Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Appleton, WI

  • Published 2022/11/26

The beautiful city of Appleton is the largest city of all the Fox Cities in Outagamie County in the state of Wisconsin.

Situated on the Fox River, there’s a reason why Appleton has so many residents compared to the other Fox Cities.

It’s one of the best places to live in Wisconsin, with beautiful scenic views by the river, a diverse and dense suburban feel with lively and colorful restaurants, bars, and especially parks.

Appleton has many sights and activities, from outdoor activities in the summer and winter to indoor art, museums, and galleries.

If you’re looking for places and activities that don’t require spending, here’s a list of free things to do in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Visit the Vibrant Appleton Memorial Park

Start your trip at Appleton’s most diverse and largest park, the Appleton Memorial Park.

The Appleton Memorial Park, located at 1620 East Witzke Boulevard, is a 143-acre community park near downtown Appleton.

It’s the hub for many Appleton festivities and fun activities.

Here you can watch or play baseball or softball, go fishing, practice archery, play soccer, go ice skating and sledding in the wintertime, and many more.

The Appleton Memorial Park is also home to the Appleton Family Ice Center and the Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin.

There are also three fun playgrounds for kids to play around at.

You can take walks at their beautiful and well-groomed trails where you can see the local plants and trees and their colorful planted and properly-labeled gardens.

All sorts of events and activities occur here at the Appleton Memorial Park, so stop by and catch them on your next visit.

Discover Appleton through the Fox Trot Trail

If you want to take a pleasant stroll and enjoy downtown Appleton’s view and the cool riverfront, try following the Fox Trot Trail.

The Fox Trot Trail is a cleverly made path that goes through and highlights Appleton’s beautiful scenery and rich history alongside the Fox River.

The trail is 2.2 miles long, and many sites and stops along the trail show place stories contributing to why Appleton is a great city today.

You’ll also see lots of wildlife along the beautiful Fox River: geese, ducks, and pelicans.

You can even chance upon nesting eagles if you’re lucky.

If you want to start your self-guided tour, find the trail marked by blue fox pawprints that starts at Houdini Plaza and grab a brochure that contains a trail map.

You can take the usual long route or the scenic shortcut along the beautiful Fox River.

This is a fantastic way to discover the heart of Appleton at your own pace, and you don’t have to worry about missing a vital place during your stay in Appleton.

Explore the Downtown Appleton Farm Market

The Downtown Appleton Farm Market is an indoor and outdoor market inside the City Center Plaza at 333 West College Avenue.

Here you can find Appleton’s best products made by thriving small-time farmers and small businesses.

Over 150 vendors in their stalls are selling specialty products, from fresh produce like meats, cheeses, and eggs, to fresh fruits and vegetables, preserved items like honey and jam, and even baked goods.

There are also artful handmade craft items and jewelry you can look at and admire.

You can hang around for fantastic live music, walk around and see the colorful stalls while enjoying the beautiful vibe of the market.

If you’re feeling a little hungry, too, some stalls sell delicious snacks and meals ready to eat.

Visit the Downtown Appleton Farm Market to see the freshest and best products Appleton has to offer.

Learn about Nature at the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve

The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is a nature preserve in Appleton and is a pretty popular place to visit, with over 80,000 visitors annually.

Found at 4815 North Lynndale Drive, just up north of Appleton, you’ll find a stunning, unspoiled park filled with nature, perfect for any outdoor activity.

The Bubolz Nature Preserve inspires the community to be mindful, enjoy and appreciate nature.

They do this with their exceptional educational programs and hands-on learning opportunities.

With 8.5 miles of trails showing Appleton’s wildlife and flora, you’ll enjoy a relaxing afternoon with nature.

You can take a walk along the trails, take a seat at one of the benches and enjoy the solitude of being surrounded by nature, or take a look at the calm ponds.

This is the best place to break from the hustle and bustle of noisy urban life.

The preserve still offers beautiful views, snowshoe trails, and cross-country skiing opportunities, even during the cold season.

The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is a fantastic place to visit with friends and family.

Take the Kids to the Children’s Farm at the Plamann Park

Plamann Park is one of the famous parks in Appleton.

It’s a huge county park found up north in Appleton at 1375 East Broadway Drive.

It’s a fabulous park with plenty of things to do with your family.

Take a walk along one of their many trails, such as the cow path and the bird trail, which are shaped like an actual cow and a bird!

The kids will enjoy going to the children’s farm, where they’ll see not only all sorts of animals but also come close and pet them.

Moreover, a park isn’t complete without a playground.

Plamann Park has a charming little sandy garden beside the children’s farm for the kids to play around before or after visiting the animals.

Besides that, you can also bring your Frisbee for an exciting game of golf at their courses, visit their paid waterpark and lake, or take a seat at a bench and relax.

There are plenty of things to enjoy here at Plamann Park; bring your family along for a fun time.

Take the Family for a Swim at Erb Park

Erb Park is a city park in Appleton.

Found at 1800 North Morrison Street, the place has become a popular spot for its outdoor swimming pool, ice-skating rink, and sports facilities.

There are so many things to do here at Erb Park.

You can swim in the summer, have fun with outdoor activities and sports in spring and fall, and try sledding and ice skating in the winter.

The playground is very child-friendly, with soft rubberized play surfaces and many structures for children to play around.

You can take a walk or bike around their trails, play sports at their tennis and basketball court, play at the corn hole or ping pong tables, or chill under the shade of their pavilions.

If you want a nice, quiet, and safe park experience within the city, Erb Park is the place to visit.

Browse Your Favorites at the Fox River Mall

Signage of the Fox River Mall

self, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fox River Mall is a shopping center in Appleton.

This enclosed regional shopping center spans about 137 acres, making it the largest mall in Wisconsin.

There are over 140 stores in the food court, not including food vendors.

You’re sure not to run out of places to see and explore.

Foodcourt in Fox River Mall

self, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

You can walk around, go window shopping at their many unique shops and stores, and enjoy being surrounded by all your favorites.

It’s located at 4301 West Wisconsin Avenue, with easy access from the highway.

Visit the Fox River Mall as an excellent indoor place to cool off and relax.

Read Your Favorite Books at the Appleton Public Library

There’s just a charm to libraries that no other place could ever replicate.

The Appleton Public Library is Appleton’s collection of literature and knowledge.

The public library at 225 North Oneida is one of the best places to see, read, study, and research.

The library has over 260,637 volumes of books and circulates about 1,449,140 items annually, ensuring a fantastic selection of books, with popular movies and books having multiple copies.

If you want a nice and quiet place to relax and read your favorite book, visit the Appleton Public Library.

Join the Festivities at the Pierce Park

Pierce Park is one of the most popular parks in Appleton.

This 36-acre park is one of the largest parks in Appleton, situated just atop Lutz Park at 1035 West Prospect Avenue.

It has a large pavilion, tennis and basketball courts, a baseball diamond, a paved walking trail, and a Frisbee course.

Pierce Park is famous because there’s always something happening: events, fairs, and live music.

The kids can have fun at the fabulous playground, with tons of slides, climbing structures, swings, and monkey bars.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy the live music at their charming outdoor stage, where talented artists perform or join in on the festivities in Pierce Park.

Reflect on Life at St. Mary’s Church

The St. Mary’s Church is a Roman Catholic parish here in Appleton.

This historic church was established in 1859 by local Catholics and was named and dedicated after Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Thanks to the paper industry, the small town grew in population, and St. Mary’s Church became a beautiful landmark.

You can visit the church to admire the beautiful architecture of the exterior and the stunning interior, with its colorful stained glass windows and rustic benches.

Take Your Pets to the Outagamie County Dog Park

The Outagamie County Dog Park is one of the best dog parks here in Appleton.

It’s located at 2830 French Road, a short distance from downtown Appleton.

The 17-acre area is divided into several parts to let you choose the best places to play with your loving pet.

The North Park is a five-acre open field perfect for playing catch or Frisbee with your dog.

The South Park is a 12-acre area with partially wooded parts, tall grass, and trails perfect for you and your dog for a jog.

Finally, the Small Dog area is a fenced spot where small dogs under 17” can gather and socialize safely.

Check out the Outagamie County Dog Park, the best place for your loving pet to run around without a leash and socialize with the other dogs.

Go Skating at Telulah Park

Telulah Park is a family-friendly park here in Appleton.

Found at 1300 East Newberry Street, Telulah Park is unique as it sits right along the Fox River.

This 27-acre park has an extensive train engine in the front and places for outdoor activity opportunities like horseshoes, baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and disc golf.

There is also a fantastic skate park with tons of skaters rolling up and down the pit walls.

Telulah Park also has lots of trails you can follow.

One leads up to the Fox River, where you can sit by the docks and appreciate the beauty of the scenery.

Enjoy a Quiet Day at the Peabody Park

Peabody Park offers an experience of what it’s like in the Peabody neighborhood.

It was known as Bellaire Park until 1971.

The park has a portion along the Fox River and an area leading up to the surrounding Peabody neighborhood.

There are easy paved walking trails that lead up to the shoreline, perfect for fishing opportunities and the view of the scenic river.

They also have a basketball court and a playground for kids to enjoy.

Peabody Park is located at 601 North Green Bay Road and rarely has visitors, so it’s perfect for families who want a quiet day at the park.

Go Back in Time at the City Park

Houses along City Park

Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The City Park is a charming little park in Appleton.

This eight-acre park is the oldest in Appleton, found close to downtown Appleton at 500 East Franklin Street, and is a beautiful place to visit with family.

This park offers an experience of being transported back in the past, surrounded by downtown Appleton’s Victorian-era-style homes and large shady trees.

The park also has a lovely water fountain with a statue of kids frolicking inside it.

You can bring the kids to the playground as you sit under the shade of a vast tree, perfect for the summertime.

If you want a relaxing day at the “epitome of Appleton,” with beautiful spaces, and a friendly and lively atmosphere, visit the City Park.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Go on a Hike at the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve

The Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is a private nature preserve and park near Appleton.

Take a ten-minute drive south from Appleton to Menasha, Wisconsin, to arrive at the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, a perfect place to escape the city.

The 91-acre reserve offers beautiful scenic views in an accessible environment, with habitats such as open fields, forested wetlands, upland forests, cattail marsh, created prairie, and open water.

Choose a trail according to your schedule; experience a fantastic scenic hike with well-marked and cleared areas.

Stop by the Nature Center and learn more about the value of wetlands to the environment and the creatures who live within them.

Final Thoughts

Appleton has many beautiful parks and green spaces where families can go and have fun surrounded by nature.

With so many free sights and activities, you don’t need to spend to enjoy a meaningful time with your family.

This list of free things to do in Appleton, Wisconsin, should help you plan your itinerary on your next trip.

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