the opportunity to visit with my girlfriend this fall, and our journey was great.
At Hartman Creek the beauty of their hiking trails is spectacular! I had the personal opportunity to hike these awesome trails. My favorite ran right along the water, and gave us an amazing view of Allen lake and the number of trails is enough for you to hike all day if that’s what you desire to do. But I highly suggest going in the fall, the true beauty of all the fall colors on your hike is amazing. Just looking across the lake and seeing the trees filled with oranges and reds is sure to drop your jaw in awe.
Hartman Creek has some amazing fishing! We know that’s the truth because Hartman Creek was once a fish hatchery before it was even a state park! Fun fact! Plus, all the lakes around it are all spring fed. That makes for great fishing! You can expect to catch largemouth bass, perch (my favorite), blue gill, and other types of panfish. There are four lakes to choose from at Hartman Creek: Lake Allen, Lake Hartman, Lake Grebe, and Lake Middle. Along with that if you don’t have fishing gear you can rent it for free right at Hartman Creek! If you end up going to Hartman Creek don’t forget your fishing License.
Winter is just as much fun at Hartman Creek as the fall and summer are. You have winter activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking trails! When snowshoeing you have free reign to venture off the trials or stay right on path. There are six miles of cross-country skiing trails and three and a half miles of snowshoeing trails! That’s a lot of winter wonderland to explore!
Kayakers can launch from Manomin Lake and paddle through Pope Lake, and Marl Lake. Don’t forget to stop and look at the crystal clear water and all the amazing red and orange colors from the trees surrounding each lake. Then you can stop and have a lunch break at Whispering Pines picnic area!
Hartman Creek provides an amazing 300 foot sand beach which is great to bring your family to or go on a date! What’s even better is that the beach is right next to a three acre, multi use area which is perfect for social games like spike ball and bags or just having grill outs and getting together with family and friends for the weekend! Along with that if you’re from further out of town, they have plenty of camping sites for tents and Trailers!
From hiking to swimming and all the things in between you can clearly see how amazing Hartman Creek is. Not only a great stop during the spring and summer, but a place to explore all year long. So why not head out to Hartman Creek for an adventure?
1000 Islands is an awesome nature spot in the Fox Cities. Located right off of downtown Kaukauna, you can find 7.2 miles of hiking trails. Including 1 mile of trails along the Fox River!
The land is set aside for the public to enjoy. According to the Conservancy, the land is set aside, “with the idea of teaching good conservation practices and preservation of natural resources.” We at Venture Wisconsin support this sentiment! Our goal is to show you that awesome places like this exist, and to convince you that they are worth visiting!
Activities: Hiking, sight seeing, wildlife viewing, classes, snow shoeing, fishing, canoeing, and any classic outdoor activities (frisbee, catch, picnics, etc.) are welcome. If you’re running out of ideas of outdoor activities, we made you a list of a few!
What else? There is an amazing nature center, full of awesome displays and information about our local natural history, and other cool things!
1000 Islands is open year round, and unfortunately, no pets allowed. Seriously though! Go visit! Leave yourself some time to hike. It’s worth it. What’s your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors?
Looking for something more?? Something you didn’t already know?! We did our first Neature Feature episode at 1000 Islands! Oh, also, they rent different items to enjoy the outdoors in a new way!
“There is nothing to do around here!” Many people, mostly young people, complain of the Fox Cities. At Venture Wisconsin we’re taking it upon ourselves to lay out all the awesome things to do, as well as create awesome things to do across Northeast Wisconsin. This is why we spotlight outdoor areas to explore via our Neature Feature series, and our Instagram account.
If you live in the Fox Cities or are driving through, many people don’t give the Fox Cities credit for all the reasonably priced activities in the area! We composed a list of the more established things to do in Appleton, Menasha, Neenah, Oshkosh, and surrounding area that would interest tourists and locals alike.
1. Paper Discovery Center
The Fox River is Paper Valley! Many large corporations like Kimberly-Clark for example originated in the Fox Cites. In memory of this history, the Paper Discovery Center was developed right off the Fox River and Downtown Appleton. If you are visiting or live in the Fox Valley and want something unique to see, to bring your kid, or show a friend who is visiting, this is a unique spot.
2. Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass
Head to Neenah for a unique museum experience! If you are looking for things to do in Neenah, this is one of the big attractions that is certainly a new experience. The museum has different exhibits all the time!
3. Appleton History Museum
With revolving exhibits, and the constantly evolving exhibits of Appleton’s history and Houdini, this is a great activity in the Fox Cities for any age!
4. Building for Kids
If you are looking for something to do in the Fox Cities for kids, this is the crown jewel. The Building for Kids features interactive, educational fun! Multiple stories of construction, factories, grocery stores, airplanes, play land, and more! Check it out in Appleton!
5. Hearthstone House
The Hearthstone House is a gemstone in any city. Hearthstone is the first home independently powered by hydroelectric power using the Edison System. We talk about it here as well. It is always cool to have a first in innovation, and Appleton back in the late 1800s had a lot of promise as a city. Visit the Hearthstone House to learn more about Appleton history.
6. Fox River Mall
A big local hang out spot in the Fox Cites, the Fox River Mall attracts people from all over Wisconsin. So if you are visiting for EAA, Mile of Music, or any local event, check out the mall if that is your cup of tea.
7. Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
The Performing Arts Center (PAC) is a world class venue that brings tons of unique shows to the Fox Cities. World class shows like Mamma Mia, The Lion King, and The Book of Mormon come to the PAC in cycles, and it is worth checking out if you can get the opportunity.
8. Oshkosh Grand Opera House
Much like the PAC, the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh is historic and world class. Slightly smaller shows frequent “The Grand,” but there are plenty of unique and reasonably priced shows to make it worth checking out the historic theater.
9. Weis Earth Science Museum and Barlow Planetarium
If you go to the local community college you will find more than local students saving money. You will find the Weis Earth Science Museum and the Barlow Planetarium where you can find unique science exhibits and awesome seasonal light shows!
10. EAA Aviation Museum
EAA stands for Experimental Aircraft Association, and they put on the largest airshow in the country for a week! Every summer over 100,000 people come to Oshkosh for the EAA Airventure event, so you can imagine the museum is pretty special.
11. Paine Arts Center and Gardens
With rotating art exhibits and outdoor gardens and events, “The Paine” is a great place for tourists to experience Northeast Wisconsin in a unique way! Here you will find their events and exhibits
12. Menominee Park and Zoo
Menominee Park is Oshkosh’s crown jewel as far as parks go. A huge spot of land with a lot of lake shore on Lake Winnebago. Plenty to do including the beach, trails, huge playgrounds and massive trees. The park also includes a zoo! If that’s not enough you can also rent kayaks or water bikes.
13. Take a Party Bike Ride with The Social Station
Mega bikes or party bikes are vehicles that are pedaled by a group of people. Very unique and new to the area, The Social Station offers tours, pub crawls, and exercise expeditions to anyone in Appleton! Book here.
14. Oshkosh Public Museum
Across the street from The Paine Arts Center is a historic Oshkosh home near the Fox River. There exists the Oshkosh public museum with awesome changing exhibits. The Oshkosh Public Museum is a one of many reasonably priced things to do in the Fox Cities for tourists and locals alike.
15. Take a Segway Tour
Segways are cool!.. Right? Book a segway tour and learn about the local history and hotspots in Neenah, Appleton, or Oshkosh. Click here to book a tour!
The Fox Cities has many awesome resources for the public, including many outdoor things to do. For now, this will get you started for planning your next visit to Appleton, Oshkosh, or Neenah! If you want to find events, outdoor treasures, and other things to do in Appleton and the Fox Cities, follow our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel. Thank you for reading and let us know in the comments if you ended up trying any of these.
If you live in Wisconsin, you’ve no doubt had a conversation and either defended or cursed the Wisconsin winter. Although we agree that the winters can get dragging and sometimes make it difficult to get out of bed, we at Venture Wisconsin know that Wisconsin winters are what you make of them. If you are looking for ways to not be bored this 2017-2018 winter season, here are some suggestions to start getting you into the season.
1. See Larry the Cable Guy
Oshkosh just built an awesome new stadium next to Lake Winnebago for their new basketball team. The benefits of that new stadium are opportunities for awesome live events. Live events like Larry the Cable Guy! Buy tickets and watch The Cable Guy live on January 27th.
2. Candlelight Hikes Through the Woods
Hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski through Northeast Wisconsin’s landscapes via candle light. A few state parks, nature centers, and public lands are hosting candlelight hikes and walks like this through January, including: Navarino Nature Center, Hartman Creek State Park, and Horicon Marsh. Check out this link for DNR sponsored candlelight walks across the state this winter.
3. Keep warm with a show at the PAC
The PAC has a few events this winter. Most notably The King and I and The Nutcracker. Either way, it’s worth checking out. Buy a friend tickets to go with you to a show this winter or plan a date night!
4. Go to the Green Bay Garden of Lights
Bring some friends to the classic Green Bay Botanical gardens for their annual Garden of Lights. It’s their 21st year of operation in Green Bay, and they have some special events this year.
5. View Christmas Lights with Your Friends
Warm up the car and take your friends on a cruise around the Fox Valley or Northeast Wisconsin in general checking out some of the awesome Christmas decorations that people work on. Go Valley Kids even made it easy, they have a list of the best lights in town here.
6. Watch a Laser Light Show at Barlow Planetarium
Barlow has a great variety of popular music and holiday based light shows. Some of the music shows include classic albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or groups of artists like their Laser Tribute, which features the mega hits of music superstars of the past that have passed away. Either way, at $10, it’s a new experience to have while the weather outside is below freezing.
7. Go Ice Skating
You could skate at indoor locations like Memorial Park in Appleton, or you could head up to Green Bay and check out the new Titletown Skate Rink near Lambeau Field! The outdoor skate rink resembles something that you would see in Chicago, and is definitely worth checking out.
8. Remember Bowling?
For some people bowling is what they do. Many who aren’t in bowling leagues often don’t think of bowling when looking for things to do. The Fox Cities has a good number of bowling alleys waiting for you to visit.
9. Visit the Theater
Visit one of the local movie theaters this winter and enjoy the newly updated recliners at many of the locations.
10. Go Cross-Country Skiing
Nature spots on the West side of Lake Winnebago are pretty easy to count on both hands, and many of them have cross-country skiing available. There are many more places for cross country skiing once you go east of Lake Winnebago. Here is a list to check out. We recommend the Reforestation Camp in Green Bay by the NEW Zoo.
11. Go to One of Northeast Wisconsin’s Museums
If you are stuck inside and want to get out on your day off, check out one of Northeast Wisconsin’s niche museums. Northeast Wisconsin doesn’t have much outside of the Appleton History Museum and Neville Public Museum for regular exhibit museums. NE Wisconsin does however, have many crazy weird niche museums focusing on things like paper, paper weights, airplanes, railroads, many artists, and more. For some museums you can check out this list.
Hotdog Charlie’s is located just around the corner from Downtown Main Street on Church Avenue in Oshkosh. Delicious natural-cased wieners and Charlie’s own secret sauce recipes makes Charlie’s a must try if you are Downtown Oshkosh looking for something to eat.
As you can see from the video, Chuck is a stand up guy, and he’s very often at the shop interacting with his customers. If you find yourself in town for a Herd game, the EAA, or enjoying the nightlife on Main Street, pop into the little corner shop and try a hotdog. If you do visit, tell them you heard about Charlie’s from this blog post. He’ll be surprised.
In 2016, I was a kayak tour guide for the summer. I lived among the locals for 3 months, and while there, I decided that I would find unknown or underappreciated gems in the county. Although this is a good list of some of the hidden gems in Door County, I had to leave a couple secret beaches out for the locals to continue to enjoy. So it looks like you’ll have to do some more digging if you want more true hidden gems. For now, enjoy these secrets of Door County that most tourists never find.
Door County Land Trusts
Starting with the Land Trusts is crucial. These are truly hidden gems! There are 14 land trusts in Door County, which are just pieces of land set aside for the public to enjoy that keep the native nature and wildlife in tact. These are all unique ecosystems with diffhttps://wordpress.com/post/venturewisconsin.blog/1690erent sights and trails to see. The Land Trusts are run by a non-governmental organization which is why they are under advertised.
Cana Island Light House
One of Door County’s 11 lighthouses (the third most lighthouses in any US county.) Being off the beaten path and on an island on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula, Cana Island is not as well advertised of an attraction. If you want a unique Door County experience, walk across the land bridge and explore the Cana Island light house!
Newport State Park
It’s hard to call a state park a hidden gem, but of the FIVE state parks in Door County, Newport State Park is the least know among tourists. A mile or two off the beaten path, Newport is actually IDA certified as a Dark Skies Park and Wisconsin’s only wilderness-designated state park. What that means is that Newport is a huge nature reserve that has very limited infrastructure, so that visitors can get a genuine nature experience!
Mink River Estuary
The Mink River almost cuts through the northern tip of the Door Peninsula. Located just West of Newport State park, the river is spring fed and runs into Rawley’s Bay. A Ramsar certified Wetlands of International Importance. Click the link and ctrl+f “Door County Coastal Wetlands.” The Mink River can be toured via your own kayak or canoe or rented from local companies. The Mink river is home to a large variety of birds and mammals, and is very pristine. SECRET: A hidden gem within a hidden gem is the grass beach and the only public place where you can access the Mink from land! Click the link for approximate directions!
Another hidden gem on the East side of the peninsula, Europe Bay, Europe Lake, and Europe Beach are basically attached to Newport State Park on the north end. If you visit, you will find an intense and well maintained beach that overlooks the vast Lake Michigan. You will also find peace and quiet. This beach is much less visited, so if you visit the area, especially during the week, you may be visiting it alone. At least with many less people than say, Peninsula State Park’s beach. As for Europe Lake, it joins Clark Lake and Kangaroo Lake as the three impounded lakes of Door County. What’s an impounded lake? You’ll have to visit the nature centers and ask! Mention Venture Wisconsin if you ask. 🙂
I would argue Garrett Bay is in the top 3 for hidden gems on this list. It is a small, quick stop that has something for everybody. Just a mile-ish off the main path (Hwy 42), Garrett Bay has a public boat launch where you can skip perfectly flat rocks at the stone beach, launch you kayak, or just look across the bay at the Deathdoor Bluff. If you do bring a kayak or book a tour of the bay with a local kayak tour company, you will find the Fleetwing Shipwreck right off the shore and an amazing view of Door Bluff County Park and the rest of Door County to once you get around the corner. (If you read this far and are wondering which corner, it’s around the left corner.)
Door Bluff County Park
Right next to Garrett Bay, Door Bluff County Park is the hidden gem version of Ellison Bluff County Park. (Another kind of hidden gem you should check out.) The cliffs of limestone become more prominent as you travel north on the peninsula. So naturally Peninsula State Park is not the only spot where you can catch a beautiful bluff. Drive to the flat stone beach at Garrett Bay, skip some stones, and drive 2 minutes to the park to see trails less traveled and a unique perspective of Lake Michigan.
Thimble berries are unique to the great lakes region, and are relatively unknown within the general public as they are not sold at many market places. These sweet red berries are widespread in the norther half of Door County. If you are a visitor, a common place you will find them and didn’t even know it is Whitefish Dunes State Park along the hiking trails! Note: They are very soft, so don’t be concerned if you think they are too ripe.
This article should be titled, “The Lake Michigan side of Door County.” Most of the larger towns, shops, and attractions are on the Green Bay side of the Door Peninisula, so don’t be afraid to explore the East side and use these suggestions as an excuse! I hope you like this list and at least check out a few of these awesome things to do outside while you visit one of the Midwest’s favorite touring regions! If I missed any or you try them out, and want to share your tips and experiences with others looking for the less traveled trails of let me know in the comments.
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.
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
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!
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.