Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Why Visit this Lake Vacation Destination?
- Winter Rocks in Elkhart Lake
- It is Off the Beaten Path
- Elkhart Lake Packs a Foodie Punch
- The Pace is Slower Here
- You Can Stroll An Ice Age Trail
- Elkhart Lake Itself
- Lovely Elkhart Lake Resort Options
- Elkhart Lake WI Is Walkable
- This is Authentic Wisconsin
- Road America is in Elkhart Lake WI
- There Are No Chain Stores
- Where is Elkhart Lake WI?
- Elkhart Lake WI Weather
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is a lake vacation destination about an hour north of Milwaukee. It is steeped in history, culture, good food, fast cars and laid back lake life. While known as a summer destination, Elkhart Lake knows how to indulge in winter, too. You’ll find something here to entertain the whole family.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin was built by sturdy German settlers in the 1800s. It has retained its salt-of-the-earth personality while also providing quite a bit of culture. The food and drinks are unbelievable, as is the friendliness of those who live there.
Elkhart Lake itself is one of the largest lakes in Wisconsin and is used all summer long for every water activity you can think of, including boating, fishing, water skiing, tubing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and swimming.
Though the lake temperature may seem chilly to those accustomed to southern waters, the 70 degree reading in August is pretty typical — and warm compared with Lake Michigan water temps!
Besides, as anyone visiting the Midwest knows, lake vacations are only partially about the lake. Check out even more reasons to visit this unique destination.
Why Visit this Lake Vacation Destination?
Winter Rocks in Elkhart Lake
In winter, Elkhart Lake transforms into a frosty landscape and activities turn to snow- yoga, ice skating, snow-shoeing, sledding and more. A fun time to visit is during the annual Schnee Days (schnee means snow in German) festival. Presented by the Elkhart Lake Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, the family-friendly event takes place in late January — Jan. 29-31 in 2021.
A moonlight snowshoe stroll (rentals $15) kicks off the three-day event, which features a variety of activities, from live music, and a chili cook off to snowy activities. A disc golf course challenge and all-day sledding take place Saturday at Road America, one of the world’s largest racetracks. More family activities happen on Sunday and include children’s games and an ice cube hunt on The Shore Club front lawn.
Proceeds raised from the Schnee Days event benefit a local charity and help promote the Elkhart Lake community
Measures will be in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 including available hand sanitizers, social distancing, and masking indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible (for example, the start of the 5k Schnee Lauf run).
It is Off the Beaten Path
There are places in the world that everyone seems to know about and visit continuously. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is often not one of those places…until it is.
While not far from these big metropolitan cities, it couldn’t be more different. Many people visit this lake destination for the first time and wonder how they could have missed this jewel in the past. They make sure to not miss it again.
Elkhart Lake Packs a Foodie Punch
This little town of 1,000 people packs quite a punch in the culinary scene. Think you will just have to survive on brats, beer and Wisconsin cheese? No way. You can find everything from seared tuna at the tapas bar, Lake Street Cafe, to an heirloom tomato salad with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes at the Paddock Club, to the best fried cheese curds you’ve ever had at a lakeside Tiki Bar in the Victorian Village Resort.
And, yes, you must try eat Wisconsin cheese — in the form of cheese curds — when you’re in Wisconsin. You know they’re fresh if they squeak when you bite into them!
But of course, there also is lots (and lots) of beer and spirits to wash down all the good food.
The Pace is Slower Here
We are so used to being on the go and moving around with 100 things on our to do lists. Not at Elkhart Lake. This place forces you to slow down and get back to yourself.
There’s not a big game room, but there is a big field to run in. You may not find the newest technology in every hotel room, but you might get an actual key on an actual key chain. (Don’t lose it.) People here aren’t rushing through dinner. If there’s a wait, that just means they get to savor their Old Fashioned a little longer.
You Can Stroll An Ice Age Trail
Wooly mammoth and dinosaurs once roamed this land. A nicely groomed trail, clearly marked with colorful blazes of yellow denote the Ice Age Trail. The hikes through Kettle Moraine State Forest are one mile or longer and have unique geological traits — eskers and kames, drumlins and moraines — all left behind by the melting glaciers.
Elkhart Lake Itself
Elkhart Lake is simply beautiful. It is one of the largest lakes in Wisconsin, but not so large that it seems overwhelming. You can rent a kayak, take a pontoon boat out, or just splash in the refreshingly cool, crisp, clean water.
Lovely Elkhart Lake Resort Options
History is not just something you read about in books in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. It is all around. The hotel where I stayed, Victorian Village, dates back to 1867. That’s 150 years ago! While history is everywhere, the owners of the hotels, restaurants and shops in the area have continued to upgrade the area. It’s really the best of both worlds.
The venerable Osthoff Resort with its top-rated Aspira Spa is the luxury option here. It’s a favorite of TravelingMom Editor Cindy Richards and her family. The AAA Four-Diamond Osthoff has condos of up to 3 bedrooms available.
During the summer, the Osthoff has a variety of lakefront activities, including fishing, canoeing and guided cruises that showcase the natural beauty of fall in the area. There’s golf at the nearby Quit Qui Oc Golf Club. During the winter, the resort hosts the Old World Christmas Market, modeled on the centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt of Nüremberg, Germany. It’s a great place to buy unique holiday gifts.
Victorian Village and Siebkens Resort also offer condo-style units with upscale amenities without the pomp and circumstance of a hotel. The oversized multi-bedroom units are great for families.
Whether you’re passing through or looking to spend some time at Elkhart Lake, you can use this interactive map to find local hotels and available Airbnbs.
Elkhart Lake WI Is Walkable
There is no need to drive once you get into town. Park once and get around town the old fashioned way…with your own two feet. Everything is in walking distance. Stop rushing. No need to load the kids in and out of the car. Get out and walk!
This is Authentic Wisconsin
Rustic and luxurious with absolutely no pretentiousness, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a great representation of the state. You get cheese at locally-made cheese shops like Hennings Cheese, and you can find Wisconsin-made cranberry wine (along with hundreds of other options) at Vintage Wine Shop.
There is no Starbucks here and no fast food restaurants. The fields of corn and gardens full of tomatoes you drive by on the way to town are probably the source for your dinner.
Road America is in Elkhart Lake WI
One of the coolest things I did in Elkhart Lake had nothing to do with the lake. I loved going to Road America. This motorsports track routinely hosts more than 500 events per year, including many nationally-televised NASCAR races. It is one of the world’s fastest permanent road racing tracks.
While Road America attracts worldwide attention today, the twisty-turny village roads of Elkhart Lake were the racing circuit in the early 1950s. Cars raced the open road, taking sharp corners and fast turns up to an astonishing 65 miles per hour. As many as 100,000 people watched the three races with 238 cars in 1952.
Historic Race Circuit signs mark some of those turns, close to the Elkhart Lake resorts. The circuit ended after only three years, and Road America opened in 1955.
Road America offers supercharged driving schools but when I was there, it was go-karts for me. I raced go-karts that went up to 40 mph. I also took on the “champagne slalom” challenge. This challenge allowed me to drive one of the test cars through a curvy course without letting a ball drop from the cup stuck on the hood.
I won, by the way.
There Are No Chain Stores
During my time at this lovely small town in Wisconsin, I realized that sometimes you just have to go where no one knows your name, but they’re still glad you came. It’s good to go to a place where the hotels have funny names and there are no chain restaurants in the entire city.
Sometimes exploring a small town gift shop or enjoying a handcrafted ice cream sundae or learning why it’s good for your cheese to “squeak” can create the type of memories you’ll always carry with you.
Where is Elkhart Lake WI?
This lovely town is in Sheboygan County Wisconsin. It’s easily reachable from several other Wisconsin getaway spots: an hour north of Milwaukee, two hours south of Green Bay and Door County, 30 minutes west of Kohler and a 40 minutes east of Fond du Lac.
Elkhart Lake WI Weather
Expect cold and snow in the winter, pleasantly cool spring and fall and warm but not too warm summers.