Exquisite Elkhart Lake
Celebrate fall and back-to-school time by recharging your battery ‘sans enfants’.
Let someone else spoil you, do the cooking while you enjoy some hiking and the outdoors, or sit inside by a pool and just chill. That is what awaits you in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, an hour’s drive from Milwaukee in the American Midwest.
With a rich Native American past, a history of racing and as a gambling haven, you can feed your mind, grab a thrill, or just unwind. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll have a great time in Elkhart Lake.
The largest lake in Wisconsin, Elkhart Lake’s early growth is attributed, in part, to the arrival of the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad to the village in 1873. Over the years, the railroad brought passenger trains full of vacationers, race enthusiasts, gamblers and gangsters alike from Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay to the shores of the beautiful spring-fed lake.
With the Roaring Twenties came an influx of roulette and poker at four well-established Elkhart Lake gambling halls. The end of this legendary era was signaled when, after years of lax enforcement, Elkhart Lake’s infamous Paddock Club was raided and the gambling equipment destroyed. Now, there is a fantastic restaurant named after the Club in Elkhart Lake.
For speed fans, Elkhart Lake is a mecca for car racing. Open road sports car races began in 1950 with a 5 km circuit, 33 cars and an estimated 5,000 spectators and grew to a 10 km circuit with 238 cars and over 100,000 attending by 1952. The races were a hit and an economic win for Elkhart Lake.
Open road racing ended in 1952 but it was not the end of sports car-related activities for the area. In 1955, Road America, one of the premier closed-circuit road race courses in the world opened. Today, the 6.515 km track brings 700,000 visitors a year from every corner of the world. Economic impact studies show that $70 million dollars are generated annually by Road America.
You can take a drive around the historic race circuit on the streets of Elkhart Lake and take a look at historical plaques, but you can also experience the thrill of the speed today by heading to Road America.
Away from the track, there are plenty of things to do and see in Elkhart Lake. The state is the largest cheese producer in the U.S. and they take it very seriously. A visit to Henning’s cheese factory is a must. In operation for over 100 years, Henning's Wisconsin Cheese is an award-winning cheesemaker for a reason . . . It is one of the best.
Hikers will enjoy trekking part of the 1,200 mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail that runs through the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Over 15,000 years ago much of North America lay under a huge glacier. Some of the best and most beautiful evidence of the retreating glacier is found in the many lakes, river valleys, gently rolling hills, and ridges of Wisconsin. Other outdoor activities include guided fishing expeditions, golfing and, of course, water sports on the emerald green lake.
History buffs will love the Wade House Historic Site and Carriage Museum or the Henschel’s Indian Museum. L’école de la Maison is a cooking school located at The Osthoff Resort and it is definitely worth taking a course. Not only do you get to you prepare a meal but the four-hour course ends by feasting on the fruits of your labour with wine to boot.
Even if you are not a spa person, make a visit to Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort an exception. The staff is super friendly and the treatments are so rejuvenating. Elkhart Lake is a beautiful, peaceful spot. You’ll switch into relaxation mode by simply walking around the town and absorbing its great vibe.
Set on 500 feet of Elkhart Lake's shoreline, The Osthoff Resort is part of the history of this charming town. It is the historic grand dame of Elkhart Lake. Originally built in 1885, it was completely redone on its centennial with a deep respect for its past. Swimmers will love their pools. The rooms, more like suites, are luxuriously equipped and quiet. Some suites have jacuzzis and the bathrooms alone are bigger than my house.
Another resort with deep roots in the area is Siebkens. It is a landmark, turn-of-the-century resort established in 1916. It is relaxed, abundant with antiques, lots of history and great bars to experience.
With Peloton bikes, yoga classes, elliptical and running machines as well as a dry sauna, The Shore Club will satisfy any fitness junkies. The hotel offers contemporary luxury amenities in a vintage life-at-the-lake setting.
There are also rental properties available as well as and condo units . . . but there is something nice about having everything done for you.
There is a vibrant restaurants scene in Elkhart Lake. From casual to sophisticated, beautiful lake views to a quick bite on the go, here are some spots to consider:
- Lola’s on the Lake at the Osthoff Resort has some of the best scallops ever. The whole menu is incredible and some of the fare is grown onsite. Lola’s on the Lake is exquisite dining.
- Siebkens Cocktail Bar is a must-see destination. It is a small, little bar oozing with so much character.
- The Stop-Inn bar is an ode to racing so pop in for a drink or a bite. It too is located at Siebkens Resort.
- Wine aficionados will love both the fresh menu and wine at Lakeside Café. It has the third largest wine list in the state and great, healthy food to boot.
- Paddock Club is another great spot to eat. It takes its name from the town’s gambling past.
- Brown Baer (yes, Baer) is an amazing place with a great bar, live music, incredible vibe and the best cornbread.
- SwitchGear is a fun brew pub so check it out too. Elkhart Lake is best explored on foot so there is no need to worry about cabbing back to your pad.
Given it is predominantly a getaway location, it is not surprising that Elkhart Lake is a chilled kind of place, all about relaxation and replenishing the tank. If you visit in the autumn, the fall colours are stunning, and that is saying something since we live in Ottawa. However, whenever you go, good food, rejuvenating ambience and great beauty all await you in Elkhart Lake.