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Arts and Culture Venues for Offsite Events in Eastern and Central Wisconsin
The Burke Colonnade at Wilson Center for the Arts, Brookfield
Arts and culture venues like museums and performing arts centers are popular options for offsite events, doubling as beautiful spaces that help attendees get a sense of place.
Wisconsin’s east and central regions have many venues that fit this bill, from facilities overlooking the bays and orchards of the small towns of Door County to a restored 19th-century courthouse in Waukesha.
Here are some of the best venues in east and central Wisconsin to file for your next awards ceremony, reception or networking event.
Green Bay has always been an intriguing choice in Wisconsin for corporate events, with the lure of the historic Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field for sports fans, and new event facilities like the Resch Expo—a column-free, 125,000-square-foot venue across the street from the famed football field—providing more dynamic spaces for meetings.
Green Bay is the oldest settlement in Wisconsin. The first residents used its waterways to trap for beaver pelts for European hat makers in the 1600s, and the world's first splinter-free toilet paper was invented here in the early 1900s.
Further history can be enjoyed at the National Railroad Museum in town, which has been documenting the history of the American rail system and housing some of the country’s most interesting trains since the 1950s. Over 100,000 visitors come through the museum each year, and that extends to groups.
Planners can reserve the 26,000-square-foot Frederick J. Lenfestey Center, which is home to noteworthy locomotives like the Union Pacific Big Boy and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the latter of which is a WWII-era steam engine, on display alongside two railcars that the former president used to travel through Europe during the war. Capacity is 350 guests seated.
For more transportation inspiration, meetings and events of up to 150 people can also take place within Green Bay’s Automobile Gallery & Event Center. Attendees can mingle among cars spanning from over 100 years of history, from a rare 113-year-old Cadillac Model T Touring Car to the space-age 2020 Ford GT Supercar.
The peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, known as Door County, is dotted with charming towns and boasts 300 miles of shoreline and many fruit orchards and wineries. The area is a popular getaway for leisure and business travelers alike.
In Door County’s quaint Egg Harbor, the Donald & Carol Kress Pavilion is a scenic site for receptions and special events, with a Great Hall on the second level featuring big glass windows and a wraparound porch overlooking the nearby bay, bluff and orchards.
The Great Hall’s capacity ranges from 72 classroom-style to 126 for a plated dinner. Additionally, two meeting rooms, a lounge and a living room with a fireplace are available for smaller meetings. The pavilion opened in 2018 and houses the Egg Harbor Library on the lower level.
For a schooling in Door County’s maritime traditions, events at the Door County Maritime Museum are a unique way to dive in. Events here overlook Sturgeon Bay’s working waterfront. Unique spaces include the 10th floor of the Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower with the rooftop Baumgartner Observation Deck, which offers breathtaking views of the bay for small groups of up to 30. Planners can also rent the newly opened Captain’s Quarters on the second floor of the museum, which has an attached galley kitchen and outdoor deck.
With more than 100,000 square feet of collective meeting space, 1,200-plus guest rooms and an easy drive from Wisconsin hubs Madison and Milwaukee, and other Midwest markets like Chicago and Minneapolis, the Waukesha/Pewaukee area is a popular meetings destination in southeastern Wisconsin.
Waukesha—which celebrates 125 years since its incorporation this year—has a handful of historic venues that wow for special events and meetings.
One such venue is Ten Chimneys, a national historic landmark that was once the home of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.
Private events can be hosted in the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center’s lower-level Program Hall and Main Floor Lobby. The 3,150-square-foot Program Hall accommodates 250 guests seated or 300 reception-style for catered daytime and evening events. The 2,500-square-foot lobby can cater evening-only receptions of up to 150 guests.
Housed in a restored former courthouse from the 1890s, The Waukesha County Museum & Historical Society is another offsite option. The museum has several exhibits open to the public and can also host a variety of events.
Its Historic Courthouse 1893 event venue has a large, elegant ballroom with restored original wood floors and ceilings. Business meetings, receptions or banquets can accommodate up to 300 guests.
Tucked just 13 miles outside of Milwaukee with a new conference center that opened in 2020, Brookfield is an ideal destination for groups that want to escape the big city without losing its access.
Attendees don’t need to leave Brookfield to get a dose of the arts, however. Brookfield is home to Sharon
Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, which hosts live theater and dance performances, has rotating art galleries and offers education and classes in the arts. The venue is a popular choice for private rentals for corporate groups craving a unique offsite venue for banquets, receptions and even speaking events—and it’s all situated in a picturesque setting.
“We are in Mitchell Park, which is a 480-acre park on the edge of Brookfield within five miles of the main drags of town,” noted General Manager Vince Vogelsang. “It’s a standalone park with park trails and art displays. It’s a very beautiful setting with ample free parking and space.”
Within the center, some of the most popular spaces for group gatherings include:
- Harris Theater: The home of many of the Wilson Center’s performances, the 613-seat theater can also host corporate events like formal meetings, lectures or dinners on the stage.
- Kuttemperoor Grand Hall: The two-story space, with exposed wood beams and artist Susan Falkman’s floor-to-ceiling, hand-carved limestone fireplace titled Streaming, is a wow-worthy space for anything from receptions to corporate meetings. The hall can sit 200 reception-style.
- The Burke Colonnade: Sitting adjacent to Kuttemperoor Grand Hall, this outdoor space—with a roof constructed of natural tree timber—can be an extension of events at the grand hall or used on its own for special outdoor events for up to 150.
In addition to private events, Nichole Cooper, the center’s artistic director, said that planners can work with the center to incorporate art experiences into events, like meet-and-greets with local artists, lecture series with teaching artists, and blocking off tickets for performances.
“Rental of our space is a wonderful way to support the arts,” she said.
Private liberal arts college and music conservatory, Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, offers the Richard and Margot Warch Campus Center for meetings and events, a 107,000-square-foot building on the Fox River that houses 10 spaces for groups.
The LEED-certified Gold facility takes advantage of its natural surroundings, with popular spaces like the 300-plus-capacity Somerset Room boasting floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river with vaulted ceilings. Small meetings can be accommodated as well, and best suited in The Nathan Marsh Pusey Room, complete with a fireplace and river views.
Destination Door County
Fox Cities CVB
Greater Green Bay CVB
Read this next: 5 Cultural Attractions for Offsite Events in Madison, Wisconsin