St. Paul Pioneer Press

Apr 7 2023

Both teams proudly wear the color gold — but that’s where the similarities stop. The Minnesota Vikings purple and the Green Bay Packers green create a divide greater than what exists between Team Clinton and Team Trump.

With football season upon us, and the Packers-Vikings game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium only a few weeks away, I decided to take a visit to Green Bay, Wis., as part of a hosted tour to find out a little more about the third-largest city in the state and the phenomena behind “Go Pack Go.”

The Packers organization is unique in that it has 363,000 owners and is the only nonprofit, community-owned major-league sports team in the United States. While roaming the city, I was immediately surprised to learn that the city, indeed, is rooted in the history and life of football and the Green Bay Packers, but there is much more to this little gem on the Fox River.

But let’s start with the vision most of us in Minnesota have when the words “Green Bay” are dropped on us: the Packers. The team has won 13 National Football League championships, more than any other team in the history of the NFL.

After I recently toured our “shiny new penny” of U.S. Bank Stadium, I thought I would begin my Green Bay tour with Packers training camp and a look at Lambeau Field to compare it with Minneapolis’ new construction.

The Packers’ iconic stadium is right in the middle of the town and was built in 1957 and remodeled in 2003. Training camp is unique among NFL franchises because the practices are open to the public. The practice field, Ray Nitschke Field, is located across the street from Lambeau Field where the corporate offices, the players’ locker rooms and all things Packers are located.

During training camp, team members suit up at Lambeau and walk across the parking lot to the practice field. In the early 1960s, kids started lining up outside the locker room doors with their bikes, offering the players a ride to the practice field. The tradition continues today with young girls and boys waiting with their trikes, razors and two-wheelers and hoping to be chosen by a team member to ride their mode of transportation while they run along next to the player, carrying his helmet and chatting with the athlete. This truly was one of those fun moments I will not soon forget.

Lambeau Field is a community gathering spot open 363 days a year with rentable space for events, a welcoming public atrium with a public restaurant called 1919 — the year the team was first called the Packers — and is home to the newly renovated impressive Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

Every game at Lambeau Field, with a capacity crowd now at 81,435, has been sold out since 1960. Green Bay has a population of 104,000 people, and there are 125,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets. Individual seats range from $89 to $125 and suites range from $84,500 to $160,000.

Located on the Fox River, Green Bay is following the pattern of many mid-size towns in America as officials begin to revisit the downtown and embrace life along the body of water it sits near.

Green Bay has built new luxury downtown condominiums, converted weathered factory buildings for housing and shopping and cultural spaces, embraced the farm-to-table food trend in dining, welcomed the exploding local brewery movement and created activities to entertain residents and visitors.

And as the largest cheese-producing state in the country, what goes better with the dairy delight than … wine? Surprisingly, wineries are popping up all over Green Bay’s Brown County.

Breweries are also opening up at a rapid pace. I toured Titletown Brewery and was delighted — and a bit surprised — to find a unique bubbler/drinking fountain rapidly flowing with the brewery’s hoppy goodness.

Green Bay also has one of only seven Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos in the country, which includes an adventure park with a low admission fee of $5 for children and $7 for adults. I tried the challenging aerial adventure rope course and the 1,000-foot zipline overlooking the zoo. The Bay Beach Amusement Park is also a hidden (and affordable) gem.

The place to be on a Wednesday evening in downtown Green Bay appears to be at the massive farmers’ market, which is the second largest in the state. From early spring to mid-fall, the street is bustling with up to 15,000 people visiting the 150 vendors while listening to local musicians — and, of course, eating cheese curds. I tried my first gummy bear brat, which was quite good. The market has plans to add an event center and a field for the semi-pro baseball team, the Green Bay Bullfrogs.

A visit to Green Bay may start as a football fan’s dream trip, but if you take the time to explore this Midwest town, you just may leave with more than a cheese head.

Desinations Midwest North America Travel Writing

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