Bay Beach offers affordable, old-school fun
Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay has a rich history and today offers rides, scenic views, picnic areas, a wading pool, a mini passenger train and concessions.
Originally, Bay Beach – which no longer has a public beach area – was privately owned, but in 1920 the 11-acres of land and multiple buildings were donated to the city of Green Bay.
Until the '70s, the city hosted concerts, political rallies and dances in the pavilion as well as outdoor Fourth of July fireworks. In 1934, president Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Bay Beach to celebrate Green Bay's tercentennial.
There was also a swimming area but because of bay pollution it was closed decades ago.
In 2006, the city purchased 46 acres west of the site and a long-term expansion process began. More rides have been added, including the Zippin Pippin, a wooden roller coaster that was purchased from Memphis, Tenn. and reportedly Elvis Presely's favorite.
"We are very picky about what we want for Bay Beach," says Tina Westergaard, who has been the manager of Bay Beach for 15 years and served as a seasonal worker since 1981. "It took us 75 years to bring back a roller coaster."
Westergaard says the park picked the Zippin Pippin because it was designed by the same engineer who created the previous coasters at Bay Beach.
At the end of last season, Bay Beach introduced the Sea Dragon ride. Other rides include a ferris wheel, scrambler, bumper cars, merry-go-round, boats, "scat," tilt-o-whirl, swings and kiddie rides. There's also pony rides and a large slide that's shorter but faster than the Wisconsin State Fair slide.
Two more rides are scheduled to be added to the park in 2017 and '18. More concession areas and picnic space will also be developed in the future.
Last year, the Friends of Bay Beach group formed and developed a $20 million / 20-year campaign by raising an initial $5 million.
"More money means more rides means more revenue to expand the Bay Beach legacy. We know that the people of Green Bay will see the value in their personal connection with the park and step up to give whatever they can," reads the group's web site.
It takes just under two hours to get to Beach Bay from Milwaukee and it's a very easy, leasiurely drive.
Also, the affordability is one of Bay Beach's biggest charms. Admission and parking are free. Ride tickets cost 25 cents (rides range from one to four tickets) and concessions are extremely cheap, offering $2 cotton candy and $1 bottled water.
Because of the limited concessions, visitors usually bring in their own food and eat in view of the bay at picnic tables. There is also a playground in the picnic area.
Souvenir T-shirts are for sale for men, women and kids in a variety of different styles, along with other items including mugs, postcards, pens, backpacks and many other Bay Beach themed merchandise.
Bay Beach is ideal for families with younger children who want to spend less money and time in long lines than they would at Six Flags. However, rides like the Sea Dragon and Zippin Pippin will add just enough thrill for older kids as well as adults in search of it.
In general, the Bay Beach experience will be most appreciated by those smitten with the romance of the past. Although continuously expanding and improving, Bay Beach feels like a step back in time.
"Bay Beach is a family friendly place that celebrates it rich history," says Westergaard.
Bay Beach is in operation rain or shine, now through Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. From Aug. 18 to Sept. 1, the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bay Beach is only open on weekends for the remainder of September and then closes for the season.
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