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!