Resting beneath natural light from the skylights mounted above it, the hulking figure of the 1.2 million-pound Union Pacific Big Boy cloaks visitors in a shadow that stretches for nearly 50 yards. As guests ascend the monstrous cab of this steam locomotive, they enter the centerpiece of the National Railroad Museum, a chamber echoing with more than 150 years of American railroading history.
After exiting Big Boy, guests can view a computer-generated porter that recounts how African-American rail workers formed the nation's first all-black labor union, and another stop invites passengers to view inside a portion of General Eisenhower's WWII command train. Elsewhere in the museum, various collections are housed with more than 15,000 photographs, archives such as maps and engineering drawings, and more than 5,000 artifacts including uniforms and tools.
The National Railroad Museum has over 60 pieces of rolling stock, including diesel, steam, and electric locomotives, and passenger and freight cars. Among these are some of the most influential and unique pieces in railroading history, including a number of items that pertain to the state of Wisconsin.
Other must-sees of the museum include General Motors’ experimental Aerotrain; the streamlined Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4890, a GG-1 electric locomotive; and the Frederick Bauer Drumhead Collection, the largest, single collection of railroad drumheads known to exist in the United States. Most facilities are accessible, except where rolling stock cannot be altered due to their historic nature. The Museum’s train ride is accessible, and a wheelchair lift is available.
A train ride is offered on a daily basis from May through September and guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Museum also hosts a variety of special events for all ages.
Harry Houdini was legendary for his daring escapes, but he's still never escaped the public's imagination. To wit: AKA Houdini, whose artifacts offer a hands-on glimpse into some of his most infamous tricks. Along with the Appleton-raised illusionist, The History Museum at the Castle's award-winning exhibits focus on other notable Fox Valley natives, including Senator Joseph McCarthy. Dating back to the 1840s, the museum's collection of Fox Valley artifacts includes 35,000 photographs and 20,000 pieces, such as parts of a vintage gas station. At an exhibit tracing the origins of the area's most famous foods, such as frozen custard and fish fries, visitors can even spear sturgeons inside a life-size virtual ice shanty.
These pieces of Fox Valley history are housed inside a Masonic temple listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1923, the temple exemplifies the medieval, Norman Revival style with rough-hewn stone, vaulted ceilings, and fire-breathing dragons guarding its entrance. Designed as a community center, the temple continues to serve that function by hosting the museum's year-round events, including papermaking programs and magic workshops.
Heritage Hill State Historical Park is a living-history museum, dedicated to the preservation of buildings and artifacts of Northeast Wisconsin and its citizens. The 50-acre park houses carefully reproduced greenery and actual log cabins and buildings from the 1800s, such as a U.S. military fort hospital and a fur trader’s cabin, where mammals of all shapes and sizes would trade their dusty old pelts for feature-loaded furs. Heritage Hill State Historical Park also proudly displays a collection of more than 11,000 artifacts, including original artwork, books, clothing, and furnishings. To truly bring Wisconsin history to life, volunteers representing a way of life interact with park attendants, showing curious customers the various trades and methods of early Wisconsin living.
Founded in 1969 by a group of commercial fishermen, Door County Maritime Museum’s three locations illuminate the history of area waterways and the seafarers who've traveled them. The 20,000-square-foot Sturgeon Bay location, open 365 days a year, focuses on the evolution of shipbuilding. Its galleries house model ships ideal for transporting hand soap across sinks, along with displays on lighthouses and shipwrecks.
For an interactive adventure, patrons can board a fully restored Chicago fire tug from the 1960s for a two-hour in-water cruise, narrated by a trained docent. The Gills Rock location focuses on the shipwrecks that have peppered the Door Peninsula region, with supplementary exhibits on Great Lakes pirate Dan Seavey and maritime life-saving techniques, such as never boarding a ship named Titanic. Alternatively, patrons can climb 97 spiral-staircase steps to the summit of the Cana Island Lighthouse, which, along with the keeper’s house, has been preserved since 1869. In addition to educational displays, the museum also hosts various events to unite the maritime-enthusiast community. :m]]
Not just a pretty face... Founded in 1924, the Oshkosh Public Museum is a local history museum housed in the beautiful Sawyer home, with luxurious interiors designed by Tiffany Studios. In addition to the historic Sawyer home, the museum has 10,000 square feet of immersive exhibits that bring the region's history to life.
Tucked along the east side of the bay, Shorewood Golf Course’s 2,792-yard, nine-hole layout challenges club-swingers with unforgiving fairways and small, breaking greens whose impressive upkeep earned the course an appearance and maintenance award in 2009. Since the first post-putt strut in 1931, the course’s oak- and hickory-lined fairways have invited players to overcome undulating terrain both scenic and demanding. The zenith of these hilly hazards is found on the 492-yard par 5 fourth hole, where golfers must overcome a dogleg right off the tee before hitting multiple shots to the green located at the end of a narrow fairway that encourages conga lines along its gradual incline. After a day out in the sun, golfers can adjourn to the course’s restaurant to munch on pizza and sandwiches or enjoy a frosty beverage.
Course at a Glance:
The night sky is a vast ocean of celestial objects such as the moon, the bright lights of our closest stars, and the warm glow of neighboring galaxies. Located at the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley, Barlow Planetarium helps uncover the vastness of the universe through a 3-D-capable Digistar projector, which—combined with 10,000 watts of digital sound and a 48-foot projection screen—transports guests into the deepest trenches of space. The facility's star shows include family programs that make astronomy easy to understand as well as feature shows that tickle the minds of more hardened astronomy buffs. Along with celestial exploration, the planetarium transforms with dancing lights and rich sounds during laser shows. These programs add visual touches to music from the likes of The Beatles or Isaac Newton's little-known punk band.
The planetarium also hosts academic programs for grade-school children. These include the Wisconsin Space Academy, in which students build and launch rockets, and the Wisconsin Astronomy Academy, which lets pupils peer through telescopes and discover vending machines floating through space.