by Kelley Malott
Normally, I would say I love winter. It may sound odd to admit that in our spring issue, but I do. I try to love each season for everything they have to offer. The changing of seasons is one of the great pleasures of life which those living in more temperate climes sometimes fail to appreciate. And there are perhaps none who appreciate spring more than those of us coming out of a long, cold winter.
This year, however, winter has been particularly hard. The time we would normally spend during the winter with family and friends has become difficult as we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and cold weather can make it near impossible to get out of the house. And although I love winter, there comes a time when enough is enough.
The first day of spring is March 20, and I eagerly anticipate it with a renewed appreciation. Spring in Wisconsin is often a tossup between sunny weather, rain, and a sudden downpouring of fresh snow. It is a season of transition, and this spring more than ever I hope that these next few months will bring more joy and optimism than those before it. As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, I want to take every opportunity to enjoy this time.
In the following pages you’ll find all the things that I’m looking forward to in spring. My list includes events and activities to get moving and get outdoors to explore the nature that we’ve been sorely deprived of these past few months. There are events for nature-inspired crafts, lectures on plants, and some fun ideas for the whole family. As spring weather often facilitates a wide variety of outdoor activities, I have also included some winter weather options for us to enjoy. As we all know by now, many of these places and events are following COVID-19 guidelines, and dates and times may change as needed, so be sure to call or visit their website for the most current information before you embark.
1. Take a walk through the 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. This natural area has seven miles of trails, including a one-mile trail along the Fox River and a wheelchair and stroller friendly boardwalk.
2. Or, spoil a good walk with a round of golf. This sport may be intimidating to those just getting started, but Reid Golf Course in Appleton and High Cliff Golf Course in Sherwood offer youth and adult classes for those interested in learning.
3. Play a round of mini golf. Weather allowing, Funset Boulevard and Badger Sports Park are great nearby options to play a round of low key, kid-friendly golf.
4. Snowshoe Hikes at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay on Tuesdays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Guided by a naturalist, and snowshoes are provided. $5 per person. Pre-registration is required.
5. Join an adventure or outdoor club. Check out Facebook Groups or Meetup to find groups near you for a fun way to be active and make new friends. Many local groups host group hiking, kayaking, and other recreational activities.
6. Swing, batter! We are crossing our fingers that we will get to go back to the stadium soon, but in the meantime, get your baseball fix by using the indoor batting cages at Play It Again Sports in Appleton. $6 per hitter. Call to reserve a cage.
7. Discover a mural in New London with the Start Art Project. The Wolf River Art League has collaborated to paint 40-plus murals around town, most within a convenient walking distance. A perfect way to blend a spring walk with an art gallery experience.
8. Discover a new hiking trail. The Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust website has a whole list of nature preserves that are public access and directions for how to find them. Check out the nearby Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve near Lake Butte des Morts for trails through marshy wetlands.
9. Join the Seed Guild at the Scheig Center in Appleton. Have you ever wondered about wild edibles or how to forage for native plants? Do you love learning about gardening? Check out The Seed Guild Facebook page for more information on upcoming events.
10. Play a round of disc golf at a local park! Pierce Park in Appleton offers a 9-hole course and Plamann Park has a full 18-hole course across a beautiful natural area.
11. Cross country ski through Appleton Parks and Recreation at Reid Golf Course. Trails are dependent on current weather conditions, so be sure to check out the APRD Facebook page to get up-to-date trail conditions. Equipment rentals are not available at this time.
12. Go camping at High Cliff State Park in Sherwood situated around Lake Winnebago. With over 1,000 acres, spectacular views and trails along cliff environments create many opportunities to explore this park time and time again.
13. Rainy day virtual events with the Appleton Public Library. For when the weather is just too much, head to APL for virtual events available through Zoom. Events range from crafts, creative writing, and genealogy research! More information is available on Facebook and the APL website.
14. Clean up your yard. Curbside Spring Yard Waste Pickups is weather dependent for the City of Appleton. Get yourself a stack of paper lawn and leaf bags and start clearing away last year’s branches and brush. Check the City of Appleton’s website for your neighborhood’s pickup schedule.
15. Go for a ride with the Fox Cities Cycling Association. Tune up your bicycle and check out the FCCA website or Facebook page for group outings. If you’re ready to head out solo, check out foxcitiesgreenways.org for up-to-date information about bike trails and walking paths.
16. Giddy-up! If bicycles aren’t your thing, consider a private horseback riding lesson. Lucky Stables and Rose Tree Farm are conveniently located nearby in Neenah and offer private lessons for adults and youth.
17. Loop the Little Lake The “Loop” is a 3.5 mile stroller-friendly path that links the three communities of Fox Crossing, Menasha, and Neenah. The path offers gorgeous views of Little Lake Butte des Morts from four different trestle bridges.
18. Work on your green thumb at the Fox Valley Plant Fair at Sabre Lanes, Saturday, March 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Houseplant, garden, and supply vendors will be in attendance. Proceeds benefit J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue. $5 general admission.
19. Go bird watching. Head out to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha for the local birder’s favorite spot. Or head to the Winnebago Audubon Society Facebook page for tons of info about birds and local conservation efforts.
20. Swap your gear. Looking to upgrade your kayaking gear? Every spring the Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers host a gear swap with presentations about kayaking. Check for updates on their website or Facebook page for more information.
21. Embark on the Ice Age Trail. If you’re willing to travel farther afield, you can hike a portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in honor of National Parks Week. The trail spans 1,000 miles and exists entirely within the state of Wisconsin. Portions of the trail cross through the Door, Manitowoc, and Fond du Lac counties and make great day hikes.
22. Take the kids on a Storybook Walk at Memorial Park in Appleton. Starting at the Scheig Center, follow the story, page-by-page, on the signs along the trail. Interactive activities combine reading and the outdoors in this fun, family activity.
23. Fat tire bike with the Wheel & Sprocket in Appleton! Biking in winter can be difficult, but the big wheels of a fat tire bike can help you hit snow-covered trails with ease. Rentals are available so you can try it out for yourself!
24. Summer Adventure Camp registration is open at the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve! Half and full days available in June and July for kids ages 4-14.
25. Pick up litter and trash. It’s never too early to celebrate Earth Day. As the snow melts away, litter and debris appear after accumulating over the winter months. Pick up any litter or trash on your neighborhood block or head to a nearby park to help clean up.
26. Spring cleaning can be especially difficult when our basements and garages become stacked with stuff that we don’t know what to do with. Old cans of paint, obsolete electronics, and odds and ends can pile up! Head to recyclemoretricounty.org to learn how to dispose of items responsibly in your area.
27. Attend a gardening lecture. The Outagamie County Master Gardeners Association has moved their monthly presentations to online sessions. Join them March 11 at 6:30 p.m. to learn how to attract pollinators to your garden! These virtual presentations are free but registration is required, so head to ocmga.net for more information.
28. Have a picnic at a local park! Pack up some sandwiches, a thermos of soup, and a thick blanket to eat al fresco in the sunshine. It’s early in the year, so you shouldn’t have to worry about too many bugs trying to get into food!
29. Practice yoga. Many yoga studios in the area give ample opportunities for beginners and long-time practitioners. The combination of light-physical activity and meditation is a great way to combat fatigue.
30. Become a Muddy Fox with Fleet Feet Fox Valley! Fleet Feet hosts lots of activities throughout the year for runners and walkers of all skill levels. The Muddy Fox encourages participants to head to local trails, and a portion of the membership benefits Fox Cities Greenways!
31. Get involved with a youth organization. Spring is a great time to sign up kids or volunteer for a youth organization like the Boy Scouts or 4H! Both organizations offer programming for boys and girls, and there are lots of opportunities to keep kids and parents engaged all year long.
32. Join a sports league. Parks and Recreation classes aren’t just for kids! Consider signing up for the adult softball league or registering your own team for one of the other sports offered by your city’s Parks and Rec department.