Midwest winters can seem endless. The payoff? Perfect summer temperatures! Each year I vow to savor every minute of the warm weather. Although I can’t put everything on hold, I can live summer to the fullest, by participating in that wonderful warm weather tradition— a week at the lake. One of my favorites is the old school classic, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

A Midwest Classic: Charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Heading out for a “Silent Waters Tour” with Elkhart Lake’s Ecology Outfitters. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Looking for an old-fashioned lakefront getaway?  It doesn’t get any prettier or quainter than Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. There’s a small town hospitality here that takes you back to a  simpler time. My father-in-law still remembers vacationing here as a kid, and he’s not alone. Generations of Midwesterners have enjoyed the crystal clear waters of this town 2 1/2 hours north of Chicago.DisclosureTMOM

Elkhart Lake is all about life’s simple pleasure. Disconnect from your social media feeds and reconnect with the relationships that matter most.

Victorian Village Resort

Victorian Village Resort is a family-run resort that embodies the spirit of this charming small town.  For over a century visitors have escaped to the natural beauty of this lakeside resort.

A Midwest Classic: Charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Charming Victorian Village Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

There’s a pristine beach with a floating dock and plenty of water sports, including water skiing. My toddler enjoyed playing in the sand while my 11 year old had just as much fun jumping off the swim platform. There’s also a beautiful pool nestled among pine trees with a picture perfect view of the lake.

There are barbecues if you want to bring your own food, but there’s also a fantastic restaurant as well as the casual Tiki Bar, where you can order inexpensive burgers, sandwiches and ice cream. There’s a real party atmosphere at this beachfront bar and grill on the weekends when live music turns up the volume on the excitement. Order your favorite frozen concoction of choice (I opted for the pina colada) and drink in the view— of your kids splashing in the lake or a peaceful sunset— you pick.

The entertainment doesn’t stop at the tiki bar.  One of our favorite memories of Victorian Village was the staff performance of Broadway show tunes.  I felt like I was living my own version of Dirty Dancing, except now I was the parent. Victorian Village Resort has its own theatre and the staff put on a fun “Best of Broadway” production. It was a great introduction to all the show tunes I loved as a kid, but that my kids, sadly, isn’t as familiar with.  The whole audience got a real kick out of their song and dance numbers, even my then toddler, who no one seemed to mind was occasionally standing up in her seat to see better.

Kudos to the owners and staff of Victorian Village for putting on a great show throughout this charming resort!

A Midwest Classic: Charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Osthoff Resort is the grand dame of Elkhart Lake. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Osthoff Resort

The Osthoff Resort, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is another Midwest classic. It’s far from a rustic retreat though. Conde Naste readers awarded its Aspira Spa third place in the nation— not bad for a hotel in rural Wisconsin! Besides having a great pool and primo beach area on the lake, it also has first-rate restaurants and a French cooking school.

A Midwest Classic: Charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Osthoff Chef Scott Baker instructs us in French bistro cuisine. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

That’s right, forget about brats and cheese curds. This hotel has haute cuisine. Osthoff’s not only a lake retreat, it’s a gourmet getaway.

For many, an essential ingredient to being on vacation is freedom from kitchen duty. Yet, the popularity of cooking TV shows and a yearning for authentic travel experiences has a growing number of travelers spicing up their vacations with cooking classes and culinary tours.

I got to enjoy L’ecole de la Maison’s French Bistro class, where I got expert tips on crème brulée, crêpes Suzette, French onion soup and other classics. The best part was at the end of class, when our group sat down together to enjoy our culinary masterpieces.” Ooh la la! Simply magnifique!

Although Elkhart Lake is known for its simple pleasures, there’s also a racy side. It’s home to Road America, a Nascar racetrack hosting races, vintage car events, even specialized driving schools. Celebrities like Ashley Judd, Tom Cruise and David Letterman have all enjoyed fast cars in this family-friendly setting.

Siebkens Resort is home base for the racing crowd. Things really get revved up on Wednesday nights with live music and dancing at Siebkins’ Stop-Inn Tavern.

A Midwest Classic: Charming Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Enjoying a Wisconsin classic- the cheese platter at Lola’s on the Lake at the Osthoff Resort. photo courtesy: Andrea Guthmann

Say Cheese

No visit to Wisconsin would be complete without a cheese tasting! Head over to Hennings, a fourth generation family owned cheese factory. Watch the process, sample a few of their award-winning cheddars and Colbys, then pick up your favorites in the cheese shop.