Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake: Vintage Charm

by Beth Graham

Have you ever been traveling to a destination and you can slowly feel your breaths lengthen and your shoulders drop? You know, the kind of getaway that is going to force you to unplug and just enjoy a few laid back afternoons together as empty nesters. I recently felt this calmness on the short one hour drive from the Milwaukee airport to Elkhart Lake, a region that feels more like Mayberry than the mayhem of today. It’s calm, peaceful and serene, all a nod to its earlier days as an old-school summer vacation destination for families. The Native Americans who first settled in the region believed that the lake’s water had curative powers. German entrepreneur Otto Osthoff and his wife Paulina moved to the lake for its healing powers and in 1886, they opened the Osthoff Resort where for decades, it survived as a gambling haven and a Prohibition-era hideaway for gangsters. In the 1950s, the resort changed hands and became a theatre arts camp for children of wealthy Midwest families, where its arts influence is still prevalent today.

What to do at Elkhart Lake

Road America – roadamerica.com one of the fastest permanent road racing circuits in the world. 4.048 mile track with 14 turns and multiple elevations. Porsche club there . go carts, off road trails, instruction, special event. Mission: develop a year-round facility and programs which provide the best motorsport and entertainment experience for all our customers”

Cheese tour – henningscheese.com wouldnt be a trip to Wisconsin if there wasn’t cheese. Henning’s Wisconin Cheese. 4th generaiton cheesemakers. make 16,000 pounds each year using traditional artisan technique of hand turning.  one of only 65 master cheesemakers in U.S.Free tours.

High tea – www.JayLeeInn.com Tea lovers are invited to enjoy a new foodie adventure in Elkhart Lake. By guest request, Jay Lee Inn opened its newly appointed Tea Room and serves fine teas and all the frills. This authentic English Tea experience is offered monthly at 11 a.m. during the off season and four days per week (W, Th, Fri and Sat) from Mother’s Day to Labor Day. Space is limited so reservations are highly recommended.

Dine – Lola’s on the Lake, Paddock Club – fried chicken with preserved lemon buttermilk sauce, duck ragu pappardelle, mushroom kale and sweet corn enchilada., Lake Street Cafe – lobster bisque with cognac, seared yellow fin tuna, gumbo with andouille, oyster and rabbit. my favorite was Jack Daniels chocolate pecan pie.

Christmas market – Osthoff resort, old world christmas European-style market  . eary december Dec 1-10, 2017 christmasmarketatosthoff.com  Reminiscent of the centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt of Nüremberg, Germany fresh evergreens and the tantalizing scents of roasted almonds and Nüremberg bratwurst as they browse for unique and specialty items among international and regional artisans. Czech blown-glass ornaments, Russian nesting dolls, German hand-carved smokers and nutcrackers, fine apparel, handmade amber and silver jewelry, Turkish pashmina scarves and shawls, stained glass art, Russian hand-painted Santas, fresh green wreaths, kissing balls and centerpieces, alpaca products, Estonia woolens, fine chocolates, Plauen lace, fine woodwork, fur products and much more!Admission is $6 per adult

Spa – Just when I didn’t think the trip could get any better, we headed to the Aspira spa. I opted for something other than the traditional massage or facial, selecting the “Mind, Body & Spirit Alignment”. It’s described as a mix of intuitive massage, Reiki, reflexology and craniosacral techniques that balance the body’s energy centers. It was simply amazing! Others opted for different massages that incorporate indigenous ingredients and Native American influences from the region. There’s a cedar massage, Yin Yang massage, chakra balancing massage, Vichy shower and so much more to choose from. Trust me, you and your girlfriends will want to book additional treatments.

Golf Quit Qui Oc – https://www.quitquioc.com/  27 Holes of Golf, PGA & LPGA professional golf instruction Todd and Rachel Montaba opened the course…had been in her family for decades. Built last 9 holes Glacial Nine.The original 18-hole layout opened in 1927 and was designed by renowned golf course architect Tom Bendelow. During World War II the back nine was abandoned due to lack of play. After the Wiese family purchased the course in 1955 the back nine was redesigned to it’s current configuration. In 2000 construction began on our Glacial Nine which was designed and built by Bob Lohman.

Quit-Qui-Oc is Menomenee Indian (and a little French) for “land along the crooked river.” The name has a long history in the area. Part of the nearby City of Plymouth was once called Quit Qui Oc. The Glacial Nines’ name pays homage to the glacial process that shaped the Kettle Moraine area related to the last advance and retreat of the glacier approximately 30,000 to 13,000 years ago. When playing this nine you will see many features created during the worldwide glaciation but so spectacularly illustrated in this part of North America. Rates start at about $35 for a round.

Vintage wines http://vintageelkhartlake.com/  250+ Handpicked wines from around the world, in a wide variety of styles.owned & operated by an award-winning certified sommelier that hand-selects each of the over 250 wines also sell craft beer, spirits, Wisconsin artisan cheeses & chocolates, olive oils and vinegars that we bottle in-house, cigars, wine accessories, gifts, and gourmet fare, most from local artisans.

Cooking School – Whether cooking is one of your skills or not, you’ll definitely want to spend a day at the resort’s L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School. I had one of the top five best meals of my life here, and my group prepared the entire meal! Chef Benjamin Sommerfeldt takes you on a culinary adventure as you prepare an elegant multi-course meal using produce and herbs straight from the resort’s garden. The chef had individual workstations set up for each person with all of the necessary ingredients and cooking utensils for one portion of the meal. I was in charge of the appetizer, a decadent five onion soup with croutons and gruyère cheese. The remaining courses included baby spinach salad with bacon, pickled mushrooms, almonds and a Dijon vinaigrette, potato crusted walleye, roast of tenderloin, bacon and aged cheddar twice baked potato and black forest cake for dessert. It was so much fun preparing a meal together and honestly, it was one of my most memorable meals. Be sure to take a tour of Chef Sommerfeldt rather impressive garden.

Where to stay at Elkhart Lake

Today, the Osthoff Resort is a AAA 4-Diamond property where luxury outshines its history. Renovated in 1995, the Victorian accommodations include spacious one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.

Although I didn’t stay at these resorts, I did get a quick tour and they look just as fabulous:

Siebkens Resort siebkens.com

Victorian Village Resort – vicvill.com

Jay Lee Inn – jayleeinn.com

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