Known in a larger sense as the “Fox Cities” for their location in the Fox River Valley, the cities of Appleton, Oshkosh, Neenah and Fond du Lac surround Lake Winnebago. Lumber and paper production form much the area’s economic base, led by paper products giant Kimberly-Clark. Neenah also has a substantial iron and steel foundry and commercial printing industry. While the area sounds overly dominated by industry, the industrial areas are confined to a small part of town along the lakefront, and Neenah enjoys strong endowments from its industrial legacy. It has a nice small town center with good parks and inner residential neighborhoods.
Oshkosh has a similar legacy but is larger and more economically diverse. There is a substantial forest products industry and the area is also a producer of emergency vehicles and specialized trucks. Beyond these industries, both cities have the usual Wisconsin assortment of dairy products, agriculture, and light manufacturing. Oshkosh is home to the 9000-student University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus. The cities have a distinct, clean, small-town feel with lots of trees and historic buildings, and residents have an uncommon pride for the area. Outdoor recreation is abundant, highlighted by water sports in summer and snowmobiling in winter. Crime rates are very low, and living cost are reasonable relative to incomes.
The Fox Cities sit in a mostly level valley plain surrounded by areas of low rolling and densely wooded hills. The decidedly continental climate receives the full effects of continental air masses, particularly in winter. Summers are pleasantly warm and sometimes humid, with occasional hot spells and cool evenings. Most precipitation arrives as thunderstorms from May through September. Winters are harsh and cold, although the coldest days are often sunny and dry. Most winter precipitation comes as snow with persistent snow cover. First freeze is early October, last is mid-May.