Wisconsin Autumn: Shawano Country’s Best Fall Park Picnic Spots

As Northeastern Wisconsin’s last warm days are doled out to us over the months of September and early October, we want to take in every last minute outdoors before the snow flies.  Many of Shawano Country’s parks are located on lake- or riverside shores and showcase the beauty of our fresh, flowing waterways, soon to ice over, and trees – ready to explode into color – are everywhere in our Northwoods neighborhood.  Shawano Country’s parks – some of them tucked away in rural corners you may never have visited – offer some of the area’s best outdoor social distancing options for peaceful play, walks, and picnicking.   Speaking of picnicking, we’ve listed our favorite park picnic spots, plus where we recommend you stop for picnic supplies.

Get outside this fall and take in the final hurrah of Shawano Country’s autumn color!

Hayman Falls
N4386 Hayman Falls Ln., Marion, WI  54950

Long known by area nature enthusiasts for its magically gnarled cedars rooted atop boulders, its rapidly flowing section of the Embarrass River, and riverside pathways and swimming holes, Hayman Falls is a local favorite.  This glimmering riverside park feels almost like a movie set, with twisting cedars and sparkling waters accessible via trails that run alongside the river and wind through the park… there’s even an island you can (usually) wade out to!

Hayman Falls also has playground equipment, enough room for a makeshift baseball game, and picnic shelters, so bring the kids!  There are also grills available if you want to prepare your picnic meal on site.

Best Hayman Falls Picnic Pick: Get Hurricane Dawn’s  to go!  Order bar favorites and take them to the park.  Hurricane Dawn’s is a just few minutes away from Hayman Falls, in Pella (mapped as Marion), Wisconsin, and it’s on the way if you’re coming from Shawano.

Heritage Park
524 N. Franklin St., Shawano, WI  54166

Adjacent to Sunset Island Park, which is also part of our park system and appears later in this list, which is alphabetical, Heritage Parkis located in the City of Shawano and it contains a glimpse into the area’s rich history.  Featuring historical buildings from the city’s beginnings, Heritage Park encourages you to imagine the early years of Shawano’s development as a logging community and a booming town on the Wolf River.  Just across the street, the Shawano County Historical Society building holds a huge amount of information on the area’s early European settlers and businesses of the past, for both the city and the county.

When you’re done strolling through the grounds and taking in breaths of the past, take your picnic lunch over to Sunset Island Park… more on that Heritage Park sister location, to come!

Mielke Park
N5649 Airport Rd., Shawano, WI 54166

On the grounds of Shawano’s Mielke Arts Center Shawano County Arts Council, you can enjoy wooded trails circling tranquil ponds and weaving around the forested grounds of our area’s only performance theater.

During the summer season, Mielke Park is the location for many of our area’s arts festivals, from folk music to crafts.  There’s a playground for the littles and a picnic shelter with a view of Shawano Lake’s southwestern corner, located right across the street.

Best Mielke Park Picnic Picks: Order from Brothers’ Pub or The Launching Pad.  Located about a quarter mile down the road in either (opposite) direction, both of these Lake Drive restaurant-and-bar establishments have terrific menus.  Hit The Launching Pad for seriously bangin’ burgers and Brothers’ for creative wraps… both are perfect carryout foods for your picnic!

Oconto River Park (Pulcifer Park)
Highway 22, Pulcifer, WI  54124

Located approximately 30 minutes Northeast of Shawano, between Pulcifer and Gillett on the Oconto River, is Pulcifer Park.  Featuring fishing platforms so you can cast away and a boat launch available for put in and take out, our easternmost county park offers a place to stretch out and enjoy the tranquil stillness on the banks of a Lake Michigan tributary.

Oconto River Park Picnic Pick: Lakeview Convenience (on the hill in Cecil) is a great option for grab’n go hot deli sandwiches, delicious broasted chicken by the piece or bucket, breakfast items, baked goods and more.

“The Rock”
Butternut Rd., Richmond, WI 54166

This one’s kind of a secret.  It’s not a County Park but we would be remiss in leaving it off this list of local favorites.  You may have to ask a local to find it, but your hint from us, is that it’s on the Red River in the Town of Richmond, close to Weed Dam.  The Rock’s true name is Gilmer Falls, and the granite boulders strewn across the amber waters of the Red River are big enough for sunbathing, fishing from, and some even serve as natural slides and whirlpools.  There are no picnic shelters or tables, but if you love natural water and geological features, this is your park.

Here’s all we ask: Please don’t trespass to find this gem (Note: It’s not at “The Novitiate”) and please, PLEASE no glass bottles at this park, as with all of our parks.

Best “Rock” Picnic Pick:  Shawano Country’s beverage of choice, Sun Drop from Twig’s Beverage …but NOT in glass bottles, please.  😊 Grab a can or plastic bottle of Shawano’s favorite “Golden Cola” and bask, riverside, on the warm rocks at this jewel on The Red.

Shawano Lake County Park
W5791 Lake Dr., Shawano, WI 54166

In the center of Shawano Lake’s North Shore, one of Shawano’s most popular parks has seen loads of upgrades over the past few years.  Not only does this park have a gloriously sandy swimming beach perfect for the summer months, but also a campground, picnic shelters, grills and picnic tables scattered about, playground equipment galore, and a large gathering space available for rental for weddings and parties of all kinds.  Yes, there’s a boat launch.

Best Shawano Lake County Park Picnic Pick:  This park has a concession stand, The Shawano County Snack Shop, so order up!  If you’re visiting in the off season, we suggest packing your lunch, enjoying your day at the park, and then heading to Classic’s Restaurant & Lounge, just south of the park on Lake Drive, for dinner and drinks.

Sunset Island Park (aka “Monkey Island”)
524 N. Franklin St., Shawano, WI  54166

Known to most locals as Monkey Island, Sunset Island is a sister to Heritage Park.  Pull into the parking lot at the corner of North Franklin and West First Streets in Shawano, and take the footbridge over to the island.

Sunset Island has a picnic shelter and several spots around the island where you might want to throw a bobber in the water and see if you get a bite.

Best Sunset Island/Heritage Park Picnic Picks:  Stop in at Charlie’s County Market and check out their picnic-ready selection of cold deli items, like taco dip, subs, salads, wraps, and other chilled bites.  They also have daily hot deli item features like ribs and baked chicken.

Wittenberg Park & WOW Walk
104 Park St., Wittenberg, WI 54499

Western Shawano County and has some of the most fantastic murals you’ll see in the state of Wisconsin.  Painted by a variety of artists and showcased on the village’s businesses and historic buildings, there are nearly 30 murals to visit in this quiet, rural village, which is a high concentration considering the village’s population hovers around 1,200.  The colorful murals of the Walls of Wittenberg depict a variety of real area people, activities, industry, and culture that represent the heart of this small town.

You can take a self-guided walking tour of the murals and stop at Wittenberg’s Washington Park for your picnic.  This small-town gathering space has picnic shelters and tables and plenty of playground space, plus a beautifully restored 1940 band shell, completed as one of the country’s New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects.

Best Wittenberg Picnic Pick: Grab a hot or cold lunch from the Hanke’s Sentry Foods deli.

Voelz Memorial Park at Wilson Lake
Oak Rd. Wittenberg, WI 54499
Though you won’t likely be taking a dip in fall, this lakeside park offers a beach for swimming, picnic shelter and tables, and ski trails for the winter months.  There’s also a boat launch and plenty of space to wander around this 110-acre patch of hidden Wisconsin beauty.

Best Voelz Memorial Park Picnic Pick: Stop in at Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats for some of Wisconsin’s best meat and cheese snack items!

Finally, here’s Shawano County’s Summer Recreation Map.  Although it has some seasonal elements that might not apply as we turn towards winter, this map shows area picnic shelters, boat launches, and other key features for those wishing to explore the public, natural beauty and resources of Shawano Country.

For updates on our area’s favorite parks, follow Shawano County Parks on Facebook…and get outside and enjoy everything Shawano Country has to offer before winter sweeps in!

Shawano Country’s Best Spots for Late Summer Outdoor Dining

Wisconsinites have always known how to make the most of the summer months, especially here “up north,” and this year we’re cherishing our time outside even more than usual, which is saying something.  Good news for everyone who wants to savor a bit more Wisconsin summer: Shawano Country has a TON of outdoor dining – with proper social distancing in place – that you can still take advantage of our gorgeous late summer warmth before winter creeps in.  …and if you prefer not to dine in the open air, there is both indoor seating and carry-out offered at the majority of our listed locations.  We’ve also included phone numbers so you can call and get that order in if you’re looking to carry out!

Here’s who made the Shawano Country Outdoor Dining List:

Bamboo Bar 
Lakefront seating on Shawano Lake’s South Shore.  Serving pizzas made in-house, burgers, and loads of other bar menu favorites…and you can enjoy your meal (and your cocktails) on tables that are as close to Shawano Lake as you can get without eating in your boat.  Speaking of boats, Bamboo has a dock and a boat launch, so park your boat and grab a burger!
W5884 Cedar Ct.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 201-1158

Big City Gyros
Shawano’s only gyro joint!  Offering traditional lamb gyros, gyro burgers and salads, falafel, Italian beef sandwiches, and more – plus a full list of sides.   This newer addition to downtown Shawano has a handful of café tables outdoors, so get there early!
230 E. Green Bay St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 201-1141

Brothers’ Pub  
Enjoy their terrific food outside in their expanded outdoor seating area under a large tent, all just across the road from beautiful Shawano Lake.  With menu options like their big, beefy Steakhouse Wrap, Guinness cod sandwich, and seriously amazing fish tacos, plus appetizers like hand-rolled, homemade Mozzarella sticks, this lakeside spot has something for everyone on their sizeable menu.
N5867 County Rd HHH
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 524-5212

Crab ‘n Jack’s  
Wisconsin supper club overlooking the scenic Wolf River at Gilmore’s Mistake rapids
which is also worth checking out videos of, on YouTube, if you’re into kayaking.  Here you’ll find dandy Old Fashioneds, in true Wisconsin style, and a variety of menu options ranging from French Dip sandwiches (we hear they’re awesome) to meal-sized salads, hearty steaks, and pan-fried walleye.
N2580 WI-55
White Lake, WI  54491
(715) 882-8611

With an always-craveable custard Flavor of the Day (you can even order PINTS via drive-through) and their North Atlantic Cod sandwiches – not to mention their perfect ButterBurgers, super-satisfying crinkle-cut fries, and those Lemon Ice Coolers – this Wisconsin fast casual staple has outdoor seating, so you can stop and get yourself a treat to enjoy in the open air.
1220 E. Green Bay St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 526-2002

Glas Coffeehouse  
Enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverage crafted by cheerful baristas, have a tasty pastry, or savor a meal on the patio, with a view of the Wolf River.  You’ll be looking out at a charming view of Sunset Island but what all locals know, affectionately, as “Monkey Island”.  A dock is also available for watercrafts, so if you’re out on the lake or the Wolf River above Shawano dam and you want a skillfully-made latte, you can stop in by boat!
511 N. Main St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 851-4527

The Golden Cone 
This local custard shop has expanded their outdoor seating and is ready for you to come and try one of their Custom Cookie Custard Sandwiches (say that three times, fast).  We like ours made with chocolate chip cookies, stuffed with Peanut Butter Paradise custard, and then rolled in Nut Crunch, but trust us, if that’s not your thing, you’ve got LOADS of options!  They’ve got shaved ice, smoothies, sundaes, and tons of other sweet, frozen choices.  Located next door to Papa Murphy’s.
1063 E. Green Bay St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 851-6919

Hungry Bear Family Café & Catering  
Dine on the patio in the heart of downtown Bonduel, a small village just s a few minutes east of Shawano.  This place has EVERYTHING.  If you can think of your diner favorite, it’s on their menu.  Want biscuits & gravy?  Yep.  Loaded nachos?  Got it.  Pancakes?  OF course.  Breakfast skillets galore?  Check.  Rueben burgers?  Absolutely. Grilled tuna sandwiches?  Why not.  Perfect for family dining, because literally everyone will find something that they love at Bonduel’s Hungry Bear.
120 W. Green Bay St.
Bonduel, WI  54107
(715) 758-2727

The Launching Pad
Go visit local favorite bartender/owner Chad Kary, and his terrific bar staff at Shawano’s “border bar” between town and the lake.  They’ll mix you a perfect drink or pour you a brew from the tap.  The kitchen will prepare your burger perfectly (our pick is a Bacon Cheddar Cheese Burger with the works) and you’ll want to pair it with any side that gives you an excuse to dip into their homemade Ranch dressing (order extra Ranch), which the author believes to be the finest ranch dressing in the state of Wisconsin, which is saying something.  Yes, they have outdoor seating and an outdoor bar, plus weeknight menu specials that locals adore.
221 Airport Rd.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 524-4098

The Lighthouse
A local lake favorite, this bar is as inland-nautical as Shawano gets.  They’ve got nice slips for you to park your boat and one of the area’s best outdoor dining areas for watching the water – and the people.  Stop here to enjoy the lively atmosphere of this bar and grill’s outdoor patio seating on the Wolf River Channel, just off Shawano Lake’s southwest corner.   Hit them up for Friday Fish Fry, too!
Gumaer Rd. (at the end)
Shawano, WI 54166
(715) 526-5600

Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta 
Pizza on the piazza?  Luigi’s fits the bill… join the Badalamente family and their friendly staff for pizza, pasta, and amazing desserts (we promise) on the piazza/patio.  If you were to ask any given Shawano-ite where they want to order from tonight, they will likely tell you, “Luigi’s”.  Anything you order, here, will make you happy.  The pizza is shockingly good, the desserts are homemade, the pasta is rich and filling (Killer Meat Sauce Alert), the specials are creative and well-prepared, and the cheese steak sandwiches are the real deal.  Oh, and if you love wings, theirs will NOT disappoint.
607 S. Main St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 524-4791

Maple Hills Golf Course & Restaurant 
Wittenberg’s 9-hole 36 par golf course is a slice of rural beauty, with scenic bridges and views of the area’s rolling landscape.  Dining is available each day from 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm and features specials like Saturday’s Prime Rib & Steak Night, Thursday Night Wings, and, of course, a Friday Night Fish Fry.
N6621 Cardinal Ln.
Wittenberg, WI  54499
(715) 253-2448

Pigeon River Brewing Co.
Located in Marion, Wisconsin, about 30 minutes to the southwest of Shawano, this small-town brewery was awarded “Fastest Growing Small Craft Brewery” by the Brewers Association in 2019.  Owned by Nathan Knaack, who hails from the area, this brewery has beer you must try (Wet Willy Oatmeal Stout, Buxom Lass Scottish Ale) and a solid menu.  Think shrimp tacos, whiskey BBQ chicken wraps, and fried Dupont cheese curds (Dupont Cheese is practically right next door, so you KNOW they’re ultra-fresh).
1103 N Main St.
Marion, WI 54950
(715) 256-7721

Shawano’s Café 
A newer Shawano dining spot, Shawano’s Café currently offers outdoor seating in addition to traditional indoor seating and they’re just (and when we say “just”, we mean literally 1-2 minutes) outside of Shawano, south on Highway 22, right next to Boarders. Check them out for daily specials, which they have a great variety of, killer pancakes, chicken stirfry, glorious French toast, and classic Sunday baked chicken, plus a looooooong list of other menu items.
W7389 River Bend Rd.
Shawano, WI 54166
(715) 201-1122

Stubborn Brothers Brewery
Two brothers.  A meticulously restored 1900’s vaudeville theater.  A labor of love.  A lot of great beer coming your way.  In an era when we sometimes choose to cast the old away rather than care for it, Stubborn Brothers Aaron and Erik Gilling took time to burnish, paint, reveal, and restore this treasure of a building… and then they created fantastic signature brews and a menu with enough comfort foods to make any rural Wisconsinite smile (Beer Mac and Cheese! Soft Pub Pretzels!) and enough innovative dishes to keep any visiting urbanites entertained (Vegan Kohlrabi Salad, Brie-Tomato-Bacon-Basil Croissants).  This theater-turned-brewery is fast becoming downtown Shawano’s structural heart.
220 S. Main St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 201-0859

The Sugar Bowl 
Know what Shawano loves, besides Sun Drop soda?  Ice cream.  Lots and lots of ice cream.   The Sugar Bowl has ice cream, beer, wine, snacks, AND Sun Drop, so what’s not to like?  Housed in what was once a bowling alley, this Main Street spot has loads of vintage character and several cute, colorful outdoor tables to the south of the building, just ready to sit at and enjoy watching downtown Shawano stroll by… and have a big bowl of Cookies & Cream ice cream, or whatever flavor is calling to you!
136 S. Main St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 201-1116

The Thunderbird Club  
A restaurant, mini-casino, and convenience store, The Thunderbird Club is located on Berry Lake and has daily dining specials like Sunday’s Cajun chicken sandwich with fries, Saturday’s brats and burgers, and Tuesday’s steak sandwiches.  Hang out on the patio and order up that Friday Night Fish Fry!
W106 County VV
Keshena, WI  54135
(715) 799-6541

The Torch Lite (Anello’s Torch Lite) 
A Shawano dining tradition with everything you expect from a classic Wisconsin supper club, albeit one that’s listed as an Italian restaurant.  If you’re not from around here, know that supper clubs showcase the soul of Wisconsin dining and that means there will be:

  • Charming waitstaff
  • Perfectly-executed Old Fashioneds
  • A supper club-style salad bar, with important items like cold green peas, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, and hot bacon dressing.  Oh, and those tiny fried toasts with cheese spread, because you cannot have a proper supper club salad bar without these items.  😊
  • Masterfully-cooked prime rib in a variety of weights to choose from… served with au jus, of course
  • Unforgettable twice-baked potatoes
  • Scallops in beurre blanc that will make you wish you placed a double order
  • Another round of Old Fashioneds

Several years back, the original building burned to the ground.  The owners could have just called it quits, but they chose to rise from the ashes and built a brand-new Torch Lite.  Visit and bask in true “Midwestern nice” supper club hospitality…a Shawano tradition.
1276 E. Green Bay St.
Shawano, WI  54166
(715) 526-5680