If you’re from Green Bay, or the surrounding area, you know of a small amusement park, set on the east bank of the fox river mouth and the southern tip of the bay. The price for tickets is very modest and the twenty two rides accommodate everyone, from thrill seekers to laid back sight seers and small children.
This place I speak of is known as Bay Beach Amusement Park and is owned and operated by the city of Green Bay. It’s history has always been that of fun and recreation, as there has been rides at the park since 1901. The original land was donated, by its two previous owners, to the city in 1920.
Nearby, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary offers a different kind of recreational pursuit. It is a 600 acre safe haven for many animals and birds, as it is set within the confines of the city. Also, live exhibits of local animals such as deer, wolves and otters allow an educational and delightful experience.
I enter the gravel parking lot adjacent to the picnic grounds and next to some of the latest additions to the amusement park. It’s one and only roller coaster, with it’s three stomach dropping plunges, sits in this newer spot of the park. The older, more densely populated area lies on the other side of the picnic grounds. There, perennial favorites such as the tilt-a-whirl, scrambler and bumper cars await.
There’s occasional drops of water birthed from the gray skies above. Yet, I’m not deterred. It’s labor day and the summer is coming to a close. It also marks a close to the seven day a week stretch at Bay Beach. From this weekend through the end of September, the popular amusement park will only be open on weekends form 10 am to 6pm.
It’s now quarter after five. but we still have time for a few rides. The lines are small this evening, giving us plenty of opportunities to enjoy our favorites. I buy three dollars worth of tickets, and am off to the bumper cars. That’s right, I said three dollars, which is enough for us to enjoy two of our favorite rides.
We crash into each other in bumper cars and then whip around on the tilt-a-whirl. The cost for a ticket is twenty five cents. It costs three tickets per person for the bumper cars and only two for the Tilt-a-Whirl. We see other rides, that are new to me, like the vertical drop of the Bay Beast and the Falling Star.
Our night ends too short. I wish the park stayed open until nine like the summer months. However, and these are words that have not been uttered in three months, its a school night. Due to that fact and the lightly falling rain, not to mention the rapidly approaching closing time, the park is pretty empty. The park also has a train ride that is set to stretch along the entire perimeter of the park. That includes the newly acquired parcel which only has three rides, including the Zippin’ Pippen roller coaster, but is expected to have more added on as years pass.
I should mention, even if concessions are sold in more than one area, the playground and picnic site allows for one to pack a lunch. This, in the day and age of ‘carry ins not allowed’, contributes to a very affordable family outing.
We leave and make it to the Wildlife sanctuary. Here, there are ducks galore. Unlike many times that I have visited this park, there are very few geese, as there is usually corn sold to feed the long necked and boisterous birds. Closed to us are the aforementioned wolves, deer and otters. I will have to make another trip.
However, we see many birds of prey, such as the Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and Snowy Owl. These creatures have been kept in cages for their own benefit because of such ailments as broken wings that prevent them from surviving in the wild. Its amazing to see how these proudly statured birds seem to blend in with their surroundings, even if these disabled critters are confined to a cage.
There is also a small observation building with a few fish, a snake, some turtles and some smaller birds.
We take a trip to the water fall and see the pond which holds a crane, some geese and plenty of ducks. Chipmunks scurry across our path as we walk. We also are delighted to see a wood chuck skedaddling for cover, only a few feet from us.
It’s amazing how this place has grown since I was a kid. Like I mentioned, the entrance to the nature center is closed, yet I’m still content. Normally its open till seven thirty. There are also great hiking and skiing trails to explore in this urban wildlife refuge.
Again, the place is closing so we’re forced to leave. Visiting during the day provides ample time to explore and have fun. We definitely enjoyed the night, however. My total investment was two hours time and three dollars, can’t beat that.