The Green Bay Packers are one of the leg-endary NFL franchise, with such a deep history, that they are full-entwined in the story of the NFL itself. At the surface, it seems insane that the town of Green Bay, Wis., (population 104,779) could be home to an NFL franchise.

The closest major city, Milwaukee, is two hours away, and the closest major metropolitan area, Chicago, is 200 miles. It all began with the tenacity of Curly Lam-beau, a Green Bay native who, as a 21-year old, started

Plenty of fall colors are along the East River Trail, that runs six miles from Green Bay down the East River towards De Pere. The Green Bay area features many parks and light hiking trails that allow visitors to take in the natural beauty of the area within walking distance of their hotels.

the team in 1919 with a $500 sponsorship from his employer, the Indian Packing Company. He fought off bankruptcy several times and went the unique route of raising funds by having a public stock sale. The Packers today are still owned publicly by stockholders, and the Packers have issued additional shares twice in the last 20 years to help fund renovations of expansions to Lambeau Field.

Lambeau Field will likely be the cornerstone of any visit to Green Bay, and for good reason, as they are hal-lowed grounds for NFL fans. Lambeau Field originally opened in 1957 and it has transformed into a modern Mecca being the site of the Packers Hall of Fame, Oneida Nations Walk of Legends, Packers Pro Shop and tours of the stadium itself. The tour guide will take you through-out the stadium and the tour even ends with you getting to go down on the fi eld. Even if you aren’t there during a game weekend, I highly recommend going to Lambeau and taking the tour and seeing the sights. We had lunch at 1919 Kitchen & Tap (1919kitchenandtap.com), which is a new restaurant located at the stadium, but open year round, and were really impressed by the food and the quality. I kept it simple with the 1919 Burger ($13), but it was delicious.

97 years of uniforms are on display in the Packers Hall of Fame located at Lambeau Field. The Packers Hall of Fame is open year round, and requires a separate ticket to visit. You can see all of the trophies that the Packers have won, as well as memorabilia like Super Bowl champion rings (www.packers.com).

 

 

Lambeau Field has upgraded all of the right parts with HD video screens and concessions, but left the large majority of the seating as bleachers. Switching to seats with chair backs would greatly reduce the seating capacity of 80,735. The Packers have a famously long season ticket waiting list of over 81,000 names accord-ing to their website, with an average wait of 30 years, I doubt anyone would be willing to give up their bleacher seat and go back on the list.

The other major part of the Lambeau Field experi-ence can only be experienced on game days: tailgating. As Texans, we certainly know and enjoy a good tailgate experience, and in Green Bay it is no different. The fans are unbelievably friendly, and there are many tailgates open to the public. These are operated by restaurants and breweries located near Lambeau Field, so you won’t be heading too far away from the game.

The Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tour is a 90 minute narrated tour, that takes you to 22 locations in the greater Green Bay area. It includes a stop at the Pack-ers’ original stadium ‘City Stadium’ which was their home from 1925 through 1956. The tour includes access inside of City Stadium.

While a Packers game may be the ultimate Green Bay experience, it is certainly not everything that Green Bay has to offer. Shopping, breweries, wonderful res-taurants, a waterfront district and more can easily fi ll a weekend without a Packers game. In the nearby and even smaller city of De Pere, our group had dinner at the historic Union Hotel (facebook.com/UnionHotelDe-Pere). While being a wonderful place to stay for your Green Bay weekend, it’s also a can’t-miss for dinner in their historic restaurant and bar. Steaks, local whitefi sh and more can be found at this old-fashioned supper club. It is a step back in time, but in the most charming way.

I am a big craft beer fan, and Green Bay definitely delivers on local breweries. I got to spend time at two of them, and both were making some fantastic beer. In the Lambeau Field district, Badger State Brewing (bad-gerstatebrewing.com) offered a great bar that lets you try all of the varieties in a comfortable setting. Light food was available for purchase as well. I was a big fan of their Bunyan Badger Brown Ale, so give that a try. Titletown Brewing Company (titletownbrewing.com) is located downtown in a former railroad depot build-ing, and offers a more significant food menu (burgers, brat platter, etc.) My brew suggestion here is the Green 19 IPA.

Surrounding Titletown Brewing Company is down-town Green Bay, which is where you will fi nd most of the local boutique shopping, other restaurants, and many of the hotels available. Prices are certainly higher on game weekends, so book early if you are planning a trip! I actually stayed at the Kress Inn (choicehotels.com) in De Pere (near the Union Hotel I mentioned earlier) and you may fi nd a little price relief getting out of Green Bay proper. De Pere is just a few miles from downtown Green Bay, so options like the lovely Kress Inn are a fine choice. The Kress Inn is only 10 minutes from Lambeau or the Green Bay airport so you are right in the action.

A statue of Packers legend Clarke Hinkle at the Packers Heritage Trail Plaza in downtown Green Bay. Hinkle played 10 years for the Packers from 1932-1941, was selected to three Pro Bowls and won two NFL Championships. The plaza features five sculptures as well as information about the history between the Packers and the city of Green Bay

Another activity in downtown Green Bay was a historical Packers Heritage Trail Trolley Tour (face-book.com/PackersHeritageTrailTrolleyTours), which will guide you to many of the historical Packers sites and give you a great look at the entire Green Bay area. I also had a wonderful time strolling through a local farmer’s market and getting to try all sorts of local foods and shopping for local art and handicrafts.

Green Bay is beautiful, with the Fox River fl ow-ing into Green Bay, beckoning or urging you to wander around this classic American small city that packs a major NFL punch. There is nowhere else in the U.S. like Green Bay, and you get the addition of the decades of history with some of the best brats, great beer and nicest people in America. The Cowboys play in Green Bay Sunday, Oct. 16 and the Texans play there Sunday, Dec. 14, so this is the perfect year to make a trip. Watch out though, because after your trip you’ll likely have a new second favorite team to cheer for.