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'It’s like walking into a Hallmark movie': 10 cool ways to enjoy the beauty of Titletown District in winter

Kendra Meinert
Green Bay Press-Gazette

ASHWAUBENON - The Green Bay Packers want their backyard to be your backyard this winter, and not to one-up, but theirs has an ice rink, a tubing hill, thousands of white lights, spiked hot cocoa and heated concrete.

“We say winter is better at Titletown,” said Mallory Steinberg, who is the programs and marketing coordinator for the Packers’ nearly 45-acre development west of Lambeau Field. 

It's a catchphrase that's catching on. The Titletown District continues to see attendance increase each year, Steinberg said, and that includes in the months after the holidays when Wisconsinites sometimes hole up indoors. Enjoying a margarita on top of Ariens Hill on a warm summer night in July is a no-brainer, but bundling up and venturing out when it's 25 degrees, that sometimes take a nudge.

“The one thing that I’ve realized being here is winter is actually fun if you’re active,” said Jackie Krutz, Titletown residential and programs manager, who moved to Green Bay from Los Angeles. “So if you kind of embrace the cold and say, ‘OK, I’m going to take advantage of it ...’ That’s our goal is to get the city of Green Bay active in winter and kind of flip that whole idea of, ‘Ah, it’s winter. I’m just waiting for hot weather again.’”

Where's the fun in just counting down the days to summer when you can celebrate a wind chill of minus 46? That's what Steinberg and Krutz did when the wind chill last year dipped to the same frigid temp it did at kickoff of the Ice Bowl in 1967. They embraced it with a 50% off day at 46 Below, the Titletown bistro that took its name from the Ice Bowl weather record.

“We tend to push the limits on fun sometimes, but we do it for the love of the city and the love of our fans, so we just hope everyone enjoys it,” Krutz said.

For its third year, Titletown has upped the number of Winter Jubilee activities running through February. It's a flurry of snow art, glow skating, beverages around the bonfire, a beach-themed skate night and backyard games on the park’s football field.

Here are 10 things you can do at Titletown this winter.

A snow tuber gets a view of Lambeau Field as he begins the ride down Ariens Hill on Jan. 3 in the Titletown District. This year's tube ride is 150 feet longer.

1. Get your thrill on Ariens Hill. Hands down — or hands in the air, depending on how daring you are — the must-do is to bundle up, climb the 78 steps up Ariens Hill (or take the elevator), plop your butt in a tube, get a friendly shove from the staff to send you on your way and enjoy the ride. “On game days, it’s kind of one of those unique things you say you did. A game-day thrill,” Steinberg said. “That drop, it’s not straight down but ...”

The top of Ariens Hill is 46 feet above ground level, so it’s a pretty good rush going down. This year, there’s more rush to go around. The two snow lanes down the hill have been extended by 150 feet so that tubers finish farther down on the base on the great lawn, Steinberg said. If it’s so much fun you want to do it again, there’s no lugging your tube back up. A conveyor belt tube return takes care of that. Must be 42 inches or taller to ride; $3 per ride, $7 unlimited rides. A single ride on Jan. 12 for the Packers playoff game against Seattle is $7. 

Don’t forget to mark Ariens Free Tubing Night down for 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 4. Tubing is free for everyone, courtesy of Ariens Co. During the Titletown Winter Games Feb. 15 and 16, you can go down the hill via a luge. 

Ice skaters circle the rink at the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District on Jan. 2. The park's many trees stay lit all winter.

2. Take in the beauty of winter. Shoveling a half-foot of frozen sludge at the end of your driveway at home isn’t exactly winter’s best look, but taking in all the white lights at Titletown after a fresh snowfall with a warm beverage in hand near a fire pit, that’s a side of winter everybody can love. Sugar maples, elms and evergreens in the park all get a festive dressing of white lights to make for a sparkling backdrop for an outdoor rink that has a spectacular tree of its own. Think Green Bay’s version of New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza. 

“It is absolutely gorgeous at night,” Krutz said. “It’s like a big winter wonderland.”

“It’s like walking into a Hallmark movie. People say that,” Steinberg said. 

Heated concrete throughout the park means main walking paths are easier to rid of snow and ice. Pop-up beverage carts sell hot cocoa, straight-up or spiked.

3. Take an ice bike for a spin. If you’re a little unsure of your skating abilities or you just want to glide across the ice by pedal power, Titletown has six self-balancing ice bikes available for rental. Last Christmas, they even got decked out with antlers and red noses for the holidays. On nights when the rink is especially busy (Fridays and Saturdays), however, the bikes aren’t allowed on the ice. There are also plastic skating assists for children and others who need some help with balance to hold on to as they go around the rink. Ice bikes are $10 for a 30-minute rental; skating assists are free to use.

4. Yoga with one of the best views in the city. Don’t think the idea of outdoor snow yoga didn’t cross Krutz and Steinberg’s minds, but they ultimately opted for a space that’s a little more conducive to warming up before you stretch out. Rockwood Terrace, the private event space on the second floor of Ariens Hill, is often wall-to-wall mats for free yoga offered from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Mondays through February. First introduced last winter, it quickly drew more than 100 participants a week. It’s proven especially popular after the holidays as people are looking for ways to be healthy and save money, Krutz said. A toasty yoga room with a wall of windows overlooking the lighted trees and skating rink doesn’t hurt, either. Class sizes are limited; doors open 15 minutes prior.

A balsam fir dripping in lights has become a popular spot for engagement in the Titletown District.

5. Get engaged. The most photographed spot in Titletown in winter, be it couples, families or friends, is the magnificent balsam fir inside the skating rink that’s aglow with hundreds of lights. Adored by birds and lovebirds alike, it’s a popular spot for engagements. “The atmosphere lends itself to love in some way, whether it’s love with your family or love with a significant other. It’s such a great atmosphere for that,” Krutz said.

6. Take advantage of Community Nights. Maybe the “best-kept secret” in all of Titletown happens from 4 to 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays in December, January and February. Cost for skating and tubing is reduced on those nights, making it a great deal for families. Skate rentals are $1 (normally $5), and rink admission is $2 (normally $5 or $7). Unlimited tubing on Ariens Hill is $3 (normally $7). Remaining Community Nights for 2020: Jan. 20, Feb. 3 and Feb. 17. 

Reese Nystrom and Paisley Wyrzykiewicz of Green Bay ice skate together on the rink at the Titletown District. Free skate lessons are part of the programming this winter.

7. Learn how to ice skate. Free skate lessons are new this year. Six weekly classes on Wednesday nights focus on a different skill each week, so skaters can choose to do all six or just pop in for the week that most interests them. Want to learn how to stop like a hockey player? There’s a class for that. Could your turns use a little polishing? There’s one for that, too. “It’s kind of a nice way of saying I don’t have to be committed to four to six weeks, but I can also learn and refine my skills,” Krutz said. 5:30 to 6 p.m. children and 6 to 6:30 p.m. teens and adults on Jan. 8 (forward skating), Jan. 15 (backward skating), Jan. 22 (stops), Jan. 29 (circle skills), Feb. 5 (turns) and Feb. 12 (combination moves). Lessons are free; $5 paid admission to the rink is required. 

8. Escape to the “Island of Warmth.” Titletown will welcome a new traveling public art piece called “Island of Warmth” on Jan. 18. Made of more than 150 incandescent light bulbs set on a log base resembling a bonfire, it comes to life with interaction from visitors. Flames will move and sparks fly as people dance, jump and stomp. The more activity around the fire, the more dramatic the fire, the sounds and the music that accompanies it. “It’ll be wild,” Steinberg said. Titletown will celebrate its arrival with a Light Up Titletown Festival from 3 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17 and 4 to 9 p.m. Jan. 18 that will also include glow skating (colored lights on the rink), an illuminated dance floor, luminary station and fire pits. “Island of Warmth” will run through Feb. 29.

9. Keep an eye out for those trendy igloos. They look like a dome-shaped jungle gym with a clear cover over it. Kind of a chic outdoor bubble that offers protection from the outdoor elements for up to eight people. Some restaurants use them as a type of wintertime patio dining. Titletown brought theirs out on New Year’s Eve for a silent disco, with a DJ in each light-up igloo spinning music that could only be heard by skaters, wearing special headphones provided by Titletown. Look for the igloos to pop up again at other events. “It’s just one of those fun, different how can you take advantage of winter things,” Steinberg said.

About 50 people ice skate around the rink  Jan. 2 during a weekly glow skating event held on Thursdays at the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District.

10. Enjoy it all while it lasts. As much grumbling as Wisconsinites sometimes do about how endless winter seems, it’ll be over before you know it — or at least the kind of robust weather that allows for snow tubing and ice skating. 

Ariens Hill generally opens the second weekend of December. Why not earlier, you say? Titletown uses city water to make its snow, and because that water is warmer than the pond or lake water ski hills pull from for their snow, the outside temperature has to be colder before the three snow-making machines can shoot the snow into the air, Steinberg said. Mother Nature ultimately determines when the tubing season ends. As things begin to melt, it becomes more difficult for a PistenBully (like a snow hill’s version of a Zamboni) to maintain conditions.

The skating rink opened Nov. 9, the earliest it ever has. It stays open until the end of February and perhaps a little longer if conditions allow. It can withstand temperatures up to 40 degrees if not in direct sunlight.

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Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or kmeinert@greenbay.gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert

Quick Titletown tips

It's open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For a schedule of hours for skating and tubing, along with costs and more info, visit titletown.com.

Your first stop is the admissions building. Whether you plan to go tubing or skating, or both, you’ll need to step up to one of the kiosks to fill out a waiver. Anybody 13 or younger needs to have a parent or guardian along to sign. Teens 14 to 17 being dropped off by parents can bring a signed waiver downloaded in advance online. Once you have your waiver completed, pay admission for either the rink or hill and you’re on your way. 

Yes, you can bring your own ice skates. Titletown has 210 pairs to rent, but staff sees a lot of people bringing their own. You can even get your skates sharpened at the rental shop in the admissions building. Cost is $7; straight cut only. Sharpening usually takes less than 10 minutes..

No, you can’t bring your own tube. No outside sleds or tubes are allowed on Ariens Hill.

Sorry, no lap rides down Ariens Hill. It’s a question that comes up often, but it’s for safety purposes.

Alison Duke of Barrington smiles as she rides a snow tube down Ariens Hill on Jan. 3. This year's Ariens Free Tubing Night is Feb. 4.

Plan for peak times. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are generally busiest on the rink. Capacity is monitored, and sometimes skaters may have to wait for rental skates to be returned before they can get on. Weeknights are less busy for those who want to try skating for the first time, and Saturday mornings are a good time for families.

What about the rest of the park? The regulation-sized football field is open year-round on any day that the rest of the park is. The playground isn’t open in winter due to snow-covered uneven surfaces. ‘

A word about weather closures. If weather conditions force the rink or hill to close, it will be posted on Titletown’s social media and at titletown.com. The park closes if the windchill reaches minus 10 or colder.

Need hand or foot warmers? A vending machine in the locker room sells both as well as Packers hats, gloves and other accessories.